The makings of a multimillion dollar marketing company

Name: Andrew Mackinnon

Company: Taboo

Location: South Yarra, Victoria

Born in the streets of London, Taboo entered the world as a marketing company 12 years ago when founder Andrew Mackinnon realised there was a gap in the market he could fill.

At 19, Mackinnon went on an overseas adventure, but instead of exploring the world, he ended up “stranded” in London without a job or home to stay in.

This inspired him to take up a job as a street salesman selling door-to-door coupons for hair salons and day spas. By age 20, he’d developed a good understanding of how the front end of the business worked and upon returning to Melbourne to attend university, he came across a potential client.

Acting as a catalyst for what was to become Taboo, Mackinnon printed 1,000 coupons for his client at a cost of $1,000. On his first day, he sold 29 vouchers and made $1,000 profit. From here Mackinnon says business “took off like a whirlwind” and within a year he had 40 staff spread evenly across Sydney and Melbourne.

Within two-and-a-half years his team had sold 49,000 coupons, equating to just under $4 million. Mackinnon knew this style of business wasn’t what he wanted to do in the long term, but Taboo quickly established a reputation for its guerrilla marketing techniques and crazy stunts. The stunts got people talking and business continued to grow.

Taboo kicked off at the start of the social media era, developing MySpace pages for musicians, and now boasts clients such as NAB, Cadbury and Nike and has an annual turnover of $2.5 million.

SmartCompany had a chat with Mackinnon about successful business partnerships, creating an energetic and inspiring business culture and his “crazy stunts” which have built Taboo’s recognition.


Mackinnon is someone who lives life to the fullest, so naturally he’s an early riser.

“I start the day pretty early, so at 5:59am my alarm goes off and it’s usually not too difficult to get out of bed.”

Getting up at 5:59am rather than 6am he says is a “psychological thing”.

“I think it’s just because I like saying that I get up in the fives,” he says.

For Mackinnon, every day is “completely different”, but he makes time for an hour of exercise each morning.

“Being an entrepreneur it means you manage complete variation in your day. Your scope of work is so ginormous that every day is different and that’s one of the main reasons I love doing what I do.

“I do about half an hour of exercise and that’s either running around the lake, the Tan or the Yarra river and then I do half an hour of stretching using this Tibetan technique called The Five Rites,” he says.

Meetings with clients and business partners consume a large portion of Mackinnon’s day and each morning he meets with his partner Grant Smillie to discuss their joint businesses: Melbourne bar Ponyfish Island and their part ownership of the building which houses the St Kilda Rd police complex.

“One of our pressing issues at the moment is buying a company which owns the head lease of Ponyfish Island.

“We discuss our big ocean boiling ideas and what other projects and exciting business ventures we can start-up,” he says.

In terms of mentors, Mackinnon says bad experiences have led him to look to other members of the Australian Entrepreneurs’ Organisation and his business partners for support.

“All the mentors I’ve had have ended up encroaching on the business and actually tried to buy it. I was a little bit burnt from the mentor mentality. The result of that was EO, they are my mentors now.”

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