They’re young, driven and passionate about making money. Reporter Anthony Loncaric speaks to some fledgling entrepreneurs.
It nearly went wrong from the start. There she was at a fashion trade show in Paris in a building nearly three times the size of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
It was hard enough trying to get into the show, with a qualifying process in place to ensure entrants were trustworthy enough to meet representatives of some of the world’s biggest brands. Now Chanel Costabir had to walk up to the Roberto Cavalli stand and sell her idea.
“It was so intimidating and I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I had no store. No experience. All I had was this dream.”
She walked past the stand three times, too scared to approach. Over lunch, her partner gave her a pep talk and she built up some strength finally to do it.
“I was anxious and nervous but my partner told me I had come so far and had to go in and try. They loved I was from Australia and were so friendly.”
She left Paris with 12 fashion labels, including Roberto Cavalli, wanting to work with her. And she hasn’t looked back since.
Costabir has business in her blood.
The 24-year-old Sydenham resident’s mother runs her own language interpreter business and her father works in property and finance.
“I always had it in me to go into business and I always loved fashion,” Costabir says.
Following high school she decided to do a double degree in marketing and psychology. And she did night school classes in fashion-business at the Melbourne School of Fashion. But it was while working at a lingerie store that Costabir came up with her idea of a boutique lingerie store which includes an advisory service for men.
“While I was at university I was also working at Bendon lingerie store and we always had women come in to return items because they didn’t fit or didn’t match their tastes.
“I realised men were struggling to buy appropriate lingerie for their partners and there was a gap in the market in that area.”
She initially thought to open a bricks-and-mortar shop in Melbourne but realised she could reach a wider audience by setting up an online store.
Costabir launched The Lingerie Boutique about a year-and-a-half ago and says the business has gone from strength to strength.
“Being online allows you to enter the market a lot faster. You are exposed to a wider demographic of people. I ship to WA and South Australia and a lot of my customers are from NSW and far-north Queensland.
“I’m not going to say stuff is flying out the door, because it’s not. But it is surviving and it’s picking up everyday.”
Last year she was voted one of Australian Anthill magazine’s 30under30 winners.
The 30under30 initiative was set up in 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians.
She also featured in the February edition of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine.
It’s hard to think all her friends and family thought she was crazy starting up a business while studying.
“My whole family told me not to do it,” Costabir says. “I didn’t have much of a social life and at times I was going insane. But I knew if I’d put off one I’d still be doing the other.”
She says she has learnt so much about business from the experience. “When you’re starting something you don’t think about the risk you just think about how great it’s going to be.
“It is very easy to give up because things can get overwhelming. No one tells you how hard it can be when you start out but you have to stick with it.’’
For Tim Baxter having a successful business will mean more free time to enjoy his true passion. The 24-year-old loves to surf and prefers riding waves to spending long hours sitting in an office.
After finishing high school he took a gap year and travelled through Indonesia surfing for month and a half. Like Costabir, he’s not a big fan of working a regular nine to five shifts. It was there Baxter decided he wanted to find a way to have the freedom to surf and work in a job he loved.
“I like having freedom and I want to love what I’m doing. I spend as much time as possible surfing beaches like Torquay and Phillip Island. Hopefully I’ll be able to make enough money to surf around the world.”
Baxter, who grew up at Tidal River on Wilsons Promontory, studied a bachelor of business and entrepreneurship at Victoria University in Footscray.
It was during the three year course, which he started at age 20, that he came up with the idea for a website for university and TAFE students to exchange secondhand textbooks.
“The idea came out of frustration and laziness. I wanted to sell my textbooks but didn’t want to go from campus to campus.”
Baxter set up Arrange Exchange to make it easier for students to buy and sell textbooks.
‘‘Whilst Arrange Exchange was set up to sell my textbooks it has been equally rewarding hearing from students who use the site. It sounds corny but when students tell me they’ve made extra cash or saved a bunch of money on textbooks I get just as excited as they do.’’
Baxter says his knack for making money developed while he was a child living on the Prom.
“In the summer I used to walk around the campsites and pick up leftover cans and exchange them for cash. I’d always find little ways to make money and it involved me thinking outside the box.”
He says hitting the surf helps him come up with new ideas. “It’s when I’m surfing on my own that I have the most clear ideas and I love to just sit and ponder in a relaxed environment. But I also like to network and spend quite a bit of time in a social environment with like-minded business people.
“It’s so important to go out and meet people. Especially those who are doing well in the business world.”
Siblings Niki and Stephen Filipovic are two entrepreneurs with big ambitions.
The brother and sister have been credited for injecting some life into the gloomy Docklands precinct in Melbourne with their innovative flea market concept.
They launched the market in early March and it included gourmet food stalls, vintage clothing stalls and live music.
In contrast to traditional markets, the siblings set up 20 refurbished shipping containers for stallholders to give the market a dynamic feel.
The People’s Market ran at Docklands until April 28 and Niki, 24, says she is looking re-open the market in summer at a permanent location.
‘‘People automatically switch-off when they hear docklands but we’ve had thousands of people come through each week. Even though we’re not making money everyone that has come here loves the containers and atmosphere which is great. But now it’s about making it viable and to turn a profit.’’
The Strathmore resident says she has identified St Kilda as a possible destination for the market and also plans to take the concept nationally.
‘‘We have plans to open a market in Brisbane and it will include a beer garden as well as the containers. We want more stalls and exciting stuff you can see.’’
Stephen, 25, has already tasted success in the business world with his metal installation business which runs out of a factory in Sunshine.
‘‘He’s the ideas man, he has too many ideas,’’ his sister says. ‘‘I studied a media and communications degree at Melbourne University and I am responsible for organising the markets. He is a real go-getter and we work really well as a team.’’
She says starting up the flea market has been a good learning experience.
‘‘The hardest part is trying to get stall holders here. It’s been around a $100,000 investment and people will have no idea how hard it is to set something like this up. We’ve learnt what people like and who is coming and we are setting foundations to make money in the next year.’’
Knowledge is everything adds Costabir.Although she has learnt much over the past 12 months, she concedes it will take years to learn off others with more experience in business.
Her advice for young people keen on starting up their own business is to go out and do it.
“If there is something you want to do go after it. It’s a no-brainer but some people are just so scared to do what they want to do. I could be working somewhere and earning good money but I’m young and I have time to go after my dreams.”