Connect with us

Lessons Learnt

Grant Rushmere Is Going Bos With Iced Tea

Grant Rushmere had big plans for Bos. He was aiming for only one thing: The all-in, both feet in the water, jumping-out-of-an-aeroplane-without-a-parachute-and-planning-to-learn-how-to-fly-on-the-way-down kind of growth. In other words, a story that’s the stuff of legend.

Nadine Todd

Published

on

Grant-Rushmere

Vital Stats

  • Player: Grant Rushmere
  • Brand: Bos Brands
  • Established: 2009
  • Visit: bosicetea.com

When Grant Rushmere first envisioned Bos Ice Tea, he did it through the lens of creating a global brand. This wasn’t going to be a small local brand that would grow organically, and maybe enter international markets in the distant future.

No. This was a brand engineered for stratospheric growth, which required a ballsy optimism and willingness to go big or go home.

Of course, that just means a harder and longer fall if things don’t work out, but Rushmere and his founding partner, Richard Bowsher, weren’t thinking about that. They had their eyes squarely focused on the one year mark.

“That’s how much runway we had,” says Rushmere. “We could see the date when we were going to run out of money, and we were hurtling towards it.”

Related: Bos: Grant Rushmere

But they had a plan, and they were going all-in to pull it off.

“From the beginning we jumped in with both feet. We approached retailers and secured contracts that we knew we wouldn’t be able to sustain down the line if we didn’t get funders on board, but it was a calculated risk that we were willing to take.”

The strategising went like this: Both Bowsher and Rushmere had seed capital, Bowsher from the sale in 2000 of his Silicon Valley-based streaming media company, Streaming Media Inc, and Rushmere from the sale of his business, Afro Café, to Red Bull (yes, that Red Bull) founder, Dietrich Mateschitz. But although they could get the business off the ground, they knew they’d need a lot more money to finance high-level growth and launch internationally.

Bos-ice-tea-can

Organic growth curve

Rushmere and Bowsher saw three options. One was a lower, more organic growth curve, made possible because Bowsher’s rooibos farm would supply the base product.

“Richard moved back to South Africa from San Francisco. He settled in Cape Town and then bought an incredible piece of mountain land in the Cederberg as a getaway,” says Rushmere. The land bordered a rooibos farm, and Bowsher was soon spending time with the farmer, discovering a love for rooibos and how it’s grown and fermented.

By the time Bowsher and Rushmere were introduced by a mutual friend, he had bought the rooibos farm from the farmer. Klipopmekaar Farm was the ideal supplier of the base product for Bos Ice Tea.

“I had developed the idea, brand and product, but I didn’t want to be a lone ranger,” says Rushmere. “I was looking for a partner who would co-invest in the business and bring skills to the company. Richard was ideal. He loved rooibos and actually produced it, and he is excellent with contracts and HR matters. Where I think a handshake will suffice, he puts a contract in place that protects everyone’s interests. Together we had the skills this business needed.”

Joining forces meant that they had everything they needed to launch a niche brand, including the funds for slow, contained growth.

Bootstrap or invest

Option two was to put more money in themselves, or find other seed funders. “We didn’t like this option. Equity is cheap early on, and expensive later. We wanted something of value to offer investors, not just an idea. This also wouldn’t let us scale at the rate we wanted to.”

Related: 6 Tips For Bootstrapping

Building an attractive business

Which leads us to option three: Building a business that is highly attractive to investors, already has market share and is a proven concept — but at the risk of losing everything if those investors don’t come on board.

“We knew we had real potential and market enthusiasm, and we gambled everything on it,” says Rushmere.

“We also had support from all the major retailers, including Woolworths. They liked that we were a local South African product. We were growing fast, and we had successfully differentiated ourselves from our competitors. We weren’t overlapping Lipton and Nestea. We had different messaging and a different taste.”

This all played into the ultimate plan of securing an investor. “We exuded confidence. This is what ultimately secured us the Woolworths contract. We knew the contract would be attractive to investors, but we needed an investor on board to actually be able to deliver to Woolworths. Timing was everything.”

The risk paid off. In 2010, three major investors came on board. Up to this point, Rushmere and Bowsher were the sole owners, with a 60/40 equity split. They now made the strategic decision to dilute that equity and hold a smaller percentage in a much bigger business.

“We believed that the greater potential of the right investors could impact massive growth. We’re in the FMCG market — we couldn’t do this without big growth — so we made the decision to take the potential we had created and run with it.”

Bos-brand-logo-and-giraffe

Bringing investors on board

First, Invenfin, the venture capital arm of the Remgro Group, came on board. The alignment was perfect. Rushmere’s plan had been to generate market traction before approaching investors. Invenfin’s priority sectors are technology and food and beverage, with a preference for businesses that have achieved meaningful market traction, are on-trend globally and are poised for rapid growth. Bos Brands ticked all their boxes.

Next, former Manchester United FC coach Sir Alex Ferguson invested in the business as an angel investor. “This was a personal connection,” says Rushmere, who is a friend of Ferguson’s son and daughter-in-law. The business model sufficiently piqued Ferguson’s interest to get him involved, and he remains a shareholder to this day.

Finally, Vovo Telo founder Dave Evans not only invested in Bos Brands, but became a member of its management team as well.

“Vovo Telo was a client. Our early strategy was to focus on delis and speciality stores, introducing the brand to the public and developing a niche consumer base. In his stores, Bos was outselling Coca-Cola. Dave was intrigued – he had an SAB background and an MBA, which gave him incredible training and insights into the consumer beverage market, and he’d sold a 51% stake in his business to Famous Brands. He was ready for a new challenge, and we were it.”

The right investors don’t only bring money to the table, but expertise as well. Dave Evans joined the business as its CEO. “I’m an ideas guy. I love products and marketing. Richard has a great talent for HR and building the structure of a business, and of course has the rooibos farm. Dave is an operations guy.

He could build this out better than any of us, and his addition to our team was invaluable in our overall growth plan.

“Alex is an internationally recognised personality. Don’t ever discount the lift a product — particularly a consumer product — can receive from being associated with a famous personality. Alex also has a wealth of connections and associations that have proved invaluable as we’ve moved into international markets.

“And of course, Invenfin came with incredible links and networks, as well as the know-how associated with building successful companies. Over the years the influence and guidance Invenfin’s team has given us over and above the capital investment has been invaluable.”

Related: 6 Things Your Investors Are Thinking While Seeing Your Pitch

Bos-Brand-bus

The power of marketing

Gutsy moves and calculated risks aside, the success of Bos Brands is a lesson in the power of marketing. In their first year, Rushmere and Bowsher spent as much on marketing as their turnover.

As their revenue has increased, they haven’t pulled back on marketing spend — they’ve grown it. Rushmere is a firm believer that you get what you pay for, and what he’s been aiming for since the inception of the brand is no-holds-barred growth.

“I’ve always been someone who loves creating products, building a brand and then aggressively marketing it,” says Rushmere. “My first business, Afro Café, attracted the attention of Red Bull’s head of advertising and the man who came up with the line, ‘Red Bull gives you wings’, Johann Kastner. He then introduced me to Dietrich Mateschitz, who became first a partner, and later bought the whole business, and this association gave me unfettered access to the Red Bull engine room.”

Since Red Bull is arguably one of the most successfully marketed brands in the world, this access came with lessons that Rushmere has put to good use, first in launching Bos Ice Tea, and later in growing the business, both locally and internationally.

“You have to do your research,” says Rushmere. This sounds so obvious, and yet not all start-ups spend enough time on this incredibly important first step.

“Roger Hamilton [a New Zealand entrepreneur and founder of Wealth Dynamics] has this incredible analogy. He tells a story about how he and his 11-year-old sister were drawing stick figures in summer art class. They weren’t looking anything like real people. And then the teacher taught them a trick. She told them to turn the piece of paper upside down, and draw the space around the figure. Once you turn the paper the right way up, you have a perfect figure. That’s what business is like. You need to take a step back, look around, really see your competitors and what they’re doing, and then find the gaps. This is the only way you can define your own space.

Rushmere’s next piece of advice is to never stop digging. “This was a big awakening for me. I’d present researched ideas to Dietrich and he would say, ‘nope, not there yet. Keep searching.’ I had to work at it and keep distilling my idea. I had to find a way to get to the simplest form to convey my message.

“The more complex you get, the less likely it is that people will take on your message and embrace your brand. You need to create a Trojan horse. As a consumer, if you can see the idea of the brand and it’s simple enough, you will assimilate it into your personal narrative. As a brand, once you’ve got that right, you can add depth. Adding layers to your narrative takes time. It can’t be rushed.”

According to Rushmere, there is a set process to brand creation. First, make the early interaction with your brand simple. “Think about human nature,” says Rushmere.

“If we had a full CV of every person we met, before we knew them, we’d form opinions, make assumptions and be overwhelmed. But, if you meet them, find them friendly, open and engaging, then you want to learn more — and you’ll keep learning more. Finding a brand that you like and identify with is the same.”

Once you’ve set this foundation, you follow up with your brand story. “Brands need to be humble. Think about the most successful brands in the world. Their messages are incredibly simple. Red Bull gives you wings. Coca Cola: Open happiness. Nike’s iconic, ‘just do it’. These are all simple messages that have been repeated a lot. These brands have sold a simple idea that has layers and layers of complexity behind the simplicity — but none of that was created in a day. Most importantly, all successful brands are easy to recognise, remember and relate to.”

Bos’s tagline is ‘Not just an ice tea’, highlighting how one simple sentence can have layers of complexity: Rooibos is an alchemical transformation, and the brand’s portrayal of itself has always kept this front and centre.

“Rooibos is a green plant that has no flavour,” says Rushmere. “You need to break the cell structure and ferment it in the sun to reach the flavour. We use this alchemical ‘twist’ through all of our communications. From a wagon that serves drinks topped with an umbrella that looks like a palm, to giraffes on bicycles selling ice tea, but looking like ice-cream bikes. Everything we do is about a sense of transformation — what you expect to what we actually are. Everything had to have a trick in the box. If it didn’t, we didn’t do it. This built an expectation around the brand, without us giving long discourses about who we were and what we stood for.”

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

So how do you get there? “It’s a process of distillation. We have a tendency to want to squeeze more and more in. You have to fight that urge. Anything that’s not necessary must go. Simple, beautiful packaging is an important first step. For us, this meant a really cool can that was bold, colourful and recognisable. The fact that the product is organic and contains less sugar than other ice teas and soft drinks comes later. In your first view we’re not telling you any of this. Our sole aim is to grab your attention with a memorable name and cool packaging.

“Part of the success of beverages in particular is that they need to be entertaining. They transport you emotionally to a happy, entertaining place. This means the brand needs to trigger the subconscious, not just through taste, but emotions and ideas.

“If you try to sell too much upfront you’ll lose that impact. Insecure brands do this and you achieve the reverse of a simple, powerful statement.”

What does this mean for Bos Ice Tea? “We knew we were tapping into a huge global market on the high end of the consumer scale, and that iced tea speaks to a health trend, but this didn’t mean we should scream health from the front of our packaging, and in our marketing messages. If you do that, you lose all sense of fun. You want your consumers to feel a little naughty; like they’re having fun. Long-term, that’s how you build brand equity. It might sound counter-intuitive, but from a brand’s perspective, an emotional hook is much easier to defend than a functional hook. By tapping into emotions — what the brand stands for and how it makes you feel — you give the brand a voice; you’re not just selling features and benefits. If you take a functional approach to marketing, you’re basing everything on the fact that you contain less sugar than other soft drinks. What happens when someone comes along with even less sugar? You’re suddenly dead in the water.”

Fun, quirky, Afrochic — Bos Ice Tea has cemented its place in the hearts of South African and European consumers. And the brand’s journey is still just beginning.

bos-tea-bicycle

The 360˚ secret to brand building

As the Bos brand has matured, its message has become more sophisticated, and its interaction with consumers more refined, but its essence was shaped from the beginning.

“Most brands want to say as much as possible in their early stages,” says Bos Ice Tea founder Grant Rushmere. “You need to fight this urge. Let your customers consume your product without too much noise.

“My Dad used to give a speech at our 21st birthdays. He said that there are three cycles of seven to get to 21 years old. The first seven years are physical. The next seven years are emotional, and the final seven years are mental. Once all three stages have been completed, you’re an adult — but it can’t be rushed.

“Brands are the same, although thankfully it doesn’t take 21 years to grow a brand. Instead, you need to have been around for three years before you can develop a 360˚ brand. During that time you’ll have been developing a story and a narrative, and consumers will be getting to know your product, but you won’t have been delving into the complexities of your values. This has a long tail. If you try to do your whole 360˚ in six months, it won’t work. It’s too much all at once and becomes overwhelming for your target market.”

The three stages of a 360˚ brand

  1. Create a physical product.
  2. Tap into emotions. “In our case this meant building up the fun before talking about the health benefits of our product, but for other brands it’s about highlighting your relevance. No matter what you do, if you bear your soul a little bit and really show your consumers who you are, you’re helping them to make the decision to buy. This can polarise your market, but that’s okay. If you stand for something, those who feel the same way will be drawn to you. The secret is to be authentic and resonate with your market.”
  3. Go serious. Once the brand and market are mature, it’s then time for the more serious message (in Bos’ case, the fact that the product is organic, contains less sugar than other soft drinks and has health benefits.)

“The most important thing to remember is that it’s all a process,” says Rushmere.

“This can’t be rushed. As brand owners our intent doesn’t always manifest either, and that’s okay. Let your consumers decide who you are. Don’t shove your message down their throat; let them form an opinion, and then create a dialogue with them. If you align your messaging, you will create a space where your consumers can share experiences with you, and that’s more powerful than any message you can try to force on them.”

Of course, Rushmere is the first to admit that this takes confidence. “You can’t please everyone. Try and you might lose your soul. Instead, start with one simple idea: What is important to me? If you know why you are doing this, and you can find your purpose, then the rest will follow naturally.”

One final word of advice: Be consistent above all else. “Don’t be afraid to be repetitive with your message,” he says. “It’s important to not jump around, and that means sometimes you will be repetitive. Think things through carefully, and then don’t change them — it’s expensive, it confuses the market and people won’t know who you are.”

Related: The Importance Of Brand

Grant-Rushmere-Bos-Brand

Bos Brands’ global strategy

South Africa’s market is small compared to the US and Europe. Local ice tea consumption is 800ml per person, while the US and EU have 18 litres and 8 litres respectively. Switzerland on the other hand consumes 26 litres of ice tea per person per year.

Given South Africa’s tiny market, Rushmere and his team have used their local launch as a building block to develop the brand and its story, but ultimately they have always been focused on the international market.

Currently Bos Brands’ market is 50% international and 50% local.

“Half of our business is in Europe. We entered Holland and Belgium first. We chose the Benelux countries because this is a premium product, and so we needed to look at markets that have the potential for premium performance. China is huge, but price points are low. We were looking at premium pricing, and markets with more than 10 litres per person consumption. The Benelux market is huge; it’s sitting at €1 billion.”

In addition to a love for ice tea, the Benelux countries already know and love Rooibos tea. “Fruit flavoured Rooibos tea is extremely popular in Holland and Belgium in particular, so even though we were a very South African product, we weren’t completely unknown.

“We also understood that our ability to influence the market is good because the countries are geographically close to each other, but at the same time each market is slightly different, allowing us to learn valuable lessons before spreading ourselves out.”

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Advertisement
Comments

Lessons Learnt

Six Fundamental Business Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Walt Disney

His success is all the more amazing when you learn how many times Walt Disney failed.

Published

on

Walt Disney

Everyone knows Walt Disney. Almost everyone has been to a Disney park somewhere, seen a Disney movie (live action or a cartoon) or knows some Disney character. Some people even go on Disney cruises.

Disney the man

I think in some ways people know more about Disney, fewer people about Disney the man. Walt Disney, the man, has somewhat faded into the background for many people. It is understandable since he died fifty-one years ago, in 1966. Walt was a visionary, an entrepreneur and a creative genius. There are some invaluable lessons every entrepreneur can learn from what he was able to accomplish in his life.

1Never give up

Many people don’t know that Walt Disney was not an overnight success. He started several companies that went bankrupt. He started a commercial art studio, and it tanked. He tried to create advertisements, and they also failed due to lack of revenue. Instead of giving in or giving up, Walt always just tried the next thing.

As Walt said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Related: 7 Profound Business Lessons From The Founder Of Planet Fitness

2Be a problem solver

disney-cartoon

Walt Disney was the consummate problem solver. He was very observant and was always looking for ways to solve a problem and how it could be an opportunity in the marketplace.

He took his daughter to a park to ride some rides, and he noticed the rides were dirty and in bad shape, and the people operating the rides were rude.

Walt thought about this problem – and it became Disneyland. He wanted a place that was safe and clean, where parents could take their kids.

As Jason Kilar once said, “When I was 10, we drove to Disney World. When we arrived, what impressed me most was the meticulous attention to detail; there wasn’t a gum wrapper anyplace.”

3Be willing to reinvent yourself

Many people don’t know that Disney’s first major cartoon star was not Mickey Mouse – it was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He had signed a contract with a distributor for the short cartoons and was thrilled with their success.

When he went to renew the contract, they fired Walt. The distributor said (unknown to Walt) that they legally owned Oswald, and that Walt Disney didn’t, as outlined in the contract.

Even worse, all of Walt’s animators left Walt and went to work for the other company.

Walt went home having lost his biggest success. He had to start over.  As Walt said, “Mickey Mouse popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner.”

Related: The 7 Business Lessons You Should Learn by 30

4Surround yourself with talent

walt-disney-drawings

Walt Disney admitted he was not the most talented at drawing or animation. As he once said, “I started, actually, to make my first animated cartoon in 1920. Of course, they were very crude things then and I used sort of little puppet things.” He was brilliant at knowing what he did best and was able to hire the best artists and animators in the world.

The person who animated Mickey in the early was not Walt but an animator named Ub Iwerks. Walt didn’t have to have the talent for drawing, but he had the vision. It’s like being an architect – you don’t have to be the general contractor. You just have to know what you want the project to look like when it is done.

5Be curious

Walt was an inquisitive soul and always wanted to learn new things. In animation, this led to some stunning developments in the early years.

He is famous for making the first sound cartoon, the first live action and animation mix film, the first full-length cartoon movie. Until then, Walt’s cartoons were fluffy, short, mindless entertainment people watched that came on before the main feature.

Here is the point and don’t miss it – he didn’t know how to do any of those things. His curiosity led him to investigate how to do these things and figure out how to get it all done. Walt said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Related: 3 Inspiring Business Lessons From Billionaire Media Mogul Oprah Winfrey

6Diversify

Walt was smart enough after building a successful animation studio to get into live action movies, documentaries, television, amusement parks and tons of products. He could have just been an animation studio, but that would not have created the kind of success his company had.

I think Walt said it best: “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”

Every business needs to keep looking at ways to grow and diversify.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

20 Crazy Things We’ve Learned About Alibaba Billionaire Jack Ma

From getting kidnapped to dressing up as Michael Jackson, the Alibaba founder has a lot of wacky stories to tell.

Published

on

jack-ma

As someone who rose from being rejected from Harvard 10 times to becoming the second-richest man in China, Jack Ma’s rags to riches story is inspiring

Jack Ma

Through persistence and experimentation, Ma built one of the most successful, record-breaking companies to date, the ecommerce giant Alibaba.

Of course, his success didn’t happen overnight, and his story is full of lessons in failure. Growing up, Ma struggled in school, constantly failing tests. When he finally got accepted to college, after he failed the college entrance exam twice and was rejected from Harvard 10 times, Ma eventually became an English teacher. However, once he was introduced to the internet during a work assignment in 1995, the rest was history.

Motivated to help the internet catch on in China, Ma launched Alibaba, an ecommerce site for small- to medium-sized businesses, in 1999. From there, it took years to build the site into the massive online wholesaler it is today, powered by Ma’s motivation and passion. Today, Ma is worth a whopping $39 billion, and since he stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO in 2013, he’s devoted much of his time and money to social causes.

There’s much to learn about the Chinese billionaire. Here are 20 interesting facts about Ma you probably didn’t know.

He wasn’t a great student

jack-ma-student

One might assume Ma was a straight-A student

While one might assume Ma was a straight-A student, quite the opposite was true. Ma admits that he actually failed multiple times in school: “I failed a key primary school test two times, I failed the middle school test three times, I failed the college entrance exam two times.”

Related: Edward Moshole Founder Of Chem-Fresh Started With R68 And Turned It Into A R25 Million Business

He began learning English when he was 12

jack-ma-speaking-english

He would volunteer as a tourist guide for visitors just to practice the language

At 12 years old, Ma was committed to learning English. Every morning for eight years, he would ride his bike 40 minutes to a hotel in Hangzhou, where he would volunteer as a tourist guide for visitors just to practice the language.

He was rejected from Harvard University 10 times

Harvard University

Harvard University

It usually takes only one rejection for someone to give up on getting into an Ivy League, but this wasn’t the case for Ma. During an interview at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in 2015, Ma admitted to being rejected from Harvard 10 times.

He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life after college

jack-ma-rejection

You don’t always have to have the answers

After graduating from Hangzhou Normal University, Ma applied for 30 different jobs, and he got rejected from each one. During the process of applying for these jobs, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, so he submitted his resume for a variety of unique positions, one even being a police officer.

Related: AutoTrader South Africa’s George Mienie Knows Disruptive Innovation Is More Than Shifting Gears

He was rejected from KFC

KFC

KFC hired 23 – and the one person who didn’t get a job was Ma

One of the 30 jobs Ma applied for after he graduated from college was a position at the fast food chain KFC. Out of a pool of 24 applicants, KFC hired 23 – and the one person who didn’t get a job was Ma.

He loves “Forrest Gump”

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

Jack Ma’s fictional idol is Forrest Gump. Like Gump, Ma also struggled in school, then went on to achieve success. “I’ve been watching that movie about 10 times. Every time when I’m frustrated I watch the movie,” he shared with CNBC in an interview. “I watched the movie before I came to New York.”

He became a teacher and made $12 to $15 a month

jack-ma-as-a-teacher

The chosen one

After graduating from Hangzhou Teachers University, Ma’s luck – and career – turned around. Ma was the only student of 500 to be chosen to teach at a university. Teaching English, Ma said he made what was then the equivalent of $12 to $15.

Related: 6 Lessons The Founders Of iKhokha Used To Launch An African Fintech Start-up

He was first introduced to the internet in 1995

jack-ma-first-internet-search

What a search

In 1995, while on assignment as an interpreter in Seattle, a friend showed Ma the internet for the first time. His first search was on Yahoo for “beer.” However, it was through this search that Ma discovered there was no data about China, so he decided to launch a website called China Pages.

He was kidnapped and threatened with a handgun

jack-ma-vegas

kidnapped and threatened

During that same trip, which was his first time in the U.S., Ma also was assigned to go to Malibu, Calif., to collect debt from an American businessman on behalf of a friend. The businessman ended up locking Ma in his home and threatening him with a handgun. After a few days, the man brought Ma to Las Vegas with him when he was due to meet with a group of Chinese businessmen. Still without the money at this point, Ma won $600 on the slot machines in Vegas, bought a plane ticket to Seattle and left the scene.

His first entrepreneurial venture ended in failure

china-pages-jack-ma

Not everything is meant to work out

After borrowing $2,000 from friends to launch China Pages in an attempt to popularise the internet in China, Ma’s venture didn’t quite go as planned. It ran on a server with a dial-up connection in his small apartment, which made pages take more than three hours to load. At the time, his direct competitor was China Telecom, from whom Ma accepted an investment of $185,000 for a joint venture. In the end, however, Ma found he did not have much say in the business. Eventually, he left and took a job with China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Related: 5 Key Tactics That Helped Gill Bowen And Tim Hartzenberg Revitalise The Shooshoos Brand

He announced Alibaba in a videotaped meeting from his small apartment

Alibaba

Alibaba

By 1999, Ma was on to his next business idea for bringing the internet to China, and he had raised $60,000 from 18 friends to launch his ecommerce platform for small- and medium-sized businesses. Through a videotaped meeting that took place in his small apartment in Hangzhou, Ma introduced Alibaba.

The name “Alibaba” came from a children’s story

One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights

Ma got the name Alibaba from the folktale series One Thousand and One Nights. He was inspired by the story of the poor carpenter Ali Baba, who came across an abundant treasure.

While growing Alibaba, Ma and his team made mistakes along the way

Alibaba headquarters

Alibaba headquarters

Ma’s journey wouldn’t make for a true entrepreneurial story if mistakes and hardship weren’t involved. He attributes three somewhat counterintuitive factors to the success of Alibaba: having no money, no technology and no plan. He’s said that having limited resources made his team more diligent – especially when it came to money, because they had to use their limited funds carefully.

Even as Alibaba grew, Ma admits the company tried to expand too fast, was stretched too thin and had to lay off a lot of people. By the end of 2002, Ma said the company had made just $1 in profits.

Related: 6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

Alibaba holds the record for most money raised in an IPO

alibaba-office

Alibaba Office

When Alibaba went public in 2014, its $25 billion IPO broke records for the largest IPO in history – beating both Facebook and Visa.

But Ma wishes Alibaba never went public

Alibaba

Alibaba

In 2015, Ma admitted that if he could do it again, he would keep Alibaba private. “Now, after the IPO, it’s much worse,” he said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. “If I had another life, I would keep my company private.” After Alibaba went public, it entered the spotlight and faced some scrutiny from investors, regulators and the media. Ma was playing on a bigger stage. “It’s not only our people that watch us,” he said, “the globe watches us.”

He says he doesn’t know much about technology

Jack Ma and Charlie Rose

Jack Ma and Charlie Rose

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ma admitted that he actually doesn’t know much about technology, despite owning one of the most successful tech companies in the world. “I know nothing about technology,” he said. “The only thing I can use my computer [for] is [to] send [and] receive email and browse.”

Related: 3 Secrets To Franchising Success By Edible Arrangements CEO Tariq Farid

He loves to perform

jack-ma-michael-jackson

Show us you dance moves

Ma loves to put on a show. In 2009, during Alibaba’s 10th anniversary party, Ma threw on a blonde wig and performed The Lion King onstage. At the 2017 anniversary party, Ma went all out and dressed up as Michael Jackson from the Dangerous World Tour. With a group of hired backup dancers, he performed “Billie Jean” and Beyoncé’s “Formation.”

He’s the second-richest person in China

jack-ma-forbes

Jack Ma is the second-richest man in China

As of September 14, 2017, Ma is the second-richest man in China, according to Forbes. He has a net worth of $39 billion.

He stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO because he felt he was too old

jack-ma-interview

When I was 35, I was so energetic and fresh-thinking

In 2013, Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO, saying, “I’m 48. I’m no longer young enough to run such a fast-growing business. When I was 35, I was so energetic and fresh-thinking.”

After stepping down as CEO, Ma refocused his efforts on social issues

JackMaFoundation

JackMaFoundation

In an interview with the Financial Times, Ma shared what he planned to do after leaving his executive position. “In China, because of problems in water, air and food safety, in 10 or 20 years, we will face a lot of health problems, like increased cancer. So that is one area where I will invest my money and time.”

Alibaba bought a stake in Citic 21CN in 2014, changing its name to Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd. Since then, Ma has spent much of his time and money attempting to bring hospitals and pharmacies online.

That same year, Ma launched the JackMaFoundation, which focuses on education, the environment and public health. In 2015, Ma was recognised as China’s biggest philanthropist, having donated a total of $2.4 billion (after share options) to his foundation.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

How To Build A Top-Class Reputation In The Competitive World Of Media And Agencies

Darren McKinon’s clients and colleagues love him, as evidenced by his winning the Media Owner Rising Star Award at this year’s MOST Awards. Entrepreneur chatted to him about putting clients first, focusing on achieving your goals, and always staying positive.

Nadine Todd

Published

on

darren-mckinon-jcdecaux

The MOST awards are voted for by the media industry. What does it mean to you to be voted Rising Star?

This was a goal I set for myself three years ago. To achieve this accolade is confirmation for myself that if you set your mind on something, anything is possible. It’s particularly important to me that my clients voted for me, because it means I’m consistently delivering on my promises and commitments.

I’ve built up long-standing client relationships over many years and at all levels. I believe you need to be willing to put your client’s challenges ahead of your own agenda, and to understand what really matters to their business. This is the key to building partnerships and trust.

Related: The Importance Of Business Reputation

What is your business ethos, and how has this impacted the way you operate, and how your industry, clients and colleagues view you?

Teamwork, humility, perseverance, and a whole lot of fun along the way. Whether I’m in a client meeting or at the office with my team, I’m the same guy. Being real is crucial. In business and life, people see through the BS.

I’ve always believed that you can get absolutely anything you want by going about it the right way.

Winning should never be at the expense of something or someone else. You should always have a sense of humour. This has worked well for me – if you’re having fun, not only does your best work come out, but people relate to you that much more.

If there’s one key lesson I’ve learnt, it’s that making people feel at ease is an important part of any negotiation and a crucial start to building a real relationship.

But the real magic lies with your team – surround yourself with the most dynamic people you possibly can, give them the tools to do what they do best, and then get out of their way. I have the best team in the industry, and I’m privileged to work with them on a daily basis.

What is your productivity mindset, and how does it promote effective and efficient work?

Make time for yourself and be selfish about it. This comes at a price as it means unplugging, switching off or tuning out. Work never ends, so manage yourself and your time in order to commit 100% of your focus to the task at hand.

Being connected has massive advantages, as everyone has access to information. This greatly benefits productivity as long as it’s used responsibly.

In general, my mindset is extremely positive – even on bad days. Having a great attitude is a fundamental force in driving productivity and achieving positive results. It’s also infectious. I surround myself with positive people. Time is too precious for negativity.

How important is a personal brand?

It’s a double-edged sword. Your personal brand is everything, but should never be the driver or reason for why you are doing something.  It’s the by-product of doing something meaningful and being honest and real.

Building your personal brand takes time, and time means consistency. If I could sum it up in one word, your personal brand is trust. And be humble in your wins – it’s almost never a solo effort.

What does success mean to you?

Balance. It’s not a destination. You’ll never arrive at ‘success’. Instead, I focus on being resent in everything I do, and enjoying the ride.

If I’m at work, I’m committed, driven and focused. When I’m with my family, they get all of me. Put everything you have into what you’re currently doing and you won’t go wrong.

Related: How To Manage Your Business Reputation Online

What’s the most exciting thing currently happening in the advertising and media world?

The fact that everyone has a voice. Consumers have taken the lead and brands are being forced to listen, change and adapt. I get to be an important part of that for a variety of different brands. Every day is new, challenging and unpredictable. I love it.

Out of Home (especially Digital OOH) is changing the media landscape, and allowing synchronisation and synergy between all other media types to take place. It’s forcing everyone out of their media bubble, to understand what clients are needing in the bigger media picture, and ultimately connecting with consumers on a more meaningful level.

I’ve witnessed huge innovation in the OOH space during my time in the media industry, from classic to digital OOH, mass reach to activations and experiential marketing. OOH has become both a mass reach, high impact media platform, as well as an interactive, experience-building opportunity for all audiences.

What big changes do you see on the horizon that you believe your industry peers should be keeping an eye on?

The answer has to be digital, but it’s in the way it’s applied. Digital allows for a more relevant, in-the-moment interaction that should lead to more meaningful connections, but I don’t yet see enough brands using digital for these reasons.

Some brands are getting it right, and understand the synergy between platforms in order to engage with their consumers at various times throughout the day and in the right way. They understand consumer mindsets and plan their campaigns and communications accordingly.

Digital has played a big role in the fragmentation of media, which is often used as a negative term.

Instead, this fragmentation, or niche opportunities as I’d prefer to call them, has allowed for far more meaningful and personal connections.

Continue Reading

Trending

FREE E-BOOK: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sign up now for Entrepreneur's Daily Newsletters to Download​​