TWO Brisbane boys are clicking their way to million-dollar success in just three years, growing their search engine marketing agency from a home project to a business with more than 38 employees and a sizeable turnover.
University mates Nic Blair, 27, and Michael Bell, 29, are the brains behind Search Factory, a business that is focused on delivering content marketing and online search solutions for medium- to large-sized businesses.
Yet, both Blair and Bell will confirm that the road to success certainly doesn’t come easy, having experienced the hardships of eight failed businesses.
The young guns, from Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, first met nine years ago when they were studying business at the University of the Sunshine Coast and, since then, have endured a roller-coaster of highs and lows throughout their careers.
Their days as entrepreneurs hail back to business ventures they attempted together from home offices at their parents house – including a digital marketing agency, an online reverse auction business, a flash games website, and a website targeting Australia’s mixed martial arts industry.
Disappointingly for the duo, all businesses failed, with one taking only four days to go belly up.
To earn a living, Blair started working as a furniture removalist for his Dad’s company and Bell took up a part-time job at a liquor shop – both gigs were meant to be a temporary solution, but two years passed and they were still there.
Blair had borrowed $25,000 from the bank to fund the majority of their business ventures, while Bell had handed over $10,000 of personal savings, originally for his home loan deposit and invested an extra $18,500 from the sale of his car.
For Blair, reality hit when he was in arrears by $600 on his business loan repayments.
“The bank was calling me for a month, saying that I was behind in repayments, so in the end we had no choice, we had to finish what we were doing and get real jobs,” said Blair.
“It was a period of making a couple of hundred dollars a week, learning heaps, making lots of mistakes and losing a bit of money,” he said.
At the same time, Bell was only earning $200 a week while his wife worked two separate jobs to pay the rent and support her husband.
Living week to week was taking its toll, so Blair and Bell discussed their individual situations and decided it was time to raise the white flag and call it quits.
By the end of 2009, Blair and Bell decided to go their separate ways, after eight failed business ventures and little money to their names.In 2010, Blair moved to Flight Centre to work within the company’s digital marketing team and Bell began at a boutique search-engine marketing agency, also in Brisbane.
When another job became available at Flight Centre, Bell also moved across to join Blair, once again.
It wasn’t long before Blair launched two more businesses – one being Search Factory in 2011 – and he called on Bell to be his wingman and help grow the business.
By January 2012, Search Factory had gained some strong momentum and was in a good position financially, and in March 2012 they moved into an office in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
In November 2012, Bell bought a 50% share in Search Factory and the rest was history.
Today, the company employs 38 staff – 22 full-time and 16 part-time – and had a revenue turnover of more than $1.3million in the past financial year (2012/2013).
Bell said the duo had faced several challenges together, but were now fortunate to be enjoying the luxuries of working with an awesome group of people in a new, much larger, Fortitude Valley office.
“Search engine marketing is what we know inside out, so we are committed to sharing and supporting local businesses in their quest to generate strong enquiries through online methods,” said Bell.
“We have never been ones to give up, so this year we want to share our positivity and give back, whether that be participating in a fun run or sleeping out with the homeless.”
Both Bell and Blair are excited about the possibilities for the year ahead, with predictions set high for even further growth.