CategoryInterviews with Entrepreneurs

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Brink Hosting

Modern game servers have made it possible for computer game lovers to compete against each other via the internet. The servers are engineered to support multiple players at the same time without crashing or slowing down the action. Hence, it’s imperative to choose a server hosting company that is reputable to get utmost value for your time and money.

Today, we got an excellent opportunity to speak with the founder of the leading Minecraft server hosting company Brink Hosting who have gained massive popularity from all across the globe for providing top quality Mincraft related services. Here is the full interview.

What inspired you to start the company?

For a long time, I used to play computer games on slow servers. It was almost impossible to enjoy the game when playing against an opponent virtually through the internet. After consulting a couple of my friends, we decided to establish our own game serve hosting company. So far, we have managed to attract millions of customers from all across the globe and this is a clear proof that clients love our service packages.

Where did you get the finances to establish the business?

Just like any other start up in the technology industry, we experienced a number of financial constraints. At some point, we doubted if our business idea was viable, but thanks to a bit of luck, we managed to get a loan from one of the local banks. We also pumped our own savings into the business and this enabled us to purchase the servers, pay office rent, and launch traditional and online marketing strategies.

What were the main challenges that you encountered during the initial stages?

The main challenges that we encountered were gaining trust from our target audience and competition to our game server hosting company. We had to hire a professional marketer to help us come up with a solid marketing strategy.

Want to know more about the life of a digital marketer? Read about it here!

What are some of the main marketing channels that you use?

Well, we have been busy diversifying and looking for new ways of marketing our services to customers. Currently, we are using social media, email marketing, and holding monthly conferences in our office to enlighten the public about game server hosting and minecraft gaming services. Based on the fact that we have clients from all across the globe, we periodically attend trade fairs to not only showcase our services but also to network and outsource with other entrepreneurs. MineCon is the biggest Minecraft convention worldwide which we always attend. This has greatly helped us to learn new technology and improve our services to meet our target audiences needs and expectations.

minecraft in game hosted on server

What makes your services different?

To succeed in any form of business, you need to come up with a business model and services that stand out from the crowd. By working cordially with our product development team, we have managed to come up with service packages that suits the different types of clients who come to us. To achieve this, we conduct periodic market research projects to collect data and feedback on our existing services. No customer feedback or request is ignored; for instance, we offer customized service packages for some customers whose needs fall outside our existing scope. This is usually the Minecraft nerds who are so close to buying their own server but don’t have the capabilities to set one up.

What keeps your business afloat and kicking?

Thank you for this question, due to the unpredictable economic environment, most of the business especially those that are involved in provision of technology-based services and products end up in financial turmoil and this in the long run forces them to close down. To avoid falling into the same trouble, we have sustainability and strategic plans in place that guide us on what to do throughout the year. We have also gone a step further to hire a team of business experts who have the skills and experience required to run the business and make informed decisions. Honestly, without them, we would have probably closed shop three years ago due to fierce competition.

How do you communicate with your customers?

As I mentioned earlier, email marketing has been instrumental in helping our business grow to where it is today. However, we also have an able customer support department whose main mandate is to respond to clients queries in a timely manner. Our customers have the opportunity to contact us via email or phone calls. We are also active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat. Hence, our clients have a direct line of communication with us at any time of the day even during the wee hours of the night as we operate 24/7.

Where do you see this industry in the next let’s say three years?

Well, to be honest with you, it’s not possible to predict the future of this business due to the many new technological innovations that are introduced into the market every day. That said, we believe advancement in technology will improve the quality of our services tremendously. We will have superior games with the capacity to support more players and games at the same time. We are keen to implement any new development that we feel will give our clients the best gaming experience and this helps us to stay miles ahead of our competition.

What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who wants to venture into this business?

This is one of the most common questions I get whenever I attend a conference, trade fair, or interview like this one. The thing is, before you venture into this business, you need to have specific and realistic goals and objectives that you want to achieve after a given period of time. In addition, you need to have a clear roadmap to steer the business in the right direction and a team of able personnel to help you carry out various tasks.

Any closing remarks?

The Minecraft server hosting business is very dynamic and clients need to be on the lookout for our new service packages and deals. As the founder of Brink Hosting company, we aim to provide nothing but the best services to our customers.

Thank you very much for taking time of your business schedule to talk to us here at Shape Your World, we wish all the best in your business endeavours.

Thanks for having me!

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Katherine @ Milk Tooth

This week, the team at Shape Your World sat down with another budding entrepreneur in the massively profitable baby/ toddler goods sphere to find out what it takes to make it in the baby industry. Katherine kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her business Milk Tooth which stocks some of the most stylish baby goods from brands like Le Toy Van, OB Designs, Weegoamigo, Noe and Zoe, and Colette Bream to name but a few.

What was the inspiration for opening Milk Tooth?

My inspiration came from a few different places. Firstly, I want to be able to stay at home with my daughter, Sylvia, who’s currently 16-months-old. Secondly, I have a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, and having helped to create and support other small businesses when I was a banker, I’ve always wanted to own and run my own business. Finally, I love shopping for beautiful things and I really enjoyed creating a nursery for Sylvia while I was pregnant and nesting. Milk Tooth lets me satisfy that interest as I get to hunt down amazing baby and kids’ products from all around the world. I’m always finding cute doll houses, baby blankets, and felt ball rugs that other mums are envious of!

Has running your own website for children products helped you develop your relationship with your own child?

I probably wouldn’t put it in those terms, but as I mentioned above, one of the reasons I’ve created Milk Tooth is to allow me to stay home with Sylvia. I’m probably getting an additional three days a week with her that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I were working part-time, so in that way my business is supporting my relationship with her. That, and she’s often a “product tester” for some of my baby and toddler toys and bits of gorgeous nursery décor! I still remember the first weegoamigo blanket i gave her, it was so cute.

How has your life changed since starting Milk Tooth and what opportunities do you envision for yourself as a business owner?

The first part of this is a particularly interesting question. It’s changed a lot, actually. Not only am I not working a standard office job, but the people I’m socialising with have shifted a bit too, as not all of my friends seem to understand what’s involved in running a business and I’ve created some new and fantastic friends through the business, including some other work-at-home-mums. I’m also living much more frugally than before, because small businesses take a while to turnover a real profit! We’re doing fine, but my family is definitely being more careful with money until Milk Tooth becomes a real success. Of course how I spend my days and nights is completely different now, too,  because I spend my days running around after a toddler and then I really get stuck into work from about 8:30pm onwards (I’m a night owl so this suits me perfectly).

Felt Ball Rug Sailing colours

Milk Tooth Top Seller – The Felt Ball Rug

Have you had any challenges or difficulties running the business and how did you overcome them?

Time is my biggest challenge! I honestly can’t get any work done (aside from the odd social media post or comment and regular trips to the post office) while I’m looking after Sylvie. There is SO much more to do to create and build an online business than I ever realised before. I had no idea before I started. I love all of the challenges though, particularly learning about the different facets of website design, marketing and advertising.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

My business provides me with the healthy work/life balance! I get to spend all day every day with my child which, while exhausting and oftentimes difficult, is a privilege that many mums don’t get to experience. I will never regret that. The tricky part is making sure I give myself some downtime in which I’m neither mothering or working. A coffee with a friend, sans child, a couple of hours relaxing with a glass of wine in front of the tv in the evening, that sort of thing, is important. It is a bit tricky though, because I love working on Milk Tooth (if I didn’t I should just stop!) so I need to remind myself not to spend every spare hour on it.

Where do you see your business going in the next few years?

I hope to be able to continually build the business over the next few years, to get it to a place where it’s making a decent income for me. That’s a reasonable three-year goal, I believe. I’ve read in a few places that it generally takes three years to really get a business going and profitable. I’d really like a part of that to come from returning customers, as I try to provide the very best shopping experience and customer service possible, and I want people to feel at home on my website and feel like they’ve gotten to know me a little bit. Beyond that, I’d love to see Milk Tooth grow to a point where perhaps I’m utilising warehouse space and I have a couple of staff helping me out. If I could create a couple of jobs out of the business for other people, that would be very rewarding in and of itself.

 

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Andrew @ Rental Guardians

The property game is fiercely competitive. It takes a thick skin and a lot of motivation to succeed, two things we believe this week’s entrepreneur, Andrew Allen from Rental Guardians definitely has. Andrew has been in the property management, buyer advocacy, and real estate game for almost five years. He decided to branch out from his initial project focusing on buying properties for investors to include property management services and offering a support service to his investors was the logical choice. Since starting Rental Guardians they have seen fantastic growth in the Brisbane area and are well known in investment circles as a reputable property management team. We sat down with Andrew to discuss life as a business owner in the real estate game.

 How long have you owned your business?

I started Allen Real Estate as a ‘Buyer advocacy’ business in January 2010, so almost five years now.

 What was the inspiration for opening your business?

I was looking for the flexibility of working for myself due to life factors such as spending a lot of time in Europe and also having small children, the ability to design my own working hours was a motivating factor. Also and this is the main reason, I was looking for a field where there was significant upside in earning capacity and very generally Real Estate meets this qualification well. A more practical motivation was the fact that I have been self employed for almost all of my working life, the last time I worked for someone else was 1992!

 How has your life changed and what opportunities do you envision for your future as a business owner?

So far my responsibilities have increase in line with income, managing employees is a challenge that has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Opportunities mainly revolve around stepping outside the day to day running of the business and into an overseeing and business development role, this is an ongoing process that is still a few years away from fully happening.

What are 3 things that you did successfully to put your business on the map and what tips for success would you suggest to other small business owners, new and existing?

1) Network with centers of influence for your business, finding your customers and the people who will refer you mutiple customers is powerful.

2) Use professionals to do important work for your business such as design and marketing, don’t try and do everything yourself, focus your time on what helps you bring in revenue.

3) Establish a reputation of authority in your chosen domain, being viewed as an expert helps business come to you rather than having to chase it.

Do you spend more time working in your business than you did when you were employed by someone else?

Absolutely yes. There’s no 9-5 with my current business, you are always on call. To a large extent taming this issue is the great challenge of business and lifestyle, how do you strike the balance on growing your business and revenue while at the same time enjoying the benefits of having more income? This is a work in progress.

 How have you managed to balance fun and pressure in the growth of your business?

Having a family day helps, usually Sunday where you don’t do any work or try not to. Also booking holidays in advance is a key idea, if you don’t schedule this time then it likely won’t happen.

What has been the biggest personal challenge for you since becoming a small business owner?

Definitely employees, I was regularly told that ‘staffing’ was the greatest issue for my colleagues and now I think that’s true also.

How important is it to recognize loyal customers?

Your customers become your repeat customers and referrers, so it’s very important to deliver a quality service and thank your customers for their support of your business.

What percentage of your customers come from your local community?

From Brisbane the percentage would be less that 20%, mostly clients are coming from a distance, usually interstate or overseas as one of the key value adds for these clients is they aren’t able to inspect property themselves so are outsourcing their inspections to somebody local.

How would you describe the culture of your business?

Ethical and trustworthy, which are often stated and often absent features in real estate related services. I’ve always valued a quality result for a buyer and client over a commission, this regularly can cost money in the short term but I believe is well compensated in the longer run.

If you want to keep in touch with Andrew, or follow the progress of Rental Guardians you can follow the brand on Twitter or Google+. We’ve covered some other areas of the real estate world here on Shape Your World, so if this is a career that may be of interest to you be sure to check out our previous post about project marketing.

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Matt @ Top Frog Energy

Top Frog Energy has quickly become one of Australia’s fastest growing solar lighting providers. For the last seven years, 26 year old Matt Harris from Top Frog Energy has been cementing his business as the industry leader in all things solar. Whether it’s solar lights, solar panels, hot water, or solar camping equipment that you’re after Matt has built his business around the sun! Most recently, Matt has decided to close up his solar shopfront and move the business completely online. We spoke with him just after the launch of the new Top Frog Energy website, covering the trials and tribulations of being a small business owner

How long have you owned your business?

We started our business in 2009 with a retail solar lighting, solar panels and solar camping shop in North Brisbane.. Just recently we have made the decision to shut our store and go online.

What was the inspiration for opening your business?

I had worked in retail since I was 15, for a number of different companies in a variety of positions within the workplace. I worked my way to store manager at my last retail job and my boss was generous enough to put me through a certificate 3 in business management. After a couple of years as store manager, I realized that I had climbed as high as I was ever going to for that company. I made the decision that I would rather work my butt off for my families benefit, so we started a family owned and operated solar business.

How has your life changed and what opportunities do you envision for your future as a business owner?

Being a business owner is not easy, but I believe I have learned a lot of things that help in everyday life and grown in confidence as a person. I can no longer simply walk into another retail store, I must assess everything and have probably turned into a difficult customer. I dream big and envision continuing to grow my business into a very large and successful one and possibly even wholesaling to other businesses.

What are 3 things that you did successfully to put your business on the map and what tips for success would you suggest to other small business owners, new and existing?

  1. The best decision I made for my business was putting a terrific sales manager in. He wasn’t the first sales manager I hired and the difference in the performance of the business since he came was incredible. I would suggest always putting experienced and trustworthy people in the key positions within your business, but they must be getting the results you require also.
  2. Advertising is essential. Sometimes the cheapest forms of advertising can be quite effective, it doesn’t have to be all TV ad’s and sponsoring the Broncos. Whenever we were quiet I would send staff to do letterbox drops around the local suburbs and advertising on my car produced good results.
  3. My store layout would draw customers to the shop. I was in a complex surrounded by larger, more well known businesses. I had a lot of bright and colourful lights throughout my shop, but by far the most effective were the flashing big disco lights I had shining into the car park. There was not a spot in the car park where you didn’t notice those lights flashing and half the customers said they were drawn to my shop by the lights. I would also change the layout of my store every couple of months, to keep things interesting.

Do you spend more time working in your business than you did when you were employed by someone else?

I do tend to spend more time working in my business than when I was employed by someone else. However I think it is very important to maintain a social life and am a strong believer in the saying ‘work to live, don’t live to work’.

How have you managed to balance fun and pressure in the growth of your business?

The only way you can maintain a successful business and a healthy social life is to have other people in your business which you can trust and rely on. Otherwise your business becomes a sinking ship the moment you step away. There are always going to be times when you come home in a bad mood because of something that happened at work, but I try as often as possible to leave work for the workplace and not let it affect my social life.

What has been the biggest personal challenge for you since becoming a small business owner?

The biggest personal challenge for me has been knowing when something isn’t working and when to change it. There have been times where I have hung on to the hope that something will work, when really it has been obvious for a while that things need to change. This can be as simple as keeping an underperforming staff member or product too long. In one case, when the solar market slowed, I made the decision to shut the shop down and go online about a year after I should have, meaning I was paying large overheads that I really wasn’t getting the benefit of.

How important is it to recognize loyal customers?

It is very important to recognize loyal customers. Often this is done with loyalty cards and discounts, but often going above and beyond with service or even just building a good relationship can help build a strong base of loyal customers. Of course selling quality products over garbage will also help grow your list of loyal customers.

What percentage of your customers come from your local community?

All of our marketing was targeted at the local community and that was where 99% of our business came from, however just having taken our business online, I would expect that to change with more of our marketing being targeted at online sales.

How would you describe the culture of your business?  The culture of our business is aimed at achieving our goals of providing top quality products and service to our customers. This includes continually training staff, always testing products and dealing with any customer issues promptly and professionally.

What’s have you got planned for Top Frog Energy in the coming months?

Our latest shipment of solar lights has arrived so the next month will involve setting out our marketing plan for the flood lights via the website. We have recently signed up to Google+ too so we will be working on building a social media strategy for all of our solar products also.

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Simone @ Tumble & Roll

Tumble & Roll is an Australian educational toy store. They offer a range of toys to inspire creativity and aid in the cognitive development for toddlers and young children alike. The company founder Simone saw the positive effects gained by her own son when playing with some of his toys and games that were designed to inspire learning, and decided to fill a void in the market and help other young parents give their children a better head start in life. Take a look at the huge range of toys at Tumble & Roll’s online store. We’re lucky enough to have the chance to speak with Simone today about how she came to be involved in the educational game and toy industry.

Hi Simone, welcome to the offices of Shape Your World today, we’re happy to meet you. Tell us, what was the inspiration for opening Tumble & Roll?

toddlerstoys I had been looking at different business opportunities for a number of years without any real conviction for what type of business I really wanted. Before starting up Tumble & Roll I considered various franchise opportunities, purchasing an existing business, as well as various work from home opportunities but none of these quite hit the mark. It was through my extensive searching for toys for my own son that I started to get a sense that I could make a contribution to this niche market. What appeals to me about these toys is that they encourage a more focused, thoughtful, interaction with toys and encourage children to use their imaginations and creativity as well as developing problem solving skills. Additionally, we have found that keeping a child engaged with educational games and toys works well to defuse some of the relentless pressure and demand for toys fueled by the hype, commercialization and merchandising which perpetuates from toy releases associated with popular movies or TV shows.

Has running an toy company helped you develop a better relationship with our own child?

Running this business has involved a fair bit of home research and trying out different toys and observing how my son interacts with them, how much time he spends playing with them, and how much enjoyment he gets from them. From this perspective we have spent a lot of time discovering and exploring toys together. I believe that this business and my passion for toys has been conducive to quality one on one time with my son which has benefited our relationship greatly.

How has your life changed since starting Tumble & Roll and what opportunities do you envision for yourself as a business owner?

Well my life now is an even bigger juggling act than ever before. I have an extremely busy life, running a business as well as another part time job and running a home. I believe my own business can eventually give me the opportunity for flexible working arrangements which I can do from and around home and fit in well with family commitments. You start to think differently when you own your own business. It can push you outside your comfort zone. I am a big believer that any business is built on a lot of face-to-face networking and relationship building. Even though this is partially an e-commerce business you need to get out there and do a lot of face-to-face marketing. As a business owner you have also got the responsibility of making decisions and opportunity to determine the direction the business takes.

Have you had any challenges or difficulties running the business and how did you overcome them?

The challenge with any startup is that you’re the manager, bookkeeper, receptionist, store man, marketing person – the whole lot. It’s important to realise early on where your expertise lies and where you need to outsource certain jobs to consultants and specialist support and then find a good team of people to work with to undertake the tasks you can’t do well yourself. Time and Money are also two other factors which many people underestimate when starting up a business. The amount of work required is about 10 times more than you would imagine and the amount of investment required can be considerable more than what you may initially budget for. Overcoming these has involved in generally adapting to the work load involved and tightening the financial belt to allow for the extra fund which are needed for the business.

How have you managed to balance your recreational time with your busy work schedule?

toypartyI try and pack as much work in during the week and any spare time I get over the weekend. We always seem to have a lot on at the weekends so I try and avoid doing too much work during the weekends. My working hours during the week though are long and I am often up late at night working well after my son has gone to bed.

Where do you hope to see your business going in the next few years?

We are currently in start-up phase, however we hope we can grow this into a successful full-time business which will allow me to work from and close to home. There are possibilities for extending the product range or changing the product mix. We have just started doing Educational Toy Parties and we would also like to see this side off the business taking off and hopefully adding on more consultants to broaden the areas to which we can provide this service .

We wish you all the best for the running of Tumble & Roll in finding enough recreational time to yourself and your son, away from your busy work schedule. We’ll have to catch up in sometime in the future to see how things are going. I’m sure our readers today have learned a lot about the trials and tribulations of starting up a new business, thank you for sharing your story with us here today.

 

Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Mandy @ The Freedom State

The Freedom State is an online store that offer the latest and greatest in bohemain clothing and accessories. With a focus on Australian boho brands, the brand has seen incredible growth over the last year and is now synonymous with the word boho in Australia and throughout the Western world. Follow this link to check out their extensive range of Australian Bohemian Clothing.

We spoke with Mandy Bell, the founder and manager of The Freedom State to find out what made her business become and almost overnight success.

BohoKimonoHi Mandy, thanks for talking with the Shape Your World team here today. For how long exactly have you owned your own business?

I stopped working for ‘the man’ back in 2007 when myself and a friend opened a successful retail clothing store on the Gold Coast, Australia. I worked on that business for 6 years. My passion for e-commerce and all things boho called me towards following my vision for a niche online store in early 2013.

What was the inspiration for opening The Freedom State?

I’ve always loved boho clothing and décor especially those designed by our very own Australian labels, and artists. While there were countless labels offering amazing pieces that fit the boho niche, I felt that there was a gap in Australian online stores focusing solely on the Bohemian Lifestyle.

How has your life changed since, and what opportunities do you envision for your future as a business owner?

Since going out on my own I am a lot busier, but since starting online I have learnt so much from the ground up; I.T, photography, buying, logistics and more. This has been a steep learning curve but it has been fun. I am still learning how to successfully manage my time though. Business constantly creeps into personal time, but I have always been a culprit of allowing that to happen.
The opportunities are endless, and I’m always thinking ‘what next’. I am so lucky being on Australian’s beautiful Gold Coast, as there are so many creative people beginning new and exciting ventures in fashion around here. I love being surrounded by and in contact with them.

What things did do successfully to put your business on the map, and what tips for success would you suggest to other small business owners, new and existing?

I spent a good 5 months building a customer base and my brand ‘The Freedom State’ via social media before my website went live online. I didn’t want to open my e-commerce doors to crickets! So pick a couple of good social media platforms that fit with your business and really focus on them. Don’t assume that online will be easier and less time consuming than having a bricks and mortar store. Also make sure you have a good support base of people you can rely on for advice quickly when you need it.

Do you spend more time working in your business than you did when you were employed by someone else?

Definitely – probably 3 times as much, but if you are passionate and enjoy what you are doing, that doesn’t bother you.

How have you managed to balance fun and pressure in the growth of your business?

I’m still learning that one!

What has been the biggest personal challenge for you since becoming a small business owner?

Balancing work and family life, probably the same as most business owners.

What exciting things are happening at The Freedom State right now?

MaxidressWinter is almost over down here in the southern hemisphere, which means summer is on its way. We’re about to get a heap of new stock in from some of our favourite labels and I can’t wait! Maxi dresses have been making a massive comeback in the USA during their summer this year, and we tend to follow their trends. I really love wearing my gypsy maxi dresses around so I’m really excited for this seasons new boho and festival fashion styles.

How important is it to to you recognize loyal customers? 

Very Important! As well as customers who are proactive on social media with recommendations for the business. It always important to listen to your customers because ultimately they are the ones who determine whether or not your business is a success. I’m very lucky here in Australia because we have a very helpful and supportive community of bohemian clothing fashionistas and many of my customers offer advice and even their own time to help me build and improve my business.

What percentage of your customers come from your local community? 

Since we have opened our showroom in Burleigh Heads only a few months ago, our local customer base it constantly growing on a weekly basis. If you’d like to drop by the address is Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade, 64 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia.

Where do you see you business heading over the next few years?  

We’re hoping to bring on a few new boho clothing labels in the very new future. In the longer term I have a few ideas in the pipeline; but slow and steady wins the race. Previous experience has taught me that one doesn’t want to bite of more than they can chew in business, and good things can take time to manifest.

Thanks for talking with us today Mandy, we’re sure our readers who are interested in getting into retail clothing or starting their own online businesses will have a lot to learn from your successes. The Shape Your World team wish you all the best for you and your business in the future!

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