Melbourne accountants > Melbourne Watch

Where to get advice when your hobby morphs into a serious business

When an IT consultant took his watchmaking hobby onto a crowdfunding platform, it exploded into a full-scale global business. He needed to grow up fast, and his accountants would play a big role.

Watchmaker sits at desk with components laid out in front of him. He has special glasses to inspect his work. Melbourne Watch got business advisors to help them recoup the investment in staff and equipment.

To take the leap from crowdfunding darling to bona fide business, Melbourne Watch recruited two watchmakers.

Who is Melbourne Watch?

In 2013, Sujain Krishnan was working as an IT professional and tinkering with watches on the side. He imported components from around the world, assembled them in his spare time, promoted them on watch forums, and sold them on eBay.

Before long, he saw the opportunity for a business and launched a crowdfunding campaign to make Melbourne Watch’s first model, the Flinders. People backed it. Four other models of watch followed, with each crowdfunding campaign outperforming the last.

“Watches are on the comeback. People are wearing them again and they’re looking for something different,” Sujain explains.

“The market used to be dominated by mainstream fashion brands that you bought in department stores for about $300, or Swiss-branded products that cost thousands. But there’s a growing appetite for a quality alternative that fits somewhere in between.”

Melbourne Watch targets the $450 to $1000 price band. They still import their mechanisms – from Japan – but nowadays they do a lot more than basic assembly. Each model is custom designed from scratch.

After launching their first five models through crowdfunding, Sujain decided it was time to make his watchmaking passion a full-time sustainable business. He’d created a good online buzz among watch enthusiasts, so ecommerce was central to his plan.

“Just about all our sales are online – a majority of them interstate or overseas – so we needed a really good online shop. You can use ecommerce templates for a start, but it’s not the same. For a quality brand, you need to create a nice experience. We spent a lot of money doing that.

“At the same time, we needed a physical space to make the watches so we turned that into a showroom too. It generates $15K worth of sales a month, which is great, but it also helps the online business. When shoppers see there’s a showroom, even though they’ll never visit it, they’re more attracted to the brand.”

Why Melbourne Watch needed business advisors

After crossing the bridge from hobby to business, Melbourne Watch had to grow up fast.

It took a lot of cash to build two shops – one virtual, one of bricks and mortar – so Sujain took on investors. He also hired two watchmakers and a brand manager, so there were employees to pay. The business got far more complex in just about every way.

“The amount of tools we have hooked up to the online shop is crazy. Besides the payment gateways and shopping carts, it syncs with point-of-sale, inventory management and the list goes on. It’s daunting trying to set that up.”

“Plus I didn’t really know how to do the books – how to reconcile transactions or prepare a BAS statement. It was my first business so I was learning on the fly.

“And hiring staff is another big step. There are all the legal and tax requirements to keep straight. So there was a lot to get my head around.”

Sujain needed professional support, but his advisors would have to do more than answer questions about tax and payroll. Having made such a huge investment in Melbourne Watch, Sujain was on the lookout for a strategic thinker who could help him steer the business quickly toward profitability.

“I wanted someone who could help me stabilise the business.”

“Accountants who understand your field are going to give the most relevant advice. For example, we really wanted advisors who had a lot of ecommerce experience.”

 – Sujain Krishnan, Melbourne Watch

Finding the right accountants, and business consultants

Sujain used two groups of consultants to help hold the business together. One to handle the accounting, and another to help with technology.

“My parents had used Van Der Ross & Associates for their businesses over the years. I’d known them since I was a kid and I knew that’s what I wanted for my business. They’ve really helped me through this time.”

“Upstart Advisory helped us set up automated payroll, inventory management and point-of-sale for the showroom. They understand all the processes you’ll need to run a business, and they know a lot of the software and apps that can do it.”

Mark Van Der Ross and the guys at Upstart have:

  • picked up accounting mistakes
    “I put the shop refit on the P&L rather than the balance sheet. It’s great to have a second set of eyes on those sorts of things.”

  • given great advice
    “Every couple of months they’ll walk us through the financials, discuss how we’re doing, and talk about what’s coming up. They sanity-check our decisions.”

  • sorted out payroll
    “They’re a business too and they know about employing people so they’ve given us a lot of advice. That’s taken a big weight off.”

  • made it easy to collect payment
    “They got our accounting software set up so all our sales and expenses are automatically recorded. And they sorted us out with PayPal, so customers can pay online.”

What the future holds

In the past four years, Melbourne Watch has gone from hobby to startup to fully-fledged international business. After all that change, Sujain’s hoping for some stability.

“The top line is looking good but we’re still recovering from all the investments we’ve made. We’re just looking to maximise what we have.”

Upstart Advisory will be a big part of that.

“They’ll keep looking at our expenses and telling us where we can save. That’s really important for helping us find our new level.

“And they’ll ask what we’re doing. They’ll make me explain my decisions, which keeps me on my toes. It’s a great discipline for a business that’s just spent a lot of money.”

Fresh from a massive expansion, the focus will be on finding a groove. Sujain’s looking forward to getting back to basics for a while.

“We normally release a new model every year but we didn’t last year (because of everything that was happening). So we’ll get back to that. It’ll be nice to focus on watchmaking again.”

A young bearded man in a suit sits in a leather chair, a box of watches next to him. He holds one of the watches in his hand.

Brand and showroom manager, Nick McLaren prepares for a customer appointment at Melbourne Watch’s Carlton showroom.

Tips for finding a good Melbourne accountant

Sujain has known his accountant for a lifetime. The referral was passed down a generation, and it’s worked out great. Not surprisingly, he recommends using your network to find a good accountant:

  1. Ask friends and family first.
    “A referral is the best way to find someone. Your friends and family know a lot about your personality so they’re good at finding a match for you.”
  2. Check reviews.
    “Every business is reviewed these days. See what others have to say. Put more weight on the opinions of businesses that are like yours.”
  3. Look for advisors that serve your type of business.
    “Accountants who understand your field are going to give the most relevant advice. For example, we really wanted advisors who had a lot of ecommerce experience.”

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