‘Felt like running a marathon’: Four entrepreneurs share their founder journey

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Four members of the Queensland chapter of the global non-profit Entrepreneur’s Organization community share insights on their founder journey, what motivates them and what they’re looking forward to most in 2024.

During the pandemic, Suman Dua started a company called Nationwide Migration and Education with a lofty goal: to help people from all over the world move to Australia and start a new life. Since then, Dua’s grown her business, employing 12 women – and aims to support them by offering flexible working arrangements,

“I’m proud of creating a team that cares a lot about helping others,” Dua says. For Dua, a member of the Queensland chapter of the global non-profit Entrepreneur’s Organization community, 2024 is about helping more families make Australia their home.

And she is part of a growing number of entrepreneurs across the globe – in fact, research from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows there are 582 million entrepreneurs globally, with that number predicted to grow by a further 15% this year.

Suman Dua. Image source: Supplied

Josh Old, founded mining asset management company, Core Asset Co, in 2018, taking a bite out of Australia’s $283 billion mining industry.

“Launching Core Asset Co. is one of my best decisions ever made,” he says.

“As a person with a technical background and analytical mind, results came quickly proportionate to the effort put in. Sustaining that performance and growth over many years however, through COVID and other potentially company ending crises, has been the difficult part. Inglorious as it may be, it’s where I learnt the most.”

As the company has grown, Old says his role has shifted from hands-on project delivery to focusing on broader strategic initiatives.

“Less ‘down and in’, and more ‘up and out’ activities like business development, recruitment of A players, and growth strategy.”

But the journey has its ups and downs. According to data from ZipDo, more than a third of entrepreneurs say they’ve experienced elevated stress, with 20% working 60 hours or more per week. Old believes this figure is understated and knows a little about the tribulations that come with being an entrepreneur, he says.

“At times it has felt like running a marathon with [a lot of] sprint segments, necessitating grit, patience, and some stubbornness as a foundation together with some fun and excitement to get through. It is this experience that has helped me appreciate the value of good people and strong relationships.”

Against a backdrop of growing interest in AI and technology, Old says he’s looking forward to including more tech-enabled tools to accelerate results for his partner clients.

“We have some exiting changes coming that will see our growth and rate of delivery increase dramatically. Our approach is a little unorthodox but aligned with our vision of Empowering leaders to make the best decision every time. Watch this space.”

Josh Old. Image source: Supplied

In the early 2000s, Gerard Murtagh made his first attempt to start a business. It was a fruit distribution company (think: fruit and vegetable deliveries to your door on a weekly basis). But a few years later, at 19, Murtagh was forced to take over his father’s small business after he passed away.

“It’s something I’m extremely proud of,” he says. “The business still operates today, and has supported my family and kept my father’s legacy alive.”

But Murtagh’s main game has been as CEO of MouldMen, which he launched in 2011 after floods throughout Queensland.

“I saw an opportunity to fill this gap and provide a high-quality service that would not only remove the mould but also prevent it from returning,” he says. Initially a one-man operation – with a van and some basic equipment – Mouldmen today operates in four states.

“My founder journey has been full of challenges and rewards, and I am grateful for every step of the way,” he says. “I am proud of what we have achieved as a company, and I am excited for what the future holds. I am also thankful for the support and feedback of our customers, who are the reason we exist and the source of our inspiration. I am also grateful for the dedication and loyalty of our team, who are the backbone of our success and the heart of our culture. Together, we are Mouldmen, and we are here to make a difference.”

As the main driver behind Mouldmen, Murtagh says he wears many hats – from setting the strategic direction, to the development of the team and capital allocation, he’s got a lot on his plate.

Looking ahead, Murtagh says the company is leveraging language models to enhance its communication and marketing.

“AI is not only a tool, but a vision for the future of Mouldmen. We believe that AI can help us to achieve our goals of expanding our reach, increasing our impact, and becoming a leader in the mould industry.”

Prasad Kalla launched consulting firm, BOSS Group, with two staff members in 2002 in Wollongong. Three years later, the company made the strategic decision to relocate to Brisbane, and fast-forward to 2024, the company has more than 200 staff working across the group.

The company now operates predominantly out of Queensland, but has a presence in NSW and Victoria. It has a steep history in the petrol and convenience sector, and has partnerships with leading brands like BP, Ampol, Shell and Caltex.

“The entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster ride,” Kalla says. “Organic growth has enabled us to address a variety of challenges. Along the way, there were some critical times we had to make some crucial decisions, but these have enabled us to become stronger in the long-term.”

Prasad Kalla. Image source: Supplied

Kalla, the director of the group, works closely with the group’s chief executives and vertical heads. He sets the strategic vision for the organisation, engages with key partners and supports the company’s leadership team on critical issues.

“I’m lucky to have a great team and good partners who have supported me greatly in the journey,” he says. But it’s about balance, too. “I believe it’s important to focus on a healthy life and spending quality time with family. It allows you to cope with ups and downs of the journey.”

In 2023, Kalla’s team identified growth areas for the business, and this year, it’s about execution. The company’s new verticals will be property development, hospitality and IT and BPO services.

“Growing our existing business and scaling-up the new areas will be an exciting challenge for this year,” he says. “We’re looking for the right partnerships to grow together.”

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