In 2016, I had the good fortune of meeting Rob and Shelly Delaney while visiting Australia. Within two minutes of conversing, I could tell these two were different. It was visceral.
If I could describe them in three words, it would be hunger, excellence, and integrity. There’s a spark of energy that comes off of these two as they are highly motivated to exceed the expectations of their clients… and they do. Their products are beautiful, and if you’re not familiar with the Delaney’s, and their company, you need to be. They are the owners of Manufactory, and they are producing the sport’s best designs for some of the biggest skydiving brands in the world.
I’m proud to say I’m a customer (check out our jackets at PIA) and proud to endorse them for their work. Below is my interview with Manufactory, co-owner, Rob Delaney.
Where were you born and raised?
Born in Melbourne, Australia, raised in Geelong, one hour outside of Melbourne halfway between the city and southern coastline near the famous Bells Beach and Great Ocean Road.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
St. Josephs’ Highschool majoring in Graphic design, followed by technical college, for clothing industry studies and Fashion.
When and where did you make your first skydive?
A tandem skydive in May 2008, at Skydive Nagambie, and the instructor later became my best friend, and we still jump together today.
Current equipment you jump?
Container: UPT Vector 304
Canopy (Main): NZ Aerosports JVX88
Canopy (Reserve): PD Reserve
Helmets: Tonfly & Cookie
Altimeter: Larsen & Brusgaard
Jumpsuit: Boogieman and of course… Manufactory Apparel Jerseys and Swoop Shorts
When you were a little boy, what were your favorite toys?
I had Nun-chucks. No, really, I was a huge Bruce Lee fan and practiced martial arts when I was 7-11.
How were you as a student?
I was above average when I wanted to be – truth is I had clear direction, and the ability to know what I needed to get where I was going. You can’t be everything; it’s not possible.
What did you hope to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a designer, firstly, a fashion designer and as I matured, a wetsuit designer as I was and still am a big surfer. I wanted to be part of the famous Ripcurl R&D team for wetsuits. It was always a big dream for me which I joined and was part of for three years.
What would you say is one of the most important values taught to you by your parents?
Never give up. It sounds cliché and even corny – but think about those words and they apply to everything.
As a young boy were there any markers or indicators that made it evident to your family that you would pursue skydiving and entrepreneurship?
Let’s see, I wanted a BMX, which was replaced by a surfboard, I skateboarded heavily, and started making clothing when I was 16. So you could say the extreme sports foundation was laid out, and then the passion for fashion came mid-teens. The entrepreneurship came later with career wisdom. I didn’t ever just jump in headfirst. I am calculating, if not cautious.
Who inspires you?
My wife Shelly every day. She is by far stronger than me, and I draw inspiration and motivation from her. Business wise, we have some real straight-shooters in the Australian business world, namely Mark Bouris, who I feel is a constant source of the basic principles. Also #garyvee (Gary Vaynerchuk) is always a source of motivation, inspiration, and entertainment!
Your business partner, Shelly is also your wife and an accomplished skydiver in her own right. Where did you guys meet and how long have you been married?
Shelly and I met while working alongside each other at Ripcurl Surfing Co. We began dating shortly after I started jumping, and after a few months hanging around the DZ, Shelly couldn’t resist her own first jump and shortly after her career began. Fast forward eight years we moved to Dubai, engaged in Paris and married in Italy a short while later, the joint theme was food (our non-secret other passion).
If money was no object, what would you do?
Money is no object; anyone can walk into a bank and put themselves far enough in debt to pay for dreams; I’d work on my discipline and balance. But really, I just think I have so many ideas business wise that I’d want to explore all of my thoughts into realities.
Can you list every job you’ve had since high school?
Newspaper boy at 11,
Pizza Maker 12-20 (and then as a 2nd job for another four years),
Fashion Designer 20-22,
Wetsuit Designer 23-26,
Production Manager 27-28,
Creative Director 29-31,
Company Owner 32+
What job have you worked that you disliked the most and why?
There wasn’t a job I disliked, but I remember a ‘company values match’ that was the hardest mentally to stick out. I blame myself for not knowing or being true to myself, but basically, anyone thinking they have a bad job only has themselves to blame.
Entrepreneurship is full of risks and no guarantees. What was the tipping point that pushed you to launch your own business?
The tipping point came very soon after realising that I was in charge of my choices. I had a responsibility to myself to try – because I knew that I could land a job somewhere with my experience, so I had nothing to lose, only my sanity by working for someone else.. again..
If someone is toying with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, what advice would you offer to ensure they are prepared for the transition?
I don’t want to say I get asked this all the time, but I do – and it’s always the same answer. You don’t ‘toy’ with it – you plan it, and you execute it. If it’s a hobby – then keep it a hobby, if you’re serious, then get on with it and stop talking, start doing.
What has surprised you the most about being an entrepreneur?
The hours. There is a book called the 4 Hour Work Day – yeah, it’s not going to happen, great book – lots of ideas and inspiration, but do you think Olympic gold medalists only put four hours into a day? Or Billionaires, No. Four hours is the amount of sleep per day you will get.
What has been your biggest victory and your biggest challenge since running your own business?
Biggest Challenge – building a team of trusted people, Biggest Victory – as above.
Money is not the end game; it’s just data of how you’re tracking.
On a personal note – I have had ideas I have been sitting on for years and seeing them finally become a reality is a win. There is nothing like seeing hard work pay off.
You work with some of the largest skydiving brands in the world (Skydive Dubai, Sun Path, the Golden Knights) what do you attribute this success to when there are so many vendors out there selling ‘logoed apparel?’
If I had to guess, it would be because we share a vision. As I have said earlier, money is no object, money is also not the end game. We want to align ourselves with companies, teams and people who are after the same long-term vision as we are for their own success and success of the sport. We achieve this by setting a standard which is not easily achieved by our competitors; quite simply, it’s our level of accepted quality and attention to detail.
Explain how Manufactory is different than most other vendors in this space? Why are you different?
Manufactory Apparel as a company differs from our competitors because of our team’s collective experience. We have fashion, graphic and industrial designers in our team, with professional career experience. For us, it is not a hobby, and it’s not a job either – when we design and develop, we thrive on it.
What drives you?
The thought of what is to come yet, the opportunities and the challenges, the people and places. When you have butterflies in your stomach, that’s how you know it’s right.
When you were learning to skydive, what were your biggest challenges?
Overcoming gear-fear. The first time I saw rubber-bands on skydiving equipment, I thought someone was playing a prank.
Who are your heroes in the sport that have inspired you?
My top three (besides my wife) are:
- Clayton Werner, by far the most passionate skydiver in the world.
- Craig Girard, the epitome of what all humans should be like.
- Mike Wittenburg, my inspiration on discipline, balance, focus and priorities in life.
What are your skydiving milestones?
A few medals of various colors, a national record, a world-record, being a competitor at a world championship, recently organising a full boogie!
If you could share some advice to a newer jumper both in-air and on the ground (socially), what would you like to share?
Find a mentor, someone you trust, someone everyone else trusts, learn from experience. As for socially, remember, you’re not the first or last skydiver to ‘grace’ our skies. There is much more to this sport than can be achieved in 60 seconds.
Of all the DZ’s you’ve visited in the world, which one has stood out to you the most , and why?
ONE…?! really… ok, if I were only able to make one jump at one dropzone ever again, I would choose Skydive Dubai Palm drop zone – Purely visual experience and nostalgic.
Most enjoyable skydive you’ve ever made?
My wife and I shot a music video film clip for Skipping Girl Vinegar’s Dance Again where we ‘danced’ in Gold suits over the ocean on a summer’s day – watch the clip and you’ll understand why it was amazing.
What jump has scared you the most?
It’s always the ones where this is a commotion in the plane, someone’s 3-rings aren’t right, their BOC is loose, “check my pin” – you need to be calm on the plane for everyone, not just your safety.
Fast and Fun
Growing up: Favorite activity?
Getting out of the house.
Red, maybe Blue, hmmm Black sometimes… I am a designer!
Bodhi: “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.
Most embarrassing skydive ever made?
#150, first cutaway – bad pilot chute packing led to a pilot chute in tow.
Favorite skydiving movie?
JOHNNY from Satori Factory – Alex Aimard
Point Break, the original.
Favorite country ever visited?
Italy, Life is about balance, pasta and coffee.