Author Archives: Start Up Australia

New Make Money Save Money FREE Webinar Series

Starting next Monday 30th March Start Up Australia will be running fortnightly webinars on Monday evenings at 8pm (EST).

Every fortnight we will present you with powerful ways that you can Make Money AND Save Money in your business.

These webinars are free of charge to join. But you need to be signed up to receive the email invitations. It is FREE to join Start Up Australia – just head to the homepage and sign up.


Start Up Australia to launch video project during GEW 2014

Start Up Australia will be launching 1 Million Entrepreneurs Experiment, an online video project during which will take place 17-23 November 2014.

1 Million Entrepreneurs Experiment will see 1 minute videos used to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs and raise the voice of entrepreneurship globally, all around the central idea of “problem solving.”

All you need to do is turn the video on your mobile or webcam on and explain in 1 minute what you do as an entrepreneur and how your business solves a problem for your customers or your community. Then send it to us before 23 November via to be in the running for some great prizes. So easy!

Last year, 150 countries participated in Global Entrepreneurship Week, an annual celebration of all things entrepreneurial. Nearly 7 million individuals attended events and programs in 2013, a record that will most likely be eclipsed this year.

Check out for more details. And get involved..

GoFarCar flying the flag for Australia at World Startup Competition

Congratulations to GoFarCar, a great Aussie Startup who was recently selected by Start Up Australia as our pick to represent Australia at the World Startup Pitching Competition in Seoul in November.

The competition is part of Startup Nations Summit, which is being organised by the Banks Foundation for Youth Entrepreneurship & Startup Korea.

We’ll be there to cheer on the GoFar team and will bring you all the news and highlights from the Summit..

Why Helicopter Thinking means business growth

Not all ideas are created equal.

One of my favourite books is ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ by designer Alan Fletcher and in it he makes an analogy of thinking as helicopters and vending machines.

Helicopter Thinkers are those people who look at a challenge or problem from many different perspectives. They hover high above the terrain to get a holistic view and see the big picture, then they zoom in, get nice and close to see all the detail. They move around and see the challenge from as many different points of view as possible and because they see problems from many perspectives they are also able to see endless possibilities.

Then there are those who are like Vending Machines. When these people have a challenge or problem they take a coin out of their pocket, stick it into the vending machine, push the buttons and out the bottom comes the same old ideas maybe just wrapped a little differently.

The problem is that many companies in their quest to win a client, get a project completed, or find a creative solution quickly, settle for the vending machine ideas. To outpace your competitors you need to generate ideas and solutions that are, workable, viable and fit-for-purpose.

You need to think like a Helicopter because finding ingenious solutions is all about seeing the world from different perspectives and unique angles. It’s all about being open to as many possibilities as you can. If you limit the possibilities you see (by being vending machines), you then limit the value and quality of your ideas and stifle your business growth.

So you need to put processes in place that allow and stimulate Helicopter Thinking.

1.     Give yourself and your people permission to think like helicopters. If they don’t know they can – they won’t!
2.     Give yourself and your people the space and time to explore ideas.
3.     Be prepared to take creative risks. Great ideas come when your thinking is not just pushing the envelope but breaking it.

For over 20 years Nigel has been regarded as one of Australia’s top corporate MCs. He has advised Ministers of Parliament, C-Suite executives and spoken at numerous conferences. He is author of two books, a TED-Xer and Alumni of the Disney Institute. Nigel Collin’s current project has seen him travel on a motorbike around the Country to interview everyday Australians about what it takes to harness creativity, be ingenious and make great ideas happen..

Yes there is a time to stop learning

It’s when you are 6 foot under.

One thing keeps recurring when I speak with successful entrepreneurs. All of them, with the exception of none, are constantly seeking and soaking up new information. They are constantly learning.

Whether it’s reading, watching online videos, attending seminars, they tend to have this constant hankering to soak up knowledge to get the next idea or to improve what they are doing.

And it’s not about MBAs, many don’t rely on formal education but rather constant learning. They also step outside of their familiar worlds and get input from different walks of life and business.

Another commonality is that they seek mentors. People who can guide and teach them, and they seek to also mentor others.

So today, sign up for the never-ending doctorate by asking what are you learning? What are you reading? Who are you learning from? It never stops.

The ultimate collaborative tool – an empty chair

The story goes that at Virgin’s head office, in their boardroom, is an empty chair. The chair represents the customer, so whenever Sir Richard and his executives get together, symbolically the customer is right there with them. This way they are reminded to see things from the customer’s point of view and not just their own.

Powerful Stuff.

Often when we’re brainstorming ideas and trying to find creative solutions we get caught up in our own point of view and fail to see things from the point of view of others. As a result we limit our thinking and may even fail to see opportunities outside of our own vision. A third person view of the world can very often make all the difference and so it’s important to see things from someone else’s perspective. To come up with quality ideas it’s vital to see things in different ways.

And this is exactly what the empty chair does.

We often use this as a device when facilitating business sessions. We place an empty chair at every table and as delegates work through various tasks and problems, they are constantly reminded to consider the customer’s voice, needs, and point of view. As a result they arrived with solutions that are not from their own point of view but from the point of view of the customer.

The empty chair can be used to represent other people as well, such as your stakeholders if they’re opinions and influence is important. Or perhaps the chair could represent a mentor or role model who can symbolically advise you and prompt you to see things differently.

So why not place an empty chair in your office, boardroom, or creative space? Let it be a reminder to get out of your own head and into the head of someone else and see things from their point of view.

For over 20 years Nigel Collin has been regarded as one of Australia’s top corporate MCs. He has advised Ministers of Parliament, C-Suite executives and spoken at numerous conferences. He is author of two books, a TED-Xer and Alumni of the Disney Institute. Nigel Collin’s current project has seen him travel on a motorbike around the Country to interview everyday Australians about what it takes to harness creativity, be ingenious and make great ideas happen..

Three things I wish I’d known when I started my business

Originally published by Naomi Simson as part of the LinkedIn Influencer Program

I think back more than a decade to the moment when I thought it was a good idea to start an online business. There are some things I really wish I had known as I set out. Although one mentor said to me years ago, “the greater the loss the bigger the lesson,” there comes a point when if the business lessons get too expensive, it’s all over!

1) It’s never just the good idea
This is the very first moment when you think it is ‘a good idea to run your own show’; you have read of these entrepreneurial heroes who create amazing ‘overnight’ success stories – and you think, “I could do that”. All you need now is that idea – which will make the business simply slip into place and you are on your road to Nirvana. Ah, what a lovely dream. Sorry to bring you down to earth: businesses are one per cent idea and 99 per cent execution. You do still need that bright, shining idea though – because without it you only have hard work.

2) Don’t ask, “Will it work?” Ask, “Do I want it to?”
I’m approached regularly by people wanting to share a new business idea with me. They ask earnestly, “Will it work?” My response to all these queries is always the same: “Why do you want to do it?” Working out “why” you want to start a business (let alone keep running it for a good portion of your adult life) is essential to sustaining you, and ultimately, the success of the enterprise.

3) It’s not about the money
If you are driven solely by financial success in business, think again. Great businesses solve a problem; they make life ‘easier’ – they do things that have not been done before. They make a difference to other human beings. You could argue that great businesses make the world a better place.

All of the great start-ups that you can think of solve a problem. Facebook was about keeping college students connected. Google was about making the world’s information accessible. And think of the number of problems Apple has solved.

So the first step on creating a viable business is to work out what problem you are solving, simply asking ‘what is your purpose?’ It is far easier to create an enterprise when you are really clear about its purpose.

I just happened along our purpose after listening to the impact RedBalloon was having on customers. We believe everyone deserves to have fun, feel good and be happy. We are passionate about giving people more good times. RedBalloon was not the first business idea I had – but as I look back now I realise that of all the ideas I had, it was the one that inspired me, that I was passionate about, that I could see myself making a difference with.

If I was to pose a question for you to think about it would be ‘Why do you do what you do, and who will give a damn?’ ‘Are you building a better mousetrap or are you changing the game of rodent management?’

Being a great business is all about “the why?”
You need to rally your people behind a cause, a goal, a mission or a number – whatever it is for you. Everything you do, every day needs to play a role in achieving this “why”. Articulate a reason, and then share it with others. Know your definition of success. For me, it’s knowing how many people have had a RedBalloon experience and how we are creating happiness, not only among our customers but also our employees.

Are you absolutely clear as an entrepreneur and business owner why you are doing what you do?

Imagine creating a business about happiness – that’s what Naomi Simson did when she set up online experience retailer RedBalloon in 2001. Since then has sold 1.8 million experiences and Naomi has been recognised with the 2008 National Telstra Business Women’s Awards for Innovation and the 2011 Ernst and Young Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She shares her insights at – in Australia’s top 15 Best Business Blogs – and is a LinkedIn Influencer, dispensing knowledge with an audience of 200 million members..

Ignorance is bliss: Are you really ready to start a business?

Have you ever heard the saying, “ignorance is bliss”?  That was pretty much the approach with which I started my business.  I had just had my first baby and decided to study interior design by correspondence, adding to an earlier attained arts degree.  I enjoyed it so much, I decided to chuck the corporate job in marketing (when maternity leave was up) and start my business in colour consulting and interior styling.  I was going to build up a highly successful and profitable business around the kids and all within a couple of years!

I mean how hard could it be?  I’m great with colour and people, I like providing good customer service, can source things like no-one else and am sensible, reliable and am ok with figures.  All I had to do was go find some customers. Right? Ha!

If I’d known then the challenges I was going to face over the next five years, I may not have had the courage to continue with the dream, and gone back to my soul-destroying corporate gig and lived a boring life for the remaining years left to me.  And yet here I am, about to celebrate five years in business, and loving (almost) every minute of it.  The dream of building it to a bigger and better is still burning within and I’m pleased to say I am moving towards the fantasy goals slowly but surely.

Research, Research, Research!
Research your chosen industry and the marketplace so that your eyes are open and you are realistic about the challenges you will face.  Having said that, if you’re willing to back yourself, you will find a way to make it happen.  The difference in being aware, is that there will be fewer nasty surprises!

Build Your Skill Base
Most small businesses are run by people who may be great at the actual job, but have no real training or knowledge about running a business.  And this was a bit of a rude awakening for me.  I had never had to worry about the financials involved in a business as I had always worked in a large organisation with lots of staff and big budgets for marketing campaigns. As an entrepreneur, I suddenly had to handle EVERYTHING, while trying to do the actual creative work of interior design AND run the home and family.  There are days I look back and think I had rocks in my head!!

But through experience and great support you get through these hurdles.  I’ve had contractual issues, non-paying customers, been reported to Fair Trading, and had advertising that returned not a jot.  And with each challenge, I have added to my terms and conditions, tweaked and improved my processes and financial reporting and have gotten a business coach.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business skills.  But be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and what areas do you need to develop. Put together a list with time frames for which to either develop those skills yourself, for example, MYOB training, or hire someone to get these things done for you, such as a virtual assistant.

Other areas to consider getting some training are marketing and customer service short courses.  As your business grows, you’ll be able to employ people to focus on particular areas of your business and free you up to do more of what it is you enjoy.  When starting out, most people have to be the Jack or Jill of all trades.

Persistence is Key
One of the main lessons I have learnt – which takes a lot of pressure off – is that you do not have to have THE answer to everything right here, right now.  Trial and error is the name of the game.  Whether it’s testing an advertising avenue or a Facebook campaign, the more experience you get, the clearer the path needed will become.  Remember, it’s better to get it 80% right and active than striving for 100% right and never get the campaign under way.  You also have more to lose if you don’t try then what you can gain if you do!

I once read an article about Anthony Pratt of Visy and he named persistence as perhaps the most important tip for success.  You can have brains, money, and luck, but you won’t get through the hurdles without committing to the finish line.

I try to attend as many business events as I can to speak to others in a similar boat as me and learn tips from them.  I try to read as many articles and blogs from quality sources for tips and inspiration. But there another great resource accessible to almost everyone – Youtube!  There are so many how-to’s on Facebook campaigns, Google analytics, even Photoshop, that you often find answers in that direction.  It is simply amazing what resources are out there when you start looking – you’ve found Start Up Australia, right?!

Monique Sartor is a Sydney-based interior stylist, who is somewhat obsessed with colour and things to make your home simply gorgeous.  Her aim is to make the world a more beautiful place, one room at a time (while saving her clients time, money and angst)!

Check out her gallery, blog & shop here

You can follow her in these locations:

Do what you love, with confidence

As entrepreneurs, should we be focus our energy on the parts of the business we enjoy and have a natural affinity with, or should we develop the areas we struggle with?

I am the world’s worst sales person and for a long time I felt this was a weakness I had to overcome in order to be a successful magazine publisher. After all, isn’t that what being an entrepreneur is all about – closing the deal, getting top dollar, coming out on top?

But no matter how many books on sales I read or seminars I attended, I was never going to love the sales process, and without passion, I was never going to master it.

What I finally realised was that my responsibility to the business was to employ good sales people, and learn enough about how to motivate them, monitor them and (most challenging of all) manage them, to ensure they met their targets.

The interesting thing was that once I accepted this, I realised that my concern about my lack of sales ability was actually ego based. And once I understood this I also realised that I did, in fact, sell the business every day.

Every time I gave a radio interview or a speech, or met with a high profile entrepreneur or government minister, I was selling the magazine in a way that was far more important than flogging pages of advertising. I was establishing the brand as no one else could and that was undoubtedly the best use of my time. And guess what else? I was having fun.

Clare Loewenthal has lived and breathed small business for two decades since launching Dynamic Small Business magazine, which grew to become Australia’s largest small business publication. Clare is now communicating with entrepreneurs online through the Dynamic Small Business Network (DSBN)..

Start-up thrills!

By Angela Vithoulkas.

There should be a drum roll, a symphony written specifically for the unveiling of a new business, and fireworks. Definitely fireworks. Starting up a new business should give you a breathless, anxious exciting feeling – head spins and focus simultaneously.  Launching a startup should be something I’m used to, since I’ve been setting up new businesses for decades. But its always a roller coaster ride of risks for me that appears to be my drink of choice.

When you launch a start up – regardless of how long it’s been on the drawing board, they are always full of weeks of nail biting moments, fantasy dreams, weird desires, work and friend conflicts, family and business dramas. My hands shake the entire lead up time and then when it’s all over I feel kind of flat. Oh, and I have to go back to my day job because it’s unlikely the new start up is making money from kick off. And there are those pesky details of paying the bills and making a living to attend to.

Start Up Details

Lets get some details into context. I have always been a business owner in start up mode for the past 20 odd years – even longer if you include the fact that I caught my first shoplifter was I was 3. I have been buying, selling and setting up cafes my entire life. Along the way I have been fortunate to win some awards, gain some industry recognition and been afforded the privilege of giving back to the community through mentoring and amazing organisations like Start Up Australia. A few years ago I started doing a community radio business show and loved the fun of it all but struggled with there lack of entrepreneurship.  So I asked myself the fateful question “how hard can it be to build your own radio station?” Of course I built it in the café!

When Is A Café A Radio Station?
Speaking of cafes, what is a café owner doing in the radio world? Well, there have been some special moments  when I have asked myself, no YELLED at myself the same thing. Especially about 3 minutes before the live shows. At first it was a fun idea  Then it started to become reality. Funny thing reality, in business you have to put your money where your mouth is.

At some point it has to stop being in development phase and it has to start being in real life business phase. The stage where you can’t hide anymore, the stage where you have to show and tell. The stage where those exciting cash flow predicting projections meet the fork in the road and you have to pound the pavement and get those bottoms on seats.

Shiny New & Nervous
Only there are no seats and this is not my field of expertise. Sure I have opened and built loads of businesses, some have even done well. But this is NOT an area I know and I’m scared. Scared that as a food retailer I wont be able to deliver what the business needs because its not food! Scared that my instinct is wrong and in fact not only will I fail but EVERYBODY is going to know it. Ok, we get it right? I’m scared. Haven’t been like this since my second business in the eighties. One or all of my partners weren’t even born yet….

I have been learning along the way, sometimes there have been naïve moments, some have been more along the lines of “I have no idea what everyone is talking about”. The experience I have gathered is more than just an APP build, I got to do something I have been threatening myself to do for years – put my decades of business experience to the test. I created something from nothing. It wasn’t a shell of a shop waiting for a fit out.

Others may copy it, love it or hate it. But I made it. I did what I started out to do. I didn’t do it alone, I’m not doing it alone, but I have jumped outside of my very comfortable comfort zone and I have risked everything to try something new. I believe the big corporate world refers to it as diversification. Hey, I’m just a café owner who wants to take over the world. One coffee and a radio station at a time.

Elected to the City of Sydney Council in September 2012, Angela Vithoulkas has built a successful and award winning career as a business owner and entrepreneur.  Running her CBD business – VIVO Café, establishing her own online radio station Eagle Waves Radio and launching her political career translates into a unique perspective.