How Nana Judy went from a garage start-up to a $50 million fashion giant


With little more than an idea, a garage and a Dalmatian named Judy, Australian entrepreneur Glenn Coleman launched his dream business. Far from an overnight success, he shares how he grew clothing label Nana Judy into a $50 million company.
Nana Judy founder Glenn Coleman.

When a teenaged Glenn Coleman picked up his first part-time job in a local surf shop, he wasn’t thinking about how he’d be spending his pay cheque that weekend – instead he was observing and analysing customer behaviour. While he didn’t know a lot about the ins and outs of the fashion industry at this stage, he was still able to come to one realisation – “there was a big gap in the market”.

At just 19 years old, Coleman sold his car, emptied his savings and founded Nana Judy, a company that in 2023 is stocked in some of the world’s biggest retailers and has an independent valuation of $50 million and an annual revenue of more than $30 million.

They say it starts with a name and for Coleman that had to be unique… and it doesn’t get more unique than staking your livelihood on a company named after your grandma’s beloved pet Dalmatian.

But in a brutally competitive industry that has spat out more than its fair share of brands that once seemed destined for success, Coleman was unwavering in his mission to create a premium streetwear brand that he felt was missing from global clothing ranges.

The garage quickly became the unofficial HQ for Nana Judy and Coleman got to work, operating seven days a week, and heading up all sales orders himself. That gut instinct of a gap in the market proved accurate and the first collection sold out everywhere it was stocked.

“It means staying relevant and not just in the product but in marketing and campaign imagery, it all evolves so quickly.”

Glenn Coleman

“There were a lot of brands that have come and gone very quickly. We’ve had our own early struggles too, it’s taken 17 years of hard work to get here,” he tells Forbes Australia. “Some early distributors went bust but it’s those early lessons that taught us we need to diversify our investments.”

In the first year, Nana Judy cleared $2 million in revenue – so what’s the secret to not just building but maintaining a successful apparel line? For Coleman, it’s simple, adapting.

“It’s constant reinventing. We have to be immersed in who our customer is. We always put the customer at the forefront of our design, we had to keep learning from them and adapting accordingly,” he says. “It means staying relevant and not just in the product but in marketing and campaign imagery, it all evolves so quickly.”

The company growth continued and the garage project quickly evolved into a global operation including countless overseas trips. “Within a couple of years, I was travelling to Europe every month attending trade shows, it really opened my eyes as to what this could be.” Australian retail giants like Myer and David Jones evolved into premium international retailers including Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus – and eventually Nana Judy was showcased on one of the world’s biggest stages, New York Fashion Week.

Models walk the runway at the Nana Judy show in gallery at New York Fashion Week in 2018. Image: Getty

“You look at the Australian market size and then you look how that compares to the US and Europe, I really wanted Nana Judy to be on that world stage.”

And in an era where brand collaborations are king, partnering up with Disney for the NY Fashion Week reiterated Nana Judy’s arrival on that world stage. When Disney learned of the origins of Nana Judy’s name, they collaborated on a 101 Dalmatians themed line which featured top models like Winnie Harlow and Shaun Ross.

Inspiring the next generation

Now a new father after welcoming his first child with wife Elizabeth Jones, Coleman’s attention has turned to supporting and mentoring the next generation. “Having a kid, my outlook has completely changed. Success to me is driven by how the next generation perceives our brand. When you start, you don’t have that perspective.”

“Young people have an incredible future ahead of them, and at this vital stage in their lives, it is essential that they have the right people and access to support networks helping them to succeed.”

Coleman and his wife Elizabeth Jones recently welcomed their first child together.

As for those trying to replicate the success of Nana Judy, Coleman’s message is clear – “don’t be afraid to ask for help”. He emphasised that while human behaviour will make you want everything straight away, it typically doesn’t play out that way.

“Find yourself a mentor, don’t limit yourself and have a global vision. I started this as a kid in my garage and now I want to inspire that next generation of kids who want to do the same.”

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