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Riley Nottingham, 2012 Anthill 30under30 Winner

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What is 30under30?

30under30 is an Anthill initiative 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. More.

Riley Nottingham, QLD (b. 1991)

Name: Riley Nottingham
Age: 21 (Born: August 1991)
Gender: Male
State: QLD
Known for: DoneItNow, Thepen

Let’s say you want to sell an everyday product: a pen. You hold your product in high esteem, having gone so far as to name it ‘The pen’. How do you go about making it the most essential and unique of all pens so that offices and retailers keep coming back to it?

If you’re Riley Nottingham, you’re barely old enough to remember a time when pens were the chief tool for writing letters and documents. And yet, you insist on branding and marketing your pen in the online era — designing it as a magnetic ballpoint, luxurious, yet slight enough for a key chain; allying it with a winning customer service campaign; and creating thousands of outlets for Thepen (one word) across Australia.

Thepen introduced the entrepreneurial world to Nottingham and his company, The 1920s Group. (The name has nothing to do with the silent film era; Nottingham and his business partner coined it from their ages — 19 and 20 — upon founding it. Nice, guys.)

In particular, that world has come to know a company with an assiduous commitment to its products and services, growing its reputation through web design and marketing hooks (if you fancy, you can sign up for a weekly e-mail chronicle of the adventures of a fictional Thepen), but mostly through old-fashioned word of mouth.

Thepen also introduced Nottingham to the reality of the business world, and he’s not ashamed to acknowledge the inevitable setbacks he faced.

“When the Christmas period ended, we had no advertising going at the time and our sales slumped,” he recalls. “This taught us the value of a marketing plan for the dry months, BUT also encouraged us to start new businesses that provided steadier income.”

Nottingham’s second act is DoneItNow, a transcription service that sells itself on its competitive pricing, swift turnaround times, and immaculate renderings of spoken audio by native English transcribers. Yes, it’s another clerical business venture, but also much steadier and less prone to dry spells. Once again, the site design is slick and the customer candy is plentiful.

Above all, Nottingham calls customer service his biggest passion.

“We love surprising our customers by e-mailing them personally at midnight, 2am, 7:30pm, any time of the day or night,” he says. “Customer service is everything. If there’s a problem with the product or service, you can fix it and still provide awesome customer support. But vice versa? No, doesn’t work for us.”

Nottingham may be busy, but as he keeps up with three jobs and two businesses, he’s shown the signs of an entrepreneur learning the right lessons and flourishing from them. In business, that’s always something to write home about.

Anthill asks: Riley Nottingham, what’s your super power?

Probably my biggest super power is inspiring/selling/describing what we do. Whether it be to customers or to big company execs, I believe in what I’m doing and can make others trust and believe in our company too.

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

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