Entering the wetsuit market can be a bold pursuit. How do you differentiate and expand on what's come before? Sure, you can throw around the superlatives like, stronger, better, more robust. But the reality is, you're going to pick what you want based on word of mouth recommendation and price point – and it's through word of mouth that Volte wetsuits has flourished in recent years.
And that's about as good a marketing strategy as you can get. But there's a reason why those who pull on a Volte suit don't look back – they're well made suits, they look good and are carving their own niche in a saturated market.
What you won't know, is behind the brand is Phil Corbett (yeah, father of Mick...) and industry legend Patrick Leahy, who poured their combined experience into a melting pot and the result is a brand that puts surfers at its core. And while that may sound like a no-brainer, it's been an integral element for the lads when thinking about company ethos and legacy.
Right now, Volte has just launched a Crowdcube campaign to help expand the West Oz brand beyond the realms of word of mouth, which you can read about here.
Anyway, we wanted to check in with the legends at Volte to get their take on the market, how to cut it as a fresh(ish) brand (they launched in 2013) and what sets them apart from their competitors. Here's the skinny featuring Patrick Leahy.
First up, think there will be a few people who may have heard of Volte but don't know its origin story...
So, in 2013 there was a meeting of minds myself and Phil Corbett. We wanted o establish a new wetsuit brand in Western Australia but a brand that had global potential and no compromises with the materials in its manufacture.
It was agreed that there was an opportunity in the market to establish a new wetsuit brand but the product had to be of superior quality using the best eco-friendly materials available.
Over the years the product development hasn’t changed with the primary goal being the pursuit of the best raw materials to enable the production of the highest quality wetsuit.
Ok, that sounds like there's a fair bit of eco-ethos baked into this as well, is that the overall policy now?
The ethos now and as it was at the start is to produce a wetsuit for surfing and for surfers of every niche and level to ensure that the Volte surfers could maximise surf time in warmth, comfort and flexibility.
The extension to that ethos is to supply bricks and mortar surf shops that are hardware based and to respect the retailer by being transparent partners sharing common goals and visions. We want to be able to provide the bricks and mortar shops responsibly and tightly controlled distribution and quality online processes with no discounting.
Part of Volte’s success is coming from working with the bricks and mortar shops and becoming part of their community. The consumers react to the core brands that represent their own values and Volte is striving to achieve that.
It's rare that brands build a strategy around bricks and mortar and it's kind of rad to hear there's loads of faith in that. How does that translate to the intrinsic values of Volte?
Volte Wetsuits is influenced by people that have been participants in the sport for many years and by those that understand what it means to wear a quality wetsuit. Our goal is to produce a wetsuit that will meet the performance of all surfers, whether they are a tour surfer or a beginner at the local surf school.
Talk us through the design
Yeah, I've been designing wetsuits for nearly four decades. The wetsuits produced are well fitting eco-centric wetsuits using raw materials – we think the suits look great!
Sure do. And how do you go about breaking into the market?
Well, the market is kind of dominated by established big brands. We feel like we've managed to navigate our way through that by word of mouth, referral of existing customers and those loyal independent surf shops.
We're steadily creating Volte zones in different locations where Volte is the first choice of wetsuit worn and that is without spending significant amounts of money on marketing. This is obviously good but also is kind of our Achilles heal. The growth comes especially in these Volte zones and with the wetsuit improving each year, it has developed a ground swell of support through regular loyal customers.
What sets Volte apart from the big brands then?
All the suits have been made from the best foam and jersey available hence the finished product is durable, good fitting and is an aesthetically appealing eco-centric wetsuit.
You mention word of mouth, but you've a couplea rippahs repping Volte, right?
Yeah, like Sebastian Zietz! We want to support all surfers, from the CT vet to the beginner surfers. It's part of our core.
Our team riders have been super productive and supportive of our goals. Like, Damian Hobgood, a highly regarded individual, ex tour surfer, who supports our goals and has a lot influence in the Southern Californian surfing fraternity.
Mick and Dan Corbett have been driving forces behind the scenes with wetsuit development. Their pursuit of big wave surfing has subjected Volte suits to the harsh rigours of the ocean and they openly state that the Volte Wetsuit is a strong, good fitting and warm wetsuit. Essential characteristics for big wave surfing whether in Nazare, Shipsterns or The Right.
Now though, you're seeking investment and expansion plans?
With the capital raising, it will allow Volte to spend money on true development of wetsuits. We firmly believe the surfing world is ready and in need of new development in wetsuit design and it is our belief that with the experience and knowledge at Volte, there is opportunity to create new innovative designs for wetsuits.
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