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Podcasting offers businesses a way to connect with their customers that is personable and valued. It enables brands to reveal their personalities and provides consumers with useful information and entertainment. This podcast about podcasting outlines the key considerations in creating a podcast for your brand.

Serpil Senelmis is the co-director of content creation agency Written & Recorded. As a journalist for hire with decades of experience in radio, television, newspapers and marketing, Serpil helps organisations to tell their story. She steps through the podcast creation process from concept to publication.

Corey Layton is the Content & Marketing Director with podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa, where he has led the production of successful podcasts from Mercedes Benz, Facebook, and the City of Sydney. Corey warns of the pitfalls in podcasting and names the secret ingredient in reaching your audience.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. Now I’m sure you’re already aware podcasts are an awesome way to learn, to be entertained, or just to catch up on the latest. They’re also an effective way for businesses to build relationships and communicate directly with their customers. And in this podcast about podcasting, we’ll explore how to create a podcast for your business or organization. Corey Layton is the content and marketing director with podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa has led the production of podcasts for brands such as Facebook, Mercedes, and City of Sydney.

Corey Layton 0:50
A company called gimlet who we represent here in Australia. They have a podcast called Jumpers, the brand podcast for our OB and the aim of it was you Okay, Google buy champions. And what it was was a tooth brushing companion for your kids. So it goes for, I think 90 seconds, and it tells a really great story that’s highly produced. And during the brushing, the voice will go. Alright, now brush the bottom of the teeth. And then says things like if you want to know what happens next, tune in tonight.

Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear from Corey shortly. But first, well, it’s me. As the Co-Director of content agency Written and Recorded. I make podcasts for large government organizations, individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes. So I’m stepping out from behind the scenes to explain how we make podcasts. Now, a good podcast has to be a little bit like a book, think about a really good book that you’ve read. It’s got rich characters. It’s got really great storytelling. It takes the imagination, it paints pictures for you, and the strength is that you get to paint those pictures and filling those gaps, that’s what a podcast does because you don’t have images that go with it. And a branded podcast if you considering a branded podcast has to have all of those elements as well, it needs to have compelling storytelling and a narrative arch. Three key factors you need to consider when making a good quality podcast is you need to really know your audience. Who are you talking to? And what do you want them to get out of? It needs to be passionate about the subject matter that you’re talking about, or at least have done research on the subject. So you are engaged in the actual topic that you’re talking about. And you need to bring in great storytelling elements. So knowing your audience will help you shape your whole podcast that will dictate what themes you choose what topics you choose. So before you start your podcast, you need to ask yourself, what’s in it for my listeners, and what’s the problem that I’m trying to solve for them. And then you need to show genuine interest because genuine interest is infectious, your listeners will actually pick up on that energy and will be enthusiastic along with you. And listen all the way you can’t fake enthusiasm if you’re not invested in it. Why would you expect your listener to be and you can’t just plug in a microphone and start recording. Like any good content. A podcast requires research, a plan, and a storyboard. And you need to hook your listeners from the get-go. The first 30 seconds are crucial, you need to hook them in. If you haven’t got them in the first 30 seconds, chances are they’ll switch off and they won’t continue listening. The rule of thumb is garbage in equals garbage out. So what you need to do is to create a good quality product that stands out from the pack. So how do we do that? Where do we begin to create a good quality podcast? First, you have to start with a purpose, or a business objective that requires you to be clear on what problem you’re trying to solve, or what opportunity that you’re trying to address. And be clear on what you hope to achieve with the podcast. You really need to be really clear on who your target audience is, if it helps create an avatar of them so that you know what sort of person that you’re speaking to, then do your research. Think about why would this audience listen in? And what’s going to keep them coming back and listening over and over again to this podcast? And while you’re researching, look at what else is out there. Is there a podcast that inspires you that you would like to emulate? Maybe it’s the tone that they’re bringing in, maybe it’s the gift that they’re bringing in so jot all that down. And see what you would like to emulate, then you’re ready to start planning. So come up with a concept and an idea, which will create your roadmap for the podcast. And then consider the types of guests that you want to get. Now this is really crucial in the industry we call good guests, the best talent, make a dream list of the talent that you would like to get not just anyone run of the mill because you want to get the best people in your podcast to have engagement. We had Nathan Chan here a few weeks ago. He is the founder of Founder Magazine. It was talking to us about how he got an interview with Richard Branson. Richard Branson didn’t know who Nathan was Nathan wasn’t a known brand at the time. But he tried, he kept on knocking on the door. He was tenacious, and he got that interview. If you don’t ask you don’t get put together your dream list and work your way down from your dream list. Then consider your tone. Is your podcasts going to be funny? Is it going to be instructive? Is it going to be investigative, this will all be determined by once again, your audience, and the types of guests you’re going to have, and what the purpose of the podcast is. Consider the format. Are you gonna have studio interviews, will you have field reports? Or will you have a bunch of journalistic reports stitched together? And then duration is really important? Is it going to be short, sharp, and snappy? And you’re just gonna roll out an episode for 15 minutes every week? Or do you want to really deep dive into a topic and pick some themes over an hour and release the podcast perhaps once a month? So these are all important considerations. And then think about the structure of it. Will it be narrative style? Would it be interview-based, will you have a co-host so you can bounce off each other so you don’t feel like you’re left alone? And then once you’ve done all of this It’s time to put on your editorial hat. And that requires storyboarding. And that requires a script. And your scripts have to be tight. You need to have tight intros, tight narrative links, tight outros. You can’t just be rambling. No one wants to sit there listening to your stream of consciousness for 40 minutes. It comes back down to the whole idea of great storytelling. And in the great storytelling, keep reminding your audience why they’re there, make it clear to them what this podcast is again, and again. Choose your style and your sound. In a podcast, you have all sorts of elements that come together. You have ambient sounds, you have music, you have interviews from different sources, and you have to think about it as if you’re putting together a beautiful composition, a beautiful musical piece that you want to sing. If something sounds jarring in that mix, rip it out. Just leave it out because it will stick out and make the rest of it not sound cohesive. And then have a call to action. Think about what you want your listeners to do. At the end of listening to each episode, then you’re ready to record. Now you may have read on the internet that it’s pretty easy to record a podcast, right? Don’t trust the internet. You do need high-quality equipment to record a podcast, you need a high-quality microphone, and you need editing capability. If you don’t have any of these things. It’s best to call in the experts or at least learn how to use these things.

Serpil Senelmis: Think about it if you’ve ever recorded a lecture or a presentation on your iPhone, and then you’ve listened back to it the next day. It sounds pretty terrible, right? You’re listening back to it. It sounds really scratchy. It’s not the most pleasant listening experience. Why would you offer that to your audience, as something to listen to week in and week out. You don’t want to do that. And in terms of the way sound works you’re listening to my voice at the moment, can you hear anything else? Someone pointed out that the aircon, yeah. Can you hear the traffic outside? No, because our ears are not like microphones. Our ears are trained for selective hearing wars microphones aren’t like that. Microphones are sensitive little things, they pick up everything so this microphone on my chest, it’s picking up that air conditioner, it’s picking up traffic noise, and every week when we edit the Masters Series podcasts we use editing techniques to edit out that low hum conditioning frequency so that when people do download the Masters Series podcasts that they have a pleasant listening experience. So all these considerations are important. Editing is important for two reasons, one for quality. So there are many, many examples of bad editing. Some of the ones that come to mind uneven levels or popping or outside noises bleeding into the interviewees’ voice while they’re talking. And it just sounds horrible. No one wants to listen to them. So you need to consider all those factors when you’re editing a podcast. But the other factor you need to consider is from an editorial perspective. Say you’ve spent 40 minutes recording an interview and you’ve had a 40-minute chat with someone. Do you need to upload 40 minutes of that conversation for your audience to listen to? No, chances are, the person said five minutes of gold, five minutes of key takeaways. You need to be really harsh with your editing and offer your audience only the key takeaways they need to hear. They don’t need to hear the rest of the 35 minutes because they’ve got a life and you just want to give them the key points and give them quality. So once you’ve done all of that, it’s time to get your podcast out there, and this is easier said than done. So once you’ve done a good quality podcast, upload it to a podcast platform such as Whooshkaa. But then after that, you can just leave it there, you need to let people know that it’s there, you need to use all of your marketing power, you need to put budget behind it, to communicate to your prospective audience that you’ve created this podcast specifically for them. And that means first and foremost using all of your marketing power. Start with branding first, give your podcast a clever title. Have nice, compelling artwork that’s going to stand out in the podcast mix. And then use all of your channels whether it’s your social media channels, it might be Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, whatever social channels that you’re actually already engaging with your customers or your potential audience with on, use that to notify them that you’ve created this podcast, make it easy for them to access the podcasts, put a badge on it so that they can immediately click on it and download and subscribe. Do the same thing if you’ve got a website hosted on your website. So use all of your marketing channels if you’ve got an EDM communicate through EDM. And then if you have got the budget, and I would say put money behind it, because if you’ve spent money making it, you should spend money marketing it to get it out in front of everyone. It’s like any other medium. If you don’t market it, people aren’t going to know that it exists. So why don’t we do it under a blanket? It sounds like it’s technically easy. But there are a lot of considerations in making a podcast that’s of high quality. The thing that I can say that is the same or similar is other markets such as advertising or search engine optimization or website design. You can basically have a crack at all of these things. And in fact, we probably all have had a crack at all of these things. But once you call in the experts, you’re going to get better results. Because you are competing with radio stations, you are competing with newspapers, you are competing with commercial brands that are pumping out podcasts. So to be able to play in their league, you need to think like they do. And in summing up basically, some key points have a clear purpose. What’s your business objective? Make sure you plan, research, have a roadmap. Record your podcast, have fun while you’re recording your podcast. But also make sure your editorial hats on all the time as you editing. And then it’s crucial that you consider distribution and marketing as part of the entire mix, not just making the podcast Thanks, guys.

Serpil Senelmis: So what do you think? Did I do okay? We really enjoy making the Masters Series podcast and our aim each week is to capture the mood of the event and wrap you up in it. We hope you find it both informative and entertaining. Up next Corey Layton from Whooshkaa. He offers a broader perspective on the whole podcasting phenomenon.

Ad Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe. In addition to offering a wide range of classes, WeTeachMe is a booking system that helps teachers and schools reach their students. If you have a skill to share, you can find your pupils with weteachme.com. This podcast is produced by written and recorded Did you hear the one about the journalists that started a podcast company to capture and release the stories of businesses? You just did? Well, head over to writtenandrecorded.com to find out how you can get your story out there. And now, back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ad Guy, Corey Layton was a bit of a radio wunderkind before he joined the fledgling podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa. Over the past few years, he’s led the production of some very successful branded podcasts, including tough conversations from Mercedes Benz. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis. Corey says a good story is not enough to build an audience. To do that, you’ll need to rely on good old fashioned marketing.

Corey Layton: Simple had it a 100% on the money, podcasts are really hard, like really hard. In fact, the advice we give to a lot of people in fact, most people that come to us are going hey, we’re thinking of doing a podcast is, maybe you shouldn’t, because building an audience and doing it consistently, and doing it with hot production is really difficult. There’s 550,000 podcasts in the world that are active right now. And all free, and so vying for your piece of that pie, and knowing how to shout out to your particular target in whatever nation is, and to cut through that noise is really difficult and unless you committed and are in it for the long haul, I’d say go, go try something else.

Wayne Lewis: And when you create that content for the people, what are some of the key things that you know you like to hone in on obviously Serpil talks about a lot of things in terms of the plan and the script and everything else? What is it that you see as being the most successful ones and what gives them?

Corey Layton: The ones that are most successful are probably the ones with money behind them because they have an inbuilt megaphone to shout out and go we exist, we’re here to whoever that target is. Beyond that the ones that actually take care in telling a story and adding production values is integral. We are a podcast host. And we have a lot of podcasts on our network where someone goes, right let’s talk record, and then stop at the end. And I upload that and they expect people to be driven to it. And while your family and friends might, getting people to stay and have them engaged for the continued amount of a podcast, takes a trick. And so, production and knowing how to tell a story absolutely is key.

Wayne Lewis: And telling that story is that enough to build the audience and the community. Would you say?

Corey Layton: No, no, no. So if your cover-up is crap, and a lot of people don’t even think about their cover-up, they get to the very end. They’re like, Oh, we’re launching in three days to get to that cover-up. The thing about podcasts is people judge them by their cover. And so if you don’t have a great piece of cover-up, no one will even press play because they’re surrounded by great cover-up that’s out there, and it’s free. And they’ll just go somewhere else. They won’t even listen to your first second. And so your packaging is really key.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, we actually got some good advice on that. From WeTeachMe Masters Series podcast about the title and keeping it clean and simple, getting that cut through so…

Corey Layton: And don’t have an image of a microphone or headphones on. Because people know it’s a podcast.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, exactly. So that takes us maybe onto you must have seen obviously some, we don’t have to name any names, but where has gone wrong for people if you’ve got any horror stories of where you know, people put a lot of cash into this?

Corey Layton: I do, any I can share? Not really, um, there are. I did say earlier, having a megaphone is helpful to get a great podcast, but the moment someone might press play and they may engage if it’s not great. People decide if they’re going to stick with the podcast in the first minute or two, they will decide if they’re going to stay on or not. And there are a lot of podcasts where by the time you hit the two-minute mark, they’re still teasing what’s coming up. And so we’ve come across, and there are plenty of big publishers out there that break those rules. And even though they have the megaphone to shout from, they still don’t convert into listeners, because word of mouth is the most dominant way that people get recommendations from podcasts beyond social media, it’s all about friends recommendations. And if someone samples something, and they got no guy, they’re not going to talk about it and no one’s going to find it.

Wayne Lewis: We had a little chat with Serpil before and we were talking a little bit about trends in terms of coming over from the US. Is that something that the Australian market looks towards and should people be following some of those trends as a way or is it more focusing on what they’re branded?

Corey Layton: Look, the content that resonates most worldwide is true crime. We look after podcasts like a teacher’s pet and dirty john and these massive juggernauts that females in particular here in Australia cannot get enough of. And now there’s a lot of people going yeah I’m gonna make a true-crime podcast and some of them don’t work as well if they miss had to tell a great story. There’s a few out there that are beautifully packaged but still miss it, and I just don’t grow the teacher’s pet. That story has kept divided the nation and from a podcast perspective, some may question how it’s been told. The story is so powerful that audiences globally continue to listen to it. And it’s the first Australian podcast to ever dent anywhere around the world. They were number one in the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, you name it. So true crime is a big one. Also. snackable formats, so connected speakers Google Home Amazon Alexa where that is shifting not just here in Australia but globally and the ability to create different podcasts for different moments in your day. They are podcasts, they’re short form. The best example I’ve come across comes from a company called Gimlet, who we represent here in Australia. They have a podcast called Jumpers. It was a brand podcast for Oral‑B. And the aim of it was you put one of these devices in your bathroom and in the US prevalent, and you say, okay, Google Play Jumpers. And what it was was a tooth brushing companion for your kids. So it goes for, I think, 90 seconds, and it tells a really great story that’s highly produced. And during the brushing, the voice will go alright, now brush to the bottom of your teeth. And then says things like if you want to know what happens next, tune in tonight, and so it builds in how long to brush your teeth for and entertainment for when you’re in the bathroom, brushing your teeth. That’s a really clever ID. And as these smart speaker devices gain traction here in Australia, and they’re rapidly doing so, the ability to start to think about not just podcasts, but short-form audio content that can be your companion at different moments in your day. That’s the really exciting spice.

Wayne Lewis: So that kind of leads on to Whooshkaa as the distribution channel. And what people should be looking for in a distribution channel. Can you share some thoughts on Whooshkaa?

Corey Layton: We’re Australian vice the high majority of distribution channels are all in the US and to be able to pick up the phone, just talk to someone and get some advice is often really helpful. We’re free platforms. So if you understand podcast use us, it’s free, and then people go, but why are you free? How do you make money and so we make money by monetizing the top 10% of podcasts on our network. We work with those podcasters and brands to connect them and there’s often podcasters in our top 10% that don’t want that or are quite picky, and that’s fine.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, the analytics that go into the back end of podcasting. I’ve been looking at the website myself and the AI and everything that’s going on around voice. So should people be delving into the analytic side of things?

Corey Layton: If you’re looking to produce a podcast analytics are essential. One of the realms you can get some stats via Apple analytics talks to you about your time spent listening. Now if you make an hour and 20 minute podcast and your time spent listening is 20 minutes in, you got a problem. Equally if people are skipping over a certain segment that you think is really funny every week you can see that skip and then you like maybe I’m not so funny. Analytics are key via Spotify, you can get an understanding of your demographics based on gender and also age. It helps you understand where your stories are resonating most, and the sort of demographic that you need to continue to pitch at or grow. And also the download source. So you will start to see, are people listening to my podcast via my website via Facebook, or Apple viral, etc, etc. that will also help you if you can put some money behind it understand where are the channels that are converting nice for me.

Wayne Lewis: So would you recommend then based on that our audience if they’re looking to partner with somebody else, is it more like a courting and dating process where they should be asking certain questions when they’re having these meetings to think is this person suitable for me to be working with?

Corey Layton: Absolutely. So you’re talking about a guest on someone’s podcast or?

Wayne Lewis: Guest or partnering with them as a brand.

Corey Layton: So from a guest perspective, yes, often thinking about the distribution like as simple spark about go high go for Richard Branson, if you want, think about who is the talent that is huge in your niche, and then look at who has the biggest social followings because they gonna be the way that you get to convert people to listening as far as brands and having a brand fund your idea if that’s what you’re looking to do, it’s difficult because unless you’re a name, or you have something established behind you, you’re asking your brand to take a leap of faith into come on this journey with me. I’m going to make the show about x, it will be great. And then they say to you, sure, how many listeners will you get? You need a crystal ball to answer that question. If you have an established show, it’s much easier to then get brands on board to help you but from the outset, it’s difficult.

Wayne Lewis: So selling the vision and the story enough would you say?

Corey Layton: I would say, depends on who you are that’s selling as in are you recognizable and respected name with credibility in whatever the niche is that you’re going to talk about. Then there’s a reason to back that horse but if no one’s ever heard of you, and you’re just getting started in the industry, with a brand put money behind you probably not.

Wayne Lewis: Awesome. Guys, can we have a round of applause for Corey Layton of Whooshkaa.

Serpil Senelmis: So like any digital marketing, analytics are key to podcasting success, and those short daily podcasts for smart speakers sound amazing, don’t they? Thanks, Corey. Next time on Masters Series business oops, things that went wrong. There’s nothing like a good disaster story and the recovery story that hopefully follows Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

If there’s one thing entrepreneurs all agree on, it’s failure. Some of us fear failure so much that it stops us from ever taking the first step in business. For others the promise of success is enough to get us over the line. In this podcast you’ll hear from founders who have looked failure in the face and lived to tell the tale.

Anou Khanijou is the Managing Director of Anouconcept, but she created her first business before the age of 18. Starting with a successful Thai restaurant, she then created another restaurant, followed by a nightclub. Then came an almighty failure, one she’s determined to never repeat.

William Du & Carolyn Wong are co-founders of giftware retailers Short Story. Growing from market stalls to department stores, this couple has seen success and failure — often in equal measure. William and Carolyn share are enjoying success, but share their failures in the hope that you won’t suffer the same fate.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. When it comes to starting a business, there’s one thing we can all agree on. Nobody wants to fail. In fact, fear of failure is what holds many of us back from leaping into entrepreneurship. But you’re about to meet three people who have not only looked failure in the face, but they’ve lived to tell the tale. William Du and Carolyn Wong are co founders of giftware retailer Short Story as business and life partners, they’ve shared the success and failure of business together ever since they were in school.

William Du: To come the next year with our hey, we did 80,001 store that’s open 7 of them. 7 times 80 thousands, like half a million dollars. Let’s do it.

Carolyn Wong: We’re gonna be rich.

William Du: Yeah, millionaires. Um, so that was an epic failure. So we will learned.

Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear from William and Carolyn shortly. But first, Anou Khanijou. She’s a bit of an inspiration. She ran away from an arranged marriage in India, and shortly after arriving in Australia in her teens created her first business. Then she went on to develop the famous carousel restaurant on Albert Park Lake, as well as several other businesses. And this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Anou says after many years in business, she had an epic fail and now advises keeping a close eye on your cash flow.

Anou Khanijou: Okay, so we start off with the journey I am going to give you present day. So present day. I’m the CEO of a corporate apparel business, inclusive of a new concept. This business does corporate uniforms for the healthcare, school uniforms, and corporate industries. A new concept has been a business that’s been going on now for 21 years. And this is my new venture, flashback some 30 years ago, how did I start my journey? I came to Australia and I ran away from home. I was arranged to be married. You know, as you see, I’m of Indian heritage and Thai heritage. It’s a very common practice. I was sent to some very good schools. And when my parents mentioned to me that I was going to be arranged to be married. I went, hmm, I’m not sure you sent me to great schools. I’ve got a great mind and I’m not sure I can deal with this. So I then ran away from home and then went and worked at Club Med. At Club Med, I was under age, I was only 16. And I started working with them in their programming division. So I had a really keen interest in coding and they had small workshops that the French would come to and they would want to learn some basic programming. Because going back that time, there was nothing like this. So that was really fun for them. And for me, it gave me a job and a place to be. I learned so much being a club med because every week there would be thousand new people that would come in, they would holiday for a week and they would go and I learned very quickly how people behaved, what perked their interest what they like to do. And I started to build on that. I then came to Australia after having followed a very nice Australian gentleman that I met there. Much to my mother’s absolute disbelief. My father had then passed away, and I found myself in Australia, got through immigration started in the hospitality industry. Opened up a Thai restaurant in Brighton just a few months shy of turning 18 was my first business venture. In 1988, the stock market crashed and the health of the economy was really bad no one was traveling. And that restaurant became very successful. Now we can talk about that being lucky. Or we can say I took the opportunity scared as I was, with $49 in My Pocket, I went, okay, I paid everything, bought all the equipment, bought everything, got the chef from overseas, migrated him and went, hmm, if this fails, that is the end. So it was a good venture that I started and from then on, went into carousel and the redhead nightclub, which were very successful ventures. The hospitality industry taught me really more about people and how they behave and what they like and what they don’t like. And being able to remember their names, being able to engage with them being able to fulfill their needs on a regular basis, and a quick format. You know you come to a restaurant, you sit down, you actually come in for a nice meal, you want to be entertained. So that taught me how to actually please and really understand what the customer needed.

Wayne Lewis: So when you were at the Club Med phase and did you always believe that you would have your own business? Was it a dream of yours to be self-employed?

Anou Khanijou: At that point, I don’t think I had a dream of anything except for just being away from the environment that I was at. But my father was an entrepreneur. He came from no money and sold newspapers and then fabric to the veterans of the Vietnam war. So he would go across the border, he would sell fabric, come back, he would support the family. So he was an entrepreneur and he grew his business from nothing to something very large. I feel somehow I followed in his footsteps even though he’s not here today.

Wayne Lewis: And was he encouraging of you? So obviously sent you some nice schools. But was he ever encouraging and say, right you can go out and do this yourself?

Anou Khanijou: Not necessarily because we’re actually raised to get married. We’re not raised to have a business of our own. So it was a really difficult time. Everything that I learned I had to bank into my own mind so I could use that in future. And even when I was young, I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing. I just did it. I just continued to put myself out there, put two feet in, kept trying different things, learning as I went, capturing the information, taking it to the next level, and proceeding from there. My life journey is a little bit like that. I’m now into my sixth business. And having gone from, I suppose the Thai restaurants into the nightclub businesses. I then started at Kirby marketing and then launched a new concept. A new concept started off as the promotions and incentives agency to Saab and a lot of the companies that were out there, we worked with Urban Land Authority, we worked with Shell, we worked with some really big companies, and did Eastern Energy. We launched mp3 in Australia with ICT. So we did a lot of that work. The hospitality industry exposed me to the entertainment world as well and all of the promoters that are currently in Australia today. At a new concept, I then had my first baby and my baby came along and I thought to myself, oh, okay, you know what services industry very tiring got a baby trying to handle it all when I think I’ll go into the layout industry. Why don’t I make baby clothes? Why don’t I start to package this up for women and Ruby Fantastic. Well, that was an epic fail. I lost everything I’d earned all through the years. And to a point where I got married and my husband said in three months, you don’t turn this around, you’re going to stay home because I can afford to have you at home and well, I wasn’t going to have that. So, okay. And in like four months, I turned that business around, I went to Oshkosh and I said, I’m doing these layouts, would you like them and after persisting and being at their door, they went, actually your cotton’s really good, what you’re doing is fantastic. We’ll start ordering from you. So that business then created a turnaround and a new concept at that time because I’d lost all my money, I’d lost all my key stuff. So like, okay, what do I do now? And at that same time, a friend from the entertainment industry needed somebody to pull out a red carpet and do location services and went, why don’t you call Anou you know, she knows everybody in that space. I’m sure she can help you when that started, what we have today at Anou Concept, we currently look after most of the major films that come out, so we will do the film marketing for it, do the red carpet and invite all the media. So that’s the business that currently is in operation with clients such as Disney and Reja films, and we’re also doing the Thai Airways. So that’s Anouconcept.

Wayne Lewis: So you also mentioned about opportunities and that’s presenting itself. So what value do you place on seeking the opportunities? And just saying yes to opportunities that come your way?

Anou Khanijou: Opportunities is a very interesting question. And I say that if you put yourself out there, the opportunities come. People say you have to be at the right place at the right time. And I’d say if you take the opportunity, the right place in the right time happens. If I sat at home and when I’m not going to do this today, I wouldn’t have met the person that said, Can you help me with my pets? If I didn’t put my treatment in and said, You know, I’m going to take every opportunity as it comes and just learn from it. Even if nothing comes from it. I’ve learned I’ve engaged I’ve met somebody that has actually helped me in my journey. So very much is about putting that effort in, when you can say, you know, I don’t think I can take it right now. So the opportunities for me has been very much about taking every chance that I can and converting them as they’ve come along in my life.

Wayne Lewis: What did you take into your next businesses that you thought you know, that is the core thing that I’ve learned from this massive failure?

Anou Khanijou: Keep a really keen eye on your business. Keep a keen eye on your cash flow. Make sure you’re monitoring. Make sure you actually look at it and always have something in your pipeline. And when you’re young and you’re starting up, you think it’ll come; it’ll be okay. But the planning that you now need to put towards that and making sure that you have some discipline around it is the biggest learning that I think I took away from that.

Wayne Lewis: How much of your time now is spent around the planning phase? So are you in the day to day operations? Do you have your head in that quite a lot? Are you able to take a step back and be more strategic into your thinking?

Anou Khanijou: I’ve put a sign on my door that says redundancy in progress, and that’s mine. And I’m working very hard. And I’m focused really hard and making sure that I can make myself redundant. So the really great people that I have can come through. The other thing that’s been fantastic in a learning sense is hiring the right people for you. And there is hiring the right people that have the skills and have the space but hiring the right people around you that have the skills that are smarter than you, that can do the job better than you, but actually suit you as a person is really important. Because we’re Different, we all have our own ways of doing things. But finding that and understanding that has taken many years of learning, I think.

Wayne Lewis: Do you try to instill your values in these people? Or is it something that presents itself naturally when you are hiring?

Anou Khanijou: That is such an interesting question. My team virtually hire the next person. So we have a very, very strong culture in our business. The biggest comment that comes out of our businesses, there is no politics. And I run a team of 38 here and about 160 in Asia. So if it’s in Asia, we teach them English, they will go out and say, This is the best company to work for. They play soccer with us on Saturdays, they come and teach English to us, you know, and that’s an opportunity for them. Our team over here, it’s all about growth. It’s where you are, what can you do? What’s the next step? How do you proceed to the next area? So I learned that I try and instill that and I think it kind of works.

Wayne Lewis: And then on the flip side, how do you celebrate the successes obviously within that culture, is there anything that you do when you guys are doing very well.

Anou Khanijou: You go out to spook nights, we’re just booking ourselves in to go out for Halloween as a group. We do a lot of activities as a group. We sit around, we have lunch, we ask each other what your superpower is, we do fun things like that we engage with our team. So we celebrate success in that way. We share in it, we know that we are all the team and everyone has had to contribute to that success. And that team commitment is very strong in our business. So we do spend a lot of time with each other and just understanding everyone’s needs and making sure that they can be the best player. They are in our team.

Wayne Lewis: What I’ve got from this talk, as well as that you’re very good at building relationships, networking. So is there any tips of how you can build the best relationships?

Anou Khanijou: Listen, enjoy the conversation, engage with people, everybody has a story. I’m sure each and every one of you has a story, learn and observe and apply. I think applying is important and networking is about remembering the story and when we engage with people to remember about them because we all feel we have a, you know, be kind be caring. It helps. It’s what helped me.

Wayne Lewis: Excellent. Can we have a round of applause for Anou Khanijou of Anouconcept.

Serpil Senelmis: What an amazing journey. I’m glad Anou got to unlock a bank of knowledge and the key takeaway from her. If you do the right thing in business, the money will come. In a moment, we’ll meet William and Carolyn who live together, work together, succeed, and fail together.

Ad Guy: Master series is presented by WeTeachMe, before you risk failure or success why not try out a few classes to discover what makes your heartbeat. WeTeachMe connects you with face to face classes in your neighborhood, right across Australia. Explore the possibilities of your mind at WeTeachMe.com. This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded with a passion for telling great stories, Written and Recorded podcasts, give brands a real voice with personality. Find out how to talk to your customers more effectively at writtenandrecorded.com. And now back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: William Du and Carolyn Wong from Short Story drew inspiration from an unlikely character, the shouty mouthy antiques of Gordon Ramsay before they launched their own business. After some monumental epic fail. They grew to celebrity endorsements and were picked up by international galleries. Here’s their story.

Carolyn Wong: What we do is we do meaningful giftwares and so we believe that if we create meaningful gifts that actually hold stories, they can actually help connect the world together and promote understanding and just make the world a better place pretty much. So we did that through the medium of giftwares. And that’s a little bit about Short Story, but really where it started was, I was very privileged to be able to born in Australia. My dad came from China when he was very young to start his own restaurant. So I had a beautiful childhood. I’m the youngest of four.

William Du: I was actually the youngest of seven, and we were immigrants or refugees from Vietnam, we escaped the war, and we’re lucky enough to end up in Australia where we are now.

Carolyn Wong: So I just really wanted to share with you the early days of Short Story and how I guess we even began our business. It really started with Uni, so I had a very set out life I was going to be a dental therapist. I studied really, really hard to get into one of the greatest unis in Melbourne and what happened was, it would take me two and a half hours to get to uni every day through sort of public transport. And every day when I got to the front door, I actually felt sick. So I would literally feel sick to my stomach. And I’d wake up at six and get there nine. And I would actually turn around and do the same journey back home, or go to a library waited out till 5 pm. And then I would go home and I did this for about three to six months lying to my parents because I just didn’t feel fulfilled or happy. And I didn’t know what was wrong. And I felt so lost because everything was set out and everything was perfect. But something was missing.

William Du: So I’m a little bit different. I’ve always been a bit of a failure my whole life. So I hated what I was studying and I was working a retail job, and something was missing. And then I was a manager of a store. And I hired this amazing girl like wow, this girl’s amazing. She’s bubbly. She’s energetic, she’s amazing mindset, and turns out she’s an entrepreneur, and she gave me a book that changed my life. And here I am.

Carolyn Wong: So during this period where we’re both a little bit lost for dating by now, we started watching this TV series Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares where he actually went around, swearing at everyone and telling them how to run their business. And I thought that’s a pretty cool idea. So me and William thought we’ll do that to my dad’s business. And we started doing that. And I think within three months, my parents fuses burnt down. So it was a business around for 30 years, and one of the staff had left the flame on and the whole restaurant burnt down. But by then, we both got a little bit of that business bug. And so we started a six-week entrepreneurial course and at the end of it, we got a $12,000 grant each to actually start our own business journey and we actually started Short Story. So our first product before ours to make and we priced at $60. And it would never work the idea of our first business was actually to revolutionize school photos because they’re very boring, to be honest. So we wanted to make these really beautiful scrapbook frames, and we wanted to win government contracts around all the schools and we’re like if we could get 1% of them would be millionaires and all this kind of stuff. I remember we called visited, cold-called, we stood outside kindergartens, we held our little frame, and we would go there about three o’clock to try to catch parents leaving and hopefully entice them to come by. And we did that. It was horrible, gut-wrenching.

William Du: Was telling our souls it was, it was terrible.

Carolyn Wong: And then we took our product to craft markets. It was about $80 to set up a little stall. So we talked a little jazz. I remember the very first one. We set it all up, we had four frames. And then we saw all our competitors, erect, massive gazebos, and they had branded bags that had shelving that had all these incredible things and we had one bunnings type with four frames. We looked very desperate for a sale on and it was horrible. So given that it was Melbourne where they started pouring rain as well, so all my artworks got ruined. They were all rippled. And then me and Will just looked at each other and I think we just laughed because we’re in such despair. At that point.

William Du: We cried as well. Probably.

Carolyn Wong: There’s a silver lining. This was one year into starting our own business. I was very lost. And I felt honestly very defeated. I had quit uni, your parents’ business have been burned down. I didn’t really know what I was gonna do for the first time if I really felt like a failure. And so my friend actually bought me a little box of origami paper. And I used to fold 15 years ago when I was a little girl. And I hadn’t folded for 15 years because it’s craft, you know, you don’t do craft. You do serious things. You do science and things like that. So I started folding and I started folding these little origami paper butterflies that I used to do as a little girl and Will actually saw and you can start seeing incredible, that’s amazing. We had all these artwork frames leftover from the previous product. So we’ll guess why don’t you put them in a frame. And so we did.

William Du: So we launched this at the market. And it was amazing. I think the first day we did about $500 in sales, which is a lot of money for us back then was incredible. It was amazing. So one day I saw a newspaper, there was an ad for an art exhibition. And that was at Melbourne, 2010. I inquired about this site, because I thought, Hey, you know, we’re kind of doing artworks. And there was one spot left, two weeks before the show opened, and it cost about $5,000 just for the stand, which is pretty much all the money that we had saved up. So we asked all our friends and family like hey, guys, should we do this art show? And they were like, No, you shouldn’t you should wait, wait another year. You know you don’t know when you’re not experienced. So Caroline and I knew in our hearts, we’re gonna do it anyway. So we did it. And it was amazing

Carolyn Wong: In 2 weeks guys. 2 weeks.

William Du: 2 weeks, 2 weeks to dive into the world of art of which we knew nothing about. We’re like, what the hell is art? We never been to an art exhibition, we didn’t know what prices to make our artwork. So we’re walking around before the actual opening, we’re like, oh shit, we’re gonna go home and change the prices because everything was too cheap. So we shouldn’t sell actually. But he actually upped the prices and realize, you know, that’s what the art world is and people pay for what they believe is art. And so come the opening night. We couldn’t believe it. Our stand was so busy, Caroline, and I actually had to step outside. And we’re standing on the opposite ends of each other and we looked at each other and like, in our minds, like holy shit, is this real? like is this happening? It was so surreal, and we pretty much had a sold-out show and we made about just shy of $25,000 which is amazing. And then from that show, we picked up a lot of celebrity clients. We got commissioned artworks, you know, from Mrs. Gandle maker because Medicaid do actually did the installation for my extreme windows was Spring Fashion Week, and also picked up by international galleries from London in New York and all this other stuff. So it was it was incredible. So we thought, hey, we’ve got the art world that we’re selling to let’s try and sell to the public directly. So we actually did a pop-up shop in our local shopping center Knox city. amazing place if you guys have been. And the rent was astronomical, it was this was 2011. This is sort of Christmas period is about $3,000 a week for rent. We basically had enough money to survive two weeks if we didn’t sell anything, and that would have been it. We thought to ourselves how the hell we’re going to sell $3,000 plus worth of goods without products, you know? $30 $50 Yeah. But it was what it was amazing. So within that six-week period, I think we met about $80,000, which is incredible back then. And we were approached by Eastland and they saw our beautiful stand, which it really wasn’t. And we decided to do Eastland as well and sort of double up and thought hey, this is amazing. So come the next year we thought hey, we did 80,001 store that’s open seven of them. Seven times 80,000 is like half a million dollars. Let’s do it. We’re gonna be rich. Yeah. So that was an epic failure. It was it was so bad. It was so young in our business were inexperienced logistically It was a nightmare. Staff wise it was a nightmare. Stock wise it was a nightmare.

Carolyn Wong: I think just management wasn’t there. I think we’re way too early. And I think we didn’t realize it’s not just seven times, it’s like 50 times when you’ve run seven different shops, then the whole thing imploded. I don’t know what we’re thinking, actually.

William Du: So we learned severely from that. So the year after we probably did like two tops. So here we have the oops list, which is all the shit that’s happened basically, the first one being we’ve ordered some products from China trying to save costs. We received a beautiful sample. And then I thought, okay, let’s do it. Let’s order it and we ordered $60,000 worth of the stock. It came in and none of it worked. There were beautiful string lights and there was shimmery they’ll flickering because the power conversion wasn’t right. And so we tried to pass it off as shimmering string lights but…

Carolyn Wong: Hahaha, we couldn’t do it. Horrible. Horribly epic. So we have to try one. We couldn’t do anything with them. So for 60 thousand dollars just gone down the drain was a massive detriment to our business. But you learned from it.

William Du: Yeah. And there’s numerous other things like we ordered $20,000 worth of frames from China. Again, they sent a sample that had something called Plexiglas, which we thought was just the fancy name for glass. And when they sent the sample that was plastic, the glass was like odd. They probably just sent this because the glass would break in transit. But it wasn’t. It was really plexiglass, which we know now is plastic and we had $20,000 worth of stock that year.

Carolyn Wong: I think we held on to that for four years because I didn’t want to throw it. Hopefully, you can learn from our mistakes but make no assumptions check everything don’t assume something new something like we did because it costs us a lot of money.

William Du: So they’re happy pills, if you guys haven’t heard of, is a product that we created. Little smiley capsules with a message happy message inside a child managed to get hold of these. They’re not intended for children. And then he took it to school. And then his principal found it and then it was a slow news day and then all the news channels caught wind of it. And in the morning, I got a call from Channel 9, Channel 7, Channel 10 asking me to share my side of the story. I’m like what story. What are you guys talking about? And so apparently, we were drug dealers, and drug dealing to children. And then so I thought oh Channel 9 wants to hear my side of the story. That’s amazing. That’s great. Let’s do it. So I did an interview. I told my side of the story for 10 minutes, and then I was excited to watch the news told everyone to watch it. My part of the interview probably went for like 10 minutes, but then they only broadcasted like five seconds where it made me sound like I was a drug dealer. They zoom the camera straight into my face or literally, it was terrible. so bad.

Carolyn Wong: Even I thought you were a drug dealer.

William Du: Yeah. I was starting to believe in myself like, am I?

Carolyn Wong: It was terrible.

William Du: But then the products cleared saying it’s fine. Yeah.

Carolyn Wong: So you know, I think it’s just a matter of making do not ingest on the sticker like making it bigger, you know, in writing you have repeatedly on the top on the side on the bottom, just little things like this. We learned, the hard way. But it was a really scary experience. I got the psychologists involved and we got bashed by everyone. Social media went crazy. So it was very scary at the time. But if it happened now, I would probably market it. Yeah. And then of course, when we opened, had some pop-ups store, it looked very proper, looks like we had a very established brand. And so we attracted a little bit. People trying to take advantage of that. So we had one lady come into our chats and store on the last day of our pop up store and she tripped on something inside the store and straight away cops got involved and we basically got sued for medical expenses damage, be damage, you name it, you know, and so, we were fined because we had public liability, but it was still a scary experience. You know, when you do establish and grow, you will be met with bigger problems like this. And so luckily for us, chest and cameras had caught her shopping quite happily for many hours after she fell. So that got cleared and we were fine.

William Du: The other thing is really, really watch your cash flow. Even to this day, it’s still really, really tough. Just this year, we paid something ridiculous over $20,000 worth of credit card fees, and all that sort of stuff, because you’re just not watching it, and you’re just not keeping an eye on it. So you can be really, really diligent on that,

Carolyn Wong: So, even though this, this may have problems, you know, I’m really happy because we’re in department stores, we’ve worked with a lot of great brands, such as Necker and Clues Stores known internationally and it’s great, but it’s also very important to actually celebrate that success with our staff. So one thing that I’m really, really proud of is actually our culture. I love talking about the failures, but also the successes as well is very important to share that because it’s together. It’s not just our vision, it was our vision. And at the beginning of each year, we actually sit together with our team members and we actually map out sort of all our values and what they want and what we want. And we build on that together. So when we achieve milestones we celebrate. And this year earlier, we actually took the staff to Japan. So we went to Japan, and we went to look at how the beautiful papers were made in Japan, we got to experience the culture. And we just got to have fun because we spend so much time with these people. It’s almost like a family, you create yourself. At the beginning of our journey. I think someone told us that it will take 10 years for you to build your business for a successful business. And I was like, no way I’m going to do three years, I’m going to retire. You know that was what I thought, and years later I’m still here. So, it’s slow, and there’s no point in putting that much pressure on yourself. So just slow and steady. It’s not the way I wanted to do at the beginning. But now I’ve learned to just appreciate the journey or appreciate the moment because it flies, eight years has gone just like that. I can’t believe how long it’s been. And if we could slow down I just learned to appreciate every outcome, success, or failure. The team you have around you to help you realize your dreams. I think the whole journey is really really beautiful and fulfilling, which is pretty much what we’re here for.

William Du: Yeah. So I guess it kind of comes to two things you want a lifestyle business. So if you want to build a business and exit so we’ve now chosen a lifestyle business where we enjoy what we do we love going to work every day. We have amazing one-hour lunches with our staff and craziest conversations. So it’s really just about deciding what you want to do in which way you want to head in the direction. Yeah. And that’s it.

Serpil Senelmis: I love the fact that William and Carolyn live together, work together, and present the Masters Series together. Too cute guys. And I can’t believe they took their staff to Japan who wouldn’t want to work for them. Thanks, William and Carolyn, and thank you Anou as well. Next time on Masters Series how to create a podcast with yours truly, alongside Corey Layton from podcast toasting platform Whooshkaa all outlined the beginning, middle, and end of the captivating story of podcasting. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded and for WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series.

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Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

There’s a lot of nitty-gritty that doesn’t always come to mind when you think about building a business – technical, legal, marketing, and more. In this podcast, you’ll hear how two successful founders navigated some relatively uncharted waters.

Frunch Nazzari is the founder of Rooftop Cinema on the top of Curtin House in Melbourne’s CBD. Since 2003 Rooftop has been showing movies under the stars with the best views in town. Frunch shudders when he thinks about the moment in his mid-twenties that he called the city council to get a permit to show movies on the roof.

For Cupcake Central Co-Director Thin Neu, building a business is a bit like following a recipe. His advice is to have the right people in place to help you and never cheap out on getting good advice.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. Over the past few episodes of Masters Series, we’ve heard some amazing tales from founders who have worked with family, friends, and passion. In this episode, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty that doesn’t always come to mind when you think about building your business, technical, legal, marketing, and more. For Cupcake Central co-director Thin Neu it’s a bit like following a recipe.

Thin Neu: I think I attributed the first store opening to having all those good people around me. The CFO of the company, give me a hand in terms of determining my finances. The graphics designer next door gave us a hand developing our business and our lawyer, he’s one of my best friends to this very day. Looking out for us in the backgrounds I think a lot of people neglect to look at those key areas.

Serpil Senelmis: You might remember we heard from Thin’s co-director, Sheryl Thai in episode eight of season two. Yep. Here’s the ex-boyfriend, and we’ll get to hear his side of the story. But first, we’re going to go to the movies. Frunch Nazzari is the founder of Rooftop Cinema on the top of Curtain House in Melbourne CBD. Since 2003, Rooftop has been showing movies under the stars with the best views in town. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Frunch says his greatest fears are his greatest motivators.

Frunch Nazzari: I’m very proud of Rooftop, it’s actually the jewel in my crown. It’s a really special business and how it started was a little bit serendipitous. I started off my first job was as a nightclub promoter when I was a teenager.

Wayne Lewis: Second one in the series.

Frunch Nazzari: There you go. Yeah, I started off in clubs, right? So as a little promoter hustling and getting people to come to my night and doing all that kind of stuff, and then at the same time, I was finishing up school and I ended up studying media, planning, and buying, whilst being a little hustler, doing events. And slowly I evolved in my career as a promoter and started touring and doing all that kind of stuff. And at the same time, while I was studying, it was a fantastic place for me to learn how to become my own kind of boss, effectively as a sole trader. You know, I got to the end of my studies and wondered what I was going to do. And I got approached by the guys of Moonlight Cinema, to join their sales team and, and work with them for three and a half years. And it was a really great experience. And I met my business partner that I started Rooftop Cinema with Barry Barton. He always spoke to me about the moonlight offering and we had these visions about what cinema should be and what the audience wanted and, and we often had a fantasy of creating a space for people like ourselves. And the idea of what a beautiful medium cinema was and beautiful environments that it could be within and we thought about doing a cinema on a rooftop and Barry was so obsessed with it, he actually would go to the Rialto observation taken and look for rooftops. Long behold, serendipitously one day, we were having a conversation at a local cafe, which was close to Barry’s office after he left to Moonlight and someone said, you should check out a roof and the rest is kind of history.

Wayne Lewis: You have a lot of focus on understanding your customer. So was that key to those initial stages of building the business?

Frunch Nazzari: Yes, I don’t really buy into a lot of the ethos around lean startups and all this kind of stuff that’s out there at the moment. And you know, you’re going to strap in and go hard and do all that kind of stuff. I think it’s very important that you really feel your business and you have an understanding of the community and the network and create your own network. For me. I’m a media person. I come from an events background and that’s why I talk about my promoting background. Coz’ I learned how to hustle doing events. And then whilst studying media, I learned the value of an audience and learned the value of the community and how to commercialize that. And that’s really important. That’s where we saw the gap for rooftop cinema. Obviously, I was out selling cinema for the Moonlight guys. And I had a firm understanding of that I’m what it took to actually create revenue for that business. But I was also understanding a community and we saw a gap in the operating profit because Moonlights a proposition for 2000 people rooftops a proposition for 200. So we understood the value of what we’re trying to create, but I’m one who believes in community and audience

Wayne Lewis: And how do you develop that community?

Frunch Nazzari: It’s a great question that takes many different shapes and forms. I must point out that when we started Rooftop, our first media partner was Myspace. Best to give you an understanding of like,

Wayne Lewis: Not everyone’s gonna remember that.

Frunch Nazzari: Yeah, does anyone actually. Well, Myspace was a first social media platform and it’s just a very interesting way of being explaining the world then. How you build a community, I put my brand hat on. You’ve got to really have a clear understanding of what your proposition is, you’ve really got to stay true to what that is. And I think the clearer you are with who you’re catering for, the more magnetic you become. Creating a community in this day and age is very difficult to create signal over noise. There’s a plethora of information. It’s all fighting for everyone’s attention. So building a community is very tough in this day and age, and that’s why you’ve got to stay true to what you know.

Wayne Lewis: In the early stages, what was some of the main challenges that you were faced with? Obviously, you had 200 capacity, was that something that played in your favor or…

Frunch Nazzari: The main challenges that I faced initially when building the business were probably more with myself. The market barriers, there was obviously legislation and stuff like that. Can you imagine here I was this young kid who knows nothing about nothing? I rang up the council and was like, hey, I want to lodge a planning permit to put a cinema on a roof. And they said, a cinema are on a roof? And they were like, what do you mean? I said, Oh, we want to put a cinema on top of a roof in the city. And they’re like,I don’t even know who to put you through to. I don’t know how to do that. So apart from the obvious a lot of the barriers come from within yourself, like the fears, the insecurities, and all that kind of stuff. So I come from a place where my family were entrepreneurs come from a family of immigrants. We had nothing we came from nothing. My parents got me through school, I got a great education, I kind of afforded it based on what they gave me that opportunity to do things. So I tried really hard to impress my parents and be proud which you still do have fears and stuff. And so that’s what the biggest challenge I think in starting a business is that you’re going to fail. The beautiful thing about being young and starting a business is you don’t know what you don’t know. And so ringing the council and asked me the lodge a permit for the first time on that kind of stuff. If I had to do it now probably be quivering now. I’m going to put a cinema-like they use a very different approach. So there’s a few things but the biggest challenge I think, is yourself apart from all the getting liquor licenses and getting this but I had a great experience in that context that we actually kind of changed the city. Rooftop Cinema was a catalyst for change, Melbourne went from the laneways to the rooftops based on what we did. And we worked with the city in the city of Melbourne. And that time was quite progressive, not saying that it isn’t now, but was quite progressive. We actually got awarded grants, and we kind of work together to build this and I knew that it was something special is an interesting time, but the challenges, I think, from any business yourself. You know, I can vividly recall when I was saying to my father that I wanted to do this. He kind of said to me, you’ve spoken long enough about it. And he was about to get on a plane and go overseas. And he said when I come back I want you to have done something about it. The one thing I want you to have done is just make sure you don’t look back, make a decision, and don’t look back, look forward. And that’s something that I think is really quite poignant. If you’re committed to a business idea. You’re the barrier. I mean, there’s obviously a lot of obstacles Don’t get me wrong, and in Australia doing businesses very tough. But you’ve got to back yourself to have the ability to think through things. And that’s where we talk about the insecurities that emerging businesses like I can remember very vividly another cinema operator was attending the cinema. And he was bad-mouthing us. And I can remember he’s like, this is never gonna last, you know, you can’t run cinemas on a roof. How do they get the footfall and all this kind of stuff? And it’s so funny because recently they have opened up a cinema and put a cinema on their roof. And it’s like, like, knowing like, it’s just, it’s just crazy.

Wayne Lewis: So how did you deal with Philly yourself? Were you scared about what their thoughts of failure are? What your thoughts of failure?

Frunch Nazzari: Failure is the same for everyone. We are all scared of it. You know, there’s this whole thing, don’t be afraid to fail. No, be afraid to fail. My greatest fears and my greatest motivators. And you’ve just got to be able to recognize that and drive that. And I don’t want to be all like Tony Robbins on you or anything like that. But I’m just saying, like, you’ve got to be able to balance that point of when you’re taking something or an idea, like, I’m gonna put a cinema on a roof in the city. And people just go you crazy, what are you doing? You’ve got to understand that when someone says that you’re crazy not to go, oh, maybe I am crazy. And I’m not going to do it or someone gives you an opinion to kind of be able to back yourself and go oh, it’s okay? And then understand, measure your failure. Don’t take stupid risks, like just be rational and contextualize a lot of what you do, then, my family, their support is unwavering. So that was also a relief for me just knowing that if I was to not succeed, that there was a non-judgmental support network that I couldn’t fall back into it. And not everyone has that. You know, that’s my circumstance. And that’s unique to me just rationalize the context of where you’re at, like, I was living at home at the time, and then I moved back home. So I didn’t have to worry about things like rent and all that kind of stuff. And my mom fed me too much always being an Italian mother. But I had a support network.

Wayne Lewis: And thinking about how you deal with decision making today. Is that fear still there? And how do you deal with it?

Frunch Nazzari: I’m petrified right now. I think I might fuck this up. I’m always got this fear of failing. In every decision. You do look at the pros and the cons. We can’t just be completely optimistic and think that everything is going to be fine every time.

Wayne Lewis: And what does the future hold for the Rooftop Cinema?

Frunch Nazzari: More of the same. So when I say more of the same, I’ll give you a picture into why didn’t we go and do multiple cinemas because we were at a time when there weren’t many around and I made a decision amongst the partners and the businesses and everything like that. Bigger is not always better. And it’s not about growth. I just want to contextualize that for you guys. And when you’re starting your business be okay with small, but I will push something on you try and be the best at what you do or try and do something of quality. So I will say that I think that rooftop cinema is arguably the world’s best outdoor cinema experience. And I challenge people to find a better outdoor cinema experience in the world with what we do, and that’s part of our strategy is to make our cinema better. So many years ago, when we looked at can we do this at scale? The level of investment was significant, and the ability to deliver the service was difficult. And then when I recognized what my skills were, yeah, okay, I was a little hustler promoter and I understand media so I can sell sponsorship and advertising but I wasn’t a hospitality operator. So when I looked at that, to launch the business to the level that we needed to, I needed to be a hospitality operator, which then would send me in a different track. So I stayed true to what we were about, which is very important. And then I looked at where did I want Rooftop to be? And I didn’t think that I could deliver the best outdoor scenery experience in the world or at a level that it was at scale. So I said, I’m not expanding, we won’t do that. And we were looking at sites and Sydney and doing that. And so I completely pulled back and focused on how do we make it better, and Rooftop were obsessed with it. So we think about it from a full sensory perspective. So we think about how can we engage every sense, the look, the touch, the taste, the smell, the sound, all that kind of stuff is really what we’re doing. And we focus on that with rooftop cinema. So it’s about telling a story, but it’s also about engaging the senses. So what we want to do is more of the same and how can we be the best at what we do and deliver an experience which is really unique.

Wayne Lewis: When you were making those decisions around the option to scale, did you tap into some advice? Were you kind of making those decisions by yourself? Can you walk through that with us a little bit?

Frunch Nazzari: I have built a network of advisors around me. So I had an advisory board that was around me. And I have confidants, mentors, all that kind of stuff. Here, I tapped into everyone. I often argue with them, because they tell me what I don’t want to hear. And that’s the honesty in business. But then once again, you’ve got to rationalize that you’ve got to contextualize it. What does that mean to you? And how do you navigate through that? But we made some really profound moves in that period that set us up for the long term. You know, we’re 13 years into our business now. And that’s great. I’ve never done anything for 13 years. Even my wife I’m like, this is I’ve done this for

Wayne Lewis: Hopefully she’ll outlast the business, right?

Frunch Nazzari: Yeah, she’s. she’s 12.

Wayne Lewis: Guys can give round applause for Frunch Nazzari.

Serpil Senelmis: Now that’s an out of the box takeaway from Frunch. Bigger is not always better. It’s okay to be small. If all that talk of movies has got you hankering for the candy bar, we’ve got a sweet treat coming up for you right after this.

Ad Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe with a goal of being the world’s biggest school without campuses. WeTeachMe is the perfect meeting place for students and teachers. Find face to face classes near you at weteachme.com. This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded. Podcasting is a way to build your business by reaching, educating, and entertaining your customers. Find out who’s listening at writtenandrecorded.com. And now back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks, Ad Guy. In episode eight of season, two Sheryl Thai of cupcake central told us how she turned her passion into her business. She said former boyfriend and co-director Thin Neu was instrumental in building the business. Now you get to hear his side of the story. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis. Thin says every entrepreneur needs some guidance in the early stages of business. So pay for good advice early on.

Thin Neu: To give you guys a little bit of background, I’ll actually start from the very, very beginning back when we were refugees from Cambodia, so I’m Cambodian Chinese, but my parents were refugees from the 80s when we migrated into Australia in the early 80s. So to give you a bit of an understanding of my background I’m not from an entrepreneurial family or anything, I’m actually from a very conservative family who’s very, very risk-averse. And they don’t like taking risks. They don’t like going out and doing things. I live a very typical, what would you say Asian life where they expect you to go to school, go to uni, get a house, get married. That’s it. And I can see people laughing up there because they can relate. So that’s the general typical life cycle, a life journey of a young Asian male like myself, but things kind of change. When I reached 25. I did the whole thing early up until about 18 to 21, actually 22 so I went to uni, I got a degree in Business Information Systems. I worked in logistics is one of my first jobs where I learned a lot of skills. And then I moved from there to pause IT systems, which then taught me the next set of skills that I didn’t actually know that I was actually learning to become an entrepreneur before I even knew I was an entrepreneur. And then from there, I went and became the IT manager of a franchise company Paradise Retail Holdings, which was a company that actually owned multiple different businesses under one umbrella company. They earned a chain of 150 pet stores, cafes, they own steak houses. And that kind of opened up my eyes to saying, you know, what, how did my manager or director do this? How can you own all these different businesses and then run them effectively and efficiently? So from there, that’s where I kind of had a lot of learnings and kind of opened up my eyes in my work world to springboard me to the next phase where it was opening Cupcake Central. But even before that, I met a lot of people within the company that actually helped me get to where we are and open the first Cupcake Central. Also, my business partner Sheryl started off in markets, and then when I came along, I will look at the idea and the concept I got, you know what, I think this is gonna work because when we opened, it was eight years ago, there was an emerging market for cupcakes in the market. And then I said, You know what? Let’s do it. Yeah, I think this is a good concept. I think it was gonna do well. And then we decided to open up our first store in Hawthorne. But it wasn’t as easy as she thought, in that early period. You know, there was a lot of mistakes made and coming from it. And both of us coming from it backgrounds. We don’t have any hospitality background. I don’t know how to make cakes, but sell cupcakes all day every day. And I didn’t know how to make coffee or do anything at all those. But I think I attributed the first store opening to having all those good people around me. So having the CFO of the company, give me a hand in terms of determining my finances. The graphics designer next door gave us a hand developing our business and our lawyer, he’s one of my best friends to this very day, looking out for us in the background. So I think a lot of people neglect to look at those things before they start a business and jump into those key areas. And it’s good to become and go out there. And I’m an optimist. So I love going out doing new ideas, being creative. But I guess through business and the mistakes that I’ve learned, we’ve had to pare back in everything and look at the risks before you do everything. If you screw it up, how much is this gonna cost?

Wayne Lewis: Looking at the customer a little bit as well. And so and there’s a lot of similarities between yourself and Frunch speaking before focusing on that customer experience. Can you talk about how you make that special and…

Thin Neu: Yeah, it’s actually very funny because when I first wanted to actually open Cupcake Central, I said I didn’t want to open a pink frilly cupcake store that’s just targeted to women. I go if we’re going to open up Cupcake Central, it has to appeal to both demographics. And I think there was a niche in the market back then. But every single cake stores just like pink and frilly and alienated men to come into the stores. And I said when we wanted to do it, we want it to be fresh, we wanted to be cooler. We wanted to have a more masculine cupcake brand than more than a feminine brand. And working with the branding guy at the very, very beginning, which was introduced to us his name was Matt from The Anatomy, he helped us a lot in terms of how to brand cupcake Central Stores and all the assets that we produce. And he asked us, are you a female brand? Are you a male brand? And we said We’d rather be a male brand. So 60% appealed to men and 40% appeal to women. And that kind of dictated how we created and crafted our brand and how we communicated. So you’re not segmenting out that section of the market.

Wayne Lewis: Was it harder opening the second one to the first one or?

Thin Neu: I think actually the third one was the hardest one to actually build? Because that’s when we pivoted our concept into kiosk models. So our first three stores were all large format stores which were ranging from about 60 to 80 squares. And that was kind of easier to do because we had space. But when we wanted to go into a kiosk format, trying to condense 80 squares down into 20 squares, that was a little bit more of a challenge. So you’ve got a quarter of the room, but you have to actually produce the same amount of cakes and work in that space. So that was more of a challenge back then, you know, we did it. We did some research, we worked around it, we figured it out. But that was more of a challenge when you’re just trying to shift your business model. Yeah.

Wayne Lewis: Are you into the numbers, your numbers, your numbers guy? Yeah?

Thin Neu: I am the numbers guy. Funny or not, I probably failed accounting twice in university, and then now I’m responsible for all the finances in the business. But numbers drive the business’s action and strategy. So I look at the numbers every single day and numbers, what I need to look at to determine how the business performs. And my job is to decipher the numbers. So it tells a story. So, you know, you might have your cost of goods running at about 35%. What does that tell you? There’s an inefficiency somewhere. And then you start to dig deeper into those problems to go. Where is the inefficiencies? Actually what is happening here, then you might actually find out it’s a problem somewhere else that’s caused by a supplier that is actually causing you these inefficiencies. But yes, numbers drive everything. And I think that’s the biggest thing for our business or any other businesses that I work with now. I’m very, very big on numbers.

Wayne Lewis: And how do you then communicate those findings? So are you involved with communicating that to the staff members and the management?

Thin Neu: Yes, so because we manage a lot of different stores, we always have rituals towards the business. And we set up these meeting structures that we’ve been doing since, I wouldn’t say that day but until we got to about five stores, we had to put different processes and reporting into the business so that we could understand because you can’t be at every single store all the time. So every Monday we meet with all our management team, we look at pnl’s we look at store performance, What went wrong through the week, and we go through our minutes, we give him action items, we make people accountable for their roles. But to say that now, it sounds easy, but it took us a long time to get to that point.

Wayne Lewis: Three years was rounded looking past the fifth store that freed you up to think more strategically and or is it just made things…

Thin Neu: Made a little bit more difficult for ourselves because the business model wasn’t able to scale to a certain point. And because we were having multiple business models across different stores, it made it a little difficult to manage. And I’m in the process now of looking at how to reinvent these models to become a much much more scalable business. So we are looking at the problems and fixing them as we go now too. So we have a strategy coming into the next six months to a year, and we’re addressing it and then we’re actually putting the structures and executing the plan to actually be able to grow the company now.

Wayne Lewis: If you could go back to your 25-year-old self. What would you say to yourself?

Thin Neu: I think, you know, being younger, I was probably a lot more naive in terms of the way I did things, I would be very, very gang ho. So if I was go back to myself, I would say, you know what, pay for good advice early on. Sometimes you cheap out on advice, and it causes you more mistakes and more money in the future, you know, get good legal advice when you’re doing your leases and stuff. I’ll give you an example. If I didn’t have a good lawyer, helping me out at the very beginning is like my best mate now, I’d probably be paying 10 to 20% more on my lease, I wouldn’t know about fit-out contributions where they give you money from the shopping centers to actually help you build stores, which you have to be very, very careful about how do you reduce down bank guarantees, you know what I mean? How do you get your employment contracts right so that you actually don’t make these mistakes. So getting good advice early on, and sometimes if you have to pay a little bit for it, just get it because it will save you in the long run because you’re looking at the short term versus the long term.

Wayne Lewis: Once you’ve got this strategy out the way in the next kind of six months to a year, and you’ve worked on that, what’s the overall grand vision after that?

Thin Neu: I think with Cupcake Central, we’re going to keep growing it. Yeah. In terms of stores, probably not going to grow any more stores, but I think we’re going to grow the brand. Our key focus this year is to keep building our tribe and our community. We have a big tribe. You know, we have about 60,000 70,000 people on Instagram, I think about 30,000 on Facebook, and they’re all engaged. So I think this year, our main thing is to actually introduce more products for them. They want more from us. So we’re listening to our customers. So we’re going to give them more you know, they want merchandise, they want books, they want classes, they want cakes, they want all these different things. So our next step would be building the product lines for Cupcake Central building his brand and building his merchandise. We don’t need more stores to grow.

Wayne Lewis: Excellent. So guys, can we have a round of applause to Thin of Cupcake Central.

Serpil Senelmis: Some useful advice from Thin, listen to your customers, their feedback is really important. And don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know the answers. Nobody’s going to bite your head off. Thanks, Thin. And thank you for Frunch as well. Next time on Masters Series failure and success, my business journey. Well, not mine specifically, we’ll have a couple of founders to explain how failure is actually a learning experience on the road to success. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded and for WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Working with your family can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. After all, who can you trust more than those people closest to you? In this podcast, you’ll meet two successful business operators who have taken their family businesses to the next level.

Penelope Sattler is the General Manager of her family’s golf course — Barnbougle Golf, which has been voted as the Best Australian Golf Resort. Penelope really likes her family and says business rewards are even sweeter when shared with them.

Georgia Beattie got her start in her dad’s winemaking business before studying entrepreneurship and taking on the CEO role at Startup Victoria a few years ago. She’s now running her own business which is bringing startup skills and mentality to big corporate players. Georgia says one of the key benefits of working with family is the transparency and trust in management.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series, where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. I’ve always thought I peaked too early because I ran my family’s kebab caravan, long before food trucks became a thing. I found it exciting working in the family business. But of course, it’s not without its difficulties. Georgia Beattie is a former CEO of Startup Victoria, and now runs corporate venturing in Australia. But the story begins in the family wine business.

Georgia Beattie: I’d really taken a business into another direction and so dad’s really good being hands-on with things. So he loved the manufacturing side and the production side. We bought a lot of wine. So those sort of big petrol tankers you see on the road, we had 40 of those setting up to the factory a day full of wine. So he would sort of come in and my brother who’s now-familiar has been both on a few people over in London, he would sort of come in and be the wine quality persons. I think that’s the thing with family business. It’s emotional noise. You need to do it.

Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear from Georgia soon. But first Penelope Sattler. She’s the general manager of her family’s golf course, on the spectacular north coast of Tasmania. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Penelope says while there are some challenges working with siblings and parents, she really likes her family and is really proud of the achievement together.

Penelope Sattler: We work in golf, and I actually studied Hotel Management at University. So I did a Bachelor of International Hotel Management. I worked overseas for a little while and then moved back to Hobart in Tasmania and was working there. My dad gave me a call and said that they’re building another golf course and could I be part of the opening team and probably move into the general management role when that opened, and I said I’d love to. So that was how that began.

Wayne Lewis: It wasn’t your dad’s passion to run a golf course, in the first instance, did that start off as a farm?

Penelope Sattler: That’s exactly right. Barnbougle is actually a farming property. So we have beef and potatoes. And the land that was turned into the golf course is actually non used coastal land basically, none of us are golfers, dad wasn’t a golfer either. But he was approached by someone to have a look at developing the coastal land into a golf course. And then we had a few Americans that were in golf architecture come and have a look. And they said that they thought that it could be one of the best golf courses in the world. So he said that was probably an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. So decided that he’d make the golf and see what he could do. So it’s not a traditional golf course in the sense that there’s memberships and that it’s, you have to be very wealthy or from particular family or something to play. It’s very open to everybody. very easygoing, we need numbers and we try to be more a hospitality resort rather than a really strict golf resort. So that’s how, yeah, we’ve probably changed the golf industry a little bit like that.

Wayne Lewis: And if you go back to those days of when your dad was making that decision, whether to sell that land or to develop that land, was that a difficult process?

Penelope Sattler: Yeah, I think it was. He leased the land originally but was also part of the group that put the funds together for the golf course. And then over time, it kind of fell over and additional funding was needed. And he basically picked it up and underwrote it and went from there, essentially. So from what began is probably just leasing the piece of land for a really good golf course he ended up probably saying that there was maybe something more that he could do as well. And he had hospitality in his blood. He’d been in it for a very long time before he was in farming. So I think he thought that he could apply the hospitality knowledge That he had to the golf concept and went from there.

Wayne Lewis: So your dad was a big inspiration, did you pick up some tips on the farm in terms of the business acumen as well?

Penelope Sattler: I think I decided because I didn’t really know what to do. And I found that there were so many other courses that I kind of looked at medicine or law or something like that. And I didn’t want to be necessarily a doctor at the end or a lawyer like I was so unclear about what I wanted to do. Whereas International Hotel Management was more an international business degree. And there was six months study at Union and actually a six-month placement somewhere in the world. So it was very much. I don’t know, it felt more like a modern university where you weren’t actually kind of stuck studying all year round, and then you waste three months holiday you kind of work and study at the same time. So I suppose you got it done a little bit quicker. Got to travel a little bit internationally. And yeah, it was fairly open-ended at the end with kind of a business degree, I suppose.

Wayne Lewis: Was there any pressure to go into the family business? Was it an expectation?

Penelope Sattler: I don’t think so. I mean, obviously, they wanted us to be part of it. But for me, it was really about being closest to and being around the person that I found the most inspiring in business that I knew. So probably a mentor, I guess, was actually my father. Sounds a little bit silly, but just meant that I could be around somebody every day that could teach me so much and actually was willing to teach me so much not hold back on what they’re willing to share, because they didn’t really want me to know if, if I asked him if he could share it, he would share it because I was family. And it was worth me knowing.

Wayne Lewis: What’s your current role today?

Penelope Sattler 5:35
I’m the general manager. So I oversee the golf courses and the resort. And basically, just the kind of day to day running in strategic planning of the property.

Wayne Lewis: You were talking about 150 employees as well. That must be quite a challenging aspect of your role. Yeah, that’s the most challenging aspects of managing 150 people?

Penelope Sattler: Managing 150 people. There’s a lot of personalities and everybody has a good day or a bad day. That kind of thing. So I suppose just getting people to work together, because offering a really good hospitality experience, you need to be pretty united in your goal. And one person can let the whole team down and ruin all the guests’ experience or stay while they’re there. So every employee needs to be aware of how we want the guests to feel while they’re there. Really, I just have to make sure that they’re happy and getting along together and that kind of thing so they can present themselves in the way that we would want.

Wayne Lewis: And with it being a family business, then Are there any challenges the dynamics within the family?

Penelope Sattler: Yeah, it’s definitely not easy all the time. I, we are lucky because we get along really well. But I’m one of four children and we all have some role that we play within the company. And I think that’s difficult as well. But yeah, we get along really well. And we’re pretty clear with our communications definitely been times where we’ve conflicted on things and I suppose the hard thing about being in family is that it’s very emotional when it comes to something like that you probably more expressive than you would be if it was just with a management team that you worked with every day, but you’d naturally live with them. So it can be difficult sometimes, but it’s good.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah. And do you ever set aside certain times, you know, this is definitely family time where we need to completely detach from work?

Penelope Sattler: We try, but it always comes back to business. I think if it’s dinner, there’s a discussion and even if you’re out somewhere else, you monitoring what they’re doing or the service they’re providing and discussing it. Whether you could do something better or take something from that as well. So yeah, I don’t think you really turn off maybe overseas. If we’re traveling together, we might but that’s…

Wayne Lewis: So what are some of the best things about working within a family business?

Penelope Sattler: I don’t know. I really like my family. So I suppose that’s probably a good thing. But all the achievement and all the success that comes you all share, and I think that’s just such a huge thing because you get to use say Christmas or something like that, and you can celebrate the year that you’ve had. And it’s really important to celebrate the little wins as well. But yeah, I think just really people that are fully invested in what you’re doing and what they’re doing and being able to celebrate together, it’s yes. really cool.

Wayne Lewis: If you think about future generations of the film and business then you’ve got those discussions?

Penelope Sattler: Yeah, not so much because none of us have children yet. But I think definitely, we kind of see ourselves as just the guardians of what’s there at the moment to look after and hopefully improve and grow in our lifetime, and then pass it on to the next generation for them to do the same thing. And hopefully, it’s something that will last for years and years to come not be busted apart next generation or this generation or something like that through conflict or something. So very aware of kind of succession planning and I think that needs to take place to make sure that it’s something that will be around for a long time.

Wayne Lewis: Can we have a round of applause for Penelope Sattler. Thank you very much.

Serpil Senelmis: It sounds like Penelope has a really realistic understanding of just how hard it can be to keep a family business going and prospering. I hope it continues well into the next generation too. Thanks, Penelope. In just a moment. We’ll go corporate venturing with Georgia Beattie.

Ad Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe. Before you start a business with your family. Why not take a class with them? Learn how to make prosciutto, duck or truffles, then eat the profits together. Prime your family business at weteachme.com. This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded. Built on family experienced in radio broadcasting, written and recorded are able to capture stories that don’t often get told. Introduce us to your Mum at written and recorded.com and now, back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ad Guy. Georgia Beattie had spent two years as CEO of Startup Victoria between launching her own businesses. But it was working in the family wine business where she can’t hurt entrepreneurial teeth and underwent a bit of child labor in the interests of family business success. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Georgia says together her family all play to their strengths and when the going got tough and play to their weaknesses as well.

Georgia Beattie: I guess the family business so my father was making wine at the time in the Yarra Valley and also importing French oak wine barrels and selling those to a lot of the large wineries in Australia. And he also had a passion for wine so my brother and I grew up with child labor on the vineyard picking grapes.

Wayne Lewis: And drinking at the age of seven?

Georgia Beattie: I didn’t say that you said that.

Wayne Lewis: Hahaha

Georgia Beattie: And all the things that in a family business, you just got to fill the gaps because they need to be done. It’s not can you do it, or it’s not about trying, it’s just about getting it done. And so that gave me an understanding of why and how to run a business and also understand the landscape of wine in Australia. And so I actually went and studied entrepreneurship over in the States. And when you study entrepreneurship, you sort of need to have a context to apply it to, and have a bit of an understanding of an industry that you’re wanting to start a business in. And so I came back from Boston, and I was actually at the Laneway Music Festival, and they wouldn’t save me a glass of wine. And I asked them why. And they said, oh, look, wine can’t be served outdoors because of the glass. Beer and spirits come in a single-serve, but wine will have to pour it at such a piss. So you can’t have one. You can have a beer, you can have spirits. And so, being that 23-year-old uni student is like, well, clearly I need to solve this really big human problem. And so I started a business that made a single set glass of wine. So I went home from that music festival and got a plastic wine glass and poured wine into it and got my housemate iron and I end on some foil onto the top and ruined behind. But it wasn’t mine so it was fine. But that was my prototype. And so then I went and raised money and built a manufacturing line and had a big manufacturing plant here in Melbourne. But markets were all overseas and right the way through that I was still sort of straddling that family business. And my brother and father were in my business as well. So all the lines were blurred.

Wayne Lewis: Are they still involved today or hows?

Georgia Beattie: Well, I sold the company in early 2016. Because it grew very quickly over those six years, and sort of turned into a bit of a very different company to the company my father has now. And because I’d studied entrepreneurship was all about exits and all these things.

Wayne Lewis: Having the plan?

Georgia Beattie: Yeah, we’re having a business plan. I actually wrote a business plan. But I mean, we grown to the point where we had offices in Japan and Korea, Taiwan and China. And we sort of need to probably inject a whole hate more working capital into the business like a good sort of $30 million, which I would have had to go to the market for. So it was whether I wanted to stay in that business or sell and I just had an offer out of the blue from Europe to the business, I wanted the airlines in the hotel minibars that we served in China. So I ended up taking that offer. And it was an exhausting business. I had no idea what I was getting into and neither did dad. And it was really interesting hearing Penny’s before about two really nice environment to grow and learn and have that transparency. And if you haven’t got sort of your traditional management structure where there are secrets and other people’s careers that are more of a priority. It’s about getting the job done in the most efficient way. That’s also the healthiest way and so there weren’t lines, I’d really taken a business into another direction. And so while we had that, dad’s really good paying hands-on with things, so the manufacturing side and the production side. We bought a lot of wine to those sort of big petrol tankers. You see on the road, we had 40 of those sitting up to the factory a day full of wine. So he would sort of come in there, my brother, who’s now similarly, if Heston Blumenthal and a few people over in London, he would sort of come in and be the wine quality person. So everyone would just sort of play to their strengths and that if they had to play to their weaknesses because we needed to fill some gaps, but I think that’s the thing with family business, it’s that there are no lines, it’s emotionally you need to do it.

Wayne Lewis: And some of your strengths then, forming partnerships was a big one for you. And obviously, you talk about overseas and the manufacturing process and resourcing those type of things. Can you shed a little bit of light around your skillset there and what was important to your business at that time?

Georgia Beattie: Yeah, when when you’re an entrepreneur you sort of need to be on the forward facing element of whatever it is that next growth phases. And so for me, I had this manufacturing line that was belting out wine glasses and at that point, we were serving to all the AFL, the stadiums, and the festivals and things. And then I thought should I need to go and find a market for this wine that’s pumping out of the factory. So I had to go overseas very quickly. And my brother is probably a more detailed well thought out person where I’m sort of like forward run out just like on try things and some work and some wine, I might be fazed by that. So the marketing and the sales and how we positioned ourselves in Asia was a really important thing. And I did spend a little bit of time studying in Beijing. So I sort of understood where why and slotted into the luxury mentality in Asia, and that was relatively new, and sort of a Western culture that was moving in there. So that was a really critical area of the business that I was really happy in what was just so difficult for me to do was so we launched in Japan and the Japanese very particular everything needs to be perfect. And we had this she’ll be right attitude that didn’t go down so well over there. So things that the label was like a millimeter out, it was like the whole container was in those cultural aspects to your market. Right? Yeah. And so I had to come back. And this was sort of filling the gaps and get our quality control from here to up here. And so it’s a start-up. I mean, we were contract packaging for listed wine companies, and they will find it but our Japanese customers were not we needed to change things. And now we’re getting on a plane and coming to inspect things. So I was like, all right.

Wayne Lewis: Easy not to be in Japan, then? Haha

Georgia Beattie: I need to know it was my biggest market and my favorite market. And when you get in there, it’s very hard work and I make you work. But once you’re there, it’s fantastic. And you’ve got these great relationships that are ongoing, but it just takes a little while to get them and Australians are a little bit more casual, where they’re very formal. And so I’ve had lots of learning and genuinely when I learned I learned the hard way. So I had to go into the detail on the factory and do all the reporting and that stuff. I’m awful at which I had to do.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, you talk about the hard way. What was your biggest fall?

Georgia Beattie: Oh, well, I mean, how long have we got today? I really, to be honest, I probably didn’t learn fast enough with the Japanese, you know, a very expensive mistake was I raise some capital very early on off a business plan. And although I was pitching the business, and I had my vision of where the company was going to go, and I didn’t realize that they were actually wanting to put money into the business to be a supplier to the business. And I wasn’t able to look at it holistically, I wasn’t able to get up in the helicopter and really understand why they were interested in the business because what was being communicated to me is that they really liked the innovation and the potential IP and all the expansion but they actually didn’t have the grand plans and the high growth we’re going to exit this and make it really big intentions that I did. That was really painful. So I outgrew that supplier within eight months and to be honest, the quality of the production they had was, I mean, there’s many nights that I didn’t sleep actually most of them. And so I ended up having to buy them out at a really expensive price because I didn’t really think about how this relationship was going to evolve as the business grew. Yeah.

Wayne Lewis: Was that a catalyst for you? Once you’d sold that to go into it and provide that type of service for the people?

Georgia Beattie: Yeah, absolutely. So although I had my family, it was a bit of a different business. So dad was really good with the wine side and the production, but the stuff that I was expanding, and the IP and things was quite different, and out of his wheelhouse, so I was spending a lot of time in the startup community. So I had great mentors. The thing about startups is everyone shares and so you ask an entrepreneur, or what did you do in this situation? Or can I have a coffee? I’ve got a problem. And they’ll say, yep, and I’ll just give you a complete download of how they solved a situation that was similar trying to help you so being CO it Startup Victoria was a chance for me to give back and also have a bit of a holiday because I lived on a plane for many years. And it was really starting to get my health down a little bit. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during it and so Crohn’s disease and stress and airplane foods, just a bad combo. So is this like running these fabulous nonprofits at the nucleus of our high growth startup ecosystem was just fantastic. And so I could totally put all the things in place that I wanted to say as an entrepreneur, but now it’s just going gangbusters. You know, now that the government’s actually interested in entrepreneurship, where I had to go to the States to study entrepreneurship because it was a dirty word here in 2008, or whatever it was. So…

Wayne Lewis: I have to Startup Vic, you know, the investment group. So can you talk about that a little bit for us?

Georgia Beattie: Well, what corporate venturing Australia actually is it’s not investment. It is sort of like Startup Vic, but for corporates have been playing in this corporate innovation space this year, and I thought I can go and run ventures within big corporates because you’ve got a business that’s really successful now, but what does horizon two and three look like? And so what I was looking at in the startup community, you’ve got businesses that can go in and shake up a business model, or core customers so quickly, that that corporate doesn’t even know what to do. And so it’s a legitimate threat. And when stock on the market is valued, the likelihood of disruption is part of that valuation, but it doesn’t have a number, which is totally bizarre to me, because disruption does have a number and depending on whether you’re in insurance or property, or marketplaces, whatever it is, it absolutely does have a number. So I’ve been playing in that space. And I thought, right, I’m gonna go do venturing and be an entrepreneur within a corporate. And what I realize is the whole mentality of moving quickly challenging your biases, and being able to leverage the larger group into taking on risk all these things are completely opposite to why you would go and work at a corporate. So the people that are attracted to that space, there’s no upside to trying something and getting it wrong and then potentially getting fired. So this notion of venturing is a very challenging one. So corporates got two options, they build something or they buy something. And so if you buy something, you need to sew it into the organization in order for it to be properly effective, which is a really hard thing to do. Or you build it, and then you need to attract the right talent in there. So all of the Chief Information and innovation officers at the moment, they’re not functioning like the startup community does, where they’re sharing and saying, Hey, we did this at a hackathon. And this was the result. What did you do? instead? It’s very corporate and closed and I’m seeing these leaders reinvent the wheel internally within their organizations. So yet CBA is about bringing that community together.

Wayne Lewis: Awesome. Thank you very much, Georgia Beattie, Corporate Venture Australia round of applause for Georgia, please.

Georgia Beattie: Thank you very much.

Serpil Senelmis: So one of the great advantages of the family business is to have everybody pulling in the same direction with no secrets in the management process. But I bet that isn’t always the case in every family business. Thanks, Georgia and thank you to Penelope as well. Next time on Masters Series, how I built my business. Well, he from two founders about the steps they took to go from a great business idea to successful business outcomes. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

The best way to find out what’s involved in starting a business is to ask a founder. In this podcast, we’ve done the asking for you, with two experienced entrepreneurs who are happy to share their secrets to success — and their tips for avoiding failure.

Ben Sze is a Co-Founder at Edrolo, an educational tech company that is creating better outcomes for students. Ben points out several key things that fresh founders should keep an eye on — not least of which is time. There’s a time management practice here that you’ll find invaluable.

David Fastuca is a Co-Founder at Ambisie, a business putting entrepreneurs in front of school students to broaden their horizons. David founded his first business at the age of 14 and it has had many different incarnations since then. He says we live in a lucky country where if all else fails, we can just go get a job — so have a crack at founding your own business.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe, this is the Master Series. Where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpel Senelmis from Written and Recorded. As a first time founder myself, I can tell you there is plenty that you need to know before you get your business on the way. In fact, as has been said before, on this podcast, if you knew everything that’s involved in founding a business, you might actually choose not to.

David Fastuca: So we started working on the project. And then we, it was time to get that first payment from the investment. Payment didn’t come. We are like, hmm not good. Months later, payment still didn’t come. So when we kept approaching the guy for payments, he goes on to a business. He’s actually business was taking money and using the money to pay other people see, it was a pain of shit. And Ross just left his job. We still had our services going and we’re pretty stuffed.

Serpil Senelmis: That’s David Fastuca, co-founder of Ambisie. We’ll hear how he got his startup back on track very soon. First up, Ben Sze, co-founder of Edrolo. Ben was working as an investment manager and tutoring high school students, when he saw an opportunity to create an education technology company. So he rounded up a couple of his mates. They all checked in their jobs, and Edrolo was born. Then outlines the key things to focus on as a first-time founder, and provides a masterclass in managing your time.

Ben Sze: So a bit about Edrolo, our mission is to improve education we’re very, very passionate about it. Was starting by building educational resources for high schools in Australia. But that’s not what we’re going to be doing forever. We’ve got very ambitious goals, including going global. We partnered with master teachers to create online courses that are mapped to the syllabus. We’ve also got a lot of form of assessment interactive elements to our appraisal so it’s not just a static watch a video type thing, students get some amazing feedback through that in terms of how they going as well. But one of the most important things that schools love about us is that we provide a lot of pre-populated data for them to actually differentiate their teaching practice without having to populate data in an Excel spreadsheet. And excitingly, we’re actually also, while we are we call ourselves an edtech company, we’re actually printing books. So we’re going back to the future there. We started with three co-founders, myself, Duncan and Jeremy. In 2013. We got into start mate, which is a fantastic program, and that was an enabler for us to actually work full time on Trello and have the guts to leave my full-time jobs. And two years after that, we raised the series A led by entry ventures and Blackbird ventures, and now we’re in over 700 schools, and we’ve got a team of over 80 we love what we’re doing. We’re fun bunch of people. So taking the leap. I recommend that you keep a full time job if you can and moonlight on your startup to get started. It also has a benefit of Don’t having to worry about your cash flow situation, which can be very stressful. We had a period where we weren’t paying ourselves anything. And it was very tough. I guess the downside to that would be, you’re stretched a bit thin, and you don’t learn as fast. But in my experience, I found that doing it that way really helps. You need a support network. There are dark days and bright days in life, when you’re starting a startup and I believe amplified. I feel like you feel things a lot more. And I truly believe that lots of memes have been shared. So please make sure you have a support network there because you are going to have some dark days, and you need to be able to get through him and also some bright days that you want to share amazing things. Next thing is your co-founders really matter. We still working together on Edrolo, we’ve got a fantastic working relationship. But it didn’t just happen. We worked at it. So although we were friends when we initially started, we decided that we would actively work on our relationship which I encourage everyone to do with any important relationship in your life. And we’re seeing the benefits of it. So the way we did that was we actually did regular feedback sessions with each other, really candid sessions. The first ones were pretty tame and easy on each other, but they got a lot more brutal. And now we’re at a stage where we’re literally giving brutal feedback nicely in a live setting. That’s an amazing thing. Next thing is culture. You know, when you’re starting something, you might be just you and your co-founder, maybe two other people, you might have team five, but it’s super, super important. And it actually is like a bacteria culture in a patriot nation, that it starts really small. But that’s the beginning of your culture at your startup. We’ve made the mistake of for example, with people that are no longer working with Edrolo because it wasn’t the right thing for them or us. And they want to write culturally aligned with our values and the way we want to do things, but yet he kind of set the tone for what’s to come. Focus is extremely important. Personally, I have ideas running my head nonstop, and I have to remind myself to be focusing on one thing at a time. Otherwise, if you focus on too much, you’re going to do a bad job across many things as opposed to a good job of one thing. It’s hot. This is really hot, but try and focus You should be embarrassed about your first product in any release that you have actually, we’re not technically gifted. So we were relied in a web design agency to begin with. Now, the underlying content was fantastic. Just didn’t look good. So I’d be embarrassed. I am. Next thing, cash is king. I don’t think we thought enough about this to begin with. And maybe we did inherently, but not purposefully. And I would encourage you to purposely think about it because you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’re up against a wall and running out of cash. That’s a terrible thing for you and your business and the people in it. A couple of bits of advice, know your ins and outs very well, but also model out different scenarios. And the easiest way to do that is to do three types of scenarios, a base case scenario, which you think what’s your best guess what will happen, do a bull case, which is if everything went well, what would happen and a bear case, which is what if everything bad happens? It really helps with your planning, so cash is king, our reading is I wish I did a lot more of this because it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes. And make them yourself at Edrolo, we do a monthly book club. So we do a lot of reading at the company. And personally, I get a lot of mine from audiobooks and podcasts and some physical books. Time actually understanding how to spend your time is very, very powerful. I use a tool called Toggl, it’s free, you can use a Google Sheet. But I know day by day, how much time I spent, actually on work. So this excludes lunch breaks, toilet breaks, all that sort of stuff. So I get a sense of how many hours I’m working a day. And if I’m feeling burnt out, maybe it’s because I worked a 13 hour day. But it goes even deeper than that. Depending on how you bucket timesheet, you’ll actually see which sort of areas of the business are sucking up your time. So I know now that email, on average takes between three to five hours of my week. So I need to set aside that time and I can’t do anything about that just a reality. So in this case, as part of my planning process, I said I’d spend two hours on this part of expanding into New South Wales, but I’m not spending close to seven, but I’ve got a live understanding of should I be spending more than two hours On this and in this case, obviously thought should be. So first-order impact of time tracking is that you actually get to see where your time is being spent. Second are consequences, there’s good and bad good is that you can be very critical of disruption. So if an email comes in you think important, but you’re working on something that is more important, you can actually say, actually, no, I’m not going to reply to that email. But I’m not going to reply to that slack message because I need to focus.

Ben Sze: Next thing enables you to reflect on your way, you can actually get to see patterns that told you, for example, how much time I spent in email, and you can plan but the one thing to look out for, you’re focusing on output, and that might detract from the fun you’re having. So just keep that in mind. If you do start tracking your time, have fun while you’re spending time on your startup. So if we track our time, we can actually make a really strong roadmap on how we’re going to spend our time for the next three months. You learn what’s possible to achieve, and you can align that to your goals. I love this quote. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s so true. You could be spinning wheels on things that mean you nothing to you or your business so easily. So be aware that that can happen. So what we do is within all our teams, an individual contributor send an email to their team with a reflection. So that goes out every week. And at the top of that email, there’s a high-level plan of what they’re trying to achieve. And a plan is actually most beneficial the person writing it, but you will get a lot of benefit out of it. So knowing what you’d need to do at a high level why now I refer back to this to remind myself every day, and then there’s the detailed plan. So what does that break down into and with time allocations on where I’m going to spend the time then we take it a step further in blocking out time in our calendars. This is hidden miss some people do it some people don’t, just depends on how the flow works. But a lot of people do block out time for the things that they say they’re going to do. And that helps you protect your time. By sending this email, we’re actually encouraging vulnerability, which is an amazing thing, because it fosters trust. Now we’re a team of 70 to 80 plus people, it’s just a beautiful thing to see from the sidelines now, all these different people across the business really sharing and offering support and to help each other can be proud of that fact. Initially, we reflect on motivation levels. Now five is average. So anything plus or minus one is we say one standard deviation, plus or minus and then plus or minus two. So, to be a seven, if something’s really going to be going well, to be three, there’s obviously something bad. It’s a good signal to this individual’s manager to talk about in their one on one or their team members to reach out like, Hey, can I help you have a deadline? I can push stuff aside. So motivation and basically why then we reflect on our performance and deep dive into what we’ve learned from the week and try not to make the same mistake into the future. And also think about in the context of the plan we set for ourselves, do we do what we say we do, essentially. And as soon as you write a plan, I should just make this clear. It’s probably defunct but without it, you don’t know where you’re going. So curveballs come up, but at least you’ve got a plan to refer back to decide should I let that curveball actually affect what I said I’ll do this week. We’ve also added a couple of other things where we get people to reflect on their enjoyment, and also the stress levels they’re feeling. So we’ve got a good couple of markers on how people are feeling. So the effects of that is that you actually have clarity around how you can achieve your weekly goals, and therefore your three-month goals. This is what we do at Edrolo. We believe that time is super, super precious. So start tracking your time and actually see where you’re spending your time. You’ll be amazed, you don’t need to do it in a complex way. Just start by bucketing email, admin, just buckets and see where your time’s going and do it for a week or two weeks. But don’t give up. Thank you so much for your time.

Serpil Senelmis: Well, that’s an elaborate way to manage your time. I’ve been tracking my time and it’s very revealing and only slightly alarming. Great idea, thanks, Ben. Next up strap yourself in for the wild experiences of first-time founder David Fastuca.

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Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ad Guy, David Fastuca is the co-founder of Ambisie. A business that puts entrepreneurs in front of school students to broaden their horizons. David was an early starting founder, setting up his first design business at the age of 14. Since then, he has reinvented his business several times over and learned many lessons along the way. David says the only thing we have to be as founders is failure. And if that happens, well, we’re lucky enough to live in a country where you can just go and get a job.

David Fastuca: Started when I was 14, I was in high school, and I just loved design. So any minute I had, I was designing things for friends and family. I was taking on little jobs on the side. And I thought I’d start a business. I thought I’ll just go get a logo, business cards. I’ve got a business until I spoke with my cousin Ross, who I’ve been working with for the last 18 years together is like, please don’t do it because you just got business cards and you infringe on someone else’s name that you just made up at that time to Ross’s three years older than me, and he was doing the first multimedia design course in Australia. So we decided to put our skills together, I was the design guy, and Ross was the front end code guy. So after school on weekends, we’d go to his parent’s house kitchen table. And we’ll do work for friends and family. And we did that for about five or six years until I went to university and continued on with our little business, the name change from the first name, you can allow those could cause design cousins, great branding. And so we slowly build up the company. And we got to a stage where we start to take things a bit more seriously. So I finished university, Ross at that stage and got a job in IT. And we’re still working together. And I made friends with another graphic designer who couldn’t do any of the online work. So he gave that all to us. And that was enough to pay myself full time and to do that as a full-time gig. And then we had an opportunity to join this group and they’re in education. The whole idea was to join with these guys and to have the opportunity to grow with them. And that would give us exposure to thousands of people within the education space, things start to grow a bit more. And then we had an idea of getting to a product. At that stage, we’re still doing the services web design, Freelancer came onto the market. So they start to cut into a lot of the sort of level of work that we’ll get into people that were able to get it done a lot cheaper. So Ross, and I wanted to build a product and build a product team. And we had an idea to build something in, in education. And we pitched it to a friend of ours at that time, who was seemingly quite successful himself. And he loved the idea and he said, Yep, I would invest. I’ll give you half a mil. And we’re like, perfect, great luck. We’ll think I was 19 at the stage. So like, this is easy. Ross quit his job. So we started working on the project. And then we it was time to get our first payment from the investment payment didn’t come. And we’re like this not good. month later. payments through income. So when we kept approaching the guy for payment, he got done for embezzlement. He’s actually business was taking money and using the money to pay other people. So he wasn’t paying that shit. And Ross just left his job. We still had our services side going. And we’re pretty stuffed because we’re like, Well, that was just enough to keep me going. And we’ll just set they one day just in shock. And we’re like, hindsight kicking, we should have asked for money at the start. And we will young will so excited that this is opportunity. And it was just all came crashing down.

Wayne Lewis: Was that the closest point that you came to maybe calling it a day at that point?

David Fastuca: Oh, no. There’s about 20 times after that. So at this, they just went, look, we’re still young, we’ll live in at home and we’re like, we’ll split everything that we’re doing at this stage and we’ll boot it back up. And we did. So we built it back up our server-side of the business we started taking on bigger paid jobs. And then the iPhone came out and the app goldrush so we had an idea for an app. Throughout those years we had other crazy ideas, we started a clothing brand, failed. We started in e‑commerce sort of brand, this is before Amazon before Shopify, and we went down all the Bridge Road to all the Brick and Mortar stores and we’re saying, we’ll put your store online and people can buy your stuff, and you can ship it out to them. We got laughed at everyone. So I think the takeaway from that is timing. It was a great idea and we didn’t persist with it. And like idiots could be an Amazon, because like the time was too early for that sort of thing. So there were a few things like that, that just started up and failed. Friends of ours ran a nightclub in Moonee Ponds in the west of Melbourne and did really well. And then an opportunity came up for a larger space and we’re friends with them and we became really good at marketing and brand and they approached us to join them in this new bar. And we thought nightclub, we young this is could be cool, but we thought the intention was through that it won’t be too much work and we’ll get a lot of cash, and we can hire people for the engineering effort to build the apps, the ideas that we had. And that was another stupid mistake. We learned some great things. But we ended up working two full-time jobs. We go from nine to five, Monday to Friday in our web design marketing business, to then nightclub owners, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. So we’re doing like 90 hundred-hour weeks. The first six months were amazing of the bar, things were working. It was a cash cow. We’re about to start hiring. And then almost like good old Game of Thrones, winter came.

Wayne Lewis: Hahaha

David Fastuca: We were doing so well that the local competition in the area weren’t too happy. So, look that’s another whole story, the nightclub scene is something that’s you know, is a unique field. And I was at that stage about to get married. And we’re going to start a family and I will just be an absentee father and I just was hating life. And we got real depressed some nights where we have like, the bar was licensed for 800 and we had about 1800 events. Some nights so breaking rules as you do in those early days, two nights where I kid you not we had like five people come through. I was at the door some nights and my now wife was at the door and my cousin and his fiance, very family business, break your heart, but we took it very personally. So it came to a moment where we’re doing these stupid hours weren’t getting much money. Things were falling apart because Ross got distracted because he had to and he was dealing before the nightclub stuff, spinning Mondays and Tuesdays at the police station because of incidents that were happening at the bar. And then I was there trying to keep the business alive and souls mental.

Wayne Lewis: So was that a catalyst for focusing on something more true to your heart at that point?

David Fastuca: That was a reset moment. I’ll never forget the chat we had and we looked at each other and we’re like, we’re gonna give this another crack. Or are we just gonna go get full-time jobs, work half as much and probably earn more? What was the worst-case scenario in anything that we do? We’re like, what is the worst that can happen? And we are very fortunate here in this beautiful country, we can easily take a chance. And if all fails you can go back and get a job, until we experience other cultures and other countries, we are so lucky that we can do that and do that relatively easily. So they take a chance to go and pursue a passion to pursue a dream. It’s a privilege that we all have. If we don’t do that, if we don’t take that chance, then it’s like, why are we living for to help someone else’s life? Like if you’ve got a dream, you’ve got a burning desire, we can all take that chance because the worst-case scenario ain’t that bad. So we sat down and we and we had that chat with each other. And we’re like, let’s give it another crack. We went to an event, and we met these two guys who do an anti-energy drink. So it’s like a relaxing drink called ESC calm in a can. Two awesome guys sat next to them we hit it off. So they will bring in this product in market. The first and Australia was big in the US. They had investment to produce the products, quite a cost a lot of money to bring something like that out. But they don’t have any money for the marketing for the branding for the digital side. So at that stage, we had a bit of spare time as will rebuild the business. And we said, well, if we put a few days to this project, rather than charging, you will take $1 a can everything we sell online, they loved it, because it’s like, well, it’s a win-win for them, they get a business and online thing, and we get an opportunity to potentially make more money than what we’re gonna charge them. Little did we know that they told their investor that these two crazy leads were going to put in all their time for potentially selling the drinks online and making some money back. He loved it. He’s like, these guys are putting skin in the game, little did we know that they were getting quotes for 100 grand hundred 50 grand to bring their business online. So instantly that investor wanted to meet with us. We connected really well. And look Ross and I always had the belief that we could do anything. We just need the opportunity. We didn’t have the network. We didn’t have the people around us at that stage, entrepreneurship wasn’t even really a word back then it was just like we did businesses because our family, our dads started businesses, so we thought that that was what you did. But entrepreneurship and all that sort of rage now word. I don’t think we even heard it back then. So we met with this guy, we connected instantly, and he worked out of this mansion in St. Kilda. It was like your first sort of CO working space, but it was just the businesses that he was involved with. So he invited us over and he said, look, move in here, rent-free, and we’ll see what happens. I like you guys. I like you back yourselves. You’ve got great work ethic, and let’s see what happens. And then that was the moment that changed a lot of things for Ross and I, because that’s when opportunities start to happen. And that was where Locomote was born out of in that stage.

Wayne Lewis: What was then your main focus at that time? Did you have to really fine-tune what you were working on at that time?

David Fastuca: Because we’ve been burned in the past, our focus was still split. So Locomote was a corporate travel platform. So businesses, when they need to travel interstate or internationally would use a platform like ours, to get approvals and to book the trips, think of it like webjet, but for corporates at that stage, it was still very early, we hadn’t really proven the model. All we really did was a pitch deck. And we started to get some sales in before we learned a code, but even still, then Ross and I were hesitant to let go of all the work that we’d built on the side. So the thing was in 2011-12, that summer if you visited locomote.com you’d see branding, websites, marketing, corporate travel software, you know, so the split was there when we change and when we really focus was probably when we started to hire engineers into the company to focus on Locomote. And then we just went, you know, we can’t do this, no more splitting our focus because I was running that while Ross was focusing on the product side and I was doing all the design work for the product side. So we thought, you know, here’s our chance with an opportunity we said four years ago, we want to work in a product And build a team around that and try and build a global business out of it. Here’s our opportunity. Let’s take a gamble. So what will we end up doing is cutting loose of all these other clients who have been with us since we were 14 some of them. And that was a big moment because it was a big decision to make because once you cut them and sell them off to someone else, you can go back to that. But that was the moment we’ll be focused on the software product.

Wayne Lewis: So can you talk a little bit about where you are today, your day to day activities?

David Fastuca: Sure. So we exited Locomote in August of this year, and then just went straight into a new business. It happened over a period of time. A friend of ours, the co-founder of Ambisie, Liz. Approached us in January with an idea and she’d been running project Gen Z, who is a social enterprise. And what they do is they run programs within schools and teach students life skills and entrepreneurship. And then once a year, she’ll get 20 entrepreneurs from Australia and business owners and takes them to Cambodia and we go to the Sunrise Village which is a youth village and we would share our stories, our skill sets, and then over the last three days run and print this challenge, like the TV show. And what she found should be done for four years now was that the storytelling part when we got up and when we shared our story that had a lot of impact on the students, it gave them motivation, inspiration. But the issue was been in event-based type business, it was hard to scale. So when she approached us, and I was mortified to get some ideas on how she could build something in a technology way, because she knew that was our experience, on how to have more scale in that. And we got kids, I got three Ross has got two, it’s something that sort of struck a chord with us. And as we spoke to more, more people, if I keep saying like, I wish I had something in school that gave me more exposure to different careers and shared more stories, because when you’re a young person, you don’t have a network like we do now. And even now we struggle to build big networks. So it’s like how could we put that on tap for a young person when they’re studying from grade six. So the idea sort of similar way. And then it turned into what it is now in Ambisie and Ambisie’s the South African word for ambition. And what we’re trying to do with Ambisie’s connect students with local talents, but not just local people from all over the world where they share their stories. They share what their education life was like, they share what their journey was, like from school to get into the career and now to help inspire them to motivate them. So now you’ve combined that passion. And we’re delivering that in a video model that schools can subscribe to and share with their students.

Wayne Lewis: And just a little bit about time management. So now, are you able to manage your time more effectively? Can you talk a little bit about work-life balance view and what that looks like?

David Fastuca: So jealous after looking at Ben’s process, and how strict that is. At the moment now, in the early days, you’re wearing so many hats. We’re very fortunate that we got three very capable founders with very different skill sets. So now we’re dividing and conquering in each different area. There’s a lot of trust between us three, we’ve known each other for a long time, especially Ross and I. So now we’re just trying to start set ourselves like a sort of weekly sort of goals. We touch base every week as to what we’re doing who needs help, but it’s still at the moment finding your feet. Because we it’s those early days, we still don’t know the right sort of growth model yet what’s gonna work, but a lot of trial and error, but we’re accepting of that. I’ll be patient, probably not. It’s a hard thing to be patient, but we just know that this is part of the journey. We’re giving ourselves a good timeline to get to where we want to get to, and we’re just trying to get as fast as we can.

Wayne Lewis: So guys can we have a round of applause for David Fastuca of Ambisie.

Serpil Senelmis: Wow, David’s bound to life sounds a bit like a roller coaster, though, it does sound like the ups are outnumbering the downs, which is good news. Thanks, David. And thank you, Ben. Next time on Master Series, we’ll wrap up the year with the intriguing phrase, “If I had known then what I know now”. As I said at the beginning of this episode, several of our speakers have said if they knew what was involved in setting up a business and may have kept their day jobs, well hear from a couple of founders who regret nothing about starting up, but they might have some good advice for their former selves. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded and for WeTeachMe, this is the Master’s Series.

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Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.