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Aussie dad avoids $12 million mistake after offer of 'more money than I ever thought I’d get in my life'

At his lowest Rick Bazerghi was drinking four bottles of vodka per week to deal with his stress, but a visit to a smash room left him feeling 'incredible'.

After more than three decades, and the launch of seven businesses, Melbourne entrepreneur Rick Bazerghi is on track for his biggest year yet.

By the end of June he’s expecting to have raked in more than $15 million from across his three companies including a successful Smash Room business set to make over $2.4 million this year.

But while the father of two's businesses were booming, the man who grew up with nothing to become a millionaire told Yahoo Finance he was in a “really dark place”, on the brink of selling his company, and drinking four litres of vodka a week.

Darren Palmer and Rick Bazerghi celebrate the success of Meir by popping champagne.
Despite his success with tapware company Meir, Rick Bazerghi's (right) stress levels were sky-high. Source: Supplied

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Hailing from Melton, in Melbourne’s southwest, the son of immigrant parents who were “never really good with money” said his family lived “just above the poverty line”.

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So Bazerghi turned to making his own cash.

“My first real business was selling cigarettes in Year 7,” he told Yahoo Finance. “I’d get one of the Year 12s to buy a pack for me and then I’d walk around the oval selling each cigarette for 50 cents.”

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By the end of Year 10, the then-teenager left high school and moved from job to job until he lied on his resume about having a diploma of financial planning to get into an insurance business. Exposed to the world of wealth through a series of roles at financial companies, Bazerghi said he “got a taste” of how billionaires live their lives.

But it wasn’t until Bazerghi turned his hand to building an e-commerce website for his friend’s plumbing business in 2015 that he truly turned on the faucet of wealth.

Customers at Smash Room smashing plates.
Rick Bazerghi opened his first Smash Room in 2021 and it made $1.1m in its first year. Source: Instagram (Instagram)
Bazargh and his Meir team.
Bazerghi said his tapware business Meir is on track to make $12 million this financial year. Source: Supplied

“I remember I was in the living room on my phone and that day $14,000 in sales came through and that month we ended up with $38,000 sales,” he explained.

In the first year, the tapware website called Meir made $900,000 and Bazerghi quit his full-time job to focus on the online store, which went on to achieve an impressive 39 per cent year-on-year growth.

But despite the booming business, Bazerghi's stress levels grew as the years passed.

“My sister had suffered from severe depression and anxiety ever since I was young, and I never understood it," the businessman said. "And then Covid hit.

"I was really stressed, really anxious and very pessimistic, and I wasn’t able to snap myself out of it.”

Bazarghi and his wife and two teenage children.
Bazerghi, pictured with his family, said business success came with a lot of stress and mental health struggles. Source: Supplied (Supplied)

Eventually Bazerghi ended up at a local smash room — a venue where people can release their rage by destroying objects.

“I ended up hitting something with a bat and I thought, this is actually what I needed,” he explained. “It made me feel incredible.”

Inspired to share his new outlet with others struggling with mental health issues, Bazerghi decided to build his own venue. In November, 2021 he officially opened The Smash Room in Keilor, but tragically his sister wasn’t there to witness it, having unexpectedly passed away.

For the first six months, The Smash Room was booked out every single week, and by the end of its first year, it had made $1.1 million to become the most popular smash room in Australia.

But behind closed doors, Bazerghi was struggling to operate two businesses at the same time.

Bazarghi and his Smash Room team.
The father-of-two's second Smash Room has officially been recognised as the largest in the world. Source: Supplied (Supplied)

“It was probably the worst time mentally for me and there were so many things going on,” the father of two teenagers explained. "I was in a really dark place.”

Struggling to manage his anxiety and depression, Bazarghi found himself drinking about four litres of vodka in a week. “I’d go through about half a litre every night to numb the feelings,” he said.

And then he tried to sell his tapware company Meir. “I went to a broker and was offered more money than I ever thought I’d get in my life,” Bazerghi explained, saying he was ready to give it up.

Fortunately, it was at this time the businessman discovered the Entrepreneurs' Organisation (EO), a global not-for-profit organisation for millionaire business founders or co-founders. With its support Bazerghi's outlook changed and he decided to keep hold of the business, which is expected to make $12 million this year.

He also opened a second Smash Room in Moorabbin in 2023 and it's been recognised as the largest in the world.

Bazerghi with his employees (right) and a smash room being used by two women (left).
Bazerghi is proud of his successful ventures but mostly wants to make people smile. Source: Supplied

But the money and success is not why Bazerghi does what he does.

“The reason we exist is to make people smile,” he said. “And the fact I can do that makes me happy and that's what makes me sleep better at night.

“I've created something that maybe my sister would have enjoyed and it might have helped her with her mental health, and that's what makes me proud.”

If you're struggling, know that help is available 24/7. Lifeline: Call 13 11 14, text 0477 13 11 14 or chat online. Beyond Blue: Call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.

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