Anneke van den Broek: a love of pets inspired a new start

Anneke van den Broek
Woof: it pays to listen to your customers

Anneke van den Broek started out in business early – as a child in Sydney, she bred mice and sold them to her local pet shop for 40 Australian cents each, says Sheree Mutton in the Daily Mail. Today, she is the founder of Rufus & Coco, a multi-million-dollar pet health and beauty business.

The idea came from her love of animals. “Having owned more than 40 pets in my life, I often struggled to find high-quality, natural and fashionable products,” she says. In 2008 she left a successful career in marketing to set up the firm after drafting a business plan on a cocktail napkin on a trip in Bali.

Initially the company sold most of its products through pet shops, says Alexis Carey on New.com.au. But business took off in 2010 when Van den Broek finally struck a deal with Australian grocery giant Woolworths, after three previous rejections. Rival chain Coles rapidly followed suit, and in 2014 the firm made more than A$12m in sales via the two supermarkets alone. Today, Rufus & Coco’s goods are sold across the world.

Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs? You must “love what you do” to keep going “through the inevitable setbacks”, she tells Mutton. And “listen to your customers. If they don’t like what you are doing, you have no business.”


How I mapped the internet for firms

Liz Fulham, CEO of e-commerce firm SalesOptimize

Liz Fulham, CEO of e-commerce firm SalesOptimize, spent much of her career at big technology companies, says Sandra O’Connell in The Sunday Times. While head of telesales for the European unit of payments specialist PayPal, she had an idea “for a search engine that would scan the internet” for online shops, and add in-depth data on key contacts for each one. This data could then be sold on as sales leads to other firms. As Fulham puts it: “if you want to find out who the online retailers are so you can sell them products and services, SalesOptimize helps you do that. We map the internet.”

She left in 2013 to set up the business, with the help of a €50,000 government grant. “I had three kids but no mortgage, because I had bought my first house at age 22 and paid it off by 30.” SalesOptimize went live in 2016. It has more than 200 customers, 18 staff, and annual turnover of more than €1m.


Burnout became my turning point

David Pong

In 2013, aged 23, David Pong was juggling two jobs, a start-up firm, and a business degree. He went travelling in Australia and was promptly floored by his allergies, he tells Karen Gilchrist on CNBC. “I was feeling really burnt out.” He returned home to Singapore and quit his jobs, keen “to find a project that would allow him to give back to society”.

Five years on, he is one of the co-founders of water filtration group WateROAM, which he and environmental engineering students Vincent Loka and Lim Chong Tee set up as part of a Singapore-government-backed scheme. The trio pooled their savings of S$10,000 (US$7,600) to develop a lightweight pump that can be attached to a central water source to provide clean water to 100 people for up to two years. It sells for $399. In 2016 the firm broke even, and as of April 2018 it has provided clean water for over 30,000 people across southeast Asia.


Greenland’s road to independence

Cabin in Greenland

One perhaps unexpected consequence of climate change is that it has buoyed the campaign for independence for Greenland, currently a self-governing territory of Denmark. An ice sheet covers roughly 80% of the island – but it is melting, says The Economist. And as it recedes, Greenland’s vast reserves of rare-earth metals are becoming easier to access, while more areas are opening up to tourism.

For now, fish account for around 90% of Greenland’s exports, and Danish subsidies fund more than a third of Greenland’s public spending. But the promise of new revenue streams from mining and tourism has led many of Greenland’s politicians to believe that they could soon “wean the territory off Danish handouts”, says The Economist. “We want to rid ourselves of the block grant because we want independence,” says Prime Minister Kim Kielsen, whose ruling centre-left Siumut party won the most votes in an election last month.

Chinese investment is seen as one potential route to independence. “One Chinese-financed mine in Greenland’s south is reckoned to contain the world’s second-largest deposits of rare earths.” Kielsen is also keen to sell Greenland to Chinese tourists. “As Greenland drifts away from its old colonial master, it might need to worry about becoming a vassal state of another,” warns The Economist.

Yet commodity riches may prove a pipe dream, says Peter Levring on Bloomberg. Prices have rallied in recent years, but investments in oil and mineral exploration in Greenland peaked at more than $850m in 2011 and fell below $80m in 2016. That won’t replace those Danish subsidies. So while most Greenlanders want independence, as Ulrik Pram Gad of Denmark’s Aalborg University says, the question is still “when and how”.