Entrepreneurs, Startup Advice

Why Siobhan Komander scaled back her $20 million events business and is launching subscription platform Liverpool St instead

Dinushi Dias /

When entrepreneur Siobhan Komander started her own events business back in 2004, she had a laptop, $3000 and no clients.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Xphyr Brand Experiences was flying with global tech giants Google, YouTube, Spotify and Twitter among its powerful client portfolio. By the end of the 2015-16 financial year, Komander says the company was turning over $20 million with a team of 25 working in offices in Sydney and Singapore.

But that’s when things took a turn.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes,” she says.

In addition to this, Komander says the pressure to keep the business turning over nearly $1.5 million a month to break even was starting to take its toll mentally and physically.

“My health was really suffering, I was finding that I was putting everyone and everything before myself … I couldn’t switch off,” she says.

In the rush of turning a small idea from scratch to a multimillion-dollar success, Komander says she barely had time to address what she had achieved. This realisation led her to see how critical it is to nurture real relationships and enjoy her life moment to moment.

“It took sometime for me to acknowledge and accept that [what she had achieved] but it’s not everything,” she says.

Desperate to make a change, Komander began scaling back the business about 12 months ago. Now, it turns over between $1-2 million, with a team of six staff who work on a contractual basis instead of full-time.

“I wanted a bit more life balance,” she says.

To make this work, Komander says, she’s highly selective when pitching to clients and taking on projects. The decision to do this does not mean she’s not “ambitious”, she says; in fact Komander is launching a new startup this month.

“I didn’t want to wake up in a decade and wonder where my life went,” she says.

Liverpool St is an online subscription platform aiming to help women and men “keep their most intimate areas free from toxins” through the sale of organically produced sanitary products, she says.

“I wanted to create something that was convenient and could be delivered to you,” she says.

“I wanted to use a tech platform because I’ve come from a very manual background … I wanted to investigate something that could be a bit more automated and a bit more simple.

“It’s a learning curve [like with] all startups, all businesses, it’s a learning curve everyday really.”

With her new venture, Komander is hoping to apply the lessons learnt the hard way with Xphyr. One thing she’ll be looking forward to is an “upfront payment scenario”, she says.

Komander says having kept big clients like Google for more than a decade has taught her how to serve customers well and in a genuine way — this is a key skill she’ll be bringing to Liverpool St.

“Success doesn’t happen overnight,” she says.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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