What life's like as an entrepreneur
Expect to be pale, overweight and sick, but then you turn a corner, writes Nina Hendy.
Fred Schebesta has come a long way since he began chasing an entrepreneurial life nearly a decade ago. While he is successful, healthy and fulfilled these days, it was a different story in the beginning.
"I was pale, overweight and stressed out," he says. "I ate spaghetti most nights and looked sickly all the time. I remember my dentist was even concerned about my health, asking me if I ground my teeth."
Schebesta says while most people believe that the life of an entrepreneur is one star-studded event after another, the truth is that it can include stages of having no money, lots of stress, struggling to switch off after hours and even bouts of feeling depressed.
Schebesta's latest venture, Finder.com.au, operates online financial comparison sites including CreditCardFinder.com.au, PersonalLoanFinder.com.au and homeloanfinder.com.au. And while he is extremely successful, the early days, when he was establishing himself as an entrepreneur, were a major struggle, he admits.
"I found I was tired all the time and just didn't make the time for myself," he says.
"Even today, I constantly wake up at 4am and can't switch off, so pull out my laptop and start working. These days I know what I'm like, so I know to work when I'm inspired and sleep when I'm tired."
Fellow Sydney entrepreneur Martin Martinez says life as an entrepreneur is not always what it seems.
He sold the remaining 25 per cent of the Australian Poker League in 2011, which had made $50 million a year in three years. He is now launching a membership card for entrepreneurs listing various benefits, called Entrepreneur Card.
Martinez says there can be a lot of mixed emotions when you are starting a new venture.
"You think you've got something really good on the go but, when you're doing all the mundane stuff like dealing with accountants and getting it off the ground, it can be boring," he says.
Martinez was involved in various ventures but his wife asked him to slow down after they had their first child, which he has. But he says it was hard.
"Often, you can't control it once you've had that 'aha' moment and you've got a great idea and want to launch a new business," he says. "You just want to get started. I'm a business junkie. It's not the making money that attracts me, it's how it's made. I love to see a business disrupting an entire industry."
Of course, there are plenty of up sides, both men say.
Schebesta takes a break whenever he feels he needs it and has personal training sessions twice a week.
"I'm super mindful of my personal state of mind because I got depressed in the past," he says. "And I've been at a point where I've needed to take a break because I'm not making good business decisions."
Martinez has a comfortable life. Financially, he does not have to work any more and he had the cash to buy his parents a house and splurge on a $150,000 car he bought on impulse.
Melbourne tech entrepreneur Gary Tramer says the upside for him has been membership to the Entrepreneurs' Organisation, which has a 10,000-strong global club for those with million-dollar businesses. He has been a member for two years.
Benefits are plentiful, he says.
"It's a global network that treats you like a VIP wherever you go [with] exclusive monthly intimate events with incredible speakers and unfettered access to banking, legal and accounting resources at tier-one firms across Australia," he says. "And you can call on anyone within the network at any time for a chat, connection, introduction, help, advice or perhaps to start a new business."
It is all food for thought for wannabe entrepreneurs, who think life will be filled with party invites and regular holidays abroad.
Martinez says that life as an entrepreneur can be a lonely time.
Making so much money did not change him but it did change the people around him, he says.
"When you're successful, people see you differently," he says. "People around you change their behaviour, which is disappointing."
He is also often approached by strangers who chew his ear off about their own business ideas.
"I've found that you tend to become cynical because you don't know what people's true intentions are any more," he says.