It was thirty minutes before the talk. A guy at the water fountain in front of me moved slow and kept gaze on a poster. His action caused me to notice, it was a Business Leaders’ Talk. Pretty much immediately, we both register to attend even before exchanging names. This is where it began.
Walking into the event with little expectation or understanding of what the agenda was allowed the mind to remain open. We were introduced to three striking QUT alumni business leaders who have gone on to do awesome things. Harry Elliott of MinterEllison, Sam Hardy of Peak Marketing & Trust Codes and Emily Bitkow of Vivra.
Set up as an Oprah interview, we heard from all three talented individuals about their vocational journeys thus far. Even though their occupations were completely different from each other, they shared a common theme between them.
First, the charismatic Sam Hardy of Peak Marketing & Trust Codes took the microphone. He shared his journey from studying at QUT and working in a warehouse, to trading on behalf a large bank, to running a successful marketing company, and living through the jump from employed work to self-employed work.
Sam’s focus now is applying ‘digital fingerprints’ to food through blockchain serialization. Yes, I know. That took me a moment to sink in too, but it is super impressive. Tracking food like the post.
One of the largest, most challenging hurdles Sam has faced was when a shipment went wrong, and his company saw an Air Freight bill for over $250,000 for an issue they did not create. This truly tested Sam and his ethos came through transparently, “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite!” meaning, keep emotion out of it and make, small, impactful decisions to keep you going.
Secondly, the sharp Harry Elliot of MinterEllison took the microphone. His occupational journey was very relatable to many students.
Harry, also a QUT alumnus shared how he started studying accounting and changed his degree to human resource management. He explained that the indecisiveness and lack of clarity were difficult to deal with initially, but he did not let it defeat him, the QUT Mentor Program really allowed him to grow. Afterwards, he expressed complete appreciation towards the program urging students to seek and utilise it.
Upon completing his degree, he realised he much preferred accounting, numbers, and finance. This led Harry into the Masters of Business program with a Finance minor. Once he completed his studies, the excitement began. Starting as a Learning & Development Administrator at MinterEllison, he worked his way up to Business Finance Partner where Harry now oversees and is responsible for some very large numbers. He helps MinterEllison make decisions on business acquisitions, financial analysis and forecasting. The charisma and life behind what you do and where you go come from asking yourself continually where you would like to go. A suggestion to students was to explore charity balls. You meet great people while helping a decent cause. What is not to love?
Finally, we saw the vibrant Emily Bitkow of Vivra take the microphone. Her journey started with QUT Business School. During her time at university, she loved attending festivals. And who can blame her? They’re fun times!
Throughout her fondness of festivals, she soon realised how much her phone, keys, and cash were weighing her and her friends down. Not having anywhere practical to store them. She came up with the idea of folded leather bum bags. Everything was made in Brisbane, Australia and she was proud of that. Three years on, it failed.
Never really having a corporate, 9-5 job. Emily said she kept thinking to herself “I can make something of myself.” And self-talk of “You can always go back to a job or pay back that loan, you’ve got nothing to lose!” Her newfound mentality found her packing up and moving to Melbourne, Australia. The move was a positive one that eventually led her to design and create Vivra. A magnetised, belt-free fashion pouch.
It wasn’t all diamonds and glitter. Emily did her research and due-diligence to get her first order of 500 made. She found a factory that agreed to do the work and funded the project with a personal loan she got while working part-time. The excitement in her was contagious. When they arrived, the disappointment in her voice just sharing the story could be felt through the crowd. “I can’t sell this!” “how do I recoup the money I spent?” Emily started going to local markets with the products and simply sharing her story. People starting buying the product.
To Emily’s credit, she bounced back tremendously. With the help of her first customer and now Co-Founder Sarah. A proper supplier was sourced and a quality product was made. Emily credits the NEIS government program, having a strong WHY, support network and podcasts from Lady StartUps/Jack Delossa to this success. Vivra received Telstra Business of the Year and secured a large round of private funding to continue her original dream.
Towards the end in Q&A, I addressed a question to each of the speakers. “Each of you shared individual struggles, moments of stagnation and tough decisions in your stories. Where did you get the courage and how did you keep moving forward?” The accumulation of their answers revealed three key takeaways.
1. Money is not enough of a motivator. Value yourself with a “Why”.
2. Support network. This may only be one person – but it’s someone who you can be fully vulnerable with.
3. Ask yourself core questions. “Is this aligned to me?” The clearer you become on yourself, the easier it can be to make decisions.
To become clearer, attend events like BLT and say hello. You get out how much you put in at university, and you do not have to wait till you’ve finished your degree to start. Even as a fly on the wall. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can be incredibly rewarding itself.
So finally, step out of the comfort zone, go say hello because you never know if you are talking to the next Sam, Harry or Emily.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, find me on Linked In.