When your next business building block is a mentor


American Express and Qantas provided a sky-high mentoring opportunity for two Australian small business owners.
(L-R) Jenny Daniher, Abbie White, Mark Bouris and Mark Langlands | Image source: Supplied

Talking to someone who has been there and done that can give business owners and startups a fresh perspective on how to move forward.

Two small business owners saw an opportunity to do just that with a Business Class mentoring experience with high-profile experts, Mark Bouris and Abbie White.

As part of their ongoing partnership to support small business, American Express and Qantas Business Rewards teamed up on a mentoring initiative which paired competition winners with business gurus.

The recipients were American Express Qantas Business Rewards customers, Jenny Daniher, co-founder of Garlicious Grown (partnered with Abbie White, founder of Sales Redefined and a regular Forbes Australia contributor) and Mark Langlands, owner of L&W Sports Communications Pty Ltd (partnered with Mark Bouris, Executive Chairman of Yellow Brick Road Home Loans). 

The small business owners flew Business Class on Qantas flights, had lunch in the Qantas Melbourne Business Lounge and had the benefit of expert mentoring through the day.

L&W Sports was established in 1998 in response to a need within the association-level rugby league refereeing community for good quality and affordable on-field communications systems. 

“Our company has grown over the years, adapting to ever-changing communications technology and expanding our product range to cater for multiple applications and budgets,” Langlands says in an interview with Forbes Australia.

It began with his son’s walkie-talkie set and a soldering iron, with the “real business” starting about six years ago.

“From backyard beginnings to producing high quality, custom-built systems, L&W Sports has established itself as the market leader in Australia and New Zealand for on-field sports communications,” Langlands says.

Revenue should be around $700,000 for this financial year, growing from around $500,000 previously.

Garlicious® Grown, is a farm-based business in Braidwood, NSW, co-founded by Jenny Daniher and Cathy Owen about eight years ago and now with an annual turnover of $400,000, growing 100% year-on-year since launch.

“Black garlic starts as white garlic, but we put it through a slow oxidation process by holding it at low temperature, high humidity for 30 days. It changes everything about the garlic, not just the colour, but the taste, the texture, how you use it and you don’t get garlic breath.”

Langlands says the mentoring experience was “quite surreal”. “Mark [Bouris] was so open and friendly and fully invested in what we were trying to do. I wanted him to cast his eye over the business and see where we are, where we have come from and what we are trying to do.

“We have a tiny US footprint and we are looking to expand that so I was looking for ideas. His analysis of it all was great and his example of his experience in the US was a real help. He asked lots of questions and then we talked about how to focus.

“It has helped me do some analysis and develop a bit of a plan. He was so genuine and engaged and really helpful.”

One suggestion was to live in the US if you want to expand there and find the right people to run things here, he says. “It became more of a five-year plan and gave me a new perspective.”

Fresh eyes, new perspective

Daniher says Abbie was a fresh set of eyes from a business point of view.

“She was able to ask me questions to make me think about the business and really help me think about why we are so exhausted trying to juggle so many different sales channels at once.

“Her advice was that we should focus more on one particular sales channel. We currently sell through ecommerce, retail, food service and export … but her suggestion was that if we focussed more particularly on just one, then we could be more efficient and better off in the long run.

“It was brilliant. We needed someone like Abbie to help us to focus and we are excited to go forward with our new direction. We feel invigorated by it.”

The competition was promoted through the American Express Business Class website, which aims to provide knowledge and resources to small business owners.

Both entrepreneurs use American Express to pay for whatever they can and entered the competition to have the chance of mentoring advice.

They say the experience has given them greater confidence, having been asked lots of questions to re-examine what they were doing, and where to put greater focus.

“The framework Abbie presented was simple but fresh and is going to help us move in a different direction,” says Daniher.

“It was a touch of luxury for the day and a real pep talk for my business,” says Langlands.