The year is 1993; Brett Birkill has just finished Year 12 at a good school in Melbourne with a strong VCE result and his parents have a successful clothing business. All in all, life is good. Then the ‘recession we had to have’ hit and Brett’s parents lost basically everything, almost overnight.
So rather than go to university, Birkill worked with his parents to help re-build their enterprise, learning a lot about the clothing business and business in general. He got a hands-on gutter smart education no university could have offered. “To see such a good business go bad and to recover again after years of sweat and tears could never be taught,” explained Birkill.
When you fall, dust yourself off and get back up…
With his degree from the university of hard-knocks, Birkill shared a few business rebuilding tips with Anthill which could come in very handy if your enterprise ever falls upon hard times.
First of all, Birkill encourages you to keep connections with other people, but stresses quality over quantity. “Keep a few connections very close, those who you can trust and live with in life and business,” he said. He also advises that you do not do everything yourself but instead gather some key close colleagues and trust them to do a good job.
Secondly, build a good strong relationship with your bank. Why? Birkill explained that there are many means to raise capital but most require you to give up a lot while “good banks provide a firm foundation to solid businesses and allow you to keep full ownership.”
And lastly, in order to stay in the right mindset to weather the storm, he recommends celebrating every success. “Whether a few hours for a meal, or a social gathering for staff and family ensure you celebrate the successes, they remind you that you are on track.”
Brett Birkill: ice-cream man to million dollar entrepreneur
While working to re-establish the family business Brett sold ice-creams from a Mr. Whippy van on weekends to make some extra bucks and once the family business was back on its feet, Brett decided to start his own business, starting Prime Mover Workwear in 2004.
Prime Mover Workwear is now Australia’s fastest growing privately owned workwear brand expecting a $15m turnover this year. It has secured a lucrative 6 per cent of the Australian workwear market and employs 50 people worldwide with distribution warehouses in Melbourne, Shanghai and Perth as well as the latest addition in Auckland, New Zealand.
Besides his strong work ethic (which he inherited from his parents) and competitive nature, Brett attributes personalised service as key to his business’ success. As a privately owned business, he can respond to individual client requests, such as logo embroidery, much faster than his large public company competitors.
He is also able to deliver to a diverse group of resellers, with over 1800 distributors distributed internationally. Brett also stresses the importance of innovation saying, “We are developing technology that can help us create fabrics that are far more flame retardant than that of our competitors which is especially important for the mining sector.”
Birkill has also recently launched Rikkaus, an online IT department store which is growing rapidly too and also has a significant multi state property portfolio. Clearly, 37 year-old Birkill is one young entrepreneur destined for success and has certainly come a long way since his Mr. Whippy days!