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2012 Central Region Nominee – Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award
Colin Kuchel started as a door-to-door salesman at a large home improvements retailer. After working his way up to CEO, he wanted to start his own company. Established in 2005, Australian Outdoor Living is setting new standards in the outdoor home improvement market. The company has quickly grown to be a dominant force in the supply and installation of outdoor blinds, roller shutters, artificial lawn, swimming pools, verandas, pergolas and decking. The company has recorded a 360% revenue increase in the past three years.
Colin decided early on to offer a superior-quality outdoor blind at a higher price, which was a challenging strategy. At the time, a major competitor was pursuing a price-leader strategy, but went into liquidation. Just over a year later, Colin’s business experienced a significant fraud which substantially impacted short-term cash-flow. Colin views this as a turning point in the business, which now has a stronger emphasis on process and controls.
In 2005 Australian Outdoor Living introduced outdoor cafe blinds for the residential market. With an unreliable supplier service threatening to undermine this success, Colin decided to establish a manufacturing division to control all aspects of quality, product development and end user service and satisfaction.
The blinds manufacturing process pioneered the use of a welding technology which had only been in existence for six months in Europe. The blinds division combined this technology with precision robotic engineering to create its own unique manufacturing process. This custom-designed machine is the only one of its kind in the world and has reduced raw material waste from 15% to 2%. Using lean manufacturing practices, the price per unit has dropped from $99 to $48.
Australian Outdoor Living has grown from a small office in Adelaide to include operations in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Colin plans to establish offices in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania over coming years. His vision is for Australian Outdoor Living to be an instantly recognisable and respected brand which transforms Australians’ backyards, brings family and friends together and adds significant value to properties across the country.