How this small business turned a failure into success

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We all know that working in small business often means working in isolation. Co-founders of Top Expert Belinda Watson and Avi Raz want to fix this and provide small businesses with a network of experts who they normally wouldn’t be able to access for advice. “Many small business owners work in isolation and don’t have a network of subject matter experts that they can call when they need to make a decision,” Belinda says.

They created Top Expert, an online marketplace that connects people with top industry experts for over the phone business advice. You fill in a request with your chosen expert, date and length of call and also outline what you’d like to discuss. Calls cost from $1 per minute and increase for certain experts.

Belinda adds, “Businesses that get advice tend to be more successful in the long run. So we decided to start a website where people working in small to medium businesses could access specific industry experts.

“In particular, when they need some advice on a business challenge or need to make a decision, they can come straight to us,” she said.  Top Expert launched in January 2017 and are based in Melbourne.

Top Expert is Belinda and Avi’s second start up. Prior to their recent launch, they launched another start-up that lasted one week. “We were very enthusiastic and naïve. We jumped into it head first,” Belinda said. “Basically, we developed a massive website and didn’t do enough validating and testing. We had a very broad offering and weren’t focussed enough.

“A few days after we launched, we turned to a start-up, marketing expert for some advice. He asked us some really thoughtful questions: Who validated our ideas? What was the feedback from the test audience? Where is our focus? The fact that we couldn’t answer those questions made us realise that we just made a very, very big error. “After running for a week, we decided to shut everything down. It was incredibly disappointing. I was absolutely devastated,” she said.

The one question that struck with Belinda was; what makes you get up in the morning? She says, “We wanted to help small business. We both knew that there was a gap in the market for small to medium businesses to access experts for advice. So we decided to do a major pivot of our idea and launch a website for people like ourselves when we need straight up, honest advice?”

It just goes to show that failure is important when starting a business. Failing the first time in business doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t work. Every business requires a stepping stone to success. And sometimes businesses have to slip on the first time in order to keep climbing.

Belinda Watson working on Top Expert

Like many other small business owners, Belinda and Avi faced many challenges when it came to building Top Expert. Belinda’s business partner works for himself. He often uses guesswork and internet research when he needs to make a business decision.

“Time and time again Avi wished he had a subject matter expert he could call on for a second opinion when he needed it.  Avi has actually spoken to some of the experts on Top Expert when he has needed advice about his other business. The advice has been enormously helpful,” she said.

Belinda and Avi have managed to score some incredible experts on Top Expert including Kate Morris from Adore Beauty, Shelley Barrett from ModelCo and Alex Houseman from Over the Moo.

Belinda said, “Kate wanted her earnings to be donated to charity. Some of our experts aren’t doing it for the money. They do it because they just want to help others. There is no other way for experts to be available to small businesses for adhoc advice. So this is a way for them to be accessible and manage the requests for advice they constantly receive.

“Successful business people often receive a lot of requests from people needing help. They have to make sure their time is valued. With over-the-phone-advice, experts don’t have to turn up anywhere or go anywhere – time isn’t wasted. It’s great because they can take a call while they’re at home, waiting at the airport, wherever is convenient for them. It’s a very efficient way. Since the phone calls are timed, it allows both parties to be very pointed about exactly what they need.”

One lesson that Belinda has learnt in her small business journey is that “everything is a learning process”. She adds, “The exciting part is learning new skills and applying those skills to make it work. There is much potential for growth and opportunity when you take on something solely on your own. You have 100% control over your business. It’s an incredibly empowering thought.”

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How this small business owner made her dream a reality

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