Coming up with an award-winning start-up idea can be a daunting prospect for even the most established entrepreneurs.
But Stanley Hsu – whose Queensland-based business myCube won Best Start-up Idea at the 2012 StartupSmart Awards – knew exactly what he wanted to create.
Located inside premium shopping centres, myCube is a retail store featuring hundreds of “cubes”, each displaying innovative products.
All of these cubes are mini shopfronts for entrepreneurs, who use them as a stepping stone to starting their first retail business. myCube is based on a franchise model, so there is plenty of scope for it to expand.
“We’re starting our first store at the moment. It’s in Garden City, which is one of the four pillars of suburban shopping centres [in Brisbane],” Hsu told StartupSmart.
“We just recruited our very first franchisee, so this person will be running the store at Garden City.
“It’s our first store and our first time doing business with Westfield. That, for us, is very exciting. They’re testing us out and we’re testing them out.
“We hope we can build a good relationship and sign more leases with them.”
For the most part, Hsu says his experience with Westfield has been a positive one.
“The experience was somewhat pleasant in a way. Apart from the rent they were asking, which is not so pleasant,” he says.
“But I think compared to other landlords, Westfield does understand business. They do understand the challenges and the needs.
“They seem to be listening to what I’ve been saying. Even though they have a big structure, I feel there is a general understanding.
“The other landlord I’m with at the moment – I think they’re not as professional. They tend to throw something out and see if you take it or leave it. There’s not much of a conversation.”
In the 2010/11 financial year, myCube’s revenue was $781,946. In the 2011/12 financial year, it jumped to about $1.2 million.
The business has also increased its workforce from three people to a team of about 30, although not all of these staff are full-time equivalent.
Since it was founded in 2010, myCube has remained self-funded, with Hsu drawing on financial support from family and close friends. However, there are plans to raise external funds.
“I’m foreseeing doing a fundraise sometime next year, after the first store is stabilised,” Hsu says.
“I think I’d like to raise between $500,000 and $1 million. With that, I think we’ll be in a position to take this business nationally. With about half a million to a million, we should have enough resources to do that.
“Hopefully in the future, we’ll be in other countries as well.
“I’ve got a business coach in New York and she has been trying to tee me up with a few people, so I think that’s where we’ll be going.”
Hsu says he’s “excited and proud” to be involved in myCube, and is hopeful it can act as a saviour for the retail industry, or at least for some of the smaller retailers.
“We see how tough it is in retail and it’s just getting worse and worse. And I don’t think our three levels of government actually understand how tough it is,” he says.
“It is very hard in this country to do retail. Another thing most people are starting to notice is the choice of retailers we have is getting less and less.
“Smaller entrepreneurs are starting to die out. They don’t get a chance. That’s where my business comes in – we give them a chance to play with the big retailers.”
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