Having very little money has served as the motivation for many successful entrepreneurs, from Seven Media chief Kerry Stokes to Harry Potter mastermind JK Rowling.
However, severe debt is more likely to act as a deterrent to starting up rather than draw people to it.
This wasn’t the case for Christian Oey, who started his business Nobankruptcy.com.au after living through his own debt debacle.
“Due to a host of reasons, including mismanagement on my part, my previous business collapsed, owing $700,000, which was personally guaranteed by my wife and I,” he says.
“At the time, we had limited cash in the bank – I think it was around $150,000 – and that was not enough to cover what we owed to some 50 different trade creditors.”
“We sought advice from specialist lawyers, administrators and other debt-related services and the like, but none of them could help negotiate a reduced settlement without us going bankrupt or having to enter into some sort of a formal debt agreement.”
“I decided to take on the challenge myself and negotiated with all 50 creditors. A few days before we were to go bankrupt, we negotiated and settled with all our creditors at approximately 10 cents in the dollar.”
This experience served as the inspiration for Oey’s business.
“I was gobsmacked that there was no firm that could negotiate settlements with creditors without having to enter into some sort of bankruptcy,” he says.
“I thought I would test the waters and try and help other struggling business owners settle debts at a lesser amount.”
Oey placed a small advertisement at the back of a newspaper, attracting interest not from business owners but from everyday people who found themselves in a debt trap.
“Today, that is 98% of our market. Our clients have, on average, $100,000 in credit card debt… Our service not only reduces our clients’ debts but lifts the stress and burden off of our clients’ shoulders,” he says.
Oey says the level of debt among certain clients is alarming but it can always be dealt with. His firsthand experience has given him a good understanding of why and how people fall into debt.
“For a long period of time, they have been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, hounded continuously by debt collectors,” he says.
“Once we get involved, this all stops and what we do allows the client to breathe a sigh of relief as we deal with their creditors on a daily basis.”
“Clients are left alone to focus on rebuilding their lives – emotionally, spiritually, financially – to make and save as much money as they can, as we negotiate.”
The business now employees 10 staff and recorded more than $640,000 in revenue last year. Oey says he wouldn’t have started his businesses if he hadn’t experienced his own debt woes.
“I started the business out of necessity. I offered my service to myself first when I couldn’t find anyone to do it for me,” he says.
“If I hadn’t gone through what I went through first, Nobankruptcy.com.au would not be around today to help other people who are in similar situations to me all those years ago.”
“I am the author of this service, so I had to experience it for myself first, although not on purpose.”