Musicians Jack Johnston, Ben Harper, Tex Perkins and Birds of Tokyo have all rocked the stage using Cole Clark Guitars.

Created from sustainable Australian timbers, Cole Clark guitars look and sound different.

They’ve built up a successful national market, made inroads into the US market and now their exports to the UK are taking off.

CEO Miles Jackson, one of the original shareholders in the business, says he prefers not to be at the mercy of the banks so he chooses to use invoices – assets already in the business – to secure the funding the business needs.

Cole Clark Guitars is one of hundreds of Australian manufacturers who partner with Scottish Pacific and use invoice finance to turn their business dreams into reality.

Striking the right chord

Having a business funding solution that doesn’t put the family home on the line has been music to the ears of this Victorian guitar manufacturer.

Finding what you are good at and doing it better or with more panache than your competitors is a smart SME business strategy for manufacturer Cole Clark Guitars.

Using Australian sustainable timbers, with a Spanish heel construction and the world’s most natural sounding pickup system, Cole Clark guitars look and sound different.

The Melbourne-based business was founded in 2001 by Brad Clark and Adam Cole, with the aim of manufacturing Australian acoustic guitars differently from the rest of the guitar market.

This has been appealing to a range of renowned musicians including Alex Lloyd, Tex Perkins, Pete Murray, Ben Harper, Birds of Tokyo, Jack Johnston, Angus and Julia Stone and Snow Patrol. A Cole Clark guitar even found its way into the hands of the legendary Paul McCartney when he toured Australia.

Looking for opportunities

Miles Jackson, one of the original shareholders in the business, came on board as CEO in 2012 after a career in musical instrument retail and distribution. He had big plans for this niche manufacturer.

“In July 2017 we started distributing our guitars to the USA and we’ve had solid success there. Now we are taking advantage of a much bigger opportunity to get a foothold in the UK market,” Miles says.

While the global COVID-19 pandemic temporarily softened export sales, national sales have been robust – it seems many Australians used the lockdown to fulfil their dreams of learning the guitar! “Our sales for June 2020 were double last year, we hired five people to meet the national demand,” he says.

Based in the industrial Melbourne suburb of Bayswater, Cole Clark Guitars has more than 40 people on staff, including 30 on the workshop floor making guitars.

“We recruit staff from guitar-making courses, and also often get builders who are interested in making instruments. Many of our staff have been with us for 10 years or more, some are just starting their instrument-making journey.”

The Australian-made guitars are pitched at the mid to high end of the market as an attractive option for the pro, semi-pro or very keen amateur, with prices ranging from $2000 to $7000.

Invoice funding strikes the right chord

Cole Clark Guitars is one of hundreds of Australian manufacturers who choose to partner with Scottish Pacific to fund their business dreams.

Around 2010, when they were a fast growth start-up, Cole Clark Guitars made the smart choice to use Invoice Finance (also known as Debtor Finance) to meet their needs. This allowed them to unlock the opportunity within the business – now, a decade later, this start-up has evolved into a national manufacturer and exporter and they remain with ScotPac because the funding evolves to meet their changing needs. Also, they value having a trusted funding partner who are invested in their success.

“We use invoice finance to assist with cash flow. It helps us to get things done and allows us to even out the natural peaks and troughs in our business,” Miles says.

“We look at it as growth funding that allows us to get the best from our working capital, and it covers materials, wages and other costs while we wait to be paid for our goods.”

“This helps me keep control over my business. It’s a funding guaranteed against the invoices we’ve issued, so it’s rock solid for everybody. I’m not keen on a bank loan where I’m at the mercy of whether or not the bank feels comfortable about funding my business.”

Cole Clark has a facility with Scottish Pacific for up to $500,000, and usually utilise around $200,000 to $300,000. They love having the flexibility to draw on as much or as little as they need, depending on seasonal peaks and troughs in the business or when a large order comes in. “Having customers in Australia as well as the US and UK export markets means when it’s slow season in Australia, it’s busy for us overseas. However, Christmas is always busy for us!”

“I’d definitely recommend invoice finance to other small businesses. For Cole Clark, it has been very handy,” Miles says.

“The ScotPac funding kicks in very quickly, in time for us to pay wages and suppliers, and working with them is seamless. They get to know us, and our business, well. Our book-keeper works very closely with them to keep our business rock and rolling.”

Young, but rocking it

Cole Clark Guitars’ thriving workshop abounds with Australian timbers including bunya, blackwood, Queensland maple, satin box, black bean, river she oak and huon pine, as well as Australian-grown foreign timbers such as Californian redwood and European maple.

But they are not resting on their acoustic laurels – there are plans to release an electric base guitar to diversify the product range.

“Our competitors are 60 or 70 years old, including one competitor who was founded in 1833, so we are very young in the scheme of things. We’ve come a long way in a very short time,” Miles says.