We’re so excited to have CEO and co-founder of PETstock, Shane Young, join us for our next In Conversation Breakfast instalment.
Over the year we’ve had Dr James Campbell from the biotechnology sector right through to businessman and past mayor Darryn Lyons, and with this event we’ll be adding the pet industry to the diverse topics we’ve covered.
Having founded the business in 2002 as PETstock, 11 years after the family purchased Ballarat Produce, the business now has more than 100 stores nationally and around a dozen locations in New Zealand.
Working alongside co-founder and brother David Young, PETstock has won numerous awards, most recently at the 2017 Australian Retailer Awards for best retail store fit-out of the year and retail employer of the year.
Find out all the challenges, rewards and concepts that came with creating one of Australia’s leaders in pet supplies and support at our event on Friday, December 1.
It all goes down 7.15am to 9.00am at the Australia Post Small Business Hive in Geelong.
Purchase tickets via the website here.
Find out more about PETstock here.
See a few of the other speakers we’ve had here.
James Campbell would like to see a better nexus between business and science in Australia to help the country commercialise the research achievements of its small but innovative biotechnology sector.
He told the audience at Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent In Conversation breakfast “that in the US universities value scientists with real world experience.”
In Australia, Dr Campbell says while that real world may be seen as the place of ‘the devil’s money,’ the country is a leading research centre, despite being almost insignificant as a market.
“Our politicians might say otherwise, but we don’t punch above our weight in commercialising our research, ” he said, drawing on more than 20 years’ experience in the creation and/or transformation of several Australian and international biotechnology companies.
The result of this experience is Dr Campbell’s passion to determine if an idea can be commercialised, while addressing the major challenge of identifying and managing risk.
He defines entrepreneurship as a mindset of seeing opportunities and determining where you can go with them. In his case that opportunity pointed to the goal of improving people’s health.
With a smile he summarises his career as “doing what has interested him, not working with a—holes and doing something which changes the world.
“Quite simply I like helping to build things and sell them for a lot of money,” Dr Campbell said.
That aspiration has most recently seen him appointed CEO and managing director of the ASX listed company Patrys, which is focused on the development of antibody therapies for major market opportunities in the oncology area.
Prior to that the Geelong-born scientist was CFO and COO of ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Limited where, as a member of the executive team, he helped transform a research-based company with a market capitalisation of $10M to a company which was sold to Cephalon for $230M after completion of clinical trials and regulatory dossiers in the US and Europe.
James Campbell earned his Bachelor of Science from Melbourne University before gaining his PhD at Deakin University. He returned later to Melbourne University to secure an MBA to hone his management skills. He retains his connection with Deakin sitting on the board of its Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT) among many other appointments.
There are three intellectual components to the decision-making that underpins his role as a senior executive assessing opportunities in the biotechnology sector says Dr Campbell.
“First is it should be a good innovation with commercial potential, second the intellectual property (IP) should be safe and third there should be a good economic structure to underpin it,” he explains.
But a rider to this response is “the need to look for an honest and intelligent founder.”
Looked at from the other direction, his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, is to “record what you have done and employ good management.”
While biotech companies are more likely to be headquartered in Boston or San Francisco and the much closer relationship between universities and business in the USA would make it easier to work there, Dr Campbell remains “passionately a Geelong person.”
Asked about the city’s potential for hi tech ventures, he says when it comes to managing such a business, hi tech is location-agnostic.
He acknowledges however an element of serendipity owing to the presence of some scientists in the area, which has seen San Diego grow into 3rd place for the headquarters of US biotech companies.
“Success breeds success. If people like Geelong it may well become a hi tech centre,” Dr Campbell surmises.
There’s a similar “point of commitment” between catching a wave and starting a business. Anyone who has ever surfed would understand this analogy that Alistair Lawson endorses.
In the water it’s the time when you start paddling hard until you feel the pull of the wave take over. In business it comes when you realise your idea has momentum, so you must go with it.
While a passion for surfing was to be the catalyst for Alistair relocating to Australia, the idea for his award winning business Great Ocean Road Surf Tours started much earlier when, as a youngster without a car, no one could take him to England’s surfing beaches on the Cornish coast.
Surfing however was not his first love. As a six year old he was captivated by martial arts. It was for his business Elite Taekwondo that he won his first business award in Australia.
But the emotional pull of the waves continued and neither living in an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne or a seven month old daughter would prevent him and his family moving to Torquay and launching a surf school more than a decade ago.
With several awards behind him Alistair recommends submitting to awards as a means of refining his businesses and looking for new ideas.
“The processes you go through give you a much greater return than just an award. You understand your business a lot better. Submitting to an award acts as a health check on a business.”
The underlying philosophy of Great Ocean Road Surf Tours provides an insight into why the business has garnered a variety of awards since it was set up in 2006.
“We want our customers to become as good as they can be when they are on one of our courses, whether they are with us for a few hours or several days,” Alistair says.
Staffing is pivotal to achieving that outcome.
“Great surfers may not necessarily be great teachers and vice versa. They are there to teach surfing all day,” Alistair says.
It is important to live the culture and staff must show a passion, something which is encouraged in staff competitions for photography or videos.
Choosing staff with the right qualifications such as OH&S, working with children and surf coaching is important, as well as ensuring these qualifications are updated regularly, as required.
Alistair acknowledges that “finding a point of difference has helped make us successful even though the business is founded on how I wanted to teach surfing, rather than what a competitor might offer.”
With customers coming from around the word, from a marketing point of view it is essential to understand what is important to each person, including images on brochures, telephone interaction and photographs.
“Honesty in marketing is essential,” Alistair says. He is very much “hands on” with using tools like Facebook and Instagram but cautions that not all marketing tools work. A 1800 telephone number for example proved unsuccessful for his business.
Equally, he advises not to try and hit back at critics on TripAdvisor. The likelihood of such criticism is minimised he says by having comprehensive and explicit terms of business on the company’s website.
With customer satisfaction remaining his highest priority, Alistair does a regular analysis of the business and asks himself how it might be run more successfully even though some services have been trialled and discarded when they adversely affected profitability.
Being an entrepreneur means that taking risks is mandatory but so too is having a backup plan Alistair says.
“Understand your business model and be willing to take advice. But be careful to avoid the sort of statutory warnings that say ‘this advice is general in nature’. Rather choose advice that takes your actual business into account,” he adds.
And while progressively bigger waves might strike fear into the L-plate surfer, Alistair’s experience suggests the successful entrepreneur like a big wave rider, has the knack of translating fear into excitement.
If a close family member described it as an “awful idea” for a new business, would you continue?
What about if you were a 20-something year old and it was your Father using those words?
Fortunately, Georgia Beattie persisted with her idea for a single serve package of ready-to-drink wine, even dragging her Father along to meetings to help overcome some of the cultural hurdles that presented themselves when doing business in Asia.
Addressing Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent seminar, Georgia exuded the energy and animation that saw her turn a simple idea into a business which she sold last year to international interests.
Now, barely five years after she launched that business, she is bringing the same sort of motivation and enthusiasm to her role as CEO of StartUp Victoria, the organisation whose mandate is to establish Victoria as the number one tech start-up destination in the Asia Pacific region.
Growing up in a wine-producing family Georgia discovered that no wine was being served at a local festival because there weren’t single serve, ready-to-drink solutions. At the time she was studying entrepreneurship, so she decided to create her own brand in a single serve package, as well as manufacture and pitch the packaging concept to a cross section of major Australian wine producers.
While beer and spirits had been the subject of packaging innovation over time, wine hadn’t, remaining “very traditional” she said. A conceptually simple package- a peel off foil lid on a rigid plastic glass-Georgia’s first manufacturing efforts at ironing a foil top onto a glass were not successful and in fact ruined a friend’s iron.
Citing Steve Jobs oft-quoted comment about the background to the iPhone, Georgia could see no point in researching a product that didn’t yet exist.
But she said you should subject your ideas to feedback from others even if her Father’s initial negative response reflected his identity “as a serious wine person”.
“By doing so you don’t risk others stealing your ideas because no one can actually see your vision of what you are aiming for. They may not see its potential and how you are able to realise it,” she says.
In the journey to create a viable business on the foundation of her idea, Georgia says her biggest and it turns out most expensive mistake was to accept a small amount of seed capital from an organisation in the injection moulding sector.
Georgia’s business quickly began to outgrow that organisation which could not see beyond Australia. When its pricing became uncompetitive she had to buy them out.
“So look for the sort of business partners who share your vision and can offer the capability to scale up over a five to 10 year period,” she advises.
Having secured a commitment from catering outlets of major event venues in Australia to carry her single serve wine package Georgia found the multi-brand wine company Treasury Wine Estates receptive to the concept.
In Australia it was a case of aiming for the volume sales typically made at events such as concerts. In Japan it was the need to get the product onto retail shelves. Those who championed the one glass cause in new markets typically shared a similar entrepreneurial mindset to Georgia’s. She also notes that in Asia, Japan and Korea are “influencer countries in which you have to establish a track record of 12 months or more.
Cultural differences can be critical in some markets, especially for young females, so on occasions “when I needed some grey hair in the room, I would borrow someone or drag my Father (by then a convert) into the negotiations,” Georgia said.
She notes that different countries and cultures dictated different approaches to marketing. Entering overseas markets she was actively in trade shows, ahead of which she chased media coverage, even writing stories for reporters.
“I did all the media relations which for a fun product made it easy,” Georgia recalls.
Last year she exited the business and was appointed CEO of Startup Victoria. Its mandate is to encourage more people to make the jump into entrepreneurship and support the development of a sophisticated high growth start-up culture. She is responsible for the launch of the new digital platform for the community and Australia’s first in-depth start-up data collection.
It may come as a surprise to people unfamiliar with traditional print journalism that the culture of daily newspapers is one of fierce competition. Both journalists and photographers alike vie to showcase their achievements in what all would agree are too few pages.
As a young photographer, Darryn Lyons’ ambition was to get his images published on the front and back pages of the Geelong News, every day.
He acknowledges that this fierce work ethic played a big part in his ongoing career success “but I also took risks,” he told a recent Entrepreneurs Geelong’s In Conversation Breakfast audience.
Like the time he became the front page news when a work colleague photographed him getting too close and personal as he was trying to capture an image of a rhinoceros at the newly opened Werribee Zoo. And later, when he was thought to be the first Australian photographer working on London’s Fleet Street, he said “if there was the potential to be killed, the editor would send me.”
So it was he built his reputation behind the Iron Curtain, over the Berlin Wall and in various war zones, thereby paving the way for his initial business success as a paparazzi and founder of a global business which specialised in photographing the rich and famous.
Years earlier it was selling signed photographs of his cricketing hero, Dennis Lillee, to school mates which pointed to the entrepreneur that the youngster from Herne Hill was becoming by the time he returned to live in Geelong. Business interests in nightclubs, property development and hospitality were balanced by a wish to serve the public which saw him directly elected as Mayor of Geelong.
Of his early career he says “working in the press was an incredible drug. It was exciting to get up and go to work.”
Admitting to “no negatives in his DNA”, Darryn Lyons took his camera and flak jacket on three tours of the Bosnian uprising which he describes as “a bit like World War 1 being fought with .303 rifles and the occasional AK47.”
“War is exciting and a sense of mortality didn’t come into it,” he said, even though he acknowledges that accepting the smell of death is bizarre.
If Uber and Airbnb are labelled disruptive to the traditional travel and accommodation sectors, then the label might equally have been applied to the unfulfilled niche market that Mr Lyons saw in the print media industry-namely photographing the rich and famous.
“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with a roll of film costing £2 and I might capture images that with worldwide syndication would garner £50,000 in sales.”
If this was the big picture of an emerging market, Darryn Lyons also knew that to sell them, editors would want to see more than miniscule images on a 35mm colour proof sheet. He became a very early adopter of the technology to print 8 inch by 10 inch images which left editors in no doubt about what they could buy.
So, at its height Mr Lyons photographic syndication business would draw on the skills of more than 1000 photographers scattered around the world’s celebrity hot spots.
Almost forty years into a busy life, and having returned the mayoral robes to the coat hanger, he admits to having worked as hard as ever but not without learning it was a mistake to try and do too much.
Delegation is very important as is the need for an entrepreneur to have good financial advice as well as the opinions of someone opposite him to keep him grounded.
“And, don’t be greedy. Share your dream with like-minded people.”
They no doubt feel the benefit of ski jackets bearing the XTM logo but it’s a fair bet that many of the homeless recipients of these jackets, sleeping rough on our city streets, would not know of Pete Forras. But the former Olympic athlete doesn’t care about remaining anonymous.
As winter makes itself felt across the country, those lucky enough to receive a jacket are benefitting from “Heat the Homeless” a program initiated by XTM in conjunction with its retail partner outlets which encourages people to donate a second hand ski jacket.
So, while Peter Forras enjoys the market share achieved by the XTM range of ski garments, he says one of the benefits of being a successful entrepreneur is “being able to give something back to society and ultimately leave a better company” than the one he co-founded.
With a history of nearly twenty years, XTM’s popularity as a brand can be seen among those taking to Australia’s slopes this winter. Next February athletes from three countries at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea will wear the garments, which are designed on Victoria’s surf coast.
The company that is XTM had its beginnings after Peter represented Australia at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in the men’s downhill.
He started skiing at Mt Buller after his father, having migrated from Hungary, bought the first hotel on the mountain.
As a youngster seeing a photo of the Olympic team, Peter was inspired to compete as a skier and from the age of 15 he moved between Australia and the slopes of the northern hemisphere to train and compete, operating largely on his own.
He describes his skiing career as encompassing everything “from exhilaration to extreme disappointment”, the latter emotion most evident following a bad crash before the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.
But, having achieved his goal of making the Olympic team he realised the need to re-set his goals after 1988, a decision which saw him begin to help some friends in their company selling headbands for skiers. It kept him in the sport and enabled him to capitalise on a good global network.
“It was six successful years, uninterrupted by any competition, until the market dried up and we got ourselves in a hole,” Mr Forras said.
Harbouring a long term aspiration to supply garments to the Australian Olympic team, he and his partners started XTM with a modest range of gloves.
The big change came when the company expanded its product range to include garments.
Securing a licence to use Gore-Tex fabric not only helped foster new products for XTM but it was also a catalyst for the company to realise the importance of moving to a higher echelon with the brand.
“We had to ensure that athletes were happy with the product first before we approached retailers,” Mr Forras said.
XTM’s growth was helped by a “floundering” competitor in the domestic market and also that it had fostered a favourable reputation with representatives in the ski garment sector
Peter Forras stresses the importance of having a clear vision of what a business is about.
He acknowledges he has learned some lessons along the way from failures. Of these the most important is to “know your maths, regarding cash flow.”
Now a strong player in a small domestic market for snow and outdoor wear –where there are only some seven ski resorts compared with several thousand elsewhere-XTM’s initial endeavours to sell locally designed garment lines internationally met some headwinds.
Among the lessons learned from expanding into export, Peter Forras says “we learned not to run into the first opportunity, to do due diligence and to have a clear cut business arrangement.”
Operating from a converted residence at Jan Juc on Victoria’s surf coast, XTM’s headquarters might at first sight seem at odds with its target market but Peter Forras explains that skiers and surfers enjoy a similar lifestyle.
“Importantly we learned a lot about distribution and marketing from the founders of Rip Curl who were trail blazers in a global industry and whom we count as mentors.”
Over time XTM has assembled a great team of nearly 30 staff says Mr Forras.
They share in the corporate vision to support campaigns for social justice and environmental issues. In the past eight years this has seen XTM offset its total carbon footprint and initiate “Heat the Homeless” which relies on the support of some 25 retailers of XTM garments in Australia.