THEY’RE Freo’s new generation of entrepreneurs.
Young, ambitious and idealistic, the disruption to workplace norms through the pandemic has given them the impetus to ditch the nine to five office routine and strike out on their own.
Jordan Morris, Claire Deeks, Luciana Burke and George Brown have all founded breakthrough companies in the last couple of years and say they’re not the only Gen-Xers with the business bug.
“So yeah, 100 per cent there’s something going on with young people,” says Mr Morris, who runs Spiral Wetsuits from a factory unit in O’Connor.
“I went to private school and that was my nightmare for 12 years. It was like ‘this is horrible, I don’t want to end up as a lawyer or something like that’.”
After odd-jobbing for a couple of years and “doodling and dreaming”, a stint at TAFE studying product design helped narrow his focus to wetsuits. A further impetus was that he’s a mad-keen surfer who could never find a wettie he liked.
“Pursuing a passion to the point where it can sort of fund your existence is probably the big goal, probably for everyone,” Mr Morris says.
For Ms Burke, calling her own shots was a big motivation in starting up women’s sexual health brand My ilo with Ms Deeks.
After finishing high school, she wasn’t entirely sure what to do with her life so drifted over to the Gold Coast to try her hand at interior design.
“You know, I left, and was like ‘oh, I didn’t love it’. I still love interiors, though.
“But I always said I love the idea of bringing a brand to life – the branding, the design and all that sort of stuff. I think that’s probably what sparked my desire to be my own boss as well as not wanting to work nine to five.”
When Ms Deeks hit her with the idea of rethinking the vibrator and sex product market to tackle a huge, unmet market for women fumbling with their own sexual health, the seed took root.
Ms Deeks says she’s not sure if she was necessarily entrepreneurial at school (thought there was that Turkish towel sideline), but she “always had these crazy ideas”.
“My parents were always really supportive, but they were like ‘try again, can you think of something better?’
“So when I thought of this idea, I was like ‘girls, what do you think of this?’ They’re used to hearing stuff like that from me, but Luce was like ‘you know, that’s actually a pretty good idea.
“But I think, from there, it was never starting a business to start a business, it was to fill a huge gap in the market.”
Mr Brown says his journey was “a little bit different”.
“I always knew I did not want to do a nine to five, and I was so excited by starting my own business.
“So I’ve come up with hundreds of ideas, but during university I started marketing, and I started becoming more interested in sustainability and creating products or something that’s going to help the planet.”
His first big idea was vending machines for personal care products, but the start-up costs were prohibitive. They’re now popping up all over the eastern states.
Noticing the mountain of throwaway knives, forks and spoons heading to landfill, he trialled a few products that were flavoured and strong enough to get through a meal, but could then be chowed down rather than heading to the bin. But again the start-up costs were prohibitive, as he realised he’d have to be manufacturing them in the millions in order to get them cheap enough to be viable.
But like the others, a combination of a gap in the market and a desire to make the world a better place helped him find his niche. “After uni I did a bit of travelling and I’ve wanted to take some personal care products”.