Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Tactical Edge: From Hobby to Megastore

Tactical Edge Hobbies sells gel ball blasters, toy guns used in recreational shooting games similar to paintball. The business started as two friends selling gel ball blasters from a garage in the suburbs, and now boasts 40 staff and three store locations across Australia, with an upcoming indoor skirmish space at their Megastore.

I sat down with Peter Clark to hear about their run-ins with Australian law enforcement, the explosive growth of the hobby and the business.

“Even at midnight, I’m still thinking about the business. I love my business.

Where It All Started: “We were two guys selling gel blasters in the garage”

Peter first read about gel blasters and Airsoft guns in the newspaper. He managed to buy a gun in Sydney but realized there was no way to get gel blasters in New South Wales. He realized there was a business opportunity here.

He and partner Joe Zarillo managed to get some stock and set up a store in their garage. Peter owned a financial planning business and knew a little about growing business. From the garage store, they opened a small store in the suburbs and an eCommerce store.

Sales were brisk. The hobby was growing in Australia and Gel Ball Blasters was in demand. In 2016, Peter imported a huge order of gel ball blasters from abroad. His customers eagerly anticipated their new toys.

And then the shipment was seized by the government

The Biggest Challenge: The Law

In Australia, ownership, and possession of firearms is highly regulated. Even paintball guns (“markers”) require a permit to own. At the time, gel ball blasters were relatively new, but they looked like real firearms.

Peter’s big shipment was seized; the shipment represented about 500 orders that were trapped in customs. Peter went to court and paid for legal counsel out of his own pocket. In the meantime, Peter managed to keep the shop going with smaller orders from local suppliers.

After 12 months, Peter finally won the court case in 2017. His original shipment was released and he even received a permit from the police for future shipments.

Ever the businessman, Peter immediately placed an order for another shipment.

Biggest Growth Driver: Getting the Brand Out There

As the gel ball blaster hobby grew in Australia, so did the demand for gel ball blasters. Peter has been able to ride the wave by engaging with the community and being active on social media.

Tactical Edge Hobbies has Gilly, an enthusiastic employee who regularly appears on Facebook Live and Instagram video, sharing about the latest gel blaster products, answering questions from fans and sharing exclusive range, and deals with suppliers. It’s part of their excellent customer service.

tactical edge hobbies referralcandy gilly instagram live

Gilly often goes live to share about new Tactical Edge products (IG)

Another way they focus on branding is by giving a lot of branded merchandise – T-shirts, caps, posters – with Tactical Edge on them. It helps spread the word-of-mouth among the community. It’s partly why ReferralCandy has worked so well for them.

“It’s going pretty well, we’re getting good numbers,” Peter confirmed. “We’ve collected over 70,000 email addresses of customers.”

On top of these are the regular channels – Google Adwords, Facebook Advertising, and Content on Social Media and YouTube. And Peter credits great customer service and being consistent with having stock as reasons why their customers stay with Tactical Edge Hobbies.

“Even at midnight, I’m still thinking about the business. I love my business.

These days, Peter is a little too busy running the stores and managing the business to play. But as soon as the new indoor skirmish space is ready, he’s eager to get back into the hobby.

Tactical Edge Hobbies: Links & References

Tactical Edge Hobbies: Gel blasters for Australia

Check out our other ReferralCandy Customer Stories, or read our Case Studies.

Darren Foong

Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at ReferralCandy. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.