Business can be tricky. The first few years of a business determines its success and many sadly don’t make it.
In my younger years, I never thought I’d own a business, especially in Australia. I first left Australia after I graduated. I enjoyed travelling and worked in many countries.
But I never thought I’d touch down in Australia again for good, let alone return with just $100 to my name. Luckily, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My life changed for the better.
When travelling, I was making a decent living, working as a web consultant for big companies. But I wasn’t smart about saving money. Blame it on my 20-something, inexperienced financial mindset. After all, I came from humble beginnings, with my folks barely making ends meet when they raised us. But it was as if their valuable lessons on money had fallen on deaf ears, because as soon as I started earning, I became a big spender.
Eventually, I got sick and tired of constantly relocating and the expenses that came with that. So, in the end, I thought what better place to settle down than in Australia? I missed the Aussie lifestyle too. So, in January 2008, I came back Down Under to start a new life.
However, little did I expect that within a short time of my arrival, I’d have just $100 in my wallet, and be living in a lodge, alone, broke with no job.
How did it come to this? In the end, my spendthrift nature, poor investment decisions and relocation expenses got the better of me.
Eventually, I landed a job, and was able to replenish my funds and keep afloat. And then, something even more significant happened that would redefine my career forever: a little website, The Bargain Avenue, was born.
These are the 10 things that helped me to grow from nothing to the founder of a successful business.
1. Situation and circumstances
I think going broke was the best thing that happened to me. I learnt a hard lesson but it changed the course of my life. This unpleasant experience helped me to look within, reflect and think deeply about my goals. I felt the urge to turn my life around. Never before was I so determined to do something bigger.
When you hit rock bottom don’t feel disheartened. Life can throw hardships when we least expect, but it’s how you make a change and move forward that matters most. Resilience and determination is key. Reflection on adversities in life can help redefine your goals and priorities, boost motivation and even uncover hidden opportunities.
Since I was young, I was always passionate about web design. When I was living in America, I was zealously looking for business ideas. After I moved to Singapore, I started to read books on how people make money online. In many ways, my unwavering passion carried me throughout.
Passion is an important trait that precedes everything. Hold onto it, nurture it and you might be surprised where it can take you. That’s why most businesses are passion-driven. Establishing your business around your passion can be your best bet.
3. Gap in an industry
When I was in the US, I noticed how crazy people were for online shopping deals. There were probably a few bargain websites when I launched, but now there are hundreds. E-commerce was already trending in America and I knew it was only a matter of time before Australia picked it up. The early bird gets the worm, as they say, so try to marry the gap with an opportune time to seize the first-mover advantage.
4. Being lean and agile
When I bootstrapped, the design was basic. I received critical feedback from people and the features began to evolve over time. There was a lot of trial and error, and a steep learning curve. My experience with coding was useful and I used insights from analytics.
Launching quickly, rather than after months or years of planning can help. If you utilise open source software, you won’t need to spend a ton of capital upfront. Your website is never a perfect product at launch. Focus on small deliverables and commit to continuous improvement. Lean and agile methodology seems to be the popular trend now.
Looking back, I think that my belief and can-do attitude is what saw me through. Even when my ideas changed, my belief was intact. It paved the way for grit, perseverance, resilience and dedication. My family and friends thought I was mad, because they weren’t sure, but I had the belief it was going to eventually pay off. My advice is to never forsake your conviction. Don’t stop believing in yourself. Nothing can stop you from achieving success.
Initially, I did have some short-term and long-term goals. One was to make my first few dollars. Another was to make enough to pay my bills to quit my job. Sometimes I’d go months without any specific goals. I didn’t stress out too much on goals, but when I achieved something I was rapturous. Don’t be complacent with success but take a break to celebrate your achievements and stay motivated for growth. Sometimes for a new startup, you tend to set up poorly defined goals, but change is obvious, so adaptation is key.
7. Time and hard work
I was fully committed. I worked like crazy for years. I gave up my free time, many weekends and family events. One of the many hidden challenges entrepreneurs face is sacrificing their lifestyle. Be prepared, as there might be a lot of heavy sacrifices to make. Many undervalue time, particularly in the primitive stages of a startup. Quitting my full-time job was the watershed moment for me. It gave me a copious amount of time and it really helped ameliorate the business and fuel growth.
8. Emotional wellbeing
A sound mind is in a sound body. Putting extra effort and time is a given, for a startup, but don’t be a slave to your business. Taking some time off is a good way to switch off, recharge and energise. You’ll come back stronger and your business will benefit.
I saw many businesses quit because they lacked tenacity. I did see many failures, but I learnt from them. I‘m so stubborn and I never doubted myself. I believe the secret of success is to never give up. Most businesses only pick up or turn profitable after several years.
10. Wearing multiple hats
I juggled multiple roles in the beginning and still continue to do so. Coming from a software background, I had to continuously self-learn at all other departments. At one time or another, I was a salesperson, a marketer and a manager. As we grew, we hired more people. Wearing multiple hats is a certainty for most startups, especially when you’re bootstrapping or working on a side hustle. It’s helpful to minimize costs at the beginning, unless you have funding. My experience has taught me to make the most of the funds you have.