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Alistair McKendrick, 2011 Anthill 30under30 Up-and-Comer

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What is 30under30?

30under30 is an Anthill initiative launched in 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. This year’s batch of nominees was extensive and impressive. So much so that we believe several young talents who didn’t snag 30under30 top honours still deserve your attention and recognition. We call them our Up-and-Comers. More.

Alistair McKendrick, VIC (b. 1985)

Name: Alistair McKendrick
Age: 25 (Born: December 1985)
Gender: Male
State: VIC

Asked to reveal his greatest sales achievement, custom furniture creator Alistair McKendrick say it was portraying himself to his girlfriend as a potential rich man when he had no money in the bank.

“So far it seems to be working,” says McKendrick.

We’re all joshing here, milady. True, McKendrick has poured his all — sometimes including much of his liquidity — into his three-year-old business, Exhibit Furniture. But with a sharp combination of intelligence, talent and resolve, McKendrick is building a strong future.

Exhibit Furniture designs, crafts, delivers and installs furniture made of reclaimed Australian hardwoods and other sustainable material. Earlier this year, McKendrick moved his working space from North Melbourne to a larger, standalone workshop in Richmond. He said he invested $60,000 from cash flow to set up the Richmond space — “no personal loan, no debt and no help from mum and dad.” He also is renovating an apartment that will serve as a gallery that shows off full-room design, rather than just single pieces.

McKendrick earned a diploma in furniture design in 2006 from RMIT, a university of technology and design. He went to work for a furniture store, Natural Selection, until it folded in 2008. That’s when he started Exhibit Furniture — and went back to RMIT to get a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. He nailed that down last year.

“I’m self-funded. I generated $140,000 in sales this past year and studied entrepreneurship at the same time,” McKendrick says. His turnover has doubled each of his three years in business. “I will double my turnover again this year. I won’t give up.”

He says his sales team is his clients (he has two “casual workers” who assist in the furniture construction). He has received an average of two referrals per client over the past year. He also threw a big party at a Chapel Street gallery last year, attracting 120 guests and handing out booze and business cards. It was a healthy investment for his customer database.

“Growth comes from hard work,” McKendrick says. “If you think otherwise, you must have read about it in a book.”

Anthill asks: Alistair McKendrick, what’s your superpower?

“I don’t need too much sleep. While I was studying and working 40-50 hours a week I got up daily at 5:30 a.m. and got my jobs nailed by mid-morning before riding off to uni. I’d go back to work after uni and do the night shift if needed. Great asset if you’re trying to bootstrap a business.”

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To check out the full list of Anthill’s 30under30 winners, click here.

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