You have to be ready, willing and able to admit mistakes, find solutions and move on (quickly!).
Candice Rafferty is the founder and managing director of Tassie Pure, a company selling a curated range of premium Tasmanian food, beauty, wellness and lifestyle products, both online and offline. Prior to starting her own venture, Candice had a plethora of varied employment, from tour guide, visa clerk and event organizer to magazine editor, social media manager and freelance writer. She has spent over 20 working, studying and travelling abroad, predominately in China and Thailand. She is fluent in mandarin Chinese, an avid rock climber, yoga devotee and wannabe book writer.
Where did the idea for Tassie Pure come from?
The idea sprang from a desire to 1) escape the corporate world, 2) challenge myself and 3) work for myself and 4) promote my home state, Tasmania. After spending a few weeks casually thinking about it, I finally had my aha! huh moment breakthrough on a rainy Sunday during an intestine brainstorming session with my boyfriend/mentor. I simply wrote down all my unique skills (social media, marketing, pr, communications, mandarin), interests (writing, editing, photography, networking) and strengths (Asian knowledge/experience/contacts, language, China familiarity, Tasmania background) and than the solution popped out at me: set up an e-commerce store selling Tasmanian-made products, especially to the Chinese market.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical work day is from 8am to 6pm. I typically break my day up into four Power Zones of 90 minutes each. In-between I schedule a morning break (15min), lunch and/or workout break (60-90 min), afternoon break (15min) and several smaller work periods for odd jobs (30 min / each). To be uber productive I have e-mail alerts turned off and I only let myself check e-mail for 30 minutes, three times a day– first thing in the morning (to look for anything urgent), just before lunch and before knocking off for the day.
Having said all that, I purposely set-up my business model to be very mobile so I could travel and work at the same time. This was imperative as my home base is actually in Bangkok, Thailand not Hobart, Tasmania. I typically spend 70% of my time outside of my business base, working from various locations around Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Manila, etc).
I employ a fairly elaborate system of To Do Lists (Mac desktop), Reminders (Mac desktop) and Calendars (Google, synced to phone) to keep on top of my work. I also assign, track and monitor group tasks via Trello with my freelance graphic designer and web developer. I am a wordsmith so try to do as much as possible via e-mail or online tools, I rarely have a need to call people. If I do, I use Skype.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through a lot of trial and error.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The merging of offline to online (020), e.g., virtual reality, messaging apps, QR codes, KOLs, etc.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think my dedication and adherence to planning and follow-through.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I guess the worst job I ever had was being a nappy in Amsterdam whilst working on my Masters degree. I rate this ever lower than being a fifteen-year-old fry cook at McDonalds. It was just not my cup of tea. Every time work beckoned I would go with a heavy heart. But, I suppose, like most things in life, I did get some valuable lessons out of it, mostly that sometimes you have to do bad (work) to do good (study). In the long run it was invaluable getting my degree so I would not change that.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would first hone three skills: web coding, basic accounting and public speaking. Other than that I can’t say. As with most things, until you start a business you don’t know in which areas you’re lacking. And perhaps that is what makes it all so challenging and exciting, identifying weaknesses and finding ways to overcome them.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Plan! I have a strict regiment (gleaned mostly from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dale Carnegie) for planning my day, week, month, quarter and year. It sounds corny, but it really helps me to keep on track and be less distracted and procrastinated. I am also a stickler for prioritizing my most important tasks for the day / week and scheduling them. And naturally I make good use of the Sticker and Reminders functionality on my MacBook Air to write To Do Lists and reminders.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I would say that being flexible and open to early adaption was – and remains – my best strategy. I credit a lot of this impulse to The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a book a friend of mine recommended at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. Being able to stop, think, analyse and pivot when necessary was the saving grace of my business. Six months in I hit a wall and through this strategy I was able to re-orientate a major part of my business in a new direction and ultimately save the day with much-need growth and cash-flow. Without this crucial change, my business might well have gone under within the first year. Now this new source of business is my primary source of income, and my original idea had been relegated to second place and is still very much a work in progress. It’s crucial that business owners don’t get bogged down into thinking things will work out in a certain way, or exactly as their business plan states it will. That is not reality. You have to be ready, willing and able to admit mistakes, find solutions and move on (quickly!).
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Well, I tried to develop my own line of products and it was a spectacular failure. As of now I’m yet to sell one item. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed learning about and engaging in the manufacturing process; at the end of the day, my idea/product was not in sync with what my buyers wanted. I missed the mark big-time. Fortunately this product line was only 1% of my overall inventory, so for me it was not a major ego or financial loss, I simply re-focussed on retailing my stock from third-party suppliers. As of now I have no plans to re-enter the fray, I will focus on opening up new and emerging markets (China, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, India) for my existing range of 300+ products.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think someone with the appropriate time, skills and enthusiasm should start online coding school for novices. I would be the first student. With tech know-how being so important nowadays this is an invaluable asset and for those of use who grew-up without computers, a severely lacking area of competency.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently signed-up for a subscription to the app Blinkist. Basically it includes synopsis in 15 minutes of less of thousands of non-fiction books, these can be read or listened to (pro feature). And you can save highlights and/or the whole article either within the app or synced to Evernote. I absolutely love this app as it exposes me to a lot of great titles I might not otherwise read and the format lets you quickly and easily grasp the book’s mean themes. Some of the main categories are: Biography, Time Management, Motivation, Society, Money, Psychology, Leadership, Economics, Healthy, Entrepreneurship, Relationships, Marketing, Science, Personal Growth, Communication and Corporate Culture. I love to listen to one or two blinks whilst commuting, eating lunch, at the gym, etc.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
For web I use WordPress / WooCommerce, plus a slew of plug-ins, like WPML (for Chinese translation), MailChimp (e-newsletter sending), Alipay and Stripe (payments gateways) and YITH (gift card). For social media I use Hootsuite (pushing photos form desktop to mobile). For organisation I use Trello (esp. group projects). For design I use Canva. And for reading all sorts of interesting articles, I use Flipboard.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Oh my, this is very hard for me as I’m a prolific reader. Since launching my business about 12 months ago I have read approximately 50 business books. Can I please have three:
From Good to Great by Jim Collins
Again, this one should be mandatory reading. Despite some slow and sluggish sections, there are great nuggets of genius in their about how to create a great, sustained and enviable company.
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz
This one is for a more corporate audience, but there are key insights that can be adapted to the start-up world too. He has great wisdom on better utilizing energy, focus, creativity and passion.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
I love this one, Ben calls it like it is. Running a business isn’t easy and there is no way around that. He shoots from the hip with humour and straight talk. I found this book invaluable for keeping myself realistic, motivated and grounded.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Top would be my boyfriend, Edgar Salmeron. He is the personification of determination and hard work. He has successfully started his own businesses’ in Thailand/China, one in digital marketing (Neat Interactive), the other in real estate (Ancha). He is the person who encouraged and supported me to go it alone from day one. He has been with me every step of the way and provides invaluable support and guidance. In addition, he is my supplier of mental sustenance, having created a FlipBoard magazine exclusively for me, within which he shares an array of great articles on business, fitness, psychology, travel, etc.
The other key person worth mentioning is my former boss, Mrs Kamala Sukosol; president of the Sukosol Group, with interests in hotels, entertainment and trading amongst other things. She is a true inspiration and good friend. Besides being a successful business woman and public speaker, she is a well-known hotelier, jazz singer and philanthropist. Although into her eighties now, she shows no signs of slowing down and is still an active, engaged and vital member of her company. During my four years as her Communications Manager, she taught me the value of hard work, decisiveness and compassion.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.