Andy Hine is the founder of MedalDisplays.co.uk and MedalDisplays.com.au. In this interview, he goes over what made him ditch his jobs and finally start his entrepreneurial journey. Most of the time, we won’t find out what we truly like until we try many things. Let’s hear it from Andy to see what he went through to finally arrive to his true purpose.
Hey Andy, gives us a two-sentence description about you
I’m a 30 year old Brit living in Australia with a general dissatisfaction for the norm. I once read the 4 Hour Work Week and thought I’d be able to quit my job in two months. It took two years.
Why did you move to Australia?
I had always said I would go traveling “one day”. In my early twenties a couple of things happened that made me realize that life’s short so I booked a 6 month trip around South East Asia. I knew that after that I wouldn’t be able to go back so I also booked a one way flight to Australia. I knew I could get a visa and I’d heard it was warm!
Tell us about the jobs you’ve had and what each of them have taught you
In my whole life I think I’ve had over a hundred jobs, lasting from one day to two years. In Australia the work ranged from fixing fences, to serving hot dogs, to mindless data entry. This is the bit I’m supposed to say that I learned the value of keeping your head down and working hard but for me that wasn’t really the case. In most jobs I’d look at the people 10 years ahead of me and just think “fuck that”. Maybe learning what you don’t want is an important part of figuring out what you do want.
Ironically, by the time my business had started making some profit I did end up working at a couple of really good places, one was a tech company in the real estate industry and the other was the wellness department of a health insurance company. I’m glad I got to work at these two places because after a long period of soul destroying jobs they both restored some of my faith in employment. It’s definitely possible to be happy and fulfilled in a job and there are businesses out there that take this seriously. Neither place had a dress code, it might be a coincidence but it felt like this was a reflection of their progressive culture.
When did you decide to move on and start your own thing?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment to be honest. I’ve always dabbled, at one point a best mate and I started selling baby clothes but neither of us even knew how big a baby was! I had a handful of ventures that half-worked or didn’t work at all but every single one of them made me more prepared and better equipped for the next.
In the months leading up to Medal Displays I remember feeling like something was coming and then one day I got so pissed off that I sat down at my laptop and decided I wasn’t getting up until I had figured out what that something was. Four hours later, Medal Displays was born. Two years later I had quit my job and achieved what I had naively expected to achieve in two months!
How easy is to start an online store?
Honestly, it’s so easy it’s ridiculous. You sign up at Shopify and you can be up and running in a couple of hours or less. The hard part is getting up to that point.
I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who hasn’t come up with a business idea at some point but how many of them jot their ideas down? Then how many carry out research? How many register a business?
There’s a huge drop off at each stage, the hardest part is being determined (or stubborn) enough to actually say no to your own resistance and go through with it.
Tell us how you got that first sale
Firstly, I didn’t sell a single thing for about two months and I think it’s important people know that. When you start exploring ecommerce, the internet seems to be bombarded with screenshots of Shopify dashboards and Paypal accounts showing people “killing it in their first week bro!”.
Maybe they’re intended to “inspire” but I think they could really dishearten someone starting out and genuinely struggling to get their first sales. I remember what that was like, the doubts that start creeping in can be crippling. It’s supposed to be hard and struggling to make your first sale is perfectly normal.
I think my first sale actually came from ebay. My site was making no sales, probably because it was awful and it was getting no traffic! I don’t use ebay any more for a few reasons but getting a couple of early sales using that platform gave me enough proof of concept to continue putting the work in.
Have you found any particular formula that works on social media ads or that gets a lot of Instagram followers?
All the usual stuff really although I will mention that my top performing ad is actually a repost of a customer photo. I literally just used a repost app and included their glowing review, I even left in a couple of grammar mistakes. Over the past few years, I think people have become very savvy to online ads and it seems that the best performing ads are the ones that don’t necessarily look like ads in the traditional sense.
Which tools do you use daily? (i.e. Shopify apps, SEO tools, etc)
The three tabs that are always open on my laptop are Shopify, Facebook Business Manager, GMail and Upwork. I might also have Youtube on blasting out some kind of panpipe “productivity music”. Having a fan base on Twitter is also important.
I’ve found an absolutely awesome assistant on Upwork. We’ve been working together for over a year now and I try to involve her as much as possible in marketing decisions. As we grow I want to create the same sense of team that we would have if we were based in the same office.
The other absolute game changer I would recommend is using a 3PL. Using a 3rd Party Logistics company to handle all your stock and shipping means they take a portion of each sale but freeing up your time and brainpower to concentrate on growing your business will change your life!
Teach us one thing that you know best in the area of e-commerce, marketing or business
This is a dangerous one. Every time I start thinking I’m becoming an expert in something I start shooting myself in the foot. I stop listening to advice and I fall behind with the latest information. I’m not an expert in anything and I’m OK with that. Sorry for the cop out answer!
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have
It’s supposed to be hard. It’s a numbers game and every time it gets hard you have to think “there’s another would-be competitor that’s dropped out here”. Often the successful startups are the ones that can keep slogging it out the longest, it’s a war of attrition.
Also, books, audiobooks and podcasts. For every single business problem you have there will be a resource for it. Prescribe yourself like you would medecine for an ailment!
Any last comments?
Awesome questions! 🙂