Business and life partners Kalinda Salla and Joel Miranda had the idea for their small business, Cheeky Winx, after noticing that while there were plenty of bright, fun beach towels on the market, there were no gym towels available with the same personality. “I own a few gyms and Kalinda is really into fitness too, and we noticed this was a market that didn’t exist,” Joel says. After a fair bit of trial and error – including a very frustrating misstep in the early days – they launched Cheeky Winx towels with eight designs in February 2021. Demand for the designs grew and they soon branched out into beach towels, golf towels and grip socks. Two years later, they hit a turnover of $1 million and have begun to expand into the US. Here are their tips for small business success.

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A gif of a man and woman, both with brown hair and wearing gym clothes, holding up colourful gym towels and packing them into cardboard boxes.

Don’t Be Too Quick off the Mark

Kalinda: Early on we chose a manufacturer we liked, but 20 per cent of the towels in our first bulk batch were faulty so we couldn’t sell them, which was extremely frustrating. We found another one and then 10 per cent were faulty – that still wasn’t good enough. Eventually, we went through an agent who helped us source properly and put contracts in place.

Joel: I think we were a bit too excited and jumped in a bit too quickly. We should have gone through the right steps and made sure the manufacturer upheld their end of the bargain rather than trusting their word and thinking it was all going to be sunshine and rainbows.

Past Mistakes Are a Learning Opportunity 

Kalinda: I had tried to start a business previously and it had failed, but I learned from my mistakes. I discovered you have to spend a lot on advertising because even if you have the best product out there, if no one knows about it no one’s going to buy it. With Cheeky Winx, we’ve been running Facebook, Instagram and Google ads practically since we started.

We’ve worked with a few ad agencies but the fees they charge are hard to pay when you’re a small business, and their ads didn’t perform as well as when we ran them ourselves. That was a bit tricky because we could never nail the ad aspect but we’re getting a lot better at it now and took on some coaching. 

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 A gif of a man and woman, both with brown hair and wearing gym clothes, lying on the floor on top of colourful gym towels, holding up a towel with cartoon sloths, and a black towel with cartoon pizzas.

Face-to-Face Wins the Race

Kalinda: We often reach out to gyms and ask ‘Would you like us to come to one of your sessions tomorrow and give every single person a free gym towel?’ They always say yes. 

Joel: That person-to-person interaction is such a big thing. It helps people invest in your story and feel like they’re becoming a part of the brand.

Kalinda: Another time we were on our way to America to do some promotion, and the singer Jason Derulo was sitting next to us on the flight. We told him what we were doing and mentioned we had one of our pizza gym towels on us. He said, ‘Can I have a look?’ and we said, ‘You can keep it if you like!’. We took a pic together and our community members were really excited to see he had one of our products.

Choose Your Partners Wisely

Kalinda: I also love working with other artists. We currently work with two Indigenous artists – Sheri Skele and Karinda Farrant – and part of the proceeds from their sales go back to the communities they represent. We also work with two other designers, Deb McNaughton and Kasey Rainbow. Whenever we work with an artist, their pieces normally turn into our next top sellers. Every one of these partnerships has been in our top 10.

A gif of a man and woman, both with brown hair and wearing gym clothes, placing grip socks into a yellow mailing bag, looking at labels from a printer and standing in front of a sewing machine.

Look After Yourself and Each Other

Joel: Working together and then being at home together, that business mind is always on. Early on, that work/life balance thing was tough. We work really hard Monday to Sunday but we try to take a few days off here and there. It’s important to get time away from the office to reset and connect.

We also got ourselves sit-stand desks because we do all our personalisation embroidery ourselves, and your back and neck get really sore when you’re hunched over six or eight hours a day. Before we got them I was going to the chiropractor or physiotherapist every couple of weeks, but the standing aspect is so much better for the body. They’ve been a godsend. 

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Listen to Your Customers, but Stay on Brand

Kalinda: We expanded into funky golf towels because people said they wanted them. Then we had a lot of people asking about funky beach towels so we expanded into oversized adult beach towels.

Joel: We tried to do something for everyone but then people asked for basic stuff. But as soon as we made basic stuff no one was buying it, so we stopped pursuing that. It was much better when we stuck to our guns and stuck to our brand and created what we wanted to create from the start. That’s what worked best for us.

What To Try

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