Tasmanian-born twin brothers Kade Kolodjashnij and Jake Kolodjashnij went their separate ways when they were drafted to opposite ends of the country in 2013.
Kade was selected with pick No.5 in that year’s Draft to Gold Coast, while Jake wound up at Geelong with pick No.41.
The Kolodjashnij twins, who hail from Launceston, Tasmania, are close and found the initial tyranny of distance a challenge.
After all, they had been just about inseparable growing up together after starting their football journey with Prospect Hawks Junior Football Club.
Being part of their own start-up business, Settlers Natural Insect Repellent, in 2016, was the ideal way for the Kolodjashnij brothers to re-connect and stay in touch while Kade was living and playing on the Coast and Jake was in Geelong.
The business has grown considerably since and last October the Kolodjashnijs, along with business partners Emma Kolodjashnij (Kade and Jake’s sister), Ben Vander Reest (Emma’s boyfriend) and Queensland businessman Conrad Smith, launched their online website to distribute their product.
But that step is just the starting point, with the business seeking to take over its own manufacturing out of its own warehouse in the near future.
Their target audience is Australian families who love the outdoors – whether that be camping, fishing, barbecues or any other outdoor activities.
“It’s only early stages, but that’s the long-term goal to go international and bring the industry and manufacturing back to Australia,” Kade says.
“We’ve got some meetings with a few of the big retailers lined up in the next couple of months, which is really exciting.
“The next 12 months is going to be huge for the company.”
The process of building the business from the ground up has been a fascinating one for Kade, particularly as he looked for an outlet away from football as he dealt with an ongoing battle with concussion.
Kade’s concussion issues, which he continues to manage at Melbourne after being traded to Victoria prior to the start of the 2019 season, have been well documented.
The Demons midfielder played just two matches for his new club last year following a pre-season hamstring injury and two more head knocks.
Kade, who has now played 80 career games for two clubs, remains on a modified training program and hopes he will be able to get back to play football this year.
That is why having a venture away from football is so important for the former Sun.
Kade’s interest in business was triggered when he met with Smith during his time on the Gold Coast, as the Suns players were encouraged to network with business people on the Coast and develop their connections outside of football in a club-run program.
Smith became Kade’s mentor-of-sorts and, as the partnership grew, so did the Settlers brand.
The original idea behind the insect repellent came about as Ben and Emma battled the scourge of mosquitoes while living in Toowoomba, Queensland.
They experimented with sprays initially, but after learning that the chemical products need to be authorised by the Australian government, which can often be a three-year process, they settled on all natural wax melts and candles.
“Conrad lived in Tasmania growing up and he had a few kids around my age so we’d usually meet up once a week and we’d just talk generally about life and business,” Kade says.
“Then this insect repellent came about and I learnt more about it and the business side of things and I could go to Conrad and ask my questions and that evolved and it got to a point where Conrad was keen to jump in and help us out.
“That initial step of going out of my comfort zone to meet some people I didn’t know shows the power of networking in football. I don’t think a lot of players realise there’s all these networks now and that they should make the most of them while they can while they’re in football.”
Jake – now with 93 career games to his name and an entrenched member of Geelong’s side in recent years – admits he has not been as hands-on in the process as his brother has been, but the Cats defender says he has “learned heaps” from the whole experience.
Jake, who had surgery on his hip earlier this month, said living in the same state as his brother again was a big blessing.
“It does help with the business side of things as well that you can chat over a coffee and you get to see a bit more of each other’s faces as well,” Jake says.
Main picture/body picture: Samuel Kenny
Both Kade and Jake spent time on the Gold Coast and at Byron Bay in the off-season and took the opportunity to sit in on a few business meetings to further improve their knowledge and gain some real world experience.
“We’re helping out with the exposure side of the business and learning a bit about the marketing side of things and tapping into that,” Kade says.
“Once we bring the manufacturing in-house that should have a big effect on our margins and hopefully the business continues to evolve and grow.
“The experiences that we’ve taken away from it have been so valuable and will prepare us when we look to go into it more full time once footy finishes.”
As for staying in touch, Kade says it’s much easier these days.
“Being closer to Jake has made it a lot easier. All I have to do now is drive an hour down the road and catch up with him whenever I want really,” he says.