This week Bartercard is turning 25 and we’re not just celebrating our birthday, but businesses world-wide that have thrived in adversity, shaped industries and succeeded despite the odds.
While many people think that starting a business in a recession or a faltering industry is a bad call, these companies went against the grain and showed that sometimes all it takes to start a global brand is finding a gap in the market and the right strategic innovation.
In 1991 Australia was experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression and businesses were looking for solutions to cash shortages. Bartercard was born out of the idea that going back to basics and utilising a closed group of businesses to conduct cashless transactions would help rebuild small to medium-sized businesses in Australia. With steady growth and a buzz around the innovation which it brought, Bartercard was able to position itself as a global brand assisting businesses world-wide to boost cash flow, attract new customers and retain a competitive edge in a declining market.
Since start up, Bartercard has grown into the world’s largest trade exchange breaking $8.9 billion worth of trading, 21.9 million transactions and conserving $4.4 billion in cash for small businesses in Australia. While the company has invested in the technology and resources to stay at the forefront of the industry through thick and thin, it’s the people in the system who keep finding innovative ways of trading, discovering new opportunities to push the limits of barter and advocating the system every day.
Here are five other companies that took bold steps to build successful empires despite the odds.
Today Disney has 180,000 employees and turns a revenue of almost $50 billion per annum (forbes.com) but back when it started the outlook wasn’t so bright. Disney carved an entertainment niche smack in the center of the Great Depression when sentiment was gloomy and unemployment was high (bloomberg.com).
The company envisioned the ‘happiest place on earth’ and built Disneyland which skyrocketed the company through merchandising, branding and expansion (investopia.com). Seems like Micky Mouse was just what the world needed!
1970s recession led Harvard dropout Bill Gates to start a small company that specialised in developing computer languages. Microsoft’s first blockbuster product, MS-DOS went on to power IBM computers.
Today Microsoft’s Office and Windows products are found on most computers, attract more than US$77 billion in revenue each year (investopia.com), and the company counts four billionaires and 12,000 millionaires among its current and former employees (huffingtonpost.com).
Gates saw the structural holes in the PC marketplace and created the solutions to fill the gaps through a series of successful partnerships to leverage his product into a global market (inc.com).
When Microsoft was the largest technology giant, Apple started. Today it’s one of the most successful product companies in the world, but back when it launched in 2001, around the same time the dot-com bubble burst, many investors were skeptical of anything steeped in new technology.
Despite the sentiment, Apple created the iPod which allowed consumers to carry a thousand songs in their pocket, conveniently downloaded off iTunes (huffingtonpost.com). Apple made access to music so simplified, it defied the odds by bundling a music player, online store and song management software into one (theverge.com).
This paved the way for the iPhone and iPad, revolutionising the way the world consumes content and communicates (huffingtonpost.com).
Sophia Amoruso’s rags to riches story saw her take an eBay vintage clothing store to a US $100 million company without any startup funding in just 8 years. At the time of starting, the founder said her aspirations where simple: to cover her rent.
After she relaunched the brand as a stand-alone e-commerce store with an independent website, revenues reached $28 million in 2001 and escalated to a reported $100 million in 2012. The early days saw the entrepreneur do everything singlehandedly from sourcing inventory, photographing pieces, writing listings and shipping.
She attributes her success to listening to her market and reading every last comment posted online (growthhackers.com).
Lisa Messenger launched her entrepreneurial magazine Collective Hub in 2013 at a time when magazine sales were down, and turned it into a multi-media brand today boasting a print distribution in 37 countries. The entrepreneur defied the odds of the print industry by breaking the magazine mould.
Rather than featuring A-list celebrities and the regular rumor mill, the magazine dedicates its glossy and beautifully designed pages to ordinary entrepreneurs and everyday people who are breaking convention and changing the world through innovation and disruption.
The Australian-born global brand is further defying the traditional publishing mould by producing more than 400 custom books for clients (collectivehub.com).
3 tips for staying successful through thick and thin
Reinvent yourself – the most successful companies stay agile in a competitive market, constantly finding new ways of carving services around their market. They adjust when things aren’t working and create new iterations until they get the right formula.
Stay true to why you started – when times get tough don’t forget the reason why you went into business and factor your purpose into every business decision.
Advertise – in times of adversity, don’t drop off consumers’ radars - it’s probably the most important time to stay in the public eye.
Bartercard turns 25 – Win a trip to Fiji valued at over $2500 + Flights!
To celebrate our birthday we’re giving away flights and 7 nights’ accommodation for two at the stunning Pearl Resort in Fiji.
Simply tell us what obstacles you have faced in your business and how Bartercard has help OR share your greatest Bartercard moment. Remember to include a photo of yourself to go into the draw.