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The Iconic: Number One Online Fashion Retailer in Australia


Just like many other activities in our lives, shopping has also found its place online. More and more people are buying their favorite brands of clothes sitting in front of their computer. Instead of going from store to store, you can get well dressed by staring at a screen and clicking your mouse.

But online shopping was not always as developed as it is today. Three people, Adam Jacobs, Finn Age Hänsel and Andreas Otto, started an online fashion store called The Iconic in 2011 in Australia, that will change this industry.

There were online fashion retailers in the world, and even Australia at the time, but The Iconic changed the game and pushed them out the way by inviting a different approach in their business. Their focus was more on the customer service and the customer experience.

Adam, Finn and Andreas teamed up and brought Australian fashion lovers online.

Early Beginnings

Adam Jacobs, one of the co-founders of The Iconic was born in Australia in 1984. He had a peaceful and stimulating childhood, with his parents always adhering to his needs for knowledge, self-development, and nurturing his skills. He was an intelligent boy with big ambitions. Young Adam would picture himself doing amazing things and being successful.

Finn Age Hänsel, The Iconic’s co-founder, was born in 1982 in Germany. He was a rambunctious child. From one activity to another, Fin would constantly change his interests, leaving his parents not knowing what lane they should push him towards.

From playing jazz to creating stock market projects, to playing different sports and being an active member of the debate club. Fin was interested in all this while in high school. To further nurture his curious spirit, he even joined the German Navy at 19 and spent some time serving in Poland and Africa.

Andreas Otto, the third co-founder of The Iconic, was also born in Germany in 1980. An incredibly smart child, Andreas was interested in learning about everything that caught his interest. Young Andreas was doing splendidly in school and showed interest in many different subjects. He was adamant to explore the world as much as possible and gain different experiences.

All three inventors went to college. Adam studied Philosophy, Marketing, and Management at the University of Sydney, while Finn and Andreas were studying in their home country-Germany. Finn studied Business Administration and he specialized in Marketing and Finance, and Andreas got himself a university diploma in International Business.

Neither of them stopped their education by getting one degree, and interestingly enough, neither of them stayed in their homeland for the continuation of their education.

Exploring The World

Adam went to the U.S.A where he was accepted at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University. He studied management, marketing, and philosophy there for a year. After finishing his studies, he started working for international companies like Accor, and PricewaterhouseCoopers for a total of three years.

After soaking up the knowledge and experience at PwC, Adam got a chance to work at The Boston Consulting Group, a big management consulting company headquartered in Boston, holding offices around the world. Adam worked as a senior associate in their office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

While still a student, Finn was taking on internships, building up his experience to the max. Finn finished his studies in Germany and went to Budapest, Hungary to specialize in finance at the Central European University. Nothing could keep Finn in one place, so after getting his MBA, he went on yet another adventure, this time much further from home. Postgraduate studies in public policy, economics and international business at the University of Business in Auckland, New Zealand were Finn’s next challenge.

Boosted with experience and high-end education, Finn landed the position of a project leader in the Boston Consulting Group. He started working there three years before Adam. As a project lead, Finn managed and led projects in Germany, the USA, Australia, and South Africa.

Andreas also left Germany to add more to his education. He studied international business at Northwestern University in Boston and then went to Berkeley in California where he got himself an MBA in business and entrepreneurship.

After spending four years as a brand manager for Bosch Siemens in the U.S, he moved on to become a project leader at the Boston Consulting Group, going back to Germany to work on their projects there. As destiny would have it, all three enthusiasts crossed paths at the Boston Consulting Group.

Starting Their Own Project

While working at the Boston Consulting Group, the three future co-founders had many chances of collaborating and exchanging ideas. The trio thought of a specific idea involving starting a business in the e-commerce industry.

Being as adventurous as they were, Adam, Andreas, and Finn got excited about building their own project and eventually decided to trade in their steady jobs for a new experience. The plan was to start an online fashion retail shop in Sydney, Adam’s hometown. Andreas, and especially Finn, were immediately on board, with nothing stopping them to move and start an adventure that could turn into something big.

It’s 2011. The trio has spent a lot of hours brainstorming on picnic tables in Sydney. Eventually, the name The Iconic was settled upon and marked the beginning of the new venture. The plan was not to start something completely new, as online shops already existed, but to start one that’ll be different and essentially, better. They introduced features like free shipping, three-hour delivery, free returns, and more into their business.

But nothing comes easy. It took the guys a lot of market research, tons of hard work, and countless sleepless nights to get the company up and running. They started in a small warehouse, catering to only 50 orders per day. They even stopped collaborating with a logistics partner so the customer service won't be affected. With no delivery service, Adam, Andreas, and Finn decided to deliver the parcels themselves. They did it late at night, after working the whole day, all for the sake of the customer service. A lot of time and money had to be sacrificed, but the team followed their goal patiently.

The plan was to follow the initial plan and stick with it. The three co-founders bound to believe in their company, even if it was to fail. And after some time of struggle, the plan proved to be a good one.

Get Dressed, We’re Going to Celebrate

After a tough few months, success started to unravel for The Iconic. Apparently, Australians loved shopping online and were happy with the services they were getting. Soon, the company needed to move from warehouse to warehouse to find bigger spaces for storing items. The number of orders was increasing, and so did the company. The Iconic faced some fierce competitors, like Rosegal, Zalando, and Lamoda, among others.

In 2013, The Iconic received an investment, when Summit Partners, an American venture capital firm, invested $25M in Adam, Andreas, and Finn’s company. These fundings gave The Iconic the boost it needed, providing more growth opportunities. The company even started its own fashion magazine as a way of attracting more customers. The company’s online visits were growing each month, as well as their revenue. It wasn’t long before The Iconic grew to be one of the biggest e-commerce names in Australia.

The Iconic received the Best New Online Retailer Award in 2012. In 2014, Adam was awarded Young Executive of the Year, by the CEO’s Magazine Awards.

The Iconic Today

As The Iconic grew, its founders and CEOs changed. Today, Adam Jacobs is an advisor in the company, while Finn and Andreas got back to Germany to work on different projects. Erica Berchtold is the CEO of the company today.

Now, The Iconic is based in Sydney and has more than 1000 brands onboard, offering 60.000 items. Some of the high-end international brands include Nike, Adidas, Calvin Klein, and others, besides the most famous Australian brands. The Iconic is one of the most visited online retailers in Australia and has more than 500 employees. It’s also a part of the global Fashion Group.

Looking back, leaving steady jobs in a respectable company to start your own business from scratch seems rather risky, but it turned out to be the right move for the founders. As Adam would say, believing in yourself is the most important thing.

Their determination got them to create the number one online fashion and sports retailer in Australia, for thousands of customers with a passion for fashion.