How Assetic co-founder Ashay Prabhu built a $10 million strategic management business in 10 years

Name: Ashay Prabhu

Company: Assetic

Based: Melbourne

Ashay Prabhu first came to Australia as a cricket player and university student in Tasmania. Today, he leads a multi-million asset management business.

This year marks a decade since Prabhu launched asset management business Assetic with co-founder Joel Brakey and the business on track to hit $10 million in revenue for the anniversary.

Assetic is a software and service business that specialises in strategic management of infrastructure assets.

“Basically what is does is it solves a trillion dollar infrastructure problem globally caused by an infrastructure gap,” Prabhu says.

The business began primarily working with local governments, which is still its core business. However, in the past few years it has diversified into other industries such as rail, water and power.

Assetic has a staff of 75, with a head office on Collins Street in Melbourne and international offices in Seattle, Toronto and London.

Prabhu first began working as a young engineer in the late 1980s.

“I was part of a New South Wales Government team that embarked on building the world’s first asset modelling system and then the government sort of ran out of appetite in a couple of ideas leaving me the option of continuing in the government or looking at the asset management role,” he tells SmartCompany.

“The appetite for strategic asset management was rapidly increasing in the Australian local government market because of rising cost and high expectations from the community and I was itching to convert that into a commercialist outcome”

“The entrepreneur in me said there’s an opportunity to make change – the passion [was there] to do something that can make a difference and commercialise it.”

Prabhu was still working with local governments in the early 2000s. It was at his wife’s instance that he met with a plucky young software engineer – his future co-founder Joel Brakey.

After spending the whole day together hashing out what an asset management system looks like, Brakey came back within three weeks with all of Prabhu’s ideas on a web-based platform.

“I will never forget that day 14 September, 2003,” he says.

Prabhu describes his co-founder as a “genius” and the “absolute backbone” of Assetic.

“When we become a $1 billion company we’ll write a book called ‘Behind every successful founder is a co-founder’,” Prabhu says.

SmartCompany caught up with Prabhu to find out why he doesn’t have his own office and how he manages to find time to write a series of children’s books.


For Prabhu, part of the attraction of owning his own business is not being restricted to conventional work days.

“I’m not a 9-5 person and it was just too frustrating working in that type of environment,” he says.

Prabhu’s typical morning begins with getting up and having a cup of tea.

“[A] cup of tea is my pre-cursor to checking what’s gone on in the US the night before,” he says.

The global reach of Assetic means that after this ritual, Prabhu spends much of his mornings checking emails and WhatsApp.

Daily Life:

A typical work day for Prabhu combines both structured and unstructured activities.

His morning could be spend going over a deep-routed science query from one of his developers. In the afternoon, you might find him doing a demonstration, followed by a video conference at night and spending time with customers in between.

Although Assetic has an entire floor for office in Melbourne, Prabhu himself doesn’t have an office.

“I’m probably the only founder-CEO I can think of that does not have a physical office,” he says.

“I prefer to work on the iPad on the iPhone. I’m not necessarily in the Melbourne office any day, I’m anywhere in the country. I was in Singapore last week and India the week before,” he says.

Prabhu relies heavily on technology and the ability to work remotely from wherever he is.

The rise of the smartphone and internet banking has made operating businesses remotely easier over the past 10 years, he says.

The Assetic office has also been designed to foster creativity and innovation, whether it’s in the yoga room and the innovation room that people use to work on their ideas.

Prabhu says his business philosophy has always been to back his employees.

“Backing people, not backing a product, and allowing people to be crazy and innovative,” he says.

“I encourage people to send me emails at 1am, which happens all the time.”


Whilst many entrepreneurs don’t get as much downtime as they would like, Prabhu has a range of hobbies he is passionate about pursuing in the evenings and weekends.

His hobbies include canvas painting, being a part time singer and writing poems and children’s books.

In fact, Prabhu is currently working on a series of children’s books called The Class of ’84, which he was inspired to start after reconnecting with school friends and learning how differently they have all grown up.

Prabhu has written eight of the books, which cover what a class of 60 people have gone through from grades one to 10, and is looking at getting his works published over the next three years.

“Drama, acting, writing has been in my DNA since day dot,” he says.

Prabhu is also still a big cricket fan – with an equally cricket mad 12 year-old-son – and never misses a game.

He also plays socially, coaches a junior cricket team and sends his staff weekly newsletters that feature cricket analogies for business, because he believes there are plenty of similarities between losing runs on the cricket pitch and business pitfalls.

“I find just having a brainwave and sending an email to everyone at Assetic during a cricket match is better than having a meeting for 2 hours,” he says.

The future:

Assetic is continuing to expand, having recently launched a cloud-based suite of asset management software, which Prabhu says is the future for business.

He sees Assetic continuing to use the cloud and continuing its expansion into the US and Europe in a way not backed by the traditional business models.

“The more rapidly we can scale that, the more likely we can become a global business,” he says.

He believes the business will look and feel completely different in another two years and will be supporting on a cloud based system 24/7.

However, something that won’t be changing is the three things taught to Prabhu by his grandfather, which he’s never forgotten.

“One – never venture outside your area of expertise stick with what you do and just keep doing it better and better,” he says.

“Two – always back people, don’t back your product back people and let them innovate

“And three – don’t give up. Sometimes the trick is to just hang in, and hang in and it’ll happen.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 26, 2016.






Why this clothing brand signed a 94-year-old model for its latest advertising campaign

Australian clothing brand Blue Illusion has won praise for embracing diversity in advertising, after signing 94-year old American style icon Iris Apfel to be the face of its new ‘ageless’ autumn/winter advertising campaign.

The campaign is centered on the idea that style is not defined by age but rather attitude.

Blue Illusion is a French inspired women’s clothing brand established by husband and wife Donna and Danny Guest, with more than 120 stores across Australia, New Zealand and in California.

Blue Illusion also sell shoes, accessories and homewares.

Apfel is perhaps best known for her association the interior-design firm that furnished the White House for Presidents Truman through to Clinton, as well as her iconic oversized black glasses and eccentric style.

Blue Illusion co-founder and creative director, Donna Guest, said in a statement Apfel is a modern day icon.

“She has liberated women from the ideals of age as a limitation; rather inspired them to not even question it,” she said.

“Her wonderful obsession with colour and pattern is eye catching, she is eye catching. So to me, Iris is Blue Illusion.”

Blue Illusion has previously featured artist Mirka Mora and film star Juliette Binoche in advertising campaigns.

“[Iris] has this ‘what’s your number?’ attitude where the higher the better. Her confidence is equally empowering as it is elegant,” Guest said.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer at Melbourne University and advertising expert, told SmartCompany this morning the Blue Illusion campaign seems different because it veers away from stereotypes of clothing models.

“From my perspective, the biggest shortcoming in advertising is diversity,” she says.

“Therefore, having women that fall outside of the typical young/thin/white standard is crucially important.”

“The selection of models in advertisements elevates a person to a position of esteem and, often, desirability. Using a 94-year-old in such a campaign is a small contribution to fuelling the idea that beauty comes in a lot of different presentations.”

However, Rosewarne says a key part of advertising for businesses is standing out from the crowd and Blue Illusion is very much taking advantage of this.

“Let’s not forget that advertising is about getting noticed and getting attention. While it is great to see an older model used in a campaign – and this should be applauded – it’s also necessary to recognise that Blue Illusion just wants us talking about them and helping do some of their marketing legwork.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 25, 2016.

Why you should give thanks to an engineer you know today

Today is Global Day of the Engineer and Australians are being asked to thank an engineer for their contributions.

People have taken to Instagram to thank engineers for things like mobile phones, Google and Wi-Fi.

Global Day of the Engineer aims to celebrate the accomplishments of engineers and give the next generation of engineering students a chance to learn about the innovations possible in their field.

Engineers Australia chief executive Stephen Durkin, a civil engineer, told SmartCompany the achievements of Australian engineers should be celebrated.

“We think it’s really important that we work alongside the international engineering community to work along and celebrate the contributions of engineers and to share with the community at large some of the innovations engineers are involved in every day,” Durkin says.

Durkin has a number of personal favourites among the achievements of Australian engineers, including the cochlear hearing implant, the iconic hills hoist and the black box recorder.

He says the role of engineers will be increasingly important as the population in Australia continues to grow.

“Engineers will play a key role in terms of infrastructure planning,” he says.

“Part of why we’re wanting to reflect on the role of engineering because quite frankly we don’t have enough engineers for all the work coming in the next decades.”

Durkin is also keen to portray a more contemporary picture of engineers, with much of their work different than what the general public might imagine.

“The modern engineer is very much about innovation, creativity, teamwork and about leadership,” he says.

Engineers Australia is the peak body for engineering, representing more than 100,000 members across Australia.

Durkin says working as an engineer can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

“My advice would be that you can do some really exciting things in your career working as an engineer. You get to travel a lot, personally I’ve worked as an engineer in Canada and many parts of Asia,” he says.

Durkin says Engineers Australia have just opened a new chapter in the Middle East, with opportunities for students to work on projects overseas.


Here’s a list of 6 innovations made possible by Australian engineers

  1. The electric drill

Arthur James Arnot travelled from his home country Scotland to Melbourne to help build a power plant for the Union Electric company in 1889. That same year, he was awarded the patent for the electric drill.

  1. Cochlear implants

Invented by Professor Graeme Clark, the first cochlear implant was implanted in Melbourne man Graham Carrick in October 1982. After switching on he was able to hear for the first time in 17 years. Today the bionic ear restores hearing for thousands of people.

  1. Dual-flush toilet

In 1980, with $130 000 government assistance, Bruce Thompson, an employee at plastic company Caroma, developed a cistern with two buttons and flush volumes. Today the dual flush is used in more than 30 countries.

  1. Black box flight recorder

In the 1950s Dr David Warren, a scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne, came up with idea for a machine that would record the voices and instrument readings in the cockpit of an airplane.

  1. The baby safety capsule

Baby capsules have been keeping newborns safe since 1984, when Bob Btell and Bob Heath developed the ‘Safe-n-Sound’ Baby Safety Capsule. It was designed to lock into a standard-sized car seat, and is still considered to be one of the safety child restraints on the market.

  1. Polymer banknotes

Polymer banknotes were first developed by the CSIRO in conjunction with the University of Melbourne and the Reserve Bank of Australia, and have been used since 1988. Polymer banknotes are harder to forge and are much better for the environment because they last longer than money made from paper.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 24, 2016.

Live performance revenue has dropped by 40% in Sydney CBD since lockout laws: Music industry

Live performance revenue at venues in Sydney’s CBD has declined by 40% since the introduction of the city’s controversial lockout laws, according to data from the music industry.

Figures released by Australian Performance Rights Australia (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) through the Live Music Office, show a 40% overall decline in value of door charge receipts and a 15% decrease in venue expenditure on live artist performances across all premises during a two-year-period.

The figures are based on an analysis of APRA AMCOS licencing revenue from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2015.

The lockout laws were introduced in March 2014, as a response to alcohol fuelled violent behaviour in the CBD.

Read more: Lockout laws passed in Queensland: “Prepare to see family run businesses go bankrupt”

The laws mean venues cannot serve shots after 10pm, with no drinks to be served after 3am. New customers cannot enter venues after 1:30am.

Other venues with a Live Artists Performance licence that includes hotels, bars and nightclubs have seen a 32% decrease in door charge receipts, according to APRA AMCOS.

Attendance figures to APRA-AMCOS licensed nightclubs and dance venues have fallen by 19%.

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle told SmartCompany the figures are of serious concern to venue owners, musicians and audience members.

“[The data] indicates that for touring artists, for profile acts, for ticketed shows in the city of Sydney, the loss is dramatic. The decline is dramatic,” he says.

“The international impact from the lockouts, and the narrative around the lockouts, I’ve been surprised at just how widely known this is. Most days I’ll get contact from an international colleague working in policy asking me what’s going on in Sydney.”

Wardle says the impact on SMEs is serious, with many performance venue owners having to shift their programming from two shows a night to just one.

The lockout laws are also having flow on effects beyond just venue owners, according to Wardle.

“I hope we’d be including musicians in small business owners affected as many people are no longer employed in these businesses … now there’s staffing, suppliers, reduced trading hours, loss of employment across the hospitality industry generally and food businesses,” he says.

“The narrative is that Sydney is unsafe. It’s a place associated with harm and risk and for many small businesses who are presenting live music, they see themselves as being a really healthy and happy and contributing part of the diversity in the night economy.”

Wardle says Live Music Office is looking to work with the New South Wales state government on solutions to support the live music industry in the Sydney CBD and would like to see changes to the 1.30am lockout for some venues.

“More generally we’d like to have the sort of regulation roundtable that exists in Victoria and South Australia,” he says.

“Regulation roundtables in place in these states provide a standing committee where the live music industry can work with states government agencies across liquor licensing, planning, environmental protection, law enforcement as well as local government to not only work for better regulation together but also build relationships, understanding and capacity.”

The APRA AMCOS figures come as around 8000 people gathered in the Sydney CBD over the weekend for the Keep Sydney Open rally to protest against the state government’s lockout laws.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 22, 2016.

Hearing a speech at a leadership conference led Brendan Moloney to found $4.2 million business Darlo

Name: Dr Brendan Moloney

Company: Darlo

Based: Melbourne

Academia is a key aspect of Dr Brendan Moloney’s life and business.

Moloney spent many years working in administration at the University of Melbourne before leaving to start Darlo, a consultancy business that helps smaller education companies utilise the skills of academics.

Moloney, who turns 40 this year, has also spent his fair share of hours in lecture theatres, with a bachelor degree in history, a PhD in education, and even half a business degree to his name.

“I dropped out probably on verge of being kicked out, but I learnt a lot there,” he says.

Today, Darlo has several businesses under its umbrella, including businesses that provide consulting, technical writing and proofreading services and a division that helps employers find staff in higher education.

“There’s three or four good ones [businesses] and three or four under development,” he jokes.

Between degrees Moloney spent half a dozen years travelling around the globe, visiting and living in Canada, Japan, Korea, and Europe.

In 2011, upon completing another PhD in marketing Australian education in Asia, Moloney attended a conference for fellow Melbourne University PhD graduates, where a speech by economist Professor Ian Harper inspired him.

“Ian Harper’s chat put it to us that if we weren’t going to lead in business in our fields, then no one else was going to,” Moloney says.

“And I thought to myself ‘do I want to stick it out at Melbourne University and have a career in administration or academia or go into the big world and try to start a company?’ ”

Moloney left behind the ivory tower and launched Darlo, which now turns over $4.2 million annually.

“A lot of people I knew would create better quality work and companies that would support Australian professionals rather than a consultancy that started in America and spread around the world,” he says.

“I noticed a lot of people underemployed in precarious employment, casual lecturers working four hours a week, extremely talented people, and I thought there must be a better use of their time.”

SmartCompany caught up with Moloney to find out his passion for diversity in the workplace is setting up Darlo for further expansion.


For this Melbournian, every morning starts with a leisurely walk to work that Moloney finds relieve stress and helps him get on top of each day.

He walks for about an hour, before getting into the Darlo office right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.

Moloney’s first part of the morning is then spent talking to his staff, as he says a good workplace culture is vital to Darlo’s philosophy.

“[It’s] going around the office, finding out how people are doing, checking if they’re looking too stressed or not stressed enough, and if they’re feeling well and productive and comfortable and ready to go,” Moloney says.

“[It’s about] aiming to ensure work conditions are great and people are happy.”

Daily life:

For Moloney, the rest of his days are spent checking up on various reports about project management and sales, accounting and assessments of where staff members are at working on different tasks.

Half of the employees in the Darlo office are under the age of 25 and a third of all staff hold PhD qualifications, predominantly obtained at The University of Melbourne.

“It’s a bit of snobbery I guess but I just find we get good people from there,” Moloney says.

Moloney is passionate about hiring young people as well as staff from culturally diverse backgrounds, with many of the younger staff involved in hiring decisions and overseeing projects.

His advice to other business owners is to get younger employees involved in hiring people and engaged in projects.

“People like to work in a growth company because the work is meaningful and the journey’s a little bit unwritten,” Moloney says.

“The productivity problem in Australia might be related to not being able to build or create things.”


Although Moloney says leisure time is “not really compatible” in the first stages of setting up a business, taking time out from work is something he advocates for himself and his staff.

“Usually I tend to escape to nature and the environment, when I can,” he says.

“It’s really important when growing a business, growing really rapidly for yourself and other people to step outside the company.”

Moloney enjoys hiking, visiting remote areas of Australia, driving to new places and swimming.

“[It’s] important to be involved in life as well, and not too caught up in the business,” he says.


Moloney sees big things in Darlo’s future and predicts an office change in the next six months as the company continues to outgrow its office spaces.

From small beginnings with a staff of just three at the start of last year to now having 45 employees, Darlo is continuing to evolve and expand its services.

Maloney is looking to New Zealand and South East Asia as Darlo becomes a more global business, but he says Melbourne is still home.

“I think we’re pretty lucky to be based in Melbourne,” he says.

“Melbourne’s such a great education city and being involved in education in Melbourne [now] is at the right place at the right time.”

Moloney would also like to expand within Australia, ideally setting up offices in Sydney and perhaps Brisbane in the future.

But Moloney says it’s essential for Darlo to remain true to its essence: caring about the link between the individual, the company and the community.

“The key aim for Darlo is to have a nice place with nice people and nice projects … if we can achieve these three things customers will be happy and we’ll be happy,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 19, 2016.

Sixty percent of international students underpaid in Sydney: Research

More than half of the international students working part-time in Sydney earn less than the minimum wage and more than a third are being paid $12 an hour or less, according to research from the University of Sydney Business School.

The survey of 1433 international students found 60% of international students with part-time employment in the New South Wales capital earn less than the national minimum wage of $17.29 an hour and 35% earn $12 an hour or less, according to The Guardian.

The biggest offenders appear to be in the hospitality and retail sectors, with many of the international students surveyed being paid below the base level award wage and not receiving the appropriate casual loading or penalty rates.

The research was conducted by University of Sydney Business School academic Stephen Clibborn, who told SmartCompany the prevalence of international students being underpaid in Sydney is “shocking”.

Clibborn looked at a mix of different businesses, from small privately owned cafes to high-end swanky restaurants, and found the underpayment was “across the board”.

Three quarters of the sample were Chinese students, with Clibborn finding students are aware the minimum wage is around $17 but feel unable to assert their rights.

“Because of their inexperience in the labour market, because of how they perceive their own English language skills they feel that they are not able to find a legal paying job … so they do feel stuck in these jobs that do not pay the award pay,” he says.

Chinese students also suffered the highest rates of underpayments, with the survey finding more than 70% report being paid below the minimum wage.

Three quarters of the students surveyed were aged between 20-24, and for many, this is their first time in the workforce.

“Business owners have a responsibility to follow the law, the regulators definitely play an important role in both providing information to workers and businesses, and ensuring that businesses comply,” he says.

Almost half of the $3.7 million in recovered underpayments from the Fair Work Ombudsman last year related to overseas workers, according to the Fair Work ombudsman’s annual report.

“I think the Fair Work Ombudsman is doing a very good job with the limited resources they have been allocated by the government,” Clibborn says.

“Because those resources are really limited given the scope or the size of the problem they need to be allocated more resources.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman also has information translated into 27 languages to assist international students.

However, Clibborn believes the solution to the problem will rely on all business owners understanding and living up to their legal responsibilities.

“They should pay what the law requires them to pay and they should find other ways of maximising their profit margin through productivity gains rather than through undercutting wages,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 17, 2016.

How two friends from the Mornington Peninsula got their reusable water bottles in the Oscars gift bags

A reusable water bottle that started out as a crowdfunded project just 18 months ago has now become an international brand featured in the gift bags that will be handed out at the 88th Academy Awards at the end of this month.

The Memobottle is a rectangular plastic reusable water bottle that resembles small notebooks in either an A5 or A6 size and is made to fit into satchels and back pockets.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign in August 2014, which saw Memobottle exceed its $15,000 goal with 6,118 backers giving more than $260,000 in funding, founders Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy received an email from Los Angeles marketing company Distinctive Assets, which puts together the celebrity swag gift bags for the Oscars each year.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Byrt says the aim of the gift bags is to provide something unique to each of the nominees and Oscars host Chris Rock that is relevant or “jumps out as being cool.”

Getting Memobottles in the bag

Byrt says Memobottle was approached by Distinctive Assets after the Kickstarter for Memobottles gained momentum online throughout Australia and the US.

Each Oscar nominee receives a gift bag, which will include one of each sized Memobottle.

Each nominee will be getting a personalised note from Memobottle, but Byrt and Leeworthy are particularly hoping three socially conscious celebrities will take notice: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo.

“They’re our faves, they’re our top three. We love what they do from a social point of view,” Byrt says.

“It would be really nice if each of the nominees were to open their gift bags and have a read of the notes and not just pass them onto their assistants but it’s got the potential.”

The exposure alone has been “fantastic”, says Byrt, well worth the cost of providing two bottles for each of the 26 gift bags, along with what he says is a “ridiculously low” admin free for the products to be included in the gift bags.

How a reusable water bottle became a fashion accessory


As primary school friends, Byrt and Leeworthy grew up in the picturesque coastal town of Red Hill on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where they saw the effects of single use plastic water bottles washing ashore along the coastline.

After Leeworthy completing an honours degree in product design engineering at Swinburne University in 2012, which focused on single-use bottles and the effect on the environment, the seed for what would become Memobottles began to grow.

The first design for the Memobottle was scribbled by Leeworthy on a scrap piece of paper and the first bottle was shipped in June last year.

Today, Memobottle products are sold by more than 100 retailers in over 70 countries, with more than 50,000 bottles sold to date.

Byrt estimates the company’s revenue for this financial year will be between $1.5 and $1.8 million.

Compared to plastic bottles, the Memobottles have a hefty price tag – $34 for the smaller A6 design and $39 for the larger A5 – however, Byrt says the price point was a deliberate move to position the Memobottle as a fashion accessory.

“It is a premium water bottle. It’s designed to be more, I guess as a fashion accessory,” he says.

“Our pricing always stems back from manufacturing costs and from that we had to work out what margins we needed – basically what was just sustainable for the business and who our target market was.”

“Bottled water is something like 1400 times more expensive than tap water … I haven’t bought a [bottle of] Mount Franklin for ages but [if it was priced] at $2-$3 a bottle … buying one of them a day … [for] less than two weeks is the cost of Memobottle.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 17, 2016

Valentine’s Day: How small businesses can prepare for the busiest days in their calendar

The impending anniversary of St Valentine is a chance for people to show how much they and value that special person in their lives – and a time when consumer demand for products such as chocolates and flowers spikes.

SMEs around the country have been busy preparing for the romantic holiday on January 14 in a bid to shares in the millions that Australians spend on flowers and chocolates each year.

Flower retailing in Australia was worth an estimated $716.6 million last year while the specialty chocolates sector is worth a cool $307.5 million, according to research by IBISWorld.

Sherpa is a new Uber-style courier service operating in major cities across Australia and the business is anticipating 3000 flower deliveries will be made using its service between February 12 and 14.

The startup, which allows members of the public to use their own vehicles to make deliveries within 10km of a central business district, estimates 30% of its deliveries are for flowers alone.

Sherpa co-founder Ben Nowlan said in a statement the fact Sherpa delivers seven days a week will also give it an edge this Valentine’s Day.

“We’ve built up a fantastic relationship with florists all over the country … some of our drivers are earning their income almost entirely from deliveries from local florists, which must make it one of the best jobs around,” he said.

“With Valentine’s Day falling on Sunday this year, we are calling on all of our drivers to be prepared to put in extra hours to meet the increased demand in weekend deliveries.”

Man with roses

Another popular choice for Valentine’s Day is chocolates, with Noosa Chocolate Factory co-founder Chris Thomson bracing for a hectic weekend of trade.

“[We’ve been preparing since] probably mid-December last year and the reason for that is we need to select our chocolate moulds in time and come up with a Valentine’s Day campaign a couple of months ahead,” Thomson told SmartCompany this morning.

“The actual chocolate is only made two weeks ahead to ensure it’s as fresh as possible.”

This Valentine’s Day Noosa Chocolate Factory will be stocking 1000 hand moulded and hand painted chocolate hearts  – with each taking a painstaking 16 minutes to make.

Chocolate Hearts

“You want to make sure you’ve sold them all before Sunday, they’re very low margin with the work that goes into each product,” Thomson says.

“You always hope that when someone comes in to purchase a few hearts that they purchase more from our regular lines.”

Thomson says Valentine’s Day is a big event for his business, almost as big as Easter, and being organised for the events is crucial.


Thomson’s top tips for businesses to prepare for times of high demand:


1. Be organised

For Thomson, preparing for a peak trading time takes around two weeks of planning what products are going to be made for any event, from which promotional marketing is decided upon.

“Before every event we team up with a local business designer so that marketing materials can be done… the designer we had for this Valentine’s Day did some quirky eye catching designs for our little gift cards,” he says.


2. Forecast sales

Anticipating the your business’ sales levels to avoid having a stock surplus is crucial, Thomson says.

“With chocolate you obviously don’t want to make too much, you need to read how busy it’s going to be,” Thomson says.

This is especially the case with chocolate Valentine’s Hearts, which Thomson says are not going to sell well after February 14 has gone.

“But no matter how much we make, every year we almost sell out anyway,” he says.


3. Consider extending trading hours

Thomson has extended trading hours at each of his four retail stores, keeping them open until 8pm every night this week, except Sunday when they will close at 6pm.

He anticipates the final two hours before trading closes on Sunday will be extremely busy for sales, potentially bigger than any other year due to Valentine’s falling on a Sunday.


4. Capitalise on the day

Like Sherpa, Noosa Chocolate Factory will be reaping the rewards of Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday.

With most people finishing work on Friday afternoon, this will leave two days for them to buy their Valentine’s gifts, with Thomson expecting Saturday to be a busy day of trade.

Being available on the weekend also gives your business an edge over competitors who choose to close on Saturday and Sunday, he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 12, 2016