Editor’s Note: Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Not knowing something is near impossible to do, allows you to do it anyway, and that action allows you at some chance of success while others, by definition, didn’t even enter the game.
That’s the story of Julian Fagan, who at the young age of 19, borrowed $6000 at founded a startup with his brother. And it paid off – they paid back the loan and then some!
So if you’re suffering from analysis paralysis and hesitating whether to “make the jump” or not, this story might just be the push you need.
As a kid, my identical twin brother and I would spend countless hours each day reading up ‘rags to riches’ stories. We sat there in amazement and admiration for these people who turned their lives around from broke, divorced and jobless to millionaires and billionaires.
Stories of Tony Trout dealing with an alcoholic father, moving out to the projects with his mum and working his way up to selling a self made business for $3.5 billion. Stories of Shahid Khan moving to America and keeping himself afloat by washing dishes for $2 an hour to now, a man worth $4.2 billion.
Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and the list goes on.
I regularly asked myself, what will ‘my story’ be? That question can only be answered with time, but I am proud to say chapter 1 has begun as my brother and I have started an HSC resource business, ‘HSC Study Buddy’. Naïve 19 year old twins thinking they knew everything about business and taking a risk by borrowing $6,000 to start their first small business. All this brought about by a discussion around the fire consisting of unrealistic number crunching, high hopes supported with zero business intelligence but a burning desire and passion to succeed.
Six months later and 1,100 sets of notes tracked down through facebook harassing top ranking students and the website is up and running along with a Facebook page littered with family and friends. A minute goes by after announcing our website is live and we have our first $50 sale.
That was easy! Expecting rapid growth over the next four weeks as word of mouth will somehow spread and everyone will blindly purchase a product they know nothing about, our confidence was high. Flash forward four weeks and sales remain at one and the invoice for the website comes in. It was time for another meeting around the fire.
It was fairly obvious that changes had to made. For people to know about our product, they had to see it first. Facebook competitions handing out our notes and resources, begging schools to send around free samples as well as having us run seminars for free (because “it can’t hurt”) and 15 erratic price changes every hour started to see website traffic grow.
Sales were flowing but the backend of the website was an absolute mess! For every account created there were three contact submissions inquiring about technical difficulties they were having. The good news, the product was a success!
Rollercoaster year 1 done and it was time to patch up issues and reinvest almost every single cent we made so we were back down to $100 in the account. Website upgrades, the addition of past papers and getting tutors on board to run video seminars and year 2 was underway! The first speed bump, finding out your good friends and website team had been ripping you off the whole time and $10,000 was down the drain, luckily the friendship remained in tact.
Over 100 members in one week through a discounted promotion and we had made over $2,800 in 5 days. One tutor/genius that had received over 50,000 views on his video seminars for us and we were feeling great! The website’s backend remained a nagging issue as problems continued to arise meaning we were forced to sit on our phones and laptops 24/7 patching up issues for highly stressed HSC students. It was great to see high levels of activity but the ongoing backend problems had to be fixed.
“Lets try our hand at live seminars”, I suggested given our 6,000 fans on Facebook. We ran trial seminars for all year 12 students as an additional source of revenue. These were run at a cost of $40, offering our notes up as well for those who attended. When four students emailed to say they were coming down from Coffs Harbour for the seminars we felt a great deal of pressure to perform.
The seminars were great, despite making less than we had initially hoped for and the feedback was great, “well worth the trip”.
Year 2 was loaded with lessons for us from a digital marketing perspective as we attended a number of marketing conferences in recognition of our failure to have our marketing and technological platforms intertwined. This is something we can’t wait to explore in our current and any future businesses we develop. We completely revamped the website, again, in the hope that it would erase the backend difficulties, but it has actually done more harm than good. Website costs have now totaled $22,000 and it still remains an incomplete site. It has only been through a consistent level of passion and enthusiasm that we have kept our dreams alive.
As I sit in present day, my brother and I are about to start our second business focusing on GAMSAT, the medical exam for University students. Not only do we have the ability to pay back the $6,000 with the required interest, we have an added level of knowledge that no degree can teach.
Real life business experience! A common theme throughout the ‘rags to riches’ stories was learning through the ‘rubber hitting the road’. It was only about 2 months ago that this started to become a reality for me. With that in mind, I can’t wait to continue ‘my story’.