From mentorships to monetisation: Three Aussie entrepreneurs explain what they would have done differently

Code Like a Girl Ally Watson

Code Like a Girl founder Ally Watson. Source: supplied.

Things are always clearer in hindsight, and while that might be a frustrating reality when considering your own business mistakes, it means there’s plenty of scope to learn from others.

Last month’s Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Mobile-ising Women in Business event in Melbourne saw several company founders take to the stage to discuss the mistakes that eventually led them to the strong businesses they have today.

Despite the current strength of their ventures, these entrepreneurs said it was often the more everyday aspects of their businesses, from finance to finding a mentor, that presented the biggest hurdles for growth.

Here are three founders on the one thing they would have done differently

Narelle Plapp

Founder, Food for Health and Grain and Bake 

How “muesli chick” Narelle Plapp went from car boot sales to high-flying entrepreneur with $5 million brand Food for Health

“From a Food for Health point of view, I wish I had understood how [the big supermarkets] worked … there’s lots of secret little deductions they like to take off your payments, and I wish I knew that earlier than I did know … I’ve got that down pat now though.

“From a Grain & Bake point of view, I’ve just built this huge shed [facility] and my oven is 30 meters long, and it’s been a big exercise. But for me, I wish I had of gone over the project management and [had] really really good skills sets around that, and [known about] the delays in building and all the hiccups that come up along the way with the building game. For me, I think it’s more about having the right person around me from a project point of view about a year ago.

“And I think when you first start out, I wish I had of asked someone or had a mentor that I could have picked up the phone and say, ‘Hey, is this true? Or what is the warehouse allowance, or what is this, what is that?’ I offer that advice now to a lots of people who are thinking about presenting to Coles and Woolworths.”

Ally Watson

Co-founder, Code Like a Girl

“For a long time, Code Like a Girl was just a really casual meet-up and it was something started purely from my passion and something I wanted to do … For a very long time, I ran it for myself and it wasn’t a business or anything. And I met my co-founder and she helped me make that transition … I never thought for a second what I was building, and I never put that much value on it.

“Companies would approach us and want to advertise at our events for nothing and I would let them. But then you realise, ‘We’re an advertising platform. We’ve brought these women together, we’ve creating this very curated and targeted audience and these big organisations who make millions and have money to spend on advertising aren’t helping us out’. And so my co-founder Vanessa helped me make that mindshift, and I stopped doing everything myself.” 

Anna Ross

Founder, Kester Black

Kester Black founder Anna Ross

Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year winner, Kester Black founder Anna Ross. Source: Supplied.

“In the last couple of months I have met my incredible accountant. I always knew I had a crap accountant, and then I would always just do another financial year with a different crap accountant. So I would change accountants, but they would always be crap.

“But the person I’m working with at the moment is young, he’s like a 30-year-old guy … it’s been really, really incredible to have someone who’s a young gun, strategically thinking about my business and putting the margins behind everything that I do. 

“I wasn’t even aware of the margin we were making, and when distributors called us and said, ‘can you pay for freight?’ I would be like, ‘yeah, okay’. And I would pay for all these crazy things, without really realising that it wasn’t helping us grow.”

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