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Premier Colin Barnett today unveiled the world’s first coin to feature a significant red diamond from Rio Tinto’s Argyle pink diamond mine.
The exclusive $1 million Kimberley Treasure coin was struck by The Perth Mint from one kilogram of 99.99 per cent pure gold, and features an image of a red kangaroo holding a radiant 0.54 carat red gemstone between its front paws. >>>>>>MORE HERE
Australian Jewellery designer Samantha Wills went from a Byron Bay NSW flea market stall to becoming an international exporter. Here is her story
Australia’s global jewellery tycoon
Samantha Wills grew up in small town NSW and now controls a global empire of jewellery from New York.
Think of women who have risen to the top of Australian entrepreneurship and the list gets thin fast.
Ever rarer is a woman who has succeeded with her own name as the brand, who has become a celebrity herself in the process.
Samantha Wills, who grew up in Port Macquarie and now lives in New York, is a tycoon of her time.
Samantha Wills’ jewellery is now stocked in 80 countries. Photo: James Alcock
Personable, open and yet at also guarded and private, the 34-year-old businesswoman appears to effortlessly blend an air of celebrity with social media fanaticism and a unique product.
But she says success has been a hard slog and she wants the many young women who worship her to know just how difficult it’s been.
“I think millennials are a generation of ‘slashies’. They’re a DJ/entrepreneur/fashion designer. With all those slashes between your job titles, you lose depth and integrity,” she says.
“Narrow down what you want to be good at, then focus on that. It might not work for the first six months or the first 18 months but it took me 12 years to become an overnight success.”
While she doesn’t go into gruesome detail, Wills was clear that growing a business took a hit on her personal life.
“I think the downside of having success was that when my friends were going off and having a good time, my business was in its infancy so I couldn’t have those normal early 20s experiences.”
Wills started her company at the of age 21 after moving to Sydney.
“I was working in retail during the day and making jewellery at night to sell at the market. A friend offered me a spot at Australian Fashion Week which would cost $500. I though I would possibly make enough to cover the cost of the stall, but I ended up writing $18,000 of orders that day. I quit my job the next day.”
Now Wills is turning over $10 million annually and is stocked in eighty countries around the world. She has offices in Japan, Korea, Europe, the US and Australia.
Wills credits much of her success to her business partner Geoff Bainbridge who was able to commercialise back-end production and helped launch her to into foreign markets.’
“Naively, when I first went to the US in 2010, I thought I was going over with a successful Australian brand and that would be enough. You think you can replicate that over there and it’s not the case,” says Wills.
“You need a much more refined offer. You need to know who your business competitors are and your media competitors. We ended up doing 18 months of research about the US before we moved our first order.”
The orders started coming thick and fast once actress Eva Mendes was snapped on a red carpet wearing Wills’ Bohemian Bardot ring. Wills’ jewellery has also been worn by Katy Perry, Miranda Kerr, Lady Gaga, Kate Bosworth, Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez.
“That ring Eva wore continues to be our best seller and we’ve made it now in 150 colours. It kind of became our signature piece.”
Sometimes (and only sometimes…) the @samanthawillsofficial PR Department, let’s me play with upcoming collections…. These are definitely my lust haves; the ‘Spanish Moss Grande’ earrings, in Amethyst + Rose Gold… Just added to the Waiting List at samanthawills.com (Which I’ll too be joining, because they won’t let me keep them). -SWx #SamanthaWills #SamanthaWillsOfficial 📸 @alimitton | 💅🏾 @stojb
Wills has recently signed to be an ambassador for Optus’ Believe Big campaign targeting small businesses.
“We filmed a campaign flashing back to 2004 through to my life now. I really want people to know the struggles and hurdles of funding success.”
While Wills credits her naivety for much of the company’s strengths, she sometimes regrets the decision to get going without any formal business training.
“Every day I wish I’d studied business or management. But, I learn as I go. I might have learned the harder way on the job.”
Asked why a New Yorker is the right person for this campaign, Wills says she still considers herself not just Australian but a “small-town” Australian.
“I still go to Port Macquarie five to six times a year because my family live there. We stock the range at one shop in Port Macquarie and every time I notice the town is really growing and evolving very quickly.”
Every investor dreams of getting in on the ground floor of the next Atlassian. Invest in a few start-ups and exit with an initial public offering – it’s as easy as that, right?
The future for Australian start-ups has never looked brighter, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month announcing a $1.1 billion innovation package, including tax breaks for start-up investors, changes to crowdfunding legislation and initiatives to turn Australia into an innovation powerhouse.
These initiatives are definitely going to help more start-ups launch and grow, and make it far more attractive for investors.
Malcolm Turnbull has made start-ups a priority. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
But investing in start-ups is still a risky proposition.
Reliable data is hard to come by for Australian-funded start-ups, due to the relatively low numbers of funded businesses and the time it takes to get a return.
In the US, Correlation Ventures released a study of 21,000 funded companies that either failed, were acquired or had an IPO during 2014-15. Sixty-four per cent of companies failed to return all the capital invested, with many of those being complete wipe-outs. The remaining 35 per cent delivered returns of five to 100 times.
Last year I reviewed hundreds of applications and pitches for some of Australia’s top incubators and accelerators, including the CSIRO Accelerator, The University of Sydney’s Incubator and Telstra’s muru-D Accelerator.
Here are 13 start-ups to watch in 2016:
Early stage start-ups
What? Platform for enabling e-commerce for small merchants across social networks without setting up sophisticated, expensive e-commerce sites.
Why? When I first saw the founders six months ago, this was little more than a business plan and they had not started building the service. Fast-forward to December and they have a slick product, have recruited hundreds of business customers in a few months, and are processing transactions. Things don’t normally happen so fast in finance and payment processing. Great team and they have been selected for Telstra’s muru-D Accelerator.
What? Simpla is a content-management platform that makes it easy for non-technical website owners to edit web-page designs, text, images and video by clicking and editing in their browser, without the requirement to understand how to code or all the tools normally needed to download, modify and upload code.
Why? Really slick solution that completely replaces the technical and antiquated tools and systems needed to modify web pages. Business web pages are still a growth area, however, web-page design and construction is overly complicated and it’s virtually impossible for most business owners and employees to modify their pages without the assistance of developers.
What? Delivery service for restaurants and fast-food businesses to outsource their delivery capability.
Why? Normally, one avoids Uber-style businesses, except Drive Yello has traction, is going after business customers and the team is led by an experienced founder with an exit under his belt already from a previous business. Our guess is that it will pick up a lot of drivers and riders who don’t qualify for Uber because they don’t have a suitable vehicle.
What? A bitcoin exchange based in Australia and now in Britain.
Why? I am a customer and it’s a pretty good experience. They have managed to combine bitcoin with local banking services, including connecting to a local bank account and a local EFTPOS card provider. Have raised significant funding and are one of the few bitcoin providers that have managed to connect bitcoin to the real banking world.
What? Invoicing app for mobile businesses, tradies.
Why? Although this business was established early last decade and probably shouldn’t be called a start-up any more, it spent many years trying to develop the right solution before it found product-market fit. It managed to get mobile invoicing right in the last two years and shot to prominence, raising $50 million in venture capital funding in the past 18 months. It now has 200,000 business customers sending 1 million invoices a month.
Founder of Invoice2Go, Chris Strode. Photo: Daniel Munoz
What? Crowdsourced security testing for business owners, application developers and corporations.
Why? Real and pressing problem for most corporations, cost of security breaches can be extreme, high-profile breaches are becoming commonplace and reputational or transactional losses can bankrupt companies. Application and security testing is very difficult, most businesses are unable to manage this on their own. No one company or consultant can handle this for them. By building a community of 22,000 security consultants, they are able to provide testing for developers.
Envato co-founder and executive director Cyan Ta’eed. Photo: Pat Scala
What? Created a marketplace for web designs, WordPress Themes, plug-ins and other digital assets.
Why? Probably one of the most successful Australian start-ups never heard of outside the web development and start-up community. Envato bootstrapped its way to $50 million a year in revenue and has more than 5.5 million customers and developers.
Straw poll from a few of my Twitter buddies
Steve Baxter: Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur @sbxr
Andrew Barnes (left) and co-founder Chris Eigeland of GO1
What? Online training platform for businesses.
Why? Great team including a Rhodes Scholar, lots of early revenue and they have been accepted into Y Combinator, which is the start-up equivalent of an Australian singer making it into the finals of American Idol.
Paul Jones (left) and Mark Fletcher’s Cohort Solutions aims to look after foreign students
What? Provides a comprehensive service for overseas students attending Australian universities, including health insurance, telecommunications and foreign exchange services.
Why? Significant traction with more than 10,000 customers, each of whom have to transfer $20,000 to $30,000 from overseas every six months as well as handle all sorts of other banking and logistical issues.
Pocketbook co-founder Bosco Tan. Photo: Louie Douvis
Mick Liubinskas, Entrepreneur in Residence at Telstra’s muru-D Accelerator @liubinskas
What? Personal finance app that brings together all of your banking, budgeting and credit cards and automatically categorises the transactions on each of them.
Why? Probably the only Australian personal finance app that has managed to get integration working with all of the major banks, very slick app and significant transaction.
What? Online legal service that provides standardised legal documents for common transactions as well as access to hundreds of lawyers for customised solutions.
Why? This model has been very successful in the US and the team has significant traction.
James Alexander, chief executive of Incubate, Sydney University @jamesasyd
What? World’s largest online basketball community
Why? A total of 850,000 Facebook followers and 20 million views a month make this one of the most popular sports sites in the world, originally founded in Australia and run by a very small team they are in the process of working out how to monetise the business but they have massive user adoption.
Nicole Williamson, country head at Lanzatech @nicolewill100
Kath Purkis co-founder of Her Fashion Box & founder of Le Black Book
What? Monthly fashion box subscription service.
Why? Very new business has managed to achieve significant traction with 30,000 boxes shipped to customers.
Mike Nicholls is responsible for developing new technologies and prototyping products from the Invention Development Fund patent portfolio at Intellectual Ventures. He is a Telstra ICT Industry advisory board member, blogger at Startup88.com, and mentor at CSIRO Accelerator, muru-D and incubate.org.au. Follow Mike on Twitter @mikenicholls88. Follow MySmallBusiness on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
This is not intended as financial advice. Mike Nicholls has no financial interest in these start-ups. Some surveyed in the straw poll may have interests in the start-ups they mentioned.
I am now of the quiet active searching mind in the twilight of my years
Australian toymaker named best entrepeneur
Melbourne-based billionaire Manny Stul’s Shopkins success see him awarded EY’s World Entrepreneur of the Year title in Monaco.
Most Australian parents probably haven’t heard of Manny Stul, but they will know about his Shopkins.
Stul’s family-owned toy company, Moose Enterprise turned over $600 million last year and continues to carve out a global marketplace for its products, with its YouTube-friendly Shopkins range of dolls beating heavyweights like Barbie and Bratz.
The Melbourne-based toy maker beat 55 contestants to win the Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur of the Year title in Monaco at the weekend – the first time an Australian has won this award
Shopkins King’: Manny Stul celebrates his win at the EY World Entrepreneur awards ceremony in Monaco.
The global title comes after Stul, 67, won EY’s Australian Entrepreneur of the Year. Last month the BRW Rich listed put Stul and his family’s wealth at $1.24 billion.
The accolades come despite a huge setback in 2007, when a craft bead produced by Moose had to be recalled because it was found to contain a chemical that turns into party drug “GHB” in the human body.
Judges noted the disaster in their comments.
Young children have been swept up in the Shopkins craze.
“Manny was our choice, not only due to his impressive growth, but also because the business he has nurtured has shown sustained global success. His mettle was tested when Moose faced a product recall that would have overcome less resilient and well-managed businesses,” said chair of the judging panel Rebecca MacDonald.
What are Shopkins?
For the uninitiated, Shopkins is a range of miniature toy characters fashioned on typically mundane items found in a supermarket.
What are Shopkins?
For the uninitiated, Shopkins is a range of miniature toy characters fashioned on typically mundane items found in a supermarket.
The brightly coloured figurines are no more than three centimetres tall. Kids can collect, share and trade the figurines, which have unique faces and names. For example, there is a chocolate chip biscuit named Kooky Cookie, a candy bar named Cheeky Chocolate and an apple named Apple Blossom. They are sold with tiny plastic shopping bags and baskets, ready to be filled, much to the delight of parents worldwide.
A Shopkins 12 pack typically retails for $13 in Australian stores, while Shopkins Donatina’s Donut Delights sells for $29 and a Shopkins Collector’s Case costs $20.
Most Australian parents know Shopkins.
Stul has helmed the company for sixteen years, but credits innovation for the company’s success.
Stul revealed his company would be releasing a movie based on one its products in October.
“Our next big move will be into entertainment and our next big move will be into licensing,” he said.
Stul claims Moose’s success in the US market is due to “cutting edge marketing”. Moose is the fifth biggest toy advertiser on American TV, he claims.
“We were the disrupter, and so there are people chasing us to where they perceive us to be,” he said.
“But we’ve moved way beyond that already.”
Sixteen years ago, when Stul began his reign as CEO, he learned the nuts and bolts.
“I did everything myself, which was a very fortunate thing. Distribution, warehousing, finance, selling.
“I did all my own selling and packing for the first three years,” he said.
Now Moose currently employs around 50 people in Melbourne and 100 in China.
Stul credits his father, a cabinet maker, for teaching him how to handle staff.
“Everyone should learn this lesson”, he said.
“Whatever you pay a bad person is too much and whatever you pay a good person is not enough.”
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Caffeine boost: Tom Baker, 26, used Pozible to source funds for his coffee liqueur business based in Central Coast NSW. Photo: Smudge Publishing
When Jules Donovan and Sam Colligan needed capital to kick-start their business they turned to an unconventional but increasingly popular source of finance – crowdfunding. Crowdfunding involves raising lots of small pledges of money – generally via the internet – to help fund a project or venture.
From their kitchen in Wallan, Victoria, Donovan (a personal development therapist) and Colligan (a chef) began selling vegan butter and ice cream at farmers’ markets in January 2014. The response was good. “From that we thought, ‘This could be a thing’,” Donovan says. However, to transform what had started as a passion into a viable business, the pair needed more money. Turning to crowdfunding, they raised $25,000 in 2014 through Pozible, Australia’s biggest crowdfunding platform. “With that we built a walk-in cool room and walk-in freezer in our garage,” Donovan says. “We converted the front half of our house into a commercial kitchen.”
Under the name Half Pint Vegan Dairy they now supply their products to 150 stores across Victoria and are one of a handful of Australian vegan ice cream suppliers. Donovan credits their success to the vegan community. “They’ve been right behind us.”
Twenty-six-year-old Tom Baker, co-founder of The Mr Black Spirits Co, is another Pozible success story. Despite the business starting out as a few guys in a shed, Baker says Mr Black was a single-minded vision to make “the best coffee liqueur in the world”. Since raising over $26,500 on Pozible in 2013, the small Central Coast NSW based craft distillery sells hand-ground cold-extracted coffee liqueur – what Baker describes as “alcoholic espresso” – to 550 venues in Australia, Hong Kong and Britain.
“I say to everyone, crowdfunding is so much about the crowd more than it is about the funding,” he says. “These people that supported us are very much our No.1 fans.
“Crowdfunding is a great way to test your idea and gather early support for your product or brand before you actually make it,” he advises. “If we just put it on the bottle shop shelf from day zero we wouldn’t have sold any.”
Rick Chen, co-founder of Pozible, has seen a rise in the number of small businesses founded by crowdfunding. “It’s been growing very fast and it’s a very exciting field to watch,” he says. He reports an increase in farming projects and home-brewed alcohol funded through Pozible. “In the urban areas we’ve funded heaps of cafes, little bars and quirky little businesses. Crowdfunding is not restricted only to creative projects although that’s quite well known because it started from that.”
According to Chen, there are about four Australian-based crowdfunding platforms including Pozible. Since beginning in 2010, Pozible has raised over $42 million in pledges and launched more than 10,500 projects.
Globally, crowdfunding is helping more new businesses than venture capital, according to a 2015 report by Massolution (a research and advisory firm specialising in the crowdsourcing sector). Global crowdfunding is expected to reach $34 billion for 2015 with business and entrepreneurship accounting for 41 per cent of funding. By contrast, venture capital accounts for $30 billion of investment a year.
Crowdfunding offers few barriers to entry. However, it’s no guarantee of success. Pozible claims a success rate (determined as meeting the funding goal) of 57 per cent.
Chen suggests: “Know your target audience and how you’re going to reach out to them. An existing audience base is always important – from Twitter followers to Facebook friends.” He also recommends attending one of Pozible’s free workshops.
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‘I could put my money under the mattress’
Sabrina Barreiro thought her Commonwealth Bank account would keep her money safe, until her debit card was skimmed.
Sabrina Barreiro always thought keeping her money in a bank account was a safer option than under the mattress.
But after her debit card was skimmed and her bank account cleared of all funds, she began having second thoughts.
“My expectations were higher:” Sabrina Barreiro struggled to get her money back after her bank card was skimmed and used illegally. Photo: Christopher Pearce
Fresh from a four-day holiday on the Gold Coast, a five-months pregnant Ms Barreiro logged online to her Commonwealth Bank account to find the $1350 she had put aside for medical bills had been withdrawn.
“First I checked my wallet to see if I had my card with me, and I did. So I panicked and called the bank,” said Ms Barreiro.
“I checked the transactions online and there had been three withdrawals from an ATM in Punchbowl, taken between the fourth and fifth of April, when I was on the Gold Coast.”
Upon calling the bank, Ms Barreiro, from Bondi, found the consumer process of reclaiming her money would not be as simple as she assumed. The experience left her distressed that she would be unable to pay medical expenses in the final months of her pregnancy.
“They told me they would open an investigation, which was going to take 45 days and I would have to wait until they finished the investigation to get any money back.
“I wasn’t asking for the whole [amount of] money, just give me $300 or something to pay my bills. It was everything I had.”
While unable to work due to health reasons, Ms Barreiro relied on her partner’s income for rent and medical payments.
Counterfeit or skimming transactions are those made with an altered or illegally reproduced card, based on details taken from an existing card. This includes when the information is copied directly from a card’s magnetic stripe.
Detective Acting Superintendent Dave Christey, from the NSW Police Force Fraud and Cybercrime Squad, said the frequency of card skimming had dropped since chip technology replaced the magnetic stripe.
“Over the last couple of years there has been a downward trend. You can put that down to better security measures. Where we are seeing it is occasionally on machines around the metro area and in taxis.”
According to the most recent statistics from the Australian Payments Clearing Association, released last year, counterfeit and skimming fraud dropped by 25 per cent in the six years from 2009.
In 2014, more than $650 billion worth of transactions were made on Australian payments cards, of which 0.06 per cent were fraudulent.
Ms Barreiro said that while she was concerned that her security had been compromised she was more upset about the bank’s response.
“I felt the bank was blaming me, because I didn’t look after my PIN,” she said. “They kept asking, who did you give the PIN to? Of course I didn’t give it to anyone.
“I could put my money under the mattress, but instead I choose to put it in the Commonwealth Bank … my expectations were higher.”
A spokesperson from the Commonwealth Bank said it was concerned when any customer was the victim of fraudulent activity.
“Our process is to fully reimburse our customers when they have been legitimately defrauded and our aim is to do this as quickly as possible,” she said.
“On this occasion the correct process was not followed at the time the complaint was made, which led to unnecessary delays.”
After Fairfax Media contacted the Commonwealth Bank, it offered its apologies to Ms Barreiro and fully refunded the disputed charges, including any associated fees.
Alibaba targets Australian sellers
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is about to set up an office in Australia, opening a giant opportunity for sellers.
When US internet giants mention Australia in passing – let alone actually visit the country or establish operations here – they are usually showered with media coverage.
But when China’s most valuable internet company, Alibaba, announced plans to open an office in Australia last week, it barely registered a whimper.
Alibaba, the e-commerce colossus that processed transactions worth $US149 billion in the December quarter alone, said at an event in Hangzhou last week it would open an Australian office “later this year”.
Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, is now worth an estimated $US23 billion.
And Fairfax Media has learned it has already made one senior hire for that office: James Hudson, the chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australia-China Business Council, will join the business next month. John O’Loghlen, a New Zealand-born entrepreneur, has also joined the company, it said this week.
It is a significant development for the Australian retail sector. Yet as the Prime Minister and a 1000-strong business delegation swept through the world’s second-largest economy last week, far more trivial announcements, such as the Australian Football League’s plan to play a regular season game in the country next year, captured all the attention.
Alibaba, founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma and listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a market value of nearly $US200 billion, has had a senior executive, Maggie Zhou, in charge of the Australia and New Zealand region for at least two years. But she travels between China and Australia and has been based primarily in Hangzhou.
The company signalled that the move to establish an Australian office is designed to help local brands tap into the gigantic Chinese market, where Alibaba has 407 million active buyers on its platforms. However, the decision to establish a fully-fledged office in Australia will fuel speculation it sees an opportunity for Australian consumers to buy products on its sites.
“We see a lot of potential in the Australian market as Alibaba continues its globalisation efforts,” the company said in an emailed statement. It declined to provide any further details on its plans.
“We aim to have dedicated country operations to work closely with Australian merchants and partners, and it is our plan to establish an office in Australia in late 2016 to better help local brands and merchants to access to the Chinese consumer market.”
Australia ranked as the fifth top-selling country into China during the company’s global shopping festival last year, Alibaba said.
A number of Australian retailers, including Woolworths, Bellamy’s, Blackmores and Chemist Warehouse, have signed up to officially sell products on Tmall, Alibaba’s Chinese language platform used by businesses to sell goods to consumers on the mainland. Many well-known Australian products are sold on Alibaba properties by consumers to other consumers.
Last November, the company’s “Singles Day” promotion in China was blamed for creating a severe shortage of Australian baby formula products, including Bellamy’s.
Shadow networks of Chinese students and relatives, known as “daigou”, were said to be buying up organic baby formula at Australian supermarkets and reselling them at higher prices on Alibaba sites, forcing the likes of Woolworths to implement quotas.
The move also signals Alibaba’s intention to expand globally and assuage investor concerns over its international footprint. Alibaba shares are down 15 per cent since the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2014, underperforming the 5 per cent rise in the broader US market over that period.
Last year the company said it would expand into France, Germany and Italy. It has already established a foothold in the US.