There are many interpretations of success. Some would say that earning lots of money is a hallmark of success but I have to say that after a long career in the corporate sector, for me there is more than titles or money that make someone successful. For me it’s all about the passion and joy and hard work that goes into what one loves that is the hallmark of success and if titles and money go with that, then that’s a bonus!
So it was an amazing experience to have been invited by the Victoria chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) to chat with some of Melbourne’s leading entrepreneurs to talk about what makes them tick and how they have achieved what they have. All have built their businesses from the ground up, and with passion and hardwork they have achieved what they set out to do and more. What made the session so inspiring was hearing each of these entrepreneurs tell me about how a small idea they had has turned into something so big and no matter how much time it takes in the business, they wouldn’t change it for the world.
EO’s Victoria President, Yasmin Najjar (founder and owner of neoSkin) talked about the benefits of the global peer to peer network and how the organisations has over 10,000 influential business owners across the world. The plethora of experiences of like minded entrepreneurs provides members with invaluable learnings and access to a support network that might not otherwise exist. Yasmin’s experience with EO is one that has immeasurably impacted her business. Access to forums, mentoring and global business speakers as well as a support network are some of the things that Yasmin speaks of highly during her experience with EO.
These thoughts are mirrored by each of the entrepreneurs at the EO event I attended and during my chats with each of them, it was amazing to hear their stories and what they believe have been some of the key factors in achieving their success to date.
I will admit that I have had many cupcakes from Cupcake Central so I’m very familiar with the brand, however I didn’t know that Founder & Director, Sheryl Thai, actually started her career as a high flying IT consultant but due to the GFC in 2009 was made redundant from her company. She had been baking for friends and family for many years, inspired by New York’s famous Magnolia Bakery. Faced with unemployment, she instead turned her passion into employment with the online store, Cupcake central. Although Sheryl has no formal pastry chef qualifications, it didn’t matter as the popularity of her cupcakes saw the opening of her initial store in Hawthorn within 12 months followed by two additional stores in the following two years. Sheryl attributes perserverance, self learning and working long hours to the success of Cupcake Central. For her, EO brings a support group that allows her to meet with people who are on a similar journey of entrepreneurship and understand the demands that an entrepreneur faces as they develop their business. She says that he support group provides a “safe space to share experiences and problems, and helps you learn and educate you in areas that you might not be familiar with”. Her advice for anyone looking to start their own business is to “push yourself out of your comfort zone”. She adds that we are “all more resourceful than we think we are and we do have the ability if you have the passion” for starting something new.
Similarly, founders of KX Group, Eli Censor and Aaron Smith, spoke of their involvement with EO and despite being in different industries than some of their EO peers, the same challenges exists for them in the Health & Fitness area where KX operates. EO for them was something that helped them with their problem solving and ability to connect with like minded people who understand what being a business owner is all about. Setting goals, both personal and business, and being supported by the EO network of peers to achieve them have helped build their business in just four years. The KX group now boasts 24 locations across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with Pilates, Cycle and Yoga. Eli has also opened up the Nutrition Bar which now has three stores in Melbourne. When I asked them what advice they would give to budding entrepreneurs, both said that ‘loving what you do’ is paramount. There will be many challenges along the way but if you’re open to “winging it and learning” then you can end up doing what you love and actually making a living out of it too. Their message is that you just have to start and take that risk. For me, what struck me about these individuals is that what motivated them was not the drive for profit, but because this is what they actually loved to do. As someone who does go to KX and has for a number of years, it’s nice to see the success they have achieved.
If you haven’t heard of Marie De Vera, you probably have seen her work. Founder of The Style Co, Marie’s foray into event design was sparked by a frustration out of planning events. Following event stylist blogs in the US she became obsessed with looking at ways to design events that were not traditional. Starting off with stationary design and talking to brides about weddings, Marie began to question whether there was a way to plan weddings or even events that stepped out of the traditional and experience something new. Deciding that stationary design wasn’t her calling, she set up The Style Co as an event stylist business. Limited experience in events or weddings, Marie’s new ideas and thinking outside the box approach to events garnered interest which started to snowball after designing Chris and Bec Judd’s wedding. Looking back, Marie reflected on the hard work over the last 5 years that started with a team of 1, added a business partner, Sarah Gonsalves, and has expanded the team to a total of 12 people. Working with people that love their projects and are passionate about them has been one of the fundamental aspects of developing the business. Marie says that although she has only been part of EO for a short amount of time, she has really valued the wealth of knowledge and experience of the network, learning from others’ experience and putting those lessons straight into her business. She said that EO has made her realise where the goal posts were are now always moving. Her top tip to budding entrepreneurs is to be agile and flexible in what you do. If you act on an idea and it doesn’t work, try something else and don’t give up. Being dynamic has helped her along the way.
Sometimes, the course to entrepreneurship starts off with a question, and for founder of Millie & More, Mia Klitsas, the question that started her business came about whilst she was studying her marketing degree at University. Why aren’t there a range of personal care products for women that are not only high quality but also stylish, feminine and conveniently packaged? Mia had spent time as part of her degree in product development and given the question, she set about solving this question a the age of 21 with her business partner. The Moxie personal care range was launched six months after finishing her degree and launched into all of Woolworth’s stores, an impressive feat for a 21 year old. It snowballed and Moxie expanded its product range but also expanded to overseas markets and a local subscription service. Mia is also a champion of social responsibility and started an initiative called ‘Pads for Pads’ whereby her company uses profits generated to provide young Ugandan school girls with personal hygiene products and education so that they remain in school uninterrupted. So far it’s helped over 10,000 girls which Mia is very proud of.
Mia is a passionate advocate in doing something that you love and she shared that there have been highs and lows but she says one of the most important things she has done is learn from experiences. She says EO has helped her in this regard as her peer network provides her with learnings from other people’s experiences.
It was so refreshing to speak so candidly with some of Melbourne’s hardest working people. It’s amazing to hear that small ideas have turned into reality through hard work, passion and perseverance. Everyone’s story was different but the underlying themes of resilience, hard work, passion and perseverance were all things they spoke of. Their success is inspiring and makes you appreciate all the brands you thought you knew, just a little bit more.
For more information on Entrepreneurs’ Organisation visit https://www.eonetwork.org/victoria