How these three entrepreneurs achieved business
success with beauty, pizza and wine
During the second week of our Small Business Coach events, our inspirational entrepreneurs Tom Potter (founder of Eagle Boys Pizza), Sarah Hamilton (co-founder of beauty subscription service bellabox) and Andre Eikmeier (co-founder of wine deals site VinoMofo) gave insightful advice to our audiences in Paddington, Albury and Varsity Lakes.
Tom Potter’s slice of the business pie: How he built Eagle Boys Pizza
Tom Potter spoke to our Paddington and Varsity Lakes’ audiences about his challenging rise to success with pizza franchise Eagle Boys Pizza.
He described challenges from leaving school as a 15-year-old to take up an apprenticeship as a baker, to being fired after arguing with his boss about why his boss’ business model failed in Sydney, while it was successful in Adelaide.
Tom was forthcoming about his setbacks in developing his career and business ideas, and encouraged the audiences to embrace their flaws.
“One of the great things you learn about management is that you will suck at two or three things out of every five things. But if you can actually acknowledge that’s an area you’re not strong in, you can respect it and then outsource it.”
Tom also recognised that while trying to grow his business he “put off” being happy.
“I realised I was constantly putting off being happy. I was working 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, I never had any time for this or that, never had time for a wife or kids. I was just constantly busy because I was ‘going to be happy when…’ but I finally realised, I’m actually on a pretty good journey. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m having a lot of highs and lows. And that’s ok.”
He believed small business owners can relate to the analogy of a being on a constant rollercoaster but owners succeeded most when they “learnt to enjoy the journey”.
Tom advised attendees at our Paddington and Varsity Lakes events to actively seek mentors and use them and their skills to your advantage.
“Stop thinking you have to have the answers for everything. You don’t. If you feel like you have to have the answers for everything you will get stressed. When you get stressed, you’ll get sick. When you get sick you’ll have no ability to function.”
He closed his presentation with the “simple rules” he set for himself to help achieve a better balance between his business and personal lives.
“I wasn’t going to work more than 8-12 hours five days a week, I wasn’t going to work weekends anymore. I stopped drinking (during the week). I exercised every day for an hour. Sometimes I’d think about work, but I would walk for an hour. I took up golf.
“I started thinking about the small changes I needed to make and I realised I didn’t hate my business. I was blaming my business for why I wasn’t well and the reason I wasn’t well was because I wasn’t taking the steps that I needed to. I needed to create new habits.”
Sarah Hamilton on the beauty of becoming a business owner
Co-founder of beauty subscription service bellabox, Sarah Hamilton, had a great discussion with our host Yannick Lawry about how she left a highly-paid New York financial advisor role to launch her small business in Australia.
Sarah spent three months of planning to launch bellabox with her twin sister Emily while they both juggled full-time work.
“We were both working full time and then working through the night. I was sleeping with my laptop, I’ll admit it.”
Since bellabox launched in October 2011, Sarah and Emily have built the subscriber base to almost 50,000, from 350.
Sarah credited US brand Birchbox and its business model as the inspiration for bellabox.
She and her sister then made careful considerations about how to adapt the model for the Australian market.
Making those considerations led Sarah to connect with bellabox’s first investor, who also believed in the brand.
Sarah believed pushing investors to see the value they could add to the brand was paramount to securing them.
“It should never just be about the money. You 100-per-cent have to have them buy in to the value that they’re going to add to the business.”
She encouraged our Paddington, Varsity Lakes and Albury audiences to always deliver a great customer experience above all else, whether that is to internal customers or public customers.
“If we don’t deliver great experience to our brands, then they’re not going to keep giving us product. So we’ve had brands giving us between 350 to 45,000 products and it’s all about showing them that their other marketing initiatives aren’t working as well as what bellabox can execute for them.”
She advised small business owners to seek mentors and likeminded friends to discuss business, instead of burdening family.
“Our two initial lead investors are still mentors to me and I ask them everything. You’ve got to try and take it away from your family.”
She found it was important too to only seek friends’ guidance during business hours, rather than purely at social events.
Sarah found it highly important when she first launched her business to hire the right people and “sell them the dream”.
“It’s hard when you’re starting out your business to pay a decent salary to employees but you’ve got to sell the dream because you’re living the dream as well.”
Andre Eikmeier’s wine-dy road to success with VinoMofo
Founder of wine deals site VinoMofo, Andre Eikmeier, spent years trying to launch businesses in different industries before he found success selling wine online.
He attributes the beginnings of what is now VinoMofo to a slightly tipsy conversation he had with his brother-in-law at Christmas time more than five years ago.
The pair had very similar ideas about launching a social site for wine appreciators to review wines online.
But the potential investors they approached – wine producers – didn’t like the concept that customers rather than professionals would be able to review wines.
However, Andre said the producers did like the concept that they would remove the “conservative voice” that permeated the wine industry at the time.
“The language we used was not wine speak. That was the thing people really liked. It wasn’t about what we did or what our product was, it was what we stood for.”
So after several iterations of business ideas that played on that unique, non-conservative voice about wine, they identified they needed to sell wine online.
Within four years of launching VinoMofo the business has earned $50 milllion revenue, but in its early days, taking the wine-selling approach brought a whole new range of challenges.
That included the need for a strategy that challenged big players Coles and Woolworths and their associated businesses (like Dan Murphy’s).
When VinoMofo gained market recognition, Dan Murphy’s threatened to remove their support from the suppliers who also sold to VinoMofo.
“VinoMofo had to raise enough customers or raise to larger amounts of wine to prove value to the supplier.”
VinoMofo brokered deals with Fairfax Media and even sold a 70 per cent share of the business to deals site Catch of the Day to achieve growth.
“A few private investors” now own a share in the business.
As a husband and father of two, Andre recognised he needed to find balance between spending quality time with his family and managing an 80-person company.
His approach? “At work, I’m all in and at home I’m all in.”
Andre said he worked hard to separate his work and home life so he can “be present” physically and mentally at all times.
“It’s impossible to work less and care less if you’ve got your own business, so for me it just became about the compartmentalisation. It was a process for me of getting myself present.”
He also encouraged small business owners to be mindful of their attitude and mood as it affects the way everyone else in the business feels.
“You project the tone. If I walk into work stressed, it makes everything harder for everyone.”
Want to read more helpful advice from our small business coaches? Find out about how entrepreneurs Carolyn Creswell, Dr Timothy Sharp and Halina Kubica find balance and happiness in their businesses.