Growth

Six secrets to success from 2014’s Hot 30 Under 30

Engel Schmidl /

They’re passionate go-getters, resilient and creative – and also very young.

SmartCompany’s Hot 30 Under 30 for 2014 are the best and brightest of the next generation of entrepreneurs, and despite their respective ages – with some as young as 17 – they’ve got a wealth of knowledge to share with aspiring business owners.

So peel your eyes: here’s six tips gleaned from the Hot 30 Under 30.

1. Start Early

Believe it or not, 10 of the Hot 30 Under 30 began their first businesses while still teenagers.

Eighteen-year-old Nick D’Aloisio taught himself how to code at the age of 12, and only three short years later launched the app Summly. Using algorithms, Summly condenses news stories into bite-sized summaries.

The app soon got international attention, resulting in Hong Kong-based billionaire Li Ka-shing granting D’Aloisio $300,000 in venture capital funding. This was followed by $US1 million in venture capital from celebrities as varied as Yoko Ono, Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry. In March 2013, Yahoo! bought Summly for $30 million, and D’Aloisio is now working alongside Yahoo! to integrate the technology.

Entrepreneur Gerard Murtagh struggled to get his business off the ground due to his young age: he was 19 when he launched his first “real company”.

“I was basically walking into offices and banks pitching what I wanted to do, but they would say I was only 19 and ask where my degree was,” he told SmartCompany.

Now aged 29, Murtagh has four businesses under his belt – GRM Exports, IBT International, Sunshine Trading Company and most recently MouldMen – the latter of which now turns over $10 million per annum.

2. Give it a go, and keep going!

OneShift founder Gen George may only be 23, but having run her own successful company for two years she’s more than qualified to give advice to would-be entrepreneurs. Her top tip: “Give it a go.”

“Worst case scenario is you fail, but the real failure is actually not trying,” she told SmartCompany.

Persistence is a common thread linking many of these successful business owners. When Bill Huynh launched his furniture company Interior Secrets in 2009, he discovered that his first order of 500 chairs were defective. Fast forward to the present and Huynh has consolidated his supply chain, with Interior Secrets turning over $3.2 million in the last financial year.

Likewise, Search Factory owners Nic Blair and Michael Bell went through eight failed business ideas before hitting the one that worked.

Search Factory creates marketing strategies for major and small businesses, focusing on search engine optimisation and social media strategy. The Brisbane pair now has a team of over 20 people working alongside them, and told SmartCompany that their turnover is on track to hit over $2 million this financial year.

3. Do what you know best, delegate the rest

Nic Blair and Michael Bell also recently appointed a general manager to Search Factory, allowing the pair room to work on “the bigger picture things” and step away from operational matters.

“You can’t do everything yourself and manage the day-to-day tasks of running a company this size,” Bell told SmartCompany.

“[Hiring more staff] gives us a bit of breathing room to focus on what the next steps are and where to go from here.”

Tutoring and R&D tax consultancy entrepreneur Owen Yang has a similar philosophy. “The most important skill is not knowing how to do everything, you don’t need 15 years’ experience, it’s more about knowing what needs to be done and who can help you do it,” he told SmartCompany.

 “You don’t need to over-plan and you don’t need to do everything yourself.”

4. Identify opportunities for innovation

A key element in the success of many of the Hot 30 Under 30 is their ability to see problems in areas of interest to them, and then create solutions that could be turned into products or services.

Robin McGowan came up with the idea behind men’s fashion business InStitchu after becoming frustrated with the lack of affordable suits for young professionals. InStitchu lets customers design their own suits online, and last year began using 3D body scanners to ensure buyers get the best possible fit.

Similarly, fellow entrepreneur Priyanka Rao came up with the idea for her customer designed flat-pack furniture business after a disappointing furniture-shopping experience with her sister.

“We were shopping for flat-pack furniture and we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted. We had the idea of a place where you could design your own online and have control,” she told SmartCompany.

Rao’s family business, Luxmy, launched the custom furniture range under the name Evolvex, and now supplies to major retailers and other furniture companies.

5. Technology

Applications, web search optimisation, 3D body scans and custom furniture designed online – the Hot 30 are digital natives through-and-through, using their knowledge and enthusiasm for tech to drive innovation.

Using look books, blogs, SoundCloud ‘mix tapes’ and a strong social media presence, Taylah Hasaballah has driven her style hub Tiger Temple directly to her audience.

Hasaballah is relaunching the brand as VNDR mid-year, with the intention of creating a platform where content is specifically tailored to the user’s interests, while directing users to the latest trends and up-and-coming designers.

“We found with fashion there was this huge hole in the market in terms of finding products that are of interest, for example, if you want to find a pair of black jeans, where do you look and how do you do that?” she told SmartCompany.

6. Know what your customers want

Catering to the myriad wants of a broad audience is another common theme in the Hot 30, explaining why so many of these successful business owners allow their customers to play a part in designing the goods and services on offer.

From Priyanka Rao’s customisable flat-pack furniture to Robin McGowan’s customer-designed suits, the last top tip from the experts is to build a certain level of flexibility into business ventures.

Jordan Grives founded his company Fonebox Group in 2008 after realising telecommunications customers wanted more options for handling inbound 13, 1300 and 1800 number calls.

“Our major point of difference has always been providing inbound call solutions that are tailored to individual clients in an industry dominated by major players that don’t offer personal service or efficient call tracking,” Grives told SmartCompany.

“Many of our clients prefer Australian-based operators as that is what their customers are demanding,” he says.

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