Words by Fleur Brown (@fleurbrown) and Ashford Pritchard (@AshfordP123) of @Launch_Group.
Macleay College hosts its second annual Entrepreneurship Forum today, and some of Australia’s hottest young entrepreneurs will be sharing their startup stories. The guest speakers are all under 30 years of age, so lots of inspiration for anybody thinking of starting up young!
We will be live blogging their speeches, and you can follow the chat on Twitter at #MacleayEF14 and @Macleay College. Here’s the running order for the day:
09:15 Keynote Speaker – Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin (Blue Chilli) @sebackmas
09:35 Guest speaker 1 – Genevieve George (OneShift) @MsGenGeorge
09:55 Guest speaker 2 – Bridget Loudon (Expert 360) @BridgyL
10:45 Guest speaker 3 – Kath Purkis (HerFashionBox.com) @KathPurkis
11:00 Guest speaker 4 – Whitney Komor (The Best Day) @WahWahWhitney
11:15 Guest speaker 5 – Jamie Moore (Hello Sunday Morning)
11:30 Q&A session with panel of speakers
12:00 Elevator pitch 1 – CULTcha (Claire Bornhoffen)
12:05 Elevator pitch 2 – U CHARG (Alex Lee)
12:10 Elevator pitch 3 – Jersey 4 Jersey (Pete Nowakowski)
We’re underway …
Macleay College Dean Donna Mack welcomes guests – asking why Entrepreneurship? It’s a key engine of growth and innovation, she says noting that Australia needs to have an economy driven in part by Entrepreneurship. And why focus on this field in education? She says students needs an education that gives them options – to start their own business or apply the knowledge as an intrepreneur.
“Entrepreneurship is business”, says Donna – quoting from the Lean Startup. Entrepreneurs are everywhere in business and also in the Not-for-Profit sector.
Donna introduces MC Clint Salter, who is living the Entrepreneurship challenge. He relays how he was sitting in the same seat as students 7 years ago and is now onto his fourth business venture. As you are listening today, say to yourself “that could be me” says Clint. Clint asks students to raise their hands if they have an idea for the business … half the audience raise their hands. (Imagine if students were inspired to act on even half of these plans – what an amazing boost to Australia’s businesss community).
Keynote speaker Sebastien Eckersley Maslin (@sebackmas) founder of BlueChlli (@BlueChilliGroup) and Kidpreneur (@ClubKidpreneur) is on stage. Incredibly, he is planning to invest in 100 start-ups by 2016. No doubt, some of those are in the room!
Seb says 7 years ago he was in Iraq as a weapons engineer as part of the Royal Australian Navy. He did this for 10 years – and developed a love affair with discipline and process – characteristics he applies within Blue Chilli.
He believes in education and has two degrees. He talks about his first business – a “micro business.” At 8 years, Sebastian sold sunscreen squirts at the beach – selling sunscreen for 50cents per squirt. You can do this when you are 8 – but not 18 says Seb. He made $50 per tube. My profit margins were in all the right areas, he says – but notes the summer season in Tasmania is too short for a sustainable business in that area alone. I needed something like “Club Kidpreneur” to help me to continue running a profitable start-up.
Sebastian breaks down all the simple steps into running a start-up for kids at Club Kidpreneur, which he was inspired to found. (Truthfully, I could do with that course). The reasons kids want to get into business are more about inspiration and social values than just making money says Sebastian … we have to ask ourselves what happens later in life!
The Kidpreneur program runs for eight weeks. The objective is to get to the end and teach kids how to sell in a marketplace – by the end they actually sell the products in the marketplace. Kids at that age don’t have the “no” filter we have later on – they just get out there and do it with enthusiasm, he says. Entrepreneurs need that enthusiastic quality.
Sebastian tells the story of Dave, a kid who stereotypically sells lemonade. He had the perfect formula and is selling it for 50 cents per cup. The Kidpreneur team said to Dave “your price is a little low” – part of being an entrepreneur is experimenting. He put it up to a dollar, reluctantly and sold just as many cups.
Dave noticed a few stalls near him in the market that were vacant. His little brother went over there to sell lemonade – splitting the profits with Dave. He was into franchising. Next step, Dave became a retailer – and then he became just the manufacturer allowing others to sell his product. This all happened naturally.
His brother started a logistics arm, based at the original table. This all happened in the course of an hour. His profits were “awesome.”
Another example Seb gives is a young kid who was inspired to make paper airplanes at 50 cents a plane. The organisers weren’t convinced there was a market – but were willing to allow him to fail. He didn’t.
His planes were beautiful. He got through 1/2 hour and had sold 15 of his planes – half of his stock. He was worried about running out of stock. In a stroke of brilliance he decided to charge people 50 cents to enter the competition to win a paper plane. He made four times more profit by experimenting with the profit model.
Some of the simple steps covered here:
– be inspired by your idea
– be enthusiastic
– don’t be afraid to fail
A couple of years into the audacious vision of 100 companies by 2016 – the BlueChilli team are half way!
We worked out there is 156 steps to going from a light bulb moment to successful funding, he says – applying Seb’s skills learned in Navy engineering, BlueChilli then wrote a process for this.
As an example of that process … Every single business needs three distinct customer types. These tie into your go to market, scaling and cap raising strategy.
1. Your target – find out what your customers want and give it to them. (Spend the first part of your business journey really understanding these people and adapting your model to suit them). One of the tasks is to go out and talk to / survey 100 different customers.
2. Your scale customer – someone your can sell to who gives you access to thousands or hundreds of thousands of your target market.
3. Your strategic customer – who is going to buy you or invest in you. Look at this customer right at the beginning because it changes the data you collect in the beginning. The test for this customer is someone who can make more money than you can from your target customer.
Here’s an example of a business built in 7 days for $500. Sebastian built this just to prove it could be done. Applying the three customer theory above …
Auto Carlock was the business – one where you could keep track of your vehicle and logbooks via SMS. Text in the kilometres (this model has since been outmoded by the smartphone). Customer number one was someone who drives a car for business or personal use. Customer number two was big tax or accounting firms. Sebastian called the switch of H&R Block and pitched the business and went straight in for a meeting. They were giving away paper logbooks to customers at high cost. Sebastian gave the autocarlock for free – because he was thinking about customer number three … growing his database to be attractive and valuable for the strategic customer – the buyer. By collecting this rich data set around people’s businesses and car usage – including the age of the car. Who was strategic customer? Someone who needed that rich dataset – Car Fleet manufacturers or insurance companies. Suddenly the database is worth thousands of dollars to customer number three.
The process of entrepreneurship can be distilled down to three simple steps – ready, set, go!
Follow Sebastian and BlueChilli’s process in investing in 100 start-ups by registering at www.99tolaunch.com
Gen George the 23-yearold founder of www.oneshift.com.au (@oneshiftjobs) is up next – the ‘dating website’ for job seekers. Gen says OneShift collects a rich range of personal data from jobseekers in order to find the perfect match. When business receives their ‘perfect matches’ they can start engaging with the job seekers – using instant connectivity from the site.
Necessity was the mother of invention for Gen – the inspiration for the business when Gen was 21 years old was finding herself in the position of job seeker. With 20 Euros to her name, she was offered a job working on a boat starting in a month. How would she work that 20 Euros to her advantage? She went to a Hostel and formed a job network of 20 people and negotiated on their behalf to get them to work shifts in a local cafe. It worked well and on return to Australia she realised there was a gap in the market for job matching.
Few have a desire to work in one job for life anymore – people want to change and try different things and travel etc – this is critical to the oneshift business model. Our generation is looking at social media and models that keep job searching efficient and cost-effective, says Gen.
From a business point of view, it doesn’t make sense for business to spend $300 – 400 posting a casual job ad. OneShift brings this cost down to $30.
Oneshift will go global next … expanding into NZ and the US.
Gen reveals her timeline of growth – dating back to April 2011. Some key milestones – she was approached for investment in December 2012. (They turned investment down initially.) In the timeline now OneShift is looking to scale outside the country.
Key lessons from Gen:
- It’s better to get out there and have a go and fail quickly …
- Find partners who will add more value than just cash
- It’s pivotal to invest strongly in positioning and marketing to your target market.
- Get something tangible in exchange for money upfront – people will rip you off.
- Competitors will try to sabotage things – keep an eye out, you never know whose on your team really including staff. Stay true to yourself and your gut.
- Keep innovating your product
Next up is Bridget Louden (@BridgyL) founder of Expert360 (@Expert_36) – a platform which allows SMEs to engage experts and consultants on a flexible basis. It’s ODesk for Freelancer for high end business consultants.
Bridget says there is a huge and growing pool of experts here and overseas wanting to help and connect with SMEs.
Seems every entrepreneur starts running a street stall business as a kid – (something about kids being naturally enterprising?) Bridget started hers at five and had various other ventures in the next two decades including one she started from her bedroom during her Uni years – selling it a year out of University.
Real entrepreneurship never starts when you are feeling comfortable, says Bridget. You need to really feel like you are making the leap…
After what she describes as an “epic failure” with a startup in online education she thought about getting a “real job” but realised she didn’t fit the traditional path.
Now is such a great time to be an entrepreneur – entrepreneurship used to be a dirty word, says Bridget – but now entrepreneurs are getting acknowledged in society as never before.
“Necessity breeds adventure.”
No other line of work favours the young like entrepreneurship.
Some practical tips to get started by Bridget:
– don’t force the idea, and keep it simple
– you don’t need to be a tech person
– find like-minded people (you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with)
– be strategic, not idealistic (in your career and your business)
On being a female entrepreneur Bridget says “it’s fantastic” she says running a business is all about marketing – being in the minority gives you a big advantage in media etc
Bridget encouraged people to reach out to her directly.
Kath Purkis (@KathPurkis) opens with the advice for people pitching their idea to “just be real” because it’s powerful. (Love that advice – everyone has an authenticity radar these days!)
Kath says: “I was out of school and wanted to something big, and had a passion for fashion. I worked for a top Australian fashion designer – but it was a Devil Wears Prada experience for me and I’m a more ‘real’ girl, says Kath. She absorbed as much as she could over two years (good stamina) and then left.
“At 20, I wanted to have my own business and I was addicted to online shopping she says. She spent 8 months in her pre-launch phase and invested $150k and launched and made a killing … then the global financial crisis happened and people didn’t want to spend a lot of money on dresses. She pivoted – went to China and started manufacturing her own products with a much higher profit margin than the designer brands. This was a big learning curve for Kath but paid off.
LBB is going through a re-launch at the moment. This makes Kath a multipreneur – running two businesses at the same time. She says having your second business makes you feel like you have done a degree (with the first business).
Kath saw a trend of subscription commerce a few years ago and liked the idea of recurring revenue.
She met someone “quite connected” in the Australian start-up space and pitched to him. He really liked it and became one of her silent, foundation investors. Kath though “I really have a business here” with Her Fashion Box. They launched in March 2013, initially launching with MVP rather than a fully fledged website – it made money straight away. This allowed them to take time to build a really beautiful website.
Kath’s key learnings:
– you really need to know who your target audience is (Kath identified her target customers as the fashion and beauty fanatic, the corporate woman, the stay-at-home-mum). Because of brand advocates online, HFB know when a product is a winner or a loser and can act quite quickly.
– understand your global market. (It’s now cheaper for HFB to send to the US than some parts of Australia).
– Build relationships for the longer-term at the outset. Kath started building relationships from day one with people who might acquire HFB – and allow the company to really grow and expand. “I knew one day it would outgrow me” said Kath.
– The second time round is different. HFB is very different in its structure to Kath’s first business – it has investors and co-founders etc from the outset. This is helpful, but another learning curve in itself.
Kath leverages the contacts she had from the first business in the second business – including interns with her Le Black Book are now working as part of the team with Her Fashion Box (how fantastic is that!)
– Have an entrepreneurial environment internally. HFB are testing ideas from the team (and sometimes “failing fast” and then moving on). The team are on What’s App over the weekend testing ideas and chatting. Major executives (example a senior person from Google they could never afford to pay) want to join and be part of the team. These are money can’t buy opportunities.
– Be passionate about what you are doing – or go home. “You have to wake up every day and smile and talk about your business and get excited by it.”
– “Just do it” – so many people fail to launch. Execute your great ideas. Believe in yourself – the worst that can happen is people say no to you.
Whitney Komor founded The Best Day in 2011 and earlier this year closed a $1 million investment round to fund the launch of the social scheduling platform.
She finished the year as a marketing grad at Coca Cola and she started feeling like she was missing opportunities to hang out with people in the real world – which is how the concept for The Best Day was formed.
Refreshingly, she was never the kid in the street selling lemonade – and didn’t even fantasise about leaving her job. She was driven by passion for her idea – sufficiently to even invest a small inheritance she had to create the first version of the website. Unfortunately, that version of the site was too complicated and lacked simple functionality.
Whitney asked Coca Cola to support her chasing her dream – and decided to find a developer to buy into the vision with her only having money to pay a couple of months of salary to build a much better version.
At this point she started thinking – how can this make money? After working out the revenue model, Whitney attended Heads over Heels for female entrepreneurs and was seeking Angel investment of around $100k – a VC in the audience approached Whitney and was offered $500k. Shortly thereafter she pitched to Sydney Angels where it was revealed she had a VC offer already and suddenly found herself with two competing investment offers for what she describes as “a really bad website and no users.”
Her vision was to go back to her day job after fixing the website (ha!) On a friend’s advice she convinced both parties to invest – which she says is a huge plus given start-ups in her experience always chew up way more funds that anticipated (she says think x3 what you expect).
Whitney says the most recent year of building the site and testing her assumptions has been the hardest part of the journey for her. There’s a big gap between people and businesses being excited about what you are doing and getting users to pay money for it she says – figure that out quickly and you will save a lot of time.
Whitney says one thing she brings to the table that’s different to everyone else on the team is her level of enthusiasm (she calls it “irrational optimism”).
Social Entrepreneur Jamie Moore is up next …
Hello Sunday Morning (@HSM_AUS) founders never called themselves social entrepreneurs or even a social enterprise when they started – they were just passionately trying to turn their movement to create less reliance on alcohol into a business. GM Jamie Moore says: “We have created a drinking culture where it’s not enough to have a keg at the pub – we feel we need to have one in our own home and we think it’s funny. And alcohol is seen as a reward – and as our friends.”
Hello Sunday Morning is a brand that is “brave enough” to aim to change deeply entrenched culture. Hello Sunday Morning believe that brands created the culture – and brands can change it.
“We are literally a culture of drinking experts” says Jamie – claiming that by the age of 28 years most Aussies would have drunk for around 10,000 hours.
Jamie says HSM had a look in the market at what was seen as behaviour change technology – there was nothing for alcohol – and HSM was invented. The sharing and blogging aspect of the platform is essential to its success.
From a revenue point of view, HSM identified the groups that were most likely to benefit from a reduction in drinking. The Government was a key target – it was costing Govt $10 billion to keep the current drinking culture in place. They quantified the savings to the health system for the Government. This was where the initial investment came from for the product.
Jamie says the first HSM website was awful – they had a team that weren’t tech people, so they outsourced everything and got taken for a ride. “We didn’t have a clue early on,” he says. They knew they needed to invest in technology but didn’t want to hire developers. They decided to hire a product manager as the first step instead – to manage the developers. If the developers are the players, the product managers are the coach, says Jamie.
Jamie says the one thing that brings everyone on the team together and the investors is the question: “what would a world without hangovers look like?” We want to give you your time (your life) back says Jamie – this is the why.