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Peter Henderson, 2009 Anthill 30under30 winner

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What is 30under30?

30under30 is an Anthill initiative that was launched in early 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. Each year, we invite our readers to nominate young Australian entrepreneurs deserving of recognition for their outstanding entrepreneurial endeavours. Anthill’s editorial team then trawls through hundreds of applications and identifies and profiles the top 30 Australian entrepreneurs under the age of 30. The process culminates in an event held in Melbourne where the 30 winners network and celebrate. We’ve been releasing profiles of this year’s Anthill 30under30 winners via our Twitter account – youngest to oldest. After a brief hiatus for Venture Capital Month, these profiles continue.

Name: Peter Henderson
Age: 25 (b. 1984)
State: ACT
Industry: Online Retail
Company: Blue Dog Posters

Jumping ship to work with a larger, market-leading competitor was a disruptive change. The realisation that his entrepreneurial skills would be best utilised growing their business, rather than his own, did not come naturally for Peter Henderson, one of the few genuine “intrapreneurs” in this year’s crop of 30under30.

Henderson is a web project manager specialising in online retail. With his fourth venture, he worked his worst commercial setback into his greatest ever opportunity.

Early 2006, Henderson absorbed his existing business into a new venture established in partnership with one of his suppliers. The teams fitted well together and had complementary strengths; it was all promising. But soon it failed, and dismally so.

“The new venture had collapsed and I was left with little to show for 12 months of unpaid work,” says Henderson. “Not wanting to waste the intellectual capital I had invested, I cold called our larger, market-leading competitor and offered to work with them.”

So began Henderson’s reign at Blue Dog Posters in August 2008. In spite of economic doom and gloom, the company recorded eight months of consecutive growth (seasonally adjusted), with sales increasing by 140 percent. It had previously taken nearly three years for sales to increase by just 70 percent.

Friends and family sometimes consider Henderson to be a ‘complainer’, but he prefers the term ‘betterer’. Little frustrates him more than the sentiment: ‘That’s just the way it is.’

To Henderson, entrepreneurship is a profession for those who don’t intend to stay in the one business or industry forever. He loves the freedom to take an interesting path, the flexibility to set one’s own schedule, the desire to create cool things and an interest in doing things better. “Had wealth been the sole motivation, I would have lost interest long ago,” he says.

If you think likewise, then perhaps take Henderson’s golden rule: “Low hanging fruit is tasty and shouldn’t be left until last”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP LESSON ACCORDING TO PETER:

“My first business was ill-conceived in just about every way. Our model was flawed and for some time we were making a negative margin on sales without even realising it. We stubbornly persevered for two years; pride kept us trading much longer than we should have.

“We eventually let it go. Luckily, the catalyst for this decision wasn’t going broke. We had started another online store six months earlier, and it was showing some early signs of promise. We focused the resources we had left on the new store.

“Lesson learned: ignore emotional investment and be prepared to walk away.”

Henderson’s e-card
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Tian Yang is the founding member and vice president of Student Entrepreneurs | Agents of Change, an organisation dedicated to creating and cultivating entrepreneurship communities in Australian universities. He is also the sponsorship and partnership manager of the second annual Entrepreneurs Week 2009. Tian is currently completing his Bachelor of Commerce/Media & Communication degree at the University of Melbourne.

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