Punching Sharks : An Australian Start-Up Story

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This is the story of how a shark attack helped to build one of Australia’s most recognised brands.

FUN FACT: Australian’s have a reputation of punching on with sharks that goes back over 100 years.

The recent Mick Fanning adventure that saw him attacked and ultimately beat-up a shark in South Africa earlier this week is just one example of an Aussie taking it to arguably the world’s number one natural predator of the sea. In fact, we Aussies have been doing it for ages!

Just last year a surfer in JanJuc punched a shark in the head when on his morning surf he turned to see a 5ft shark lunging at him. (story here)

In 2010 a Western Australia man, Michael Bedford, was knocked off his surfboard by a shark, which then turned around to have another go at him. The great white took a bite out of him, but after a swift punch to the head, the shark let go of him and he was able to ‘catch the next wave back to shore’. (story here)

There are dozens of reported stories that go back decades. But my personal favourite would have to be the shark attack story involving Beaurepaires Tyres.


Punching a Shark

A few months ago APD (where I work) partnered with Goodyear Dunlop – the parent company of Beaurepaires Tyres. As part of this engagement we undertook an extensive discovery phase to really understand their business and customers. Within 10 minutes, I’d stumbled across one of the coolest business start-up stories I’ve ever heard. The story of what would turn into one of Australia’s most successful and longest standing retail businesses.

In 1922 Jack Chalmers; a New Zealand born soldier and life guard, and Frank Beaurepaire; an Olympic swimming medalist and lifesaver, were both on duty at Coogee Beach when they noticed a body surfer; Milton Coughlan, being attacked by a shark.

Frank-BeaurepairesJack and Frank leapt into action, and Jack slipped on the wet rocks. The fall dazed him a bit, but he persisted and jumped into the water towards Milton and the shark. Jack eventually reached Milton and scared away the shark. He tied a rope to Milton and began to swim back in when Frank appeared and helped the two men reach the safety of the shore.

Unfortunately due to the injuries sustained during the attack, Milton died later that day.

However, the rescue gained massive media attention for both Jack and Frank, and was described as “one of the most glorious deeds of gallantry ever recorded in Australia”. The two were awarded medals from the Royal Shipwreck Relief and Humane Society of NSW and the Surf Lifesaving Association of NSW. The news even made its way all the way to London, where they received citations for the Albert Medal.

The heroism captured the hearts of the public who created a fund raising campaign to raise money as a reward for Jack and Frank, of which they each received £3000  (the equivalent of around £150,000 today). Jack used this money to pay off his mortgage and put a deposit on a new truck.

Frank, used his money to create a little tyre business called Beaurepaires.

100 years later and Beaurepaires now has around 250 stores across Australia.

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It’s by far the coolest Aussie start-up story I’d heard of to date, and just goes to prove that sometimes to succeed in business, you’ve gotta be willing to punch on with a shark now and then.


Who the hell is Daylan Pearce?

Daylan is a digital strategist for branding agency Principals. Looking after digital and customer experience projects, Daylan has been featured in The New York Times, News.com.au, B&T, ProBlogger and more. He once ate 13 McDonald's cheeseburgers in under 5 minutes, but strongly advises against anyone else ever trying that. He also feels slightly odd when writing about himself in the third person for blog biography summaries.