Greg Taylor: From Hiking Mishap to Underwear Innovation

In our chat with Greg, we dive into how a simple yet persistent problem during a hike led to the creation of a unique underwear brand. That’s how Step One started, blending his knack for entrepreneurship with a genuine need for more comfortable underwear.

Greg discusses the early days of experimenting with designs, particularly the UltraGlyde panels and the choice of bamboo-viscose fabric. Greg also shares insights from his experiences before Step One, including competitive rowing and previous entrepreneurial ventures. These experiences taught him about resilience, team management, and the importance of being hands-on with every aspect of the business.

Greg, starting Step One was born from a personal need during a hiking trip. Could you share more about that aha moment and how it propelled you to create an underwear brand with no prior experience in the industry?

Absolutely. My wife Sophie and I love hiking. We do it on the weekends in Sydney when we can get away, but we also book our holidays around the hikes that we want to do. We were in NZ on a multi-day hike, when partway through the first day I started suffering from unbearable chafing. We still had so much further to go and nothing I tried relieved the burn. It took away from the scenery and peacefulness I was hoping for.

When I came back to Sydney, I looked everywhere for a solution. When I couldn’t find one, I got creative, even cutting panels out of the inner thighs of bike shorts to see if I could make something work. The panel solution did work. As I have always been entrepreneurial, and I figured other people may also suffer from chafing like me, I thought I would have a go at creating a product to solve this problem. 

Aside from creating the panels, which we call “Ultraglyde panels”, I wanted the product to be even more game-changing than that. We also created a “3d pouch”, which grows to fit any guy snugly. I also choose to go with organic bamboo-viscose fabric for several reasons. One is because I read a statistic that around 22% of men wear their undies a few times before they wash them.

Bamboo viscose is naturally moisture-wicking, antibacterial and antifungal, while also being luxe soft on the skin. Bamboo is also more sustainable than any other fabric. Bamboo is a grass, so the roots don’t need to be torn out of the ground during harvest. It grows very fast, and we rely on rainwater to grow it, so we are not wasting water either. 

We have since released several women’s lines as well, as we come out with new colours, prints and collaborations regularly. 

Your journey from a bedroom startup to a publicly listed company is remarkable. What were the key strategies or decisions that you believe were crucial in achieving such rapid growth for Step One?

The first thing for me was getting the product right. While I only had around $5k to start the brand, I went back and forth until the prototype was perfect and I knew I was working with the right suppliers.

We have over 50, 000 positive reviews and 65% of customers are repeat buyers. This proves to me that getting it right in the first place was the right thing for me to do. You hear of a lot of people who just wanted to get a prototype out to test the market, which is fine, but with underwear, if someone has a bad experience the first time, they won’t buy it again. 

The second for me, was to master e-commerce. We don’t have a physical store, so we needed to make sure that people would see us everywhere. On social media, on the news pages they were reading, on TV and more.

We also create clever ads. The face of our brand is Lawrence, who is very recognisable these days because he is brilliant. Adding comedy, and representing all shapes, sizes and ethnicity is another thing that people love about Step One.

Our environmental and sustainability initiatives are also very important. I truly believe that because we are so transparent about our processes and how we are doing things better, more people are happy to back us, especially on the stock market.

Because of our exceptional sales, repeat buyers and interest online, I decided to look into listing Step One publicly, because I knew the product was great and that people loved it. 

Innovation seems to be at the heart of Step One, particularly with the UltraGlyde panels. Can you tell us about the process of developing this feature and how it sets your brand apart in the market?

This feature took a while. Like I said, I bought some bike pants and sewed in different fabrics at various thicknesses to see what worked in terms of reducing friction. The other challenge is that lots of trunk-style underwear rides up. Having that fabric ride up between your legs also adds to friction, so we needed to solve that problem too.

The fabric that we use for our panels is similar to that of bike shorts or compression leggings but made from bamboo viscose. This helps to keep them in place to prevent ride-up, while the slightly added thickness provides more support between your thighs.

As the first apparel company in Australia to achieve end-to-end FSC Certification, what inspired you to take this sustainable approach, and how does it impact your business operations?

Sustainability has been at the heart of the business from the start. From the start, I only looked to work with factories that not only had certifications to prove that they were environmental and sustainable, but also ethical when it comes to pay and conditions for their staff.

I also only work with ones who re-do their certifications yearly, and who allow us to drop in unannounced. I interviewed over 20 factories before we locked any in.

We also spent a lot of time looking for our suppliers, from the people who grow the bamboo to the people who create our waistbands and our biodegradable packaging. 

Being a competitive rower and having founded several businesses before Step One, how have these experiences shaped your approach to entrepreneurship and leadership within your company?

Being good at any sport means that you need to be dedicated, organised, hard-working and disciplined so that has helped with my business ventures. Additionally, I didn’t always win my races, which meant that I had to strategise how I could do better next time, which is another good lesson that is transferable to business.

My other business and senior roles taught me a lot about working in a team and managing staff. I also got myself onto the online/ e-commerce/ app train early in the game which has helped me stay open to all the new tech that is coming out and also showed me the power of e-commerce. There are lots of things you can do wrong with e-commerce and you can waste a lot of money, but by the time I started Step One, I had a fairly good idea of what to do. 

Navigating market challenges, especially as a sole shareholder, must be daunting. Can you share some insights into how you’ve managed to keep Step One profitable during economic downturns?

Yes, it has been an interesting time, but I am pleased to say that Step One is on the way up and we have some great projections for the year.

To keep us profitable, we started using as much AI tech as we could, as using AI to help us with our comms, copy and advertising has saved us a lot of time, and a lot of money as we don’t need as many people anymore.

We also hire well. I hire people who are good at what they do. Therefore they can work faster and more efficiently.

We also secured several impressive environmental certifications that are very hard to get, and that has allowed people who invest in us on the ASX the peace of mind that we are doing the right things. 

Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey with Step One, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in a field where they have little to no prior experience?

Hire people around you who know what they are doing, especially if they are doing tasks outside of your expertise

Be interested in what your team is doing. I like to have an idea of how to do every task so I know what is happening, therefore I ask questions and I make an effort to understand what is happening

If you are creating a product, it is a good idea to have yourself, or someone you trust on the ground to see how it is made and to see the photo type before you invest in thousands of something that is not right

Try to solve a problem. Solving a problem is a great way to have people become interested in you 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.