How I made my first million in less than 12 months: Seven entrepreneurs share their secrets
Monday, October 13, 2014/
Conventional wisdom is that it takes years for a business to make any money. But some businesses just don’t do conventional.
We spoke to seven entrepreneurs who smashed $1 million in turnover in less than one year.
These are businesses with growth so fast it’s almost supersonic.
So what’s the secret to this trajectory?
From proving your model to scaling fast these seven successful entrepreneurs have tips that can help boost your business’ growth.
1. Troy Harper of CADS: I kept a close eye on cash
Troy Harper, founder of CADS, made his first million within 12 months of starting the business.
With experience in large-scale pipeline and jetty construction he decided to launch CADS with a particular focus on these fields.
Today the business is far more diverse and has branched to cover many areas of construction surveying.
Harper says the most challenging part of those first 12 months were time and money.
“It is incredible how time can be eaten up with the day to day running of a business and many hours are spent just ‘greasing the wheels’ to ensure a smooth ride,” he says.
“For the first few years, money (or lack of) presented a significant hurdle and I had to manage my money closely to ensure necessary funds were there to pay the bills and for when opportunities for growth arose.”
His tips for fellow entrepreneurs looking to follow in his footsteps are “save your money and keep plenty in the company coffers”.
2. Mike Frizell of Pet Circle: I proved my model
Number one in this year’s Smart50, was online pet supply company Pet Circle which shot to $1 million in turnover in its first year of operation.
There was a definite strategy behind founder Mike Frizell’s success with Pet Circle.
He diligently researched the market to determine the depth of opportunity before he got started.
Frizell recognised early on that the pet industry was not only growing year after year but was counter cyclical.
But the first challenge for Frizell was proving his model when there was a belief in the pet industry that e-commerce would not work.
“We needed to create a smart logistics chain that was profitable,” he says. “Operating exclusively online, gaining our customers’ trust was another factor crucial to our success.”
Frizell believes these two things are interlinked.
“By championing customer relationships, we established an ongoing rapport with our consumer, contributing to the longevity of our business,” he says.
“Putting our customer’s needs first forced us to focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of our supply chain. It was a win-win outcome.”
3. David Fastuca of Locomote: I got the trust of that first client
David Fastuca and his cousin and co-founder Ross Fastuca reached their first million dollars in turnover in a speedy eight months after starting travel company Locomote.
For the Fastucas it was all about winning that first client, which then enabled Locomote to secure blue chip heavyweight ANZ as its second client.
“The most challenging part of starting is gaining the trust of the first client,” David says.
“We needed clients to continue to grow, not just financially but to learn from them, their requirements and obstacles to build on these and thus, enable additional types of clients.”
Now Locomote has a great base portfolio featuring what David describes as “some of the most reputable and iconic brands” across a diverse range of sectors.
4. Adam Schwab of Aussie Commerce: I expanded into new areas
It only took six months for e-commerce business AussieCommerce to crack its first million in turnover.
Co-founder Adam Schwab says he was looking for a business which was “scale-able” and noticed Groupon in the United States.
He thought the model may transfer well to Australia so started working on a similar concept and it quickly took flight.
What started as DEALS.com.au now comprises eight different websites and Schwab says this has been the key to AussieCommerce’s success.
He says operating in a very competitive sector made that first six months tough but the key was “maintaining really close cost control” and “expanding into new areas of e-commerce”.
5. Robert Rowe of Tu Projects: I perservered
The founder of Tu Projects, Robert Rowe, says it was “perserverance, dedication and an influx of opportunity” which saw him turn over his first million dollars in less than six months.
Rowe spotted the opportunity for Tu Projects after working in his family’s shop-fitting business.
“I then realised I needed to separate from the comfort of the family business and start my own,” Rowe says.
“I believed that in building a shop-fitting business from the ground-up I could employ modern systems and processes to deliver a better, more streamlined service to clients.”
Rowe started off by developing a software application for the shop-fitting industry as there was nothing of its kind on the market.
“We developed our own system – called Tu Track – and have been using it ever since,” he says.
“Tu Track controls the costing, resourcing and management of our projects. We are constantly investing in Tu Track with our own IT team as this software is the backbone of the business.”
6. Andre Eikmeier of Vinomofo: I scaled fast
It took eight months for Vinomofo to crack the million dollar barrier and co-founder Andre Eikmeier says it was all about scaling fast.
“The wine industry was dominated by two retail giants – Woolworths and Coles – and by big distributors, and very early, once we came on their radar, they put pressure on suppliers to not supply us,” Eikmeier says.
“We knew we had to scale fast and increased our buying power to overcome this, or risk being bullied out of the market.”
Eikmeier says Vinomofo’s retail giant competitors continue to use aggressive supply tactics against the wine retailer but it relies on stronger relationships, dedication to the betterment of the industry, agility, expertise, the focus of Vinomofo’s model, and the power of its large audience, to hold its own.
7. Nigel Miller of Plus Fitness: I had passion and a goal
Plus Fitness soared to $1 million in revenue within one month of starting the business thanks to the passion and goals of its founders.
Co-founder of the fitness chain, Nigel Miller, told SmartCompany he started the business with John Fuller due to a passion for exercise and healthy lifestyles.
“Our objective was in part to get as many Australians as possible active, fit and healthy,” Miller says.
Plus Fitness originally started in its first location with 64 members, now it supports the health and fitness needs of close to 70,000 Australians on a weekly basis.
For Miller, the biggest challenge has been knowing when to employ additional resources into the business and in what capacity.
“Having always done everything ourselves, we had become somewhat ‘controlling’ over all aspects of our business,” he says.
“What we (eventually) learned was that by employing extra staff into the team with specialist skill sets you can actually grow faster and in doing so learn more than if you persist with battling away trying to do everything yourself!”