Looking for inspiration for both your weekend activities and your career? We spent a weekend in Brisbane with UQ graduates who are running their own businesses, and picked up some of their best advice and lessons along the way. Here’s what we discovered.
Beginning our day with a stretch, we visited physiotherapy graduate and the founder and owner of Forge West End, Dijana Radojevic (Bachelor of Physiotherapy '12). After graduating from UQ, Dijana spent time in London working with the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute, which combined physiotherapy and pilates services. Inspired by what she learnt overseas, Dijana founded Forge to integrate pilates and performance training with clinical exercise therapy. She now supports a team of 13, delivering everything from exercise physiology to remedial massage and strength and conditioning.
Any advice for graduates wanting to start a business?
“Have a clear mission of what it is you are trying to achieve and surround yourself with people with consistent values.”
What are some practical tips for creating a strong workplace culture?
“Our mission at Forge is to create an environment in which staff love coming to work. We encourage our staff to work on individual projects; ones that motivate them and help them in their own career progression. While we ensure we are having regular one-on-one meetings as well as weekly team catch ups, we are equally committed to more informal monthly bonding sessions, which include team walks, exercise classes and meditation.”
“That every role, at every level, has leadership potential. It’s about finding the right people for the right roles and developing them.”
To keep the post-exercise endorphins rolling, we then sat down to chat to Andy Galloway (Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management ’16), the Chief Executive Officer of YUMM – a social enterprise using chocolate to deliver mental-health resources. While Andy says managing a business is good fun, he’s driven by Yumm’s mission to make mental-health resources readily available, before they’re needed.
What's satisfying about managing a business?
“It’s good fun. Handling the responsibilities and driving the outcomes, especially for a purpose-led company is very rewarding.
What does a business owner need to succeed?
“I don't think there is one thing that guarantees success. But resilience to obstacles and a drive for seeing the business succeed helps.”
“Contributing to your sector creates opportunities for collaboration, and the best thing you can do is advocate for another person.”
For more feel-good, social-enterprise action, next we visited the co-founders of Tirtyl – a revolutionary soap tablet that's better for your hands, wallet and planet – at their new warehouse in Newstead.
Having given themselves the challenge of starting a socially responsible business from scratch, May Bandi (Bachelor of Engineering ’12) and Lachlan Hill (Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor Arts ’13) quit their jobs and relocated to the Sunshine Coast to start the new business mid-last year. Fast-forward to the present and the two St John’s College friends are on track to exceed A$1 million in revenue within 12 months of launching. Oh, and they're reducing plastic from our oceans while they’re at it.
What’s the first thing I should do before starting a business
“If your goal is to build a business beyond just being a hobby or learning new skills, I'd recommend making a full commitment to it. Everyone wants to start a side hustle, but they seldom go far as long as they're side hustles. At the same time, there's also nothing wrong with starting a side project just to learn. It's unreasonable to expect your first venture to be a success."
Is there a downside to owning a business?
“The worst thing is that it's difficult to turn off. If you're not working, you're thinking about work. Not having a boss tell you what to do means you always need to think about how you're spending your time. Always ask yourself: am I doing the right thing at the right time?”
With the fuel from our Yumm chocolates running out, there’s one Brisbane-based graduate who has all our culinary needs covered. Clare Kellam (Bachelor of Arts ’10) is the owner of Montrachet, King Street Bakery, Lumiere Events and Culinary Studio, The Kneadery and Mica Brasserie. Like Dijana, Clare wanted to bring the delights of her overseas experiences to Brisbane. And from the three-hour cooking classes at Lumiere Events and Culinary Studio to the gorgeous pastries at Mica, we can confirm – she’s done just that!
What makes owning your own business worth it – especially in these challenging times?
“It’s the sense of pride and achievement. Connecting with our customers and building professional relationships is very rewarding.”
Any hard truths people should know before launching a business of their own?
“You can only rely on yourself and if you’re not willing to sacrifice everything to get through tough times, then don’t do it. Also, do not underestimate the value of time spent on innovation and improving ways of finding business and efficiencies within the business.”
Speaking of innovation, one UQ graduate redefining an industry with his refreshed take on an old craft is Alexander Bell (Bachelor of Engineering '11). The Managing Director of Milton Rum Distillery, who shares the name of the famous Scottish-born American inventor – as well as his passion for inventing new things – declined the traditional engineering route to take a shot (pun intended) at distilling rum. And with 12,000 annual bottle sales and stockists including Dan Murphy's, First Choice, and Bottlemart, it certainly seems like the shot has paid off.
How do you satisfy your creative mind while running a business?
“I get a kick out of creating and inventing new things, as well as finding problems people didn't know existed. There are opportunities to work collaboratively with other businesses to solve those problems."
“If you want to start, just have a go. Always start off small and cheap. Once you get your first customer to buy your first product – you’ve got a market, and that’s your validation.”
Needing a kickstart on Sunday morning, we joined UQ graduates Louise (Bachelor of Science '16) and Josh Daly (Bachelor of Science (Honours) '11) for coffee at their Little Black Pug Cafe. Little Black Pug Cafe represents a career transition like no other. Having studied science at UQ, Louise and Josh were able to combine their methodical mindsets with their passion for food (and pugs!) to deliver a dreamy, dog-friendly cafe in Mount Gravatt. Although the uncertainty of the last year hasn’t been easy, the pair consider their survival to be their biggest business win so far.
When is the right time to change career trajectory?
“Just because you start a degree in one field, doesn’t mean that’s the only place it can take you. You have to be open to opportunities. You could say there are multiple timelines, like in Marvel [comics]. You can jump from one timeline into a different one, knowing that you can jump back at any point."
“It’s hard to be fully prepared for taking the plunge into business – just stay humble, take on feedback and keep learning from your experiences.”
After a big weekend exploring Brisbane, we’re happy to say that our last stop came to us. Brothers Sebastian (Bachelor of Science ’15) and Fletcher Fraser (Bachelor of Engineering ’16) are the co-founders of mobile bar, Little Rum Runner, and they’ve been servicing celebrations across Brisbane for more than four years.
“It’s important to keep an open mind and consider any and every new opportunity. Sometimes this means you’ll find success in a direction you hadn’t expected.”
You can explore many UQ alumni-owned businesses in Brisbane. Next time you pop into any of the above, or any of the below, snap a pic and tag us on Instagram: @uqalumni. We can’t wait to see the alumni businesses you explore!
More UQ alumni owned, operated, or founded businesses in Brisbane
- Alton Goods
- Beginning Boutique
- Black Lab Coffee
- Brisbane Tool Library
- Charcuterie and Co
- Comuna Cantina
- Corbett and Claude
- FRANKiE4 footwear
- Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers
- Green Beacon
- Hydrox Technologies
- Newstead Brewing Co
- Plenitude Wealth
- Saint Gustaf
- Skinny’s social garage
- TETTO ROOFTOP BAR
- The Goodnight Co
- The Fitting Room on Edward
- Wandering Cooks