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Midas Touch with Blair James | #Perspectives podcast with Sharon Pearson

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Even before serial creative Blair James started his tanning product business Bondi Sands he knew it was going to be a huge hit.

“We had a global view for this brand from day one. We believed we could be the number one selling self-tanning brand in the world from day one,” says Blair.

“And I think we used to talk about that before we even sold one product. I don't mean to come across arrogant. We knew our product was great. We knew it was good value.”

Blair, who is one of the crop of young disruptive Australian entrepreneurs who have turned their business ideas into a multi-million dollar empire, spoke to me on my new #Perspectives podcast ‘Midas Touch’.

The episode happened after Blair and I were introduced by a mutual friend and got talking about how to build a brand which is a world leader. How to do business at a time when social media has overtaken old-school marketing and consumers have more choice than ever before thanks to e-commerce.

Right off the bat, I was fascinated by the Melburnian’s strategies and insights but also his remarkable back story. I love drawing from inspirational sources and finding people who have created something out of what seems to be nothing.

Take a bow, Blair, who with is business partner Shaun Wilson has spun a single idea into Bondi Sands, the world’s top selling self-tanning brand. In 2019 it turned over more than $100 million in 2019, sells into around 30,000 stores around the globe and is taking a new direction with a “world first” range launching in early 2021.

The Bondi Sands millionaire on Ten's Studio Ten in November 2019.

While that proves Blair’s drive and business nous, the other part of his personal story is his resilience and determination.

As a child, Blair—whose first entrepreneurial gambit came when he was seven and sold jars of Vegemite and peanut butter in the UK— endured periods of poverty that saw his family lose their home before the deaths of his mother Irene and father Raymond by the time he was 23.

“I’m still thinking about it on a daily basis,” says Blair, who puts his vision down something his late father often told him: “You can do anything you want.”

His mother’s death was the impetus for Blair to move from Melbourne’s suburbs to beachside Port Melbourne where he opened a tanning salon. It went gangbusters, and during spring racing season “the girls were there spraying until 11 at night,” he says.

The business was so successful that Blair reached client capacity and found himself recommending home tanning products that could be bought off the shelf.

“So you're getting all this feedback of, ‘It doesn't last long enough, it stinks or the color is bad’. I still look back at that those seven years as you know, some of the best market research you can ever do,” he says.

“I think [at Bondi Sands] we know tanning consumers better than anyone in the world. And it does come back to those seven years of talking to customers every single day.”