Aussie family turns $10 note into $113m
For years we've been told that books - and bookstores - are on the verge of extinction.
So when Tony Nash decided to start an online bookshop with his brother Simon Nash and brother-in-law Steve Traurig back in 2004, there were more than a few sceptics.
The trio started their business with a humble, $10-a-day budget and it took three days for Booktopia's first sale to come through.
After a month, they had made only a couple thousand dollars, but four months in, they were turning over $30,000 a month - a sum that soared to $100,000 per month after a year, doubling to $200,000 per month after their second year of trading.
Today, the family-owned business is valued at $113.4 million, with one item sold every 6.1 seconds and with more than 1.8 million repeat customers - an incredible result for an Aussie company that started out as little more than an evening side project.
In the early days, the trio worked on Booktopia after hours after spending their days running the family's internet marketing consultancy, and for the first three years the website and fulfilment was outsourced to a separate company.
But in 2007, the decision was made to take over the company, with a new website built and a warehouse secured in Sydney's Artarmon, before eventually moving to Lane Cove as the company outgrew the space.
Tony Nash told news.com.au his expertise managing Google advertising had helped drive traffic to the site from day one, even at a time of growing fear surrounding the "death of physical bookshops" and "book annihilation".
"We have over 200 staff, 150,000 titles in stock ready to ship, we've invested $10 million in automation and built our own website and warehouse management systems … donated over $750,000 in cash and books to literacy-based projects … and we've accomplished all that from that first $10 note," he said.
"We started the company with no external investment … it's been quite a hell of a journey and it's a quite unique success story given the (book industry) climate and our lack of knowledge of books and logistics."
He said one of the reasons behind Booktopia's tearaway success was the founders' commitment to making decisions based on their customers' needs, including moving the company to Lidcombe to take advantage of more space and the site's proximity to a major Australia Post hub, despite the personal inconvenience involved.
As Booktopia started as a side project, and given the family's background in online marketing, Mr Nash said there was never any "fear or trepidation" surrounding the gamble.
He said Amazon had never been a threat, as Booktopia was able to deliver similarly-priced books far more quickly to Australian readers - and insisted the industry was in no danger of dying out.
"People talk about books dying but sales are consistent - I've never noticed a drop off," he said.
"We've been around long enough to see ups and downs and when times get hard, people like to invest in themselves through books with an educational purpose, like how to improve skills and get job interviews.
"And when people have more discretionary spending they like to escape with a book so it's a very recession-proof business."
Booktopia is about to undertake Australia's largest-ever crowd-funding opportunity, with the aim of raising $10 million through investment platform Equitise.
The cash will be poured into three core areas of the business, with more automation, more stock and operation liquidity in the pipeline.
"At the end of the day, do we need the money? Probably not - we'll continue to grow to a $200 million and a $300 million company in good time, no doubt," Mr Nash said.
"But this will enable us to get there faster as we'll be able to invest in more automation, scale the company and throw more people at it."
Aussies will be able to buy into 8.1 per cent of the business at $1 per share, with a minimum investment of $250.
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