You’d be forgiven for thinking Junkee Media founder, Tim Duggan, had a fairly easy road to success looking at the media empire he built alongside his business partner, Neil Ackland.
But his path to cult status, which is also the name of his first book, took more than a decade of mistakes, he tells Yahoo Finance.
“The book [Cult Status] is written in hindsight,” he said. “So it’s been almost a decade and a half of figuring out the wrong way of doing things, of making mistakes, of taking one step forward and two steps backwards.”
And while you’d also be forgiven for thinking Junkee Media as we know and love it today, which is backed by parent company oOh!media, was the end goal for Duggan all along, he admits there was never a set plan.
“Everything that has evolved from Junkee - we had no plan,” he said. “We had no idea, we just kind of figured it out as we went, and made lots of mistakes.”
And so Cult Status is the handbook to entrepreneurism Duggan never had.
“It’s almost a gift and guide to people, to say, ‘Look at all the mistakes that I have made, and the dozens of entrepreneurs that I spoke with’. And to then say, ‘Look at all of the good things that they figured out from those mistakes’.”
Comprising seven vital steps to building a brand with an extremely engaged audience that lives and breathes your product, Cult Status is a distillation of the business experiences of cult brands like Nexba and Who Gives A Crap.
But there’s one caveat: “these are seven steps, but they’re not seven easy steps,” Duggan says.
Mistakes are good - even if they cost $80,000
There’s a whole chapter in the book titled, It’s OK To F**k Up, because it is.
“The most interesting thing was, every single person I spoke with for the book, when I asked to talk about their failures, they all said, ‘Where do you want me to start?’”
One entrepreneur Duggan interviewed for Cult Status actually runs “F**k Up Nights”, which are social gatherings where strangers come together with two rules: they must meet someone new, and they must share a mistake they’ve made.
And Duggan recalls his own failures, starting with losing $80,000 in one night.
He threw a LGBT dance party at Sydney Entertainment Centre on borrowed cash hoping to sell 4,000 tickets. He sold 3,000, but couldn’t cover costs.
And there’s more.
“We started a ticketing business that almost broke Neil Ackland, we tried to expand In the Mix, which was our dance music title in the US, and lost a lot of money there. We have closed down almost more titles than we’ve started,” he said.
“But every single mistake we’ve made along the way has taught us something, and we wouldn’t be the company we are today, and I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it wasn’t for those.”
Why should I care about having cult status?
Quality is better than quantity - even in the business world.
“Right now, anyone can start a company, and that is amazing because it means that the ability to do it is almost democratised,” Duggan said.
“However, it also means that there’s so much competition for people’s attention.
“And when there’s so much noise out there on social media - literally, brands yelling at you to buy from them - the businesses that win are the ones that really connect with people.”
And connection stems from purpose, Duggan said.
“People need to understand what the purpose of that business is, and know that it aligns with their own personal purpose,” he said.
“So, the businesses that are winning are the ones that are building this community of people around it, who all subscribe to the same philosophy.
“It’s not the size of the audience - you don't need to have a million people buying your product or service - you just need to connect with enough people that make it worthwhile and they really believe in your mission.”
And if you believe you have a purpose that’s worth a business, now’s the time to really give it a go, Duggan said.
‘I want to inspire people to think that this is a possibility,” he said.
”Given how much - and how quickly - the world is changing at the moment, it is a really shitty time for a lot of people, but within that, there’s also some opportunities for entire industries that are changing before our eyes.
“Things that might have taken 10 years are happening in 10 weeks. And out of the rubble of that, there is going to be so much opportunity, and I really think that Gen Zers and millennials are best placed to take advantage of that opportunity.”
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