Developing a new product for a new market is tough. Breaking into an industry with strong incumbents is hard.
With little capital, starting from scratch and trying to educate consumers in a new way of doing things is never easy. No wonder – according to Forbes – 90% of startups fail.
It’s the most common outcome.
Looking back now, I am glad I was oblivious to this start reality when I started my first business at aged 24
With all the self-confidence that my mother instilled in me (which I’m proud to say was a lot), I charged straight out of university in Belfast, across to Australia and into my first startup.
Of course, they weren’t called ‘startups’ back in 1999. Fast forward 22 years and I’m building my third startup - a water filtration company called Complete Home Filtration (CHF), which is no longer a startup. It’s a fully-fledged award-winning business.
CHF was founded after I had already spent 11 years in the water filtration business. We aim to provide Australians with access to delicious, filtered water from every tap in their homes.
Established in early 2018, we have enjoyed rapid growth over the intervening three years which I can put down to a few factors. Joining SBE Australia under their SBE by Springboard Tech Program back in 2020 was one of them; I have worked closely with SBE ever since to further strengthen my skills, grow and scale CHF at a rapid rate.
Previous experience and a commitment to innovation
It’s been a fantastic journey with thousands of customers joining the ‘clean water revolution’, which in turn is driving our annual revenue growth by more than 300% a year.
This has allowed us to build a sensational team across the country. We innovated in an industry that was happy selling products to customers that it always sold - under sink filters, water coolers and fridge filters.
We saw that there was a smarter and more innovative solution to clean household water that no one was selling and decided to specialise in ‘whole of home’ water filtration systems, at the source.
The desire for something better
Being raised in the troubled streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland does not ordinarily present a plethora of opportunities for children.
However, my mother taught her daughters to be fearless and ambitious, set goals, and strive to achieve them. Three of us now run successful businesses.
I have lived my life always trying to achieve more and even from the relative comforts of life in the coastal suburbs of Perth Western Australia, this has never left me.
The desire to innovate
I have an in-built passion to innovate products, markets, methods of sales, marketing and operations and in absolutely everything that we do. Doing things more innovatively makes you more competitive, keeps you ahead of the competition, and leads directly to business success.
This personal commitment saw me complete the SBE Enterprises Tech Program in 2020. I was delighted to be part of a cohort with nine amazing women on their innovation journey.
Offer customers the best
A commitment to innovation in product development and a desire to always offer our customers the best filtration media available led to the development of our new PFAS water filtration technology, AttapureTM, and our new Complete Home System.
AttapureTM is successfully removing all known PFAS chemicals from water entering PFAS-affected premises, for which we have secured significant government funding and support. This innovation has now seen us named as finalists in the Western Australia Innovator of the Year Awards two years in the making.
Although this award is specifically related to our product development, the award could be more appropriately attributed to an innovation journey over 22 years. Last year we won a Rise Business Award for best startup in WA, which was a wonderful recognition.
Innovate more than your product
Innovation isn’t always about developing a new patented product like AttapureTM.
When I think about some of my most innovative moves as an entrepreneur, I think about moving to South Korea when I was 26 to expand my first marketing business, founded in Adelaide, into a new market with a service that hadn’t yet reached the South Korean market.
Within 9 months of launching, we had over 160 sales reps in the field, and by year three we were doing more than $60M in revenue.
We innovated how direct sales and marketing were carried out in the South Korean market and in going so, secured sales contracts with ADT, LG Telecom and other leading Korean companies.
Above all, solve problems
Achieving successful outcomes are about having the experience and ability to solve problems as much as it is to innovate.
To truly do this you have to be curious about new ways of doing things and open to change to accelerate growth, even if it means moving out of your comfort zone by trying something completely new. In fact, it always means moving out of your comfort zone.
With Complete Home Filtration now 3 years old and having a team of dedicated and innovative staff, I am excited to see what our collective commitment to continuous innovation brings over the next 5 to 10 years.