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Jonathan Barouch Fastflowers.com

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established 1999; thirty-five employees; $5 million-plus turnover 1. For Jonathan Barouch, chief executive of Australia's leading online florist, life really is a bed of roses.

Unlike other young businessmen, he has never had trouble getting financial backing for his company.

On the contrary, he's in the enviable position of constantly turning down huge stacks of cash. 'I'm getting offers all the time from

private equity companies and other big florists for Fastflowers.com,' he says. 'They've offered me millions of dollars to take me over or for a stake in the company, but I haven't had any offer I couldn't refuse—not yet, anyway.'

Barouch has, in fact, spent much of his young life turning down vast sums of money. He had barely set up the company, as an eighteen-year- old, before the Internet boom had companies queuing at his bedroom door. They offered him 'many, many millions of dollars', he says. 'Silly money—more than the company would ever be worth! But I didn't know what to do with

it.

And I didn't want They've offered me the responsibility of millions of dollars to take having big stakeme over or for a stake in holders and other the company, but I haven't 111

people on the board, had any offer I couldn't r r

refuse-not yet, anyway. J so 1 turned them ^

down and carried on

running the business on a shoestring, from my

parents' house.'

It was an extraordinary decision for an

eighteen-year-old—especially one who suffers

from hayfever and can't stand to be near flowers:

'I've got a sackful of Claratyne in my drawers!'

But Barouch figured he had nothing to lose.

'I didn't take on any debt to start the business, so

the worst that could happen was that it would fail and I'd have to do something else.

Big deal. Most businessmen have families and mortgages to worry about. I was very lucky.'

This determined entrepreneurial streak is a quality that runs deep in the Barouch family. Jonathan's grandfather was one of the first big furniture manufacturers in Australia, selling his products to the likes of Harvey Norman, David Jones and Grace Brothers. His father was also a businessman, a pharmacist who ran several stores. They and his mother, a freelance journalist, all gave him a strong sense of the importance of financial independence.

The idea for Fastflowers came out of an embarrassing experience in a florist's shop. 'I wanted to buy some flowers for a girlfriend and found it excruciating. I didn't know what to buy or how much money was appropriate to spend. I felt so ridiculous. I thought there must be a better way.'

Searching on the relatively new Internet, he found little competition. 'I found websites in Europe and the US, but nobody in Australia. So I started asking various florists to do our deliver- ies—since they already had the stock—in return for a small commission for passing on the business to them. The first few turned me down flat—they just didn't get it. But after five or six refusals somebody agreed.'

With savings he had amassed from selling lollipops in the school playground when he was fourteen—'I made a small fortune from that until the headmaster intervened'—and money squirrelled away from odd jobs and birthday presents, he commissioned a company to build a website and business started briskly. There was just a small catch—Barouch was still at school. 'I would dash out of class pretending to go to the toilet, but actually I'd be taking orders from customers or arranging business meetings.'

The teenager soon got a very grown-up break. A newspaper item about him was spotted by the business journalist Paul Clitheroe, former Sunday Telegraph columnist and at the time a presenter on TV's The Money Show.'I was at a school swimming carnival when he rang. He was quite famous and at first I didn't believe it was him.

I was saying, "Sure, sure," like it was a joke, but eventually he convinced me and I felt like a bit of a goose.'

A crew from the show filmed Barouch working, going to school and doing business on his mobile phone, then taking more orders at home. It might have been a novelty segment, but it did the trick for Fastflowers. Within half an hour of the program finishing, the six-month-old website had clocked up 300,000 hits.

Suddenly, Australia's biggest companies wanted a piece of the young flower magnate. Westpac Bank made Barouch the preferred florist on its credit-card rewards program, giving Fastflowers access to over two million card holders. Then Telstra BigPond also took Fastflowers on as its partner florist. 'That gave us exposure to another two million Internet users. Overnight we became a household brand.'

It was during that time that Barouch realised he had made his first million. Just as important, he knew 'the company was going to be an enduring business. It was a wonderful feeling.'

Today, Fastflowers has a multimillion-dollar turnover and is the only Internet-based florist to own its own stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, along with a twenty-four-hour call centre and a warehouse. Remarkably, most of this growth was achieved while Barouch was still studying.

After completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he took Honours in Economics and did a Masters degree in Political Science. 'I would study at night and at weekends while all my mates were going to the pub and playing pool, and then I would go back to work and stay at the office till midnight. I did that for about six or seven years. I only finished studying about eighteen months ago.'

Little surprise, then, that Barouch didn't exactly go wild when he hit the million-dollar mark: 'I just concentrated on taking the business forward—planned another marketing campaign. The money is nice. It's given me financial freedom and I've been able to buy an apartment, which is ridiculously expensive in Sydney, and drive a BMW.

But it's the other things that give me pleasure. Driving past one of my shops or hearing one of my ads on the radio, that's what makes me feel really good. Like I've built something that will last.'

Barouch now mixes in exclusive circles and provides the flowers for some of Australia's most high-profile events. Dealing with prominent companies such as Ford and individuals such as Al Gore means discretion is a must, so he enforces a strict privacy policy among his staff. 'We have had very famous people call up and order flowers for their mistresses. But flower companies around the world have been sued for leaking that kind of information.'

Barouch recently got married, and his success enabled him to give his fiancee, Amy, the perfect wedding. He hired Sydney Town Hall and had it decorated with more than 10,000 roses and 10,000 tulips. It took fifteen florists three days to assemble the displays. But there were no tears on the day: he was dosed up on Claratyne the whole time.

Nick Gardner

golden rules

Don't spend more than you have. Keep your budget tight.

Don't believe the naysayers. If you have an idea, have enough confidence to see it through—and believe in yourself.

Network like crazy. You never know when you're going to make that connection that can make your business explode.

Don't be afraid to employ people who are at least as smart as you.

Invest in the business—don't blow money on a Porsche if you might need that money to keep the business going.

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Источник: Nick Gardner. How. I made-.my first million. 26 self-made millionaires reveal the secrets to their success. 2010

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