FIND what you do better than anyone else and stick to it.
That was the simple business advice from entrepreneur and RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson before a packed crowd of 200 local business people at Bathurst Regional Council’s Biz Month lunch on Friday.
Ms Simson shared stories from her time on the Channel Ten program Shark Tank and also some of the business lessons she has learned since starting her online experience store in April 2001.
Within months of launching her website, Ms Simson’s business – and confidence – were buffeted by a dot.com crash that left her wondering if the internet was over and 9/11 that left people reluctant to spend.
She still recalls RedBalloon’s first sale – a stress-busting massage sold to a man who didn’t realise he had bought it from the website – but from there it grew to 300 sales a year, then 300 sales a month and 300 sales a week.
Sixteen years on, RedBalloon has sold 3.8 million experiences right across Australia and even seen off a challenge from European experience retailing giant Smartbox which failed in its attempt to enter the Australian market.
Ms Simson said all her success, including seeing off Smartbox, came from maintaining close relationships with suppliers and customers and a commitment to authenticity.
“Your customers need to trust you will do what you’re saying you will do,” she said.
“Never over promise and under deliver.”
Ms Simson said regional businesses needed to live by the same simple rules.
“What many regional businesses are doing right is picking something very specific and making sure they’re the world’s best at it,” she said.
“I had the very best strawberries in Bundaberg last week. They’ve just decided this is what they want to be famous for, apart from rum.”
Mayor Graeme Hanger thanked the local business community for supporting the Biz Month lunch.
“We have 3300 businesses in Bathurst and they make a great contribution to the economy.” he said.
“We are a strong city, a growing city and a diverse city with wonderful people and a supportive council.”