Rejection is a hard pill to swallow, especially when it is your own brainchild and livelihood on the line. The owner of one well-known multimillion-dollar business reveals the moment that could have ended it all.
“I can even visualise exactly one instance where I was like, ‘That’s it, end of story’,” reveals Sean Ashby, founder of global men’s swimwear and underwear brand aussieBum.
“I’d flown to Melbourne, hired the car, the car rental [to] drive down the Great Ocean Road, because there’s all these surf shops and they'll all buy my product, all my swimwear.
“So I’ve got in my car and I’ve literally gone door-knocking at the retailers. I got to this one major retailer and talking to the salesman, he goes, ‘Hang on, let me just get all the staff together.’ And there was about like a dozen staff. And he says, ‘Okay, now start’.”
Thinking he had finally struck a winner, Sean excitedly went into great detail about his product – a quick-drying nylon ‘Speedo’ style swimming costume.
“At first, they’re all smiling. I thought, isn’t this just killing it? But little did I realise they were pissing themselves laughing because I am the anti of what they represent. I was trying to sell them something that’s the last thing on earth they wanted [which was boardshorts and surfwear, not swimwear].
“When I realised what the manager had done for his own amusement and also for the staff’s amusement, walking out the door I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m gonna prove them wrong’.”
During a chat with the My Business Podcast crew, Sean reveals that was not the only time people he had been pitching to had given him a ‘bum steer’.
“The second instance was with a major department store. They too had [said], ‘Yes, sounds so interesting, so interesting’, and I’d call them back and always this buyer wasn’t available. Like, ‘Oh no, he’s in a meeting’, [and] I’m thinking he's truly in a meeting,” he recalls.
“Weeks went by and in the end I called but I didn’t say it was me. And he said, ‘Look. Didn’t you get the point of the meeting and why I haven’t spoken to you? It’ll never sell. It’s a ridiculous idea. Just stop annoying me’.”
Sean adds: “It was those two instances that had me go, ‘Game on, buddy, game on’.”
Hear more fascinating insights from the founder of a brand that started from just $30,000 and has now achieved sales of more than $150 million globally on the My Business Podcast.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.