For two decades, Federico has built his reputation as an entrepreneurship coach, mentor, motivational speaker, journalist, and business writer across the Australian business sectors.
He is the founder of a niche coaching practice, tailored for aspiring entrepreneurs, SME business owners, CEO’s, and world-class business leaders.
Federico’s journey is inspirational, one where an enduring passion blossomed into an entrepreneurial adventure. In 1997, at only 22 years of age, Federico co-founded his first business venture – a designer stationery and giftware company which defied the sceptics. His business achieved the unthinkable, delivering and sustaining revenue growth of more than 50% per annum over 10 consecutive years, reaching retail sales of more than $10 million per year, throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Federico was trained at the 'Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship' in South Africa, and is featured on a number of high profile magazines around the world, in connection with subjects relating to entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation, technology, consumer trends, education, and organisational culture.
He is the founder and host of InspireTalk, a digital broadcasting channel that has enabled him to interview serial entrepreneurs, TV personalities, and other distinguished guests, with a legacy of sharing their ‘voice of influence’ to inspire the entrepreneurial community across the globe.
"You are not born an entrepreneur. You become one if you think like one.”
My story is not a conventional one, it is not one of someone who went out and got a job and then 20 years later belongs to that same industry. My industry is business but extending that further into entrepreneurship which is my true passion, since the age of 22 this has been the focus of my career despite being trained as an engineer which is different space all together. Through having the vision of working for myself, the desire to travel, the goal of making money and the dream of living the entrepreneurial lifestyle, I was inspired to start my own business. At the time the approach was a designer stationary company which I started with my sister within the retail sector. There was a gap in the market which we were able to not only identify but also exploit, which is true of any successful business throughout time if you look at the likes of MacDonald’s within the Fast Food Industry or Richard Branson in the budget airline market. It wasn’t that designer stationary was a passion of mine per se, it was more the opportunity to start a business, build it and to then exit it and move onto the next challenge. The passion came from the challenge of looking at what we could build from a humble stationary product, the story of our business began from nothing more than 6 greeting cards which I could fit into my jacket pocket. Through 10 years of hard work and persistence that humble stationary business grew into a world ranking brand.
Together we started a very successful venture within Australia which then began evolving internationally. The first 10 years of running this business I refer to as my business bootcamp or as ‘mission impossible’, a time in which I learnt all of the tricks and insider tips to the running of a business. It was a matter of learning from trial and error, from experimenting and recognising that it is okay to fail over and over again as long as each time you learn from that failure. A strong philosophy of mine is that in anything that you do, particularly within business, you have to make mistakes in order to learn. Of course there were challenges to overcome; we had our sceptics, we had issues around cash flow and financial strain as well as the introduction of competitors and copy cats. It was a matter of persevering and of surrounding ourselves with the right people, for me the drive came from a vision whereas for my sister it came from a passion and a talent for design. I can’t overemphasise the importance of having the right mentors and coaches, something which I did not recognise until we were four or five years into the business. One of my first mentors was an accountant who was able to assist us in transitioning through some of the difficult stages of growth.
The first few years of running the business I did not really understand what an exit strategy was nor did I recognise the importance of having one. I had a clear vision, that I always wanted to grow the business further which meant having an establishment, having an office and managing employees. It was from the hiring and managing of employees within my own company that my interest in business mentoring and coaching grew, seeing what they were capable of within their own realm. If you look at the market today compared to when we entered it 21 years ago, yes it is more competitive and more saturated, however there is still opportunity particularly in the tech, online and broadcasting sectors.
After that 10 year journey, I thought it was time to get out and into a new space. I enjoyed being coached, I enjoyed learning and I enjoyed coaching others as I had done during that period. I could bring to others the message that if I can do it, then you can do it too. I came from humble beginnings, I learnt as I went without having any formal qualifications in business. I recognised that I could use my experience and what I had learnt to help others to achieve their own success, those who were hungry to achieve but who needed the support and coaching in order to do so. It is about educating people, aiding them to develop the plans and the strategies that they need and then empowering them to achieve the impossible. Coaching embedded itself in mentoring and in business consultancy, all which has come to operate under my business Creative Entrepreneur which I have now been running on my own for the last 10 years. I provide a one-on-one service to those who are hungry, those who are willing to go through the highs and the lows and to stick with it.
I would describe my career as one which is heavily diversified, some people know me as the business coach, some as the entrepreneur and others for my written work. I love writing and have been engaged in some editorial work, I also have my own radio station Inspire Talk which is something I really enjoy doing.
Advice to self or others
My advice to anyone out there wanting to start a business is to find the right mentors and to invest in those mentors. Leveraging is also about collaboration, the days where someone like Richard Branson going solo as he did in the 70s are soon ending. It is now about building partnerships, alliances and working with companies who share the same ethos.
Being a visionary and an influential leader is key to anyone’s success, its far more important to be clear about your end game and your legacy and to then have others follow you in order to achieve this. You need to make that vision contagious to others, the vision is what it is that resonates in your heart. If you think of an opportunity, does it excite you and get you out of bed? At the same time a vision takes work, directions need to shift when other factors change. The end goal that you had originally does shift, you can end up scaling an entirely different mountain but you need to be able to do so without confusing your market or confusing your client.
The traditional small business model is to cost cut in order to maximise profit versus investing and taking the risk in order to reap the rewards. If you are in it for the long-haul then the risk will pay off. Make sure that you have a point of difference, know what it is that you stand for and the niche that exists within your particular sector. It is not about having a lot of cash to begin with, cash can be burnt very quickly when the wrong decisions are made. Instead it is about taking small incremental steps, testing those steps, innovating and then continuing on this path, accepting the failures, the step backs and the sceptics along the way.
The theory of 10,000 hours
To my knowledge, the philosophy was developed by Malcolm Gladwell, a UK entrepreneur. His theory being as simple as in order to master anything, regardless of what it is, we need to dedicate 10,000 hours to doing it. Whether it is to become a rocket scientist or an entrepreneur it takes dedication, it takes 10,000 hours which can also be translated into 10 years. To build a successful business from start-up to exit, I also believe in the 10,000-hour rule as it is something that you cannot do overnight.
It is important to know what your day entails everyday, that instead of just getting in the office and reacting to what comes through, you need to plan. You should not begin your day by responding to emails or phone calls that come through, instead you need to be proactive in addressing what it is you have planned to do. I recommend that at least half an hour of each day is dedicated to business development, the things such as proposal formulation, networking or contacting a lead which make the biggest impact. You should leave the office everyday knowing that you have done something to grow your business that day. For me I like to schedule the day before, knowing what the next day entails. I then scale this up to look at how that day’s goals affect my goals for the week or how those goals for the week impact upon my goals for the month. Each day has a strategic impact on the broader, more long term goals. Whilst it is planned, it has now become intuitive for me.
My favourite quote is also the tagline of my business ‘You are not born an entrepreneur, you become one if you think like one’. In a sense, it means that if you are not born an entrepreneur this gives you the chance to foster the entrepreneurial spirit and explore it, everyone has the possibility to become an entrepreneur. Looking back, I did have that entrepreneurial spirit even as a child but over my teenage years and during my early 20’s I did not classify myself as an entrepreneur. For me the realisation that I was an entrepreneur really came to the forefront when I started coaching other people and realising just how hard it is for a business to launch. It reminded me of all the challenges that we had gone through and overcome in order to launch our business. It was not until two or three years after selling the stationary business that I started using the word entrepreneur, the business name Creative Entrepreneur came about organically not long after that time.
It is very cliché to say, but I would have to recommend Richard Branson’s, Screw it, Let’s do it. This was one of the two books which I have read which had the greatest impact. It changed my psychology overnight in that I adopted that attitude of if you believe in something then just do it. The other book that I would recommend is Behind the Arches, the story of how MacDonald’s was started and developed it into what we know it as today. I have read both of these books numerous times and often refer back to them. There are so many great reads out there, it is about finding the person and the story that excites you.
The common thread of Creative Entrepreneur is about educating, inspiring and empowering people to achieve their dreams whether in the context of personal ambitions or business pursuits. It is essentially about providing them with the tools, the support and the voice to reach out to the world to broadcast their message. Whether it is a familiar product like a juice or whether it is something highly innovative and technical, this is the method to help you get it out there. I help people to pitch their message across various publications and to broadcast it on the radio. For a lot of people, it is a dream to have their story told on such platforms.