Monday, March 28, 2011/
Founder: Wai Hong Fong
Revenue: $1.8 million
Head Office: Victoria
“I grew up as a geek,” OzHut founder Wai Hong Fong happily admits. At nine years old, he told his mother that he wanted to marry his computer and soon afterwards nearly lost a government scholarship in Singapore after a spot of hacking ensured that students didn’t have to pay $5 an hour to use the computers.
Originally from Malaysia, Fong arrived in Australia to study at Melbourne University. He realised that he wanted to strike out on his own, rather than follow the same corporate career path as his parents.
With the help of an uncle, Wai Hong started OzHut, establishing a niche for building online retail sites for specific products. The company started out with dancing shoes, ladies boots, telescopes, watches and gadgets. Soon, OzHut was the largest telescope and optics online store in Australia.
A focus on niche areas, backed up with a strong knowledge of SEO has propelled OzHut to healthy levels of sales – from $300,000 in its first year to a predicted $3.1 million in its third year.
With a team that has an average age of 25, half of whom who are recent graduates, OzHut is a proposition that is very much of its time.
That throws up challenges too, as Wai Hong admits: “The biggest challenge we faced was actually convincing people to give us product to sell. As a small player, we had no big names to throw around, neither did we have a lot of cash.”
“As such, stronger brand name suppliers were highly reluctant to provide us with anything at all. However, we learnt that if we got on board some of the smaller suppliers and built up some traffic by leveraging their products, over time, we can rope the other bigger suppliers one at a time.”
“Once we’ve got one big player on board, it was a lot easier to convince the rest to jump on the same bandwagon.”
“The biggest lesson learnt in this was definitely not to be discouraged by being turned down and to not despise humble beginnings. Eventually, all that needs to happen is one small piece after another coming together and soon enough the bigger chunks of the puzzle will want to join the party.”