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Diary of a Young Entrepreneur – Lousia Wood


Louisa Wood&rsquos businesses have
never really left the schoolyard. First there were the homemade
scrunchies in Year Six, then the chocolate Freddos in Year 11. At
26, Wood&rsquos latest scheme can be found in the backpacks of
school children all over Australia. She talks to Emma Gardiner
about the chemistry class that created a publishing explosion.

Louisa Wood&rsquos businesses have
never really left the schoolyard. First there were the homemade
scrunchies in Year Six, then the chocolate Freddos in Year 11. At
26, Wood&rsquos latest scheme can be found in the backpacks of
school children all over Australia. She talks to Emma Gardiner
about the chemistry class that created a publishing explosion.

The school diary was basic and boring
until Louisa Wood decided to do something creative and enterprising
about it. &ldquoThey were such poor quality and all they were
ever used for was to soak up lunch box juices at the bottom of our
bags,&rdquo says the 26-year-old managing director of Get
Positive Productions.

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Having just been banned from her Freddo
fundraising due to the burgeoning waistline of the school
principal&mdashand the fact that it was simply too
successful&mdashWood was already on the look-out for the next
big thing. As it turned out, it was sitting right in front of her.

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Over the following months, she developed
the idea of a school diary that students would actually use; one
that would instil some basic life skills such as how to get your
driver&rsquos licence, create a bibliography, reference
correctly, and where to apply for scholarships. Riding the wave of
enthusiasm, Wood applied for the Nescafe Big Break and was thrilled
to receive one of the six minor prizes of $2000. &ldquoThe
money went towards developing the prototype,&rdquo says Wood.
&ldquoOne thing I discovered very quickly was that everything
costs money. When you&rsquore paying a graphic designer $40 an
hour, it all adds up.

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> Winning the Nescafe Big Break gave me the financial freedom to
get MyDiary into the first stage of production.&rdquo

After enrolling in a cognitive science
degree at the University of Western Australia, Wood continued to
work on the MyDiary project, eventually becoming frustrated with
the impractical nature of her studies. &ldquoTwo years into my
course I decided to defer,&rdquo says Wood.

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> Her determination to push her business into profitability saw
her reapply for the Nescafe Big Break. &ldquoThere was nothing
in the fine print to disallow it so I submitted an updated entry
and won again.&rdquo That was in 2000, the year that Get
Positive Productions became registered and opened its first bank
account with the second lot of prize money.

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Since then, Wood has built a business
which turned over $750,000 in the last financial year. &ldquoAt
first, I started selling the concept to schools in the Perth area
[where Wood lives], but after three years I opened it up to the
eastern states and sub-groups.&rdquo What was initially a
product geared towards high school students soon saw versions
develop for primary school and senior high school students.
&ldquoTheir needs were different. The primary school diaries
are very clear and simple&mdashthe idea is to get the kids to
start writing in their homework. For the junior high students, they
are entertainment oriented. Teenagers are a very harsh audience and
we really need to keep developing the content year on year. For the
seniors, we include lots of planning tools and timetables. The
format is a lot cleaner as they use the MyDiary as a practical
study tool.&rdquo

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Plans for the future include publishing
podcast links and designing laptop and mobile phone models.
&ldquoTeachers will be able to schedule an exam and email their
students. The diary entry will automatically appear. With the
podcasts, we&rsquoll record 10-minute motivational and
informative speeches that the students can download on a range of
topics, such as effective study practices.&rdquo But before
these prototypes can launch, Wood needs to partner with a software
designer and a venture capitalist. &ldquoI&rsquoll retain
100 percent control of the paper version of MyDiary but I want to
joint-venture the other models as this isn&rsquot my area of
expertise.&rdquo

So, what sets MyDiary apart and protects
it from copycats? &ldquoOur willingness to personalise. We
custom-design the front and back covers and include up to 24 pages
of specific school rules and information at the front. We also
offer a full-colour bookmark that features artworks produced by the
school&rsquos students.&rdquo

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Wood loves a good system, but while her
business is heavily systemised the workload is still significant.
September through to January are the busiest times&mdashthis is
when the orders roll in and need to be filled and
distributed&mdashbut the rest of the year is still manic with
management and strategic planning, as well as creating new content.
Wood runs Get Positive Productions out of the dining room of her
home and has one full-time employee, her PA, and 10 sub-contractors
who are responsible for the design, printing, and courier service
as part of their roles.

&ldquoI have a computer and an
internet connection. I never even see the diaries in hard-copy;
everything is done off-site. You don&rsquot need to invest in
capital items. Why buy a $100,000 printer and then watch it
depreciate? All young entrepreneurs need to do is develop the
intellectual property, protect it and then sell it.&rdquo

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As one of the only 26-year-old Australian
women playing in the big league, Wood says that the usual practice
of going to uni is holding young female entrepreneurs back, as well
as a paralysing lack of confidence. &ldquoI have learnt to blow
my own trumpet until my lips hurt,&rdquo she says. &ldquoMy
parents are always saying, &lsquoWhat are you selling
now?&rsquo Women have so many characteristics that make them
shine in business&ndashthe ability to multi-task, keen
intuition, a fair but firm approach, empathy for their
clients&rsquo emotions, as well as being able to align
spirituality with business practice.&rdquo

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Having recently appeared on the cover of
the business edition of the White Pages, Wood&rsquos visage can
be found in the offices and homes of approximately 1.5 million
people. As a contestant in the upcoming Ms Olympia, a bodybuilding
competition to be held in Perth, Wood also has a larger-than-life
public profile in her home city. And with the upcoming launch of
her debut novel, Zero to Hero: Adventures of a Wannabe Millionaire,
Wood&rsquos profile&mdashand business&mdashare on track
for further advancement. &ldquoBusiness has given me everything
I have wanted,&rdquo she says. &ldquoOver the years
I&rsquove made money but I&rsquove also made a lot of
friends and have attained a sense of personal freedom, which is so
valuable to me.&rdquo

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