The story of how I founded my first business was recently featured in BRW magazine, as part of a showcase on migrant entrepreneurs. The following excerpt is from an article originally published in BRW magazine; you can read the full version here.
Spam and instant noodles … a start-up business owner delicacy
Gary Ng remembers when he had just $3000 in his bank account, a packet of instant noodles and a dream to become an entrepreneur.
Ng came to Australia from Hong Kong in 1988 when he was 11 years old. His parents sent him here to study and Ng decided to stay in the country with his grandparents after he graduated from university.
“I had no family connections to leverage as my parents were overseas when I started my business,” says the founder and chief executive of BRW Fast 100 company E-Web Marketing. “I worked from my bedroom, surviving on instant noodles and SPAM sandwiches.”
To raise funds, Ng took a job with a small internet service provider posting advertisements around universities and bus stops. He then set up a 24-hour hotline for people interested in signing up to one of the internet plans on offer.
“My hotline regularly got calls between 3am and 5am from people who had just seen my poster while waiting for the bus,” he says. “But those late-night chats were worth it, because it worked.”
The money from this job boosted his cash flow and allowed Ng to get things rolling. He set up E-Web Marketing, a search engine marketing business in 1999 and turned it into one of Australia’s fastest-growing companies, with current turnover of more than $10 million. And these days, he says it’s king crab on the menu.
Ng is just one of thousands of migrant success stories across Australia – people who arrived here with minimal English and virtually no money but worked hard and built up enviable business empires.
Though E-Web’s early days were challenging, this was a formative and extremely valuable part of my life. I didn’t get a lot of sleep as a 21 year old trying to keep a fledgling business afloat, but the experience brought me the joys that every entrepreneur experiences through having raw perseverance, taking risks, making mistakes, finding solutions, and always looking at the funny side of things. And no matter what, having fun along the way – or else what’s the point?
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?