Brad Smith, founder of Braaap, has been placed runner-up in the Junior Chamber International Creative Young Entrepreneur Award.
Smith, who is 23-years-old, is the first Australian to make the finals of the award. Launched in 2005, the award seeks to recognise outstanding young entrepreneurs.
Tasmania-born Smith’s business provides mini motorcross activities for youngsters. According to Smith, ‘braaap’ is the noise dirt bikes make, and was also his childhood nickname.
Having always had a passion for motorcross, Smith entered the business world as a teenager, with a dream of transforming the industry.
“I wanted to get the sport pumping in Australia, so I researched some suppliers and imported my first 10 bikes from overseas,” Smith says.
“It took me three years to save up the money. I used to wobble signs for Domino’s Pizza and [do] whatever I could to save the money.”
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Not satisfied with the products available, Smith travelled to China at age 18 to find his own suppliers and manufacturers in order to develop his own bike brand.
“I went for two weeks and for the first 12 days of my trip I visited about 50 or 60 motorcycle manufacturers,” he says.
“Every single one of them laughed me out of their office because they weren’t willing to take a risk on an 18-year-old kid with no money, no experience and no distribution channel.”
“The short story is I finally found a manufacturer who loved our concepts and wanted to be a part of our brand and our growth.”
Smith convinced his parents to mortgage the family home in order to open his first store, but the bold move paid off.
Enlisting the help of franchising specialist DC Strategy, Braaap now has four stores across Victoria and Tasmania including one franchised operation. The business makes and imports about 2,000 custom motocross bikes a year.
Smith’s next plan for Australia is to open 50 franchise stores in five years, and enter the US market in 2011.
His tips for other entrepreneurs?
- Determine what you’re going to achieve with the end goal in mind, but be flexible in your approach.
- Surround yourself with people who will help to grow your business, whether it’s family members or mentors.
- Dream big.
“So many people in Australia have a dream of opening their own business but really their vision’s not large enough,” Smith says.
“Everyone says to me that we’re in the business of motorcycles but we’re really in the business of lifestyles.”