I have always found the share market fascinating because of its ability to create wealth. According to Fidelty, if you had put $10,000 in the Australian share market in June 1985, you would now have $219, 730 (a 10.8% per annum return).
I started investing in the share market as soon as I was legally able to open my own trading account (18). I started off with $5,000, money I had saved working at my part time fast food job. Here are the biggest 4 lessons I learnt:
1. Internal and External Analysis are Equally Important
Before investing my hard earned savings, I made sure to read investment books such as Robert Kiyosaki’s Guide to Investing. I also read all of the financial documents going several years back for the companies I was interested in. It took me around two months before I felt comfortable that I knew each individual company’s strengths and weaknesses well. My initial portfolio consisted of Woolworths (WOW), Westpac (WBC), Monadelphous Group (MND) and Fleetwood Corporation (FWD). On the surface, my portfolio looked solid; the companies I had invested in were making healthy profits and were growing their revenues consistently. In my first three months of holding these shares, my portfolio's value increased by 30%. I was ecstatic.
I however failed to take into consideration the industries in which these companies were operating in and the impact the economy had on them. Five months after investing, economic data came out that indicated the mining boom was over. What happened next, took me by surprise - Monadelphous and Fleetwood, both which happened to have exposure to the mining industry plunged over 40% each. In one fell swoop, I went from a healthy profit on my shares to a heavy loss.
The lesson here is simple; make sure to research ALL the factors that will impact the performance of the company's you invest in.
2. Emotional Attachment Clouds Judgment
After seeing my profits evaporate into thin air, I had a tough decision to make, buy, hold or sell. The economy had changed and it was very unlikely that MND and FWD shares were going to considerably improve over the short to medium term. In light of this, a smart investor would probably have sold the shares here but I decided to hold onto them. Why? Because they were my first investments, I refused to accept that I had made a poor choice in investing in these companies In other words, my ego got in the way.
My emotional attachment ultimately cost me dearly - In the next two months, both my MND and FWD shares decreased by approximately 10% each further exacerbating my losses.
3. Don’t Listen to the Hype
Warren Buffet, arguably the best investor of the 20th century is well known for his investing principles such as not investing in so called “hot” shares and only investing in companies he understands. By sticking to his principles, he has amassed one of the word’s greatest fortunes.
After seeing further decreases in the value of my MND and FWD shares, I finally decided to sell them at a loss. In order to regain the money I had lost, I abandoned my principles and began to look into “get rich quick” shares. These were shares that were being talked about on TV, shares that I had not done any research on. By listening to the hype on television, I made a series of bad investments that lost me even more money.
4. Figure out Your Risk Profile
After making all of these bad investment decisions, I became very risk averse. Every time I thought about the share market, I became frustrated/angry about how much money I had lost. Clearly the risk involved in the shares I was investing in was not something I could handle. I therefore decided to look at ways I could minsimise risk whilst still being involved in the share market. My research led to me to learn about what is known as Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s). According to Investopedia an ETF is a share that tracks an index. ETF’s experience price changes throughout the day as they are bought and sold. The great thing about ETF’s is that you get a stake in many different shares not just one. So for example, I owned an ETF that tracked the American S&P 500 index, an ETF that tracked emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia and South Africa as well as an ETF with exposure to Europe and the Middle East.
In doing this, I minimised my risk as I was less exposed to price changes in individuals shares. I also gained exposure into global companies like Google, Shell and Apple. I however limited my investment returns. By tracking indexes, ETF’s are only able to return what the index as a whole returns. Regardless, investing in ETF’s was the best thing for me at the time because it suited my risk profile.
Fact: According to Market Watch, Warren Buffet plans to put his own wealth into ETF's when he passes away.
Looking back, investing in the share market at 18 was a great personal and professional development experience. I was able to make big mistakes that most people make later in life with much larger sums of money. Was it scary? Yes. Was it stressful? Yes. Did I lose money? Yes. Despite all of this, I would tell 18 year old me to do it again if I had the chance.
The Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) is an event initiated by Brisbane City Council. According to the APCS website, It was first held in 1996 and has been held biennially since 1999, the venue alternating between the City of Brisbane and cities awarded to host the event in the Asia Pacific Region. It is recognised as the region’s leading business and government forum for managing cities and urban development.
The 2015 APCS was a great opportunity to learn more about future trends and issues affecting cities in the Asia Pacific region. I was one of the youth organisers for the Young Professionals' Forum; an ongoing feature of the summit that provides a great professional development opportunity for emerging private and public sector leaders from the Asia Pacific aged between 18 and 30.
This year our objective was to propose solutions, which were cost neutral, or revenue positive to city administrations. There were four themes we explored: global cities, future cities, digital cities and cities for people. Here are the best solutions for each theme (in my opinion):
For global cities, we suggested activating void spaces in order to give cities a unique character and distinct feel. Activating void spaces refers to making use of unused common spaces such as car parking lots, or un-leased commercial space for the function of business, entertaining, markets, urban farming, community events or shared office space and retail space for entrepreneurs. In Brisbane for example, the Red Hill Markets have activated the abandoned Ithaca Creek TAFE car parking lot. Utilising this space has a positive footfall and commercial flow on affect to the Broncos Rugby League Club, bowls club and community arts centre, all located in the same street.
In a report last year, the United Nations stated that currently 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas; this is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050. The urbanisation trend is increasing the amount of food needed within cities for consumption. We therefore proposed the transformation of urban rooftops into thriving food farms. This solution could potentially reduce prices for consumers, as the cost of transporting food within the city would be lower when compared to food travelling from outside the city. It is also a cost-neutral solution for city governments because, there are already companies in the private sector providing similar services.
According to their website, Bright Farms develops urban greenhouses to supply fresh produce to grocers. The company finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouses on or near the rooftops of grocery stores. Based on a business model that’s been successful for the renewable energy industry, it funds construction of greenhouses and signs 10-year, fixed-price purchase agreements with supermarkets.
As the so-called “digital generation”, it didn’t take us long to see digital technology’s potential in the urban planning industry. As such, we proposed that city governments should partner up with the private sector to exchange data for the benefit of both parties. In Rio De Janeiro for example, planners there are watching the aggregated data feeds of thousands of smartphones being walked or driven around a city, thanks to two popular travel apps, Waze and Moovit. The goal is traffic management, and it involves swapping data for data. In return for its user updates, Waze for instance gets real-time information from Rio on highways, from road sensors and even from cameras.
Cities for People:
With more and more people living in cities, city governments are under increasing pressure to supply enough energy. We found this next solution very innovative; it’s called footfall harvesting.
According to theguardian, every day, hundreds of commuters and shoppers in the east London neighbourhood of West Ham cross the elevated pedestrian walkway close to the underground station. Few probably notice the springiness beneath their feet. Fewer still connect that five-millimetre flex in the rubber surface to the powering of the streetlights above. The paved flooring is decked with smart tiles that capture the kinetic energy from pedestrians’ footsteps and convert it into electricity. Pavegen, the UK firm behind the innovation, has installed a similar system at London’s Heathrow airport, among other international locations.
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The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the premier global competition for high school, undergraduate and graduate students who own and operate businesses. Nominees compete against their peers from around the world for the chance to win capital and in-kind prizes from sponsor organisations.
In April 2015, I competed at the GSEA Finals in Washington DC. This was an amazing experience where I got to learn from the world’s best and brightest student entrepreneurs.
Here is what I learnt:
1. Passion is Crucial For Success
All the entrepreneurs I met in DC were driven by a bigger purpose. They started their companies because of a problem they had personally experienced or were particularly passionate about. Take for instance Scott Mungía from Mexico; he has created a company called Biofase that produces plastic from a compound found within avocados. This innovation originated from his passion for science and environmental sustainability.
Passion is crucial because it keeps you going when the going gets really tough. Scott for example has to operate in an environment where there are drug cartels. To an entrepreneur who has no passion or strong sense of purpose, they would probably quit. But for an entrepreneur who has that passion, that sense of purpose, it does not matter how tough the road, they will persevere. Scott came third at the GSEA Finals.
2. Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just Technology
When people think of startups in this day and age, they typically think of technology businesses such as Airbnb and Uber. I thought the same way too until I met Alex MaClean. Alex is the Founder of East Coast Lifestyle (ECL); a clothing company. Alex was born and raised in Nova Scotia and founded ECL on the basis that people want to wear and represent the east coast and the lifestyle they have there. Since its inception, ECL has sold over 250,000 units. Alex’s story reminds us of the definition of an entrepreneur.
“An entrepreneur is a person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
Alex came second at the GSEA Finals.
3. Don’t Let Your Age Hold You Back
As a student entrepreneur, age is one of our greatest advantages because we have lots of energy and limited responsibilities. It can also be one of our greatest disadvantages due to our lack of experience and skills. However, if the GSEA Final is anything to go by, student entrepreneurs are highly capable. Take Steinar Henskes from the Netherlands as an example. Steinar is the Founder of the Bird Control Group which creates lasers designed to scare birds away. Bird collisions are a major hazard especially in the aviation industry. Founded in 2012, the company operates in 52 countries around the globe including major airports in London and Amsterdam.
Steinar’s achievement is phenomenal because he is operating in an area of business where his customers are large companies and he is dealing with industry professionals much older than himself. Steinar came first at the GSEA Finals.
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I have always been a hustler…
When I was 14, my mum used to pack school lunches for me while my friends got tuckshop money. I remember feeling jealous when my friends bought sausage rolls and cottage pies from the school tuckshop. I wanted that for myself, but with no job the chances of me enjoying those treats were slim. As a result, I decided to create my own job! From grade 8-11, I sold lollies, cold drinks, miniature skateboards, trading game cards and home made beef jerky to students at my high school.
The lolly venture was my first and most profitable. Everyday after school, I would go to Woolworths and buy packaged lolly bags for $2.00 each. I would then come home and spend a couple of hours repackaging the the large bag into smaller ones. With one bag, I was able to make around 5 individual bags that I sold to students at my high school for $2.50 each! I remember starting off with sour clouds, then diversifying my product range with snakes, liquorice and chocolates.
For soft drinks, I would buy a carton of 12 for $10 and sell each drink for $2. I used to have one locker for my books and another for “business”; this is where I kept the drinks cool.
With the trading game cards, I first learnt everything I could about them and then at lunch, I would spend my time in the library selling and trading cards with all the students who were really into them. I used to sell individual cards for as much as $50. Beef jerky was another excellent venture. I would go to Coles and buy raw beef which I would then marinate and dry at my house. I bought special drying equipment so as to ensure that the beef didn’t make people sick!
All these ventures were very lucrative and as a result I was able to afford all the sausage rolls, cottage pies, and hot pockets I wanted on a regular basis. However, at that stage in my life I had not yet come to terms with the concept of saving, and all the money that I made during my high school years was spent frivolously.
In grade 12, with high school graduation nearing, the income I was so used to was about to dry up, and with no savings to fall back on I was in a bit of a predicament. So in 2011, my best friend and I successfully started B2K Gardening in our neighbourhood. We created flyers and spent the next couple of weekends distributing them. In no time we gathered a considerable amount of leads, which we proceeded to follow up on.
Now, my friend and I are black, and our neighbourhood consists of predominately old white people. So when we first met prospective clients, they were very suspicious. In light of this, we undercharged them and went the extra mile in order to build customer loyalty. In the beginning, we were essentially doing 2 hours’ work for $30 between the two of us.
If you add in fuel and whipper snipper string, we weren’t making much, but we were happy to do it because we knew that in time it would pay off. And boy did it pay off; once these people saw our work ethic and professionalism, they referred us to their neighbours, which expanded our business. I am pleased to write that over three years, we have generated over $5,000 of revenue and have positively impacted the health and well-being of over 20 citizens living in the Sinnamon Park suburb of Brisbane.
The problem with the gardening business, however, is that it relies too heavily on people. Furthermore, what seemed like a lot of money when I was 17 seems so insignificant now. To top it all off, I definitely wasn’t passionate about gardening. So in my second year of university, a friend and I entered the University of Queensland Union Entrepreneurial Competition with the highly scalable idea of “GetXperience,” an online platform that connects students to real world projects.
We spent countless days and nights working on our business model and refining our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the competition. We hounded lecturers and business professionals we knew for advice, cold called companies and created student surveys in order to test the market. They always tell you that the majority of startups fail, but we didn’t let this deter us; my friend and I had a deep-seated belief that what we were doing was something very important.
Youth unemployment is a serious issue in Australia, with only 71% of gradates securing jobs in 2013. With GetXperience, what we wanted to do was give students the opportunity to gain experience in order to increase their chances of employment upon graduation.
Long story short, we made it to the competition finale where I had to stand up in front of approximately 100 people + 4 judges and pitch our idea in 5 minutes. Needless to say, I was very nervous, but I knew that in order to make my dream a reality this was something that had to be done. I could have made a bunch of excuses, and in fact in my head I did, but I accepted the challenge with open arms because I knew that no matter what happened, I was going to learn and grow.
So I did, and that night I spoke with confidence and conviction. As a result, we came second and won the People’s Choice Award in the process. We also gained entry into ilab, a startup accelerator in Brisbane that supports early stage, high-tech companies through their first few years of development by building their business management capabilities, fostering mentor networks for start-up founders, creating investor ready companies, and graduating companies with increased chances of success.
Unfortunately, GetXperience did not end up succeeding, partly due to competitors like Zookal. We just weren’t able to differentiate our offering enough. Overall, though, I don’t regret working on GetXperience, as I have learned so much about myself, working in teams and startups.
On a final note, hustling is what separates those who want to be successful with those who actually are. In order to succeed as an entrepreneur and in life, you need to believe in what you’re doing, have energy when you’re doing it and do it with speed. Most importantly, you can’t afford to make any excuses, because great ideas are a dime a dozen- execution is what really counts.
I discovered the importance of hustling very early on in my life and can safely say that all my entrepreneurial endeavours to date would not have occurred without it. As I look towards future entrepreneurial endeavours, I see the importance of hustling becoming more and more prominent.
Society tells us that success in life is characterised by good grades and a high paying job working for someone else. Early on in my life, I somehow knew this was not the path for me…
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. From as early as twelve years old, I sold lollies, cold drinks, miniature skateboards, trading game cards and homemade beef jerky to students at my high school. When I was sixteen, I made one of the best decisions for my career as an entrepreneur; I took up painting as a subject.
At the time, I took it up because I thought I could get good marks whilst putting in little to no effort. Big mistake...Painting turned out to be my hardest but most rewarding subject. It taught me the importance of vision, experimentation and self-belief.
Here is how:
1. Successful Ventures Start with a vision
In my final year of high school, I decided to paint a self-portrait. Born in Zimbabwe, I moved to Australia 12 years ago. As a result, both places have heavily influenced who I am today. I wanted this piece to represent the coming together of both cultures. The right side would represent my cultural roots and the left would represent my Australian upbringing - this was my vision.
Like a startup business, a painting requires a vision that acts as a guiding stick. Without a vision, the painting has no clear direction. And like a startup business with no vision, ultimately it will fail.
2. Experimentation is a Key Part of the Process
There is a lot of experimentation involved when painting. This is due to the many colours, brushes and materials available. Mid-way through my self-portrait, I remember feeling extremely anxious when my teacher told me the piece was “too plain" and that I needed to experiment with different colours. I knew exactly what she was talking about; I was simply playing it safe. But safe is good right? Wrong. Being safe is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity.
"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose" - Langston Hughes.
Most people are scared to experiment because experimenting has an element of risk - unfortunately, the majority of us react negatively this. An entrepreneur must however ignore this reaction. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must experiment with different product offerings, different customer groups and different target markets in order to find a formula that works.
3. Confidence is Everything
Here is the result of my experimentation. I like to think it went pretty well (I got an A-). Experimenting with this piece really showed me what I could achieve by being confident in my abilities. As an entrepreneur, confidence is your ticket to securing a deal, signing on a channel partner or receiving investment. You cannot put a price on confidence because it’s invaluable.
Through painting, I now understand the importance of a vision and experimenting. Looking back, I see my painting class as a defining moment in my life due to the immense confidence I gained. This is why I believe painting is a must for every entrepreneur.
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In August 2013, I joined a global organisation that positively impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined.
AIESEC is the global youth network impacting the world through leadership development experiences. Present in over 124 countries and territories and with over 86,000 members, AIESEC is the world’s largest youth-run organisation. As a platform for youth leadership development, it offers young people the opportunity to volunteer or intern abroad, take part in team and leadership experiences and participate in a global learning environment.
AIESEC is essentially a global business run by university students - as with any business, there are various functions that play a pivotal role to the overall success of the organisation. During my AIESEC experience, I was fortunate enough to experience working in Talent Management and Finance before I found my home in Business Development - I was elected the Director of this portfolio for 2014/15.
As the Director of Business Development at AIESEC at the University of Queensland (UQ), I secured internships for top quality international graduates, placing them in Queensland-based companies. In this capacity, I led a team of 4 Business Development Officers to represent the voice of global youth, and to create future leaders with a global and innovative perspective.
During my term, leads contacted and meetings booked increased by 280% and 260%. Additionally, AIESEC UQ's Business Development team placed 4th out of 11 teams in a 6 month nationwide AIESEC sales competition (January - June 2014). This was a great result when compared to last year’s position for the same period (11th out of 11 teams). My team and I also secured AIESEC UQ's first internship contract in the past three years.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing...
Here are the 5 lessons I learnt along the way:
Lesson 1: You Must Find Your WHY
Lesson 2: Embrace Failure
Sadly, I started my term as Director of Business Development with no team. I had very few people to lean on and I had never made a cold call in my life. I certainly remember my first few cold calls…they were terrible. I was very nervous and didn't sound confident at all. However, as I continued to make calls, I steadily got better. I still failed, but with every call I improved, learning and fine-tuning my strategy. The lesson here: It is ok to fail as long as you fail forward. Learn from each and every failure!
Lesson 3: Quality Over Quantity
In January 2014, the university semester commenced and it was time for me to recruit my team. I had decided I was going to recruit seven people in order to reach our goals for the year. The first four hires were great; they are actually all in leadership roles within our organisation this year. These four high quality members would have been more than enough to reach our goals. Unfortunately with lucky number sevem in my head, I made a series of poor recruitment decisions that hurt the team in the long term. As I proceed with my entrepreneurial endeavors, I always think back to this experience when making recruitment decisions.
Lesson 4: To Motivate/Inspire, You Must Be a Leader, Coach and Mentor
Before AIESEC, I had little experience in leading a group of people. It’s safe to say that motivating and inspiring a group of 18-20 year old volunteers to cold call companies day in day out was one of the hardest things I have done.
I quickly learnt a couple of things:
Lesson 5: You Are What You Think
Upon joining AIESEC I discovered that AIESEC UQ had not secured an internship contract in over three years and that if my team and I did not secure in 2014, AIESEC UQ would cease to exist. At the time this was a significant amount of pressure - the existence of the organisation I loved rested on the efforts of my team and I!
Through my own personal readings I have discovered that successful people are fundamentally no different than the rest of the population they just think differently. So I implemented a “policy” within my team that required all of us to dress in corporate attire every time we made cold calls together. What did this do? They started believing they were business development professionals calling companies rather than volunteering university students. As a result of this policy, we were all more confident, spoke with greater conviction and were less easily deterred by rejection when we made calls. This change in mentality contributed directly to us securing AIESEC UQ's first internship contract in 3 years.
And there you have it! 5 great lessons learnt from the world’s largest youth-run organisation. Overall, AIESEC was a wonderful organisation that enabled me to truly find myself and learn valuable lessons in a considerably risk free environment.
To learn more about AIESEC go to: www.aiesec.org or www.aiesecaustralia.org.
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