Nathan Murphy was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at the tender age of 16, when he set up a tidy little business selling multivitamins on eBay. This early experience showed him he had the natural smarts to make some decent money by working for himself and just four years later his next big idea is taking off. Here, he talks start-up risks, lessons and rewards.
Murphy watched the rise of the Dollar Shave Club in the US, a business that sends discounted razorblades to subscribers for $3 each month, and realised the viability of the subscription commerce model locally. An avid muesli eater, he decided to start a business that allows members to mix their own cereal, and for $27 a month they can have 1.5 kilograms of it delivered to their doors. Now, according to Murphy, the MuesliForMe start-up is turning the breakfast industry on its head.
“Instead of forcing people to buy cardboard concoctions that have been sitting on shelves for who knows how long, we’re championing the concept of creating your own muesli mix as per your taste profile,” he told Dynamic Business.
And he’s making waves on a shoestring – having spent less than $3,000 to get the business up and running (with the help of co-founders Patrick Hamilton and Sean Pieres) in under two months. This, he says, is something too many start-ups get wrong.
“It always shocks me when people tell me they spent large sums of money on setting up their businesses… The key is to think like a bootstrapper. You need to constantly think of ways to collaborate with others to get what you need done without the hefty price tag,” he said.
Although set-up costs have been relatively easy to manage, consumer attitudes have proved harder to shift – with the idea of buying breakfast online something 99 percent of people haven’t got their heads around yet.
“People are habitual creatures, taking something brand new like our concept to market requires a commitment to educating people on their health and choices available.”
On risks, lessons and rewards
Although the business is well exceeding its short-term financial goals and enjoying a steady rise in member numbers, Murphy admits he’s made mistakes in business in the past.
He hasn’t always given business ventures everything he has, which is one of the worst things a founder can do, in his opinion.
“The biggest risk lies in not giving it your all. There have been times when I probably haven’t given an idea my total commitment and haven’t see it through,” he said.
One of his first attempts at business was in the audio education space. He wanted to build an online platform where children could learn from their peers, so he took the idea to the Department of Education. But they laughed in his face, which led him to abandon the idea.
“I didn’t realise at the time that I didn’t actually need them to make it work. The impact was demoralising at the time but it gave me a valuable lesson for the future, there is always another way to get things done – always.”
If you’ve also faced naysayers and lost focus as a result, Murphy suggests working to develop your persistency. It’s the need for a good attitude and an ability to take action that Murphy says are the two biggest lessons he’s learned while getting the start-up off the ground.
“You’ll never achieve your goals if you don’t believe you can; it’s as simple as that. And thinking about things too much means they will never get done,” he said.
Should you ever need some external help to get back on track, the young entrepreneur suggests getting involved with your local start-up community.
“There are events happening almost every single night in Sydney and Melbourne now for all facets of entrepreneurship. Getting connected to these people and building these relationships will cut your learning curve immensely and provide great opportunities down the line.”
And as for some final words of wisdom for other start-ups?
“Make sure you pick your business partners just as carefully as you’d pick your spouse.”
Keep your eyes peeled for this young gun, because Murphy has international expansion in his sights.