From the high school dropout who started her first business at 12 and now runs a $25 million empire, to the surfer whose ‘sea bins’ have captured more than 100 tonnes of microplastics in Sydney Harbour in just two years, these entrepreneur podcast interviews will open your minds for 2023.
If you’re looking for the best interview podcasts of 2022 to catch up on over the summer break, take a peek inside the minds of Australia’s most innovative entrepreneurs and changemakers on Kochie’s Business Builders’ First Act podcast.
Over 36 episodes, Kochie’s Business Builders editors Cec Busby and Adam Bub (the guy writing this article) deep dive into the “first act” of founders who’ve achieved great things. From lightbulb moments of divine inspiration to the lessons learned from business nails and fails, these origin stories pull back the curtain on what we call ‘success’.
Each episode is packed with nuggets of wisdom from people who have shifted the goalposts, whether it’s the no-BS (and gloriously expletive-filled) advice of PR maven Roxy Jacenko or the business nous of Stephen Hunt, who went from dish hand to a $100 million pub empire.
Here are eight of our most inspiring First Act episodes for your beach day/road trip/me time playlists.
THE ECOPRENEUR: Pete Ceglinski, the Seabin Project
We need more good news stories about environmental entrepreneurs like Pete Ceglinski. He’s the surfer, industrial designer and ‘ecopreneur’ whose game-changing invention, the Seabin, has captured millions of kilos of waste from our oceans. It’s a simple idea – a bin for the sea – yet its footprint is indelible. Now, Pete and his team are using the data they collect from tracking microplastics to help clean up our seas and cities.
“We found a data gap – because no one has this information – and where there’s a data gap, there’s opportunity,” Pete says. “No one had put the rubbish bin in the water – so now we’re using the data from the Seabin to influence positive legislation and policy-making for sustainable cities and communities around the world.”
Listen to Pete Ceglinski on First Act:
THE FOODIE GONE GLOBAL: Marion Grasby, Marion’s Kitchen
Cook, media publisher and entrepreneur: Marion Grasby wears a lot of hats. As one of Masterchef Australia’s favourite contestants, Marion won the hearts of Aussie viewers with her Thai-Aussie flavour fusions. Although she missed out on the crown, Marion parlayed her fame into a cookbook deal before launching her immensely popular Thai-inspired food range, Marion’s Kitchen.
Today, Marion is the head of a next-generation food and lifestyle company with a subscriber base of seven million and a global monthly reach of more than 30 million people. Not bad going for the home-cook who insists fame was never on her agenda.
Listen to Marion Grasby on First Act:
THE SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRE: Sonia Majkic, 3 Phase Marketing
Sonia Majkic started her first business when she was just 12. Her family had migrated from Serbia to Melbourne in the ’80s, and they were struggling with language, community and finding work without formal qualifications.
“As factory workers, my parents lived from pay-check to pay-check, and I observed the constant struggle around money,” she recalls. “They had no workplace flexibility whatsoever, and they missed out on so many critical moments for my brother and me through primary school. They were bound to the factory floor, working 10 to 12-hour shifts to make ends meet. That, I suppose, motivated me to have a completely different experience as an adult.”
In the past five years alone, Sonia has built a $25 million digital marketing company, 3 Phase Marketing and has won numerous accolades for her work helping businesses of all sizes grow. Her advice on marketing your business – and yourself – is priceless.
Listen to Sonia Majkic on First Act:
THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR: Simon Griffiths, Who Gives A Crap
How do you create a brand people need that helps those in need? On the 10-year anniversary of Who Gives A Crap’s launch, Simon Griffiths gives us a unique insight into how he and his co-founders created a social enterprise out of colourfully wrapped toilet paper.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is massive,” Simon tells us. “There are two billion people without access to adequate sanitation today… It’s the idea of working with toilet paper, using the profits to build toilets, and calling it ‘Who Gives A Crap’ that creates this complete package.”
The TP frenzy during the pandemic only heightened the necessity of Who Gives A Crap. If you want to know how to bring purpose and profit together in your business model, this market disruptor is a well worth your time.
Listen to Simon Griffiths on First Act:
THE RURAL FASHION MOGUL: Jane Cay, Birdsnest
Like a balm for your ears, listening to Jane Cay speak is a joyous experience. Based in the Snowy Mountains of NSW, Jane founded one of Australia’s leading fashion retailers, Birdsnest, and has grown it from a small country boutique into an online empire with more than 150 staff.
But retail was never the original plan for Jane. It wasn’t until she fell in love with a farmer that the course of her life took a very different turn. Now, she’s created a brand that celebrates women of all sizes while tackling the effects of fast fashion on climate change.
“We’ve always felt the responsibility of representing women to women,” says Jane. “Our team ranges from 16-year-olds helping us after school to my mum – she still does the underwear buying, and she’s just turned 70. There are 18 different nationalities represented in our team, which is pretty unique in a country town of 6500. We have so much diversity – and in ability as well.”
Listen to Jane Cay on First Act:
THE FOUNDER WHO LOST IT ALL: Jodie Fox, Author and former Shoes of Prey co-founder
In one of the most emotionally raw interviews you’ll ever hear about entrepreneurship, Jodie Fox unpacks the rise and demise of her global brand, Shoes of Prey.
Over 10 years, Shoes of Prey was a darling of the Australian startup scene. Millions of women around the world were clamouring for their design-your-own shoes. Until suddenly, in 2018, it all crumbled.
“On that very final day, I remember there were 140 people left in the team there… and even as the words came out of my mouth, it was one of those times where everything just felt foreign and wild that we were even having to have experience this moment. We just stood in silence,” she recalls in our interview.
Jodie has since emerged from that rocky period, which also included a divorce from her then-husband and business co-founder Michael, stronger and more resilient than ever. She captures those insights in her book, Reboot: Probably More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about Starting a Global Business.
Listen to Jodie Fox on First Act:
THE ACCIDENTAL ENTREPRENEUR: Catherine Velisha, Velisha Farms
Catherine Velisha is passionate about all things fruit and veg, but that wasn’t always the case. It was never her intention to run the family business, Velisha Farms. Yet since taking on the role of managing director, Catherine has taken the family’s market farm to new heights.
Besides providing wholesale fresh produce worldwide, including to big players like ALDI supermarkets, Velisha Farms’ Veg Education and Food Futures educational programs are helping to train the next generation of Australian horticultural experts.
In a male-dominated industry, she is a force to be reckoned with. Her trajectory from zero business experience to the leader of a dynamic and successful team has been inspiring and sometimes rocky.
“It’s about bringing together purpose and opportunity,” she says. “You can only change it if you’ve got a seat at the table, so come and get the seat at the table of the most important industry and let’s change the world for the better.”
Listen to Catherine Velisha on First Act:
THE SCIENCE ENTREPRENEUR: Dr Vincent Candrawinata, Renovatio
Ever wondered why ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’? Antioxidant researcher and food scientist Dr Vincent Candrawinata knows the secret, and he’s turned his own discovery into a life-changing product range relieving the pain of inflammatory conditions like arthritis for people the world over.
His grandmother became the first human trial of his new antioxidant formula. As a former dancer, arthritis had robbed her of her daily freedoms – until she tried Renovatio.
“Three months later, she visited me in Sydney and she walked from Haymarket all the way to Circular Quay. This is someone who couldn’t even climb the stairs before.”
He joined the First Act podcast to share how leading with his heart has taken him from research scientist to successful entrepreneur with products in Woolies.
Listen to Dr Vincent on First Act:
Don’t forget to subscribe to First Act for season three, dropping into your feeds from February 2023.