How to slash labour costs – and build 2000 per cent growth

Almost eliminating the labour costs of on-site construction, Wild Modular has burst on to the accommodation scene in recent years with a range of speedy pre-fabricated accommodation. Taking just weeks to manufacture in a western Sydney factory, these pods can be erected and completed on site in a few days. Used in remote resorts and retreats, for worker accommodation and for emergency housing, the pods are architecturally-designed and manufactured with sustainable materials.

Managing director Alex Tattle says he and his business partner Tahi Merrilees, both now in their early thirties and both from New Zealand, had seen a “massive opportunity” in Australian accommodation construction, a sector long hampered by workforce shortages in remote and regional locations.

Founded in 2021, Wild Modular has grown at speed, from generating just on $30,500 in revenue that year to very close to $14 million in the 2023 financial year – a compound annual growth rate of 2044.54 per cent. Tattle says the company is only limited by the number of pods the Wild Modular factory can produce, and he and Merrilees are now looking at options to triple or quadruple output in the next couple of years.

On a broad scale, Australian interest is pivoting to smaller housing options – smaller homes, smaller resort villas, a smaller footprint. Tattle attributes the surging popularity of smaller accommodation to various factors including interest rate jumps, increases in the cost of construction and the shortage of land in inner cities.

“The interest from different markets has just been immense,” he adds, noting that to date Wild Modular has mostly focused on the retreat and resort market, with a foray into emergency accommodation.

“We’re now starting to look at doing mass residential projects,” he says. These residential projects would mostly be on greenfield sites, he adds, because although increasing urban density is front of mind in many cities, the process of installing individual accommodation pods in suburban backyards is still tangled in red tape – with separate planning permission required for each site. In addition, providing individual tailored designs can eat into profit margins.

“That’s a huge market, but there’s still some red tape to be lifted around using modular for that application,” he says. “But it is something we know is being looked at as a solution.”

He adds that Wild Modular is based on scale production so in general the company manufactures a lot of pods for each project. “One-offs are hard in terms of design,” he says. “But we almost never use the same design for different projects. It’s all customisable.”

Tattle expects new housing estates will comprise 50 per cent of Wild Modular’s work by 2025 at the latest, noting the company can provide a service for the entire span of any given project from feasibility analysis all the way to handover.

The pods are all built to almost completion and waterproofed in the Wild Modular factory, Tattle says. “So there’s very little on-site work,” he adds. “The onsite work is normally the foundations, and the actual fixing of the modules to the foundations, and a bit of landscape work.” Many of the resort companies require the Wild Modular principals to sign non-disclosure agreements so these sites cannot be named, but Tattle says Wild Modular’s resort pods can be seen all the way from far-flung Queensland islands to Tasmania.

Wild Modular also recently provided emergency accommodation of various sizes on four sites in northern NSW, catering for residents who had lost their homes in the massive floods of 2022. The company even furnished the pods, providing what is known as a “turnkey solution”, so flood-affected families or individuals could walk in and find everything they needed. These emergency pods are considered temporary, Tattle says, because they are currently located in places considered prone to further flooding, so the plan is for relocation at some future date.

Tattle says Wild Modular can provide as many as 18 modules in two weeks, which includes manufacture as well as assembly on site. He attributes this speed to the company’s assembly and construction system. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution at the moment for the building materials side of it,” he says. “We use hybrids. We use some steel, some timber within a module. We’re doing a lot of R and D to improve our systems.”

The company’s accommodation pods often comprise walls with a polystyrene core covered with Colorbond. “They are completely insulated,” Tattle says. “We use wood on certain projects; we have an upcoming development that will be all sustainable timber.”

Although he can’t be too specific with the details, Tattle says there are some interesting builds in the pipeline. “I can pretty much guarantee that we will be developing some of the best destinations in Australia,” he says. “We have some incredible projects underway.”

Jetlag Remedy

 The dreariness of coming back to Australia exhausted after a long flight, only to be confronted with a home in disarray, loads of unwashed laundry and an empty fridge, inspired Simone Tsigolis to launch Jetlag Remedy in 2020. With a background in luxury hotels, she wanted to provide a service for travellers – ensuring they returned to a tidy home, with their sheets and towels washed, their food shopping done, their plants watered.

Then Covid hit which constrained travel domestic and international worldwide. Tsigolis, now 34, suspended the travel package and pivoted to focus on high-end cleaning services. Housekeeping was categorised as an essential service in Australia during the pandemic.

“I soon learned there was a huge demand for good quality cleaners and housekeepers who essentially just walk in, understand the needs of busy families or people and really just own the home as if it was their own,” she says. “It could be putting on the dishwasher, unpacking the dishwasher, putting a load of washing on – I guess it’s really just going that step further.”

Simone Tsigolis with her team


It proved to be a popular service, and Jetlag Remedy has grown month by month ever since, she adds. “We’re very lucky, we’re one of the few businesses that had business growth.”

Jetlag Remedy revenue jumped from almost $228,000 in the 2021 financial year to over $1.7 million in the 2023 financial year: a compound annual growth rate of 176.71 per cent.

The Sydney-based company is now a broadscale high-end housekeeping operation with a wide range of services that includes standard interior home cleaning, shopping, external wall washing and window cleaning, laundry, organising pool cleaning and other services and even providing home-cooked meals. Four full-time staff-members manage the bookings in-box.

Cleaners and housekeepers are recruited with care, says Tsigolis. “I like to invest the time in my people and make sure that everyone is trained up to a hotel standard. I could hire anyone anywhere, tomorrow, but I do spend a lot of time ensuring we recruit the right people.”

Operating in Sydney, the NSW central coast, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Canberra, Jetlag Remedy has about 2,000 clients and about 70 per cent of them are currently active, Tsigolis says.  The company’s travel package was relaunched in June this year, but as yet it only comprises about 5 per cent of the business.

The company caters for a range of high-end clients (and has signed non-disclosure agreements regarding these services), providing something close to a concierge service. Some of these individuals own more than one property.

“We sort things out from start to finish, we understand these people are time-poor and they just want it to be owned, to be started and finished by an A team,” Tsigolis says. “We can empty the postbox, we can pay bills. We can organise pool cleaning, we can organise new furniture, we can get locksmith work done.”

Jetlag Remedy even regularly buys one client a batch of his favourite custard tarts and leaves them ready for his return to his Sydney home, and the company provided another client a level of specialist service when her little boy was hospitalised for a week with appendicitis.

“I’m really passionate about creating more mental freedom for busy people,” Tsigolis says. “It’s comparable to psychologists’ services – reducing the mental load. I outsource a lot of my life, I’m a busy woman, and I strongly encourage everyone to also do that; to survive really.”

Australian Financial Review