Multi-award-winning bedroom startup that has rapidly grown to become one of the fastest-growing online retailers in the world
Ozaroo is an online retail company founded by brothers Chris and Conor Martin, launching online from a Belfast bedroom in 2010 and growing the operation to become a leading retailer of top-branded consumer goods. Through its passion for saving people money on today's most-loved brands and delivering a world-class shopping experience, Ozaroo has won multiple fast-growth awards and continually creates opportunities and employment for local people.
Every year since its inception the brothers have grown the company at an award-winning pace, relocating six times in six years, trebling the number of people employed and winning numerous awards recognising it as one of the fastest-growing companies in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Europe. As featured in the Financial Times in 2017, Ozaroo was named the fastest-growing company in Northern Ireland, earning position 133 in the FT1000 - a list of the top 1,000 fastest-growing companies in Europe.
Managing director Chris Martin won the award for 'Young Business Personality of the Year' at the 2016 UTV Business Eye Awards, which recognises his achievement and dynamism in the retail industry having founded the company aged 20, while Ozaroo won the Highly Commended award for 'Best Online Company of the Year'. For the past three years in a row, Ozaroo has also won awards from Deloitte, recognising the brand as one of the fastest-growing technology companies in Ireland, ranking third fastest in Ireland in the most recent Fast 50 list.
Passionate about saving people money and delivering a world-class shopping experience, Ozaroo is proud to offer low prices on today’s leading and most-loved brands. Every product shown for sale is kept in stock in the company’s warehouses and is ready for dispatch to customers anywhere in the world. As soon as a customer places an order, the fulfilment process is begun and the order printed, picked, carefully packed, quality-checked and dispatched. The order is then in the hands of the customer within a few days.
How it all started
Working in part-time jobs throughout school and university, Chris used these savings (a few thousand pounds) to invest in starting a company and meeting all of the costs involved. Successful from the outset, Chris' philosophy has been to continually reinvest profits into creating new jobs, new brands, product lines, technologies and ideas.
"I worked in part-time jobs from the age of 13 and throughout my teenage years and even ran a sweet shop from my locker in school. I was interested in computing and computer games and started selling some of my old games and pieces of hardware on eBay,” says Chris, who was still living at home at the time when he founded the company in 2010, operating it out of his bedroom at his mum’s house. The company now operates from state-of-the-art headquarters and distribution centres in County Antrim, employing and sustaining livelihoods of many people from local communities.
“Everything you see on the website is here on site in Antrim,” says Chris. "Being frugal and efficient is crucial. We’ve been trying to keep costs low from the start. My brother and I were brought up to not get into debt, and we have none other than the mortgage on the premises. We don’t spend a lot of money, taking it out to buy cars or whatever, we've reinvested it in the company."
Ozaroo originated from a small-time hobby for Chris and remains a proud family-run business today. Chris says, "I started the company eight years ago in the hope that I would be able to provide myself with a bit of pocket-money while studying at Queen's University Belfast, so it's a dream to be able to offer many more jobs and career opportunities to my family and other local people. We’re extremely grateful to have been recognised for the speed of our growth by several independent organisations and we thank our customers who continue to support our team of people who make it all possible."
Although admittedly a dreamt-up name, it is this charm that can attract and inspire people, including customers and staff. Ozaroo is derived from the company's roots as it initially solely specialised in international trade with Australia. The 'Oz' was derived from the abbreviation of Australia, and 'aroo' from Australia's national symbol, the kangaroo. While Ozaroo has earned the trust and loyalty of many Australians and customers across the globe, its UK & Ireland customers have been drawn to the brand and are now the company's largest customer bases.
Chris explains, “What I discovered was something of a niche market in Australia, where Australians were looking to buy computer games online from abroad at much cheaper prices than they could do locally. I took a chance and invested money I had saved-up into a few ideas - with no business plan and no big financial aspirations whatsoever.”
Expanding the team
Chris’ second-hand sales hobby quickly mushroomed into a small-sized business through diversification of the product ranges and began retailing smart phones and electronics which could be purchased more cheaply online by Australians than they could do locally. Soon after founding the company, Chris’ 16-year old brother Conor had stepped in to help him cope.
“Every afternoon we’d load the orders into my old hatchback car and drive down to the local post office to send the packages off. The stock didn’t fit in my bedroom anymore, so we had to move it into a spare room and garage and were soon receiving pallets of goods to the house,” he explains. “As well as marketing, buying, picking and packing every order, we had to cope with increasing sales and customer service enquiries, which Conor would handle after school. We didn't have a telephone line until a few years ago.”
Within a year of launching the business, Chris convinced his mum Brenda that leaving her supervisor position at a cleaning company to go and work for Ozaroo was a good idea. Their reluctance to to take on overheads was overcome, moving into a small mechanic’s garage at a nearby business park for storage of products and dispatch of orders. Having not received any loans or grants, the company's limited funds made it difficult to keep up with the organic growth and to simply find storage space for all the products. Relocating six times in six years, it wasn’t long before the company upgraded to a state-of-the-art 25,000 square foot headquarters and distribution centre, where it now carries out all of its operations.
From the start, the vision for Ozaroo was to use a multi-channel approach through a broad range of websites. As one of eBay’s fastest-growing accounts in the world, Ozaroo was chosen to launch the eBay Click & Collect from Argos service. The Ozaroo team joined British touring car champion, Colin Turkingon, at Argos’ flagship store in Belfast to launch eBay Click & Collect. Customers love the service as it means not having to wait at home for a delivery.
As well as retailing thousands of people's favourite products, the company was chosen to partner with Motorola, one of the world's best brands, to create and to exclusively retail a new limited edition product line.
Chris and Conor are determined to keep growing the company and creating more and more jobs for local people. The sheer number of applicants for each employment opportunity at Ozaroo shows the significant number of people looking for employment or a change of career.
Chris says, “We just hope that the people we employ have the right attitude and put their best efforts into the tasks at hand. I never liked working for other people, so I try to ensure that the things I disliked about other workplaces were not part of my workplace. We like to ensure that team morale stays high by ensuring that the workload is kept fairly balanced between the entire team. We’ve recently given rewards and bonuses for those who give it their best shot.”
Together with its increasingly stronger partnerships with leading brands, custom software and new technologies, efficient dispatch techniques and environmentally friendly shipping methods, Ozaroo continues to be one of the market-leaders in delivering products at low prices to customers across the globe.
“We’ve expanded our product ranges and we’re trying to expand more, and to stock more and more products so that the brand appeals to more and more people,” says Chris. “Increasing our product ranges and deepening our supplier and partner relationships will bring even more competitive prices to our customers and will allow us to secure employment and opportunities into the future. Sponsoring good causes and donating to charities is also important to us and we hope to do more of this kind of work going forward.”