Back in 2012, Matthew Mosse-Robinson packed up his family and Sydney-based banking job to join his sister-in-law, Melissa Wilkinson, in a new venture on NSW’s Central Coast. The purpose of this venture? To get personal – and offer an online store of personalised wedding favours, invitations and other gifts via custom engravings and prints.
The decision was high risk but high reward. Today the joint MDs employ a 12-strong team, have relocated to a custom-designed factory, service global customers around the clock – and recently launched into the US market.
“The business originally came from the frustration that my business partner, Melissa, felt when she couldn’t find quality personalised wedding gifts back in 2011,” Matt says of the time Personalised Favours began in a home-based office.
“With Melissa’s background in industrial design, she knew there was an opportunity to create a market where you could buy easy-to-purchase products like this online.”
As it turned out, their path was very successful, taking both Matt and Melissa by surprise in the early years. “The growth has been really exciting. For a long period the business doubled every six to twelve months and, despite the risks, we’ve never looked back.”
Investment takes many forms
That doesn’t mean it was an easy ‘overnight success’. Their dream would not have been realised without work, belief and sacrifices – and each represents its own type of investment in growth.
“‘When we hired our first employee, we paid her more than we were on,” he says. “It’s been extremely difficult to finance this growth as well – we needed expensive, state-of-the-art, computer-guided engraving machines from the start – and they come with a hefty price tag.
“We had to invest a lot of money upfront,” he explains. “We have loans in place. It is risky, but like any growth story, you can’t really grow without this investment.”
Be realistic with what you have to give
Matt now encourages would-be entrepreneurs to go into their own venture with their eyes wide open. “If you are thinking of setting up an e-business, be realistic with your own personal expenses,” he says. “Don’t come from the position that you are going to maintain your previous lifestyle, at least not to begin with. It’s just not humanly possible.”
But there are other benefits that come with taking the leap, Matt is keen to point out. “I love the commute on the Central Coast,” he laughs. “Back in Sydney I had a 50 minute commute each way just to cover the five kilometres from our home to the city.
“We’ve never looked back since moving up here.”
Behind the numbers
On alleviating cash flow issues: The person in e-commerce who came up with the idea that you get payment upfront is a genius. It really helps us to alleviate any cash flow issues. That said, we still have to stock our products in advance. To minimise over-investment in products we originally worked with small volumes of each product so we could learn how popular a product was going to be. Then we took the step to stock more of that product or related products on a greater scale…
On how Xero helps my business: We were tossing up between MYOB and Xero – and Xero has worked out fantastically for us. It can scale with us and no matter what the internet connection was like I could work from home or anywhere. Other people in our office can use it easily with no accounting experience.
I love Xero because it lets me invoice in multi currencies, which is so good for us. Customers can pay in US dollars and it’s not a problem. I also love the fact you can send a customer an invoice and they can click on the invoice and pay instantly. I reckon 70% of customers that don’t pay upfront online with a credit card, use this link to pay, which improves cash flow so much.