From the Ashes: Bankruptcy to Boom

Natasha Sholl By Natasha Sholl | 17 Apr 2019

The shared learning that occurs within the e-commerce industry is phenomenal. But learning about success is about being honest about the failures that preceded it.

We’ve all seen the ‘What Success Looks Like’ meme. On one side, what people think it looks like: a straight trajectory gradually making its way up diagonally. On the other side, what success really looks like: a squiggly line, curving up and down and around, eventually landing in the same spot as the image by its side. While this is true of any business, the e-commerce world is rife with such tales of squiggly, roller-coaster-like journeys to ‘success’.

Founder of Retail Global, Phil Leahy, is no stranger to this tangled mess on the way to the top. Leahy was Vice Chairman of radio station KISSFM Melbourne, and Co-founder of Rhythm FM Sydney and Brisbane radio networks. In 2001, his network went into liquidation and Phil was forced to declare bankruptcy.

With this major life event, Phil began selling his music memorabilia (left over from his days as an Executive at Sony Music) which included signed records and other collectables to help him get by. One of the first things he sold was a signed SilverChair album for $100.

From this, he soon became Australia’s number one eBay seller for highest volume of sales in all seller categories, retailing CDs and DVDs. He was selling 5,000 units a week, 65 percent of which was exported to overseas buyers. Leahy was also the first Australian to use Amazon to sell to the UK. The accidental business grew 100 percent every year since it began and turned into a $5 million business. Leahy’s journey is just one example of a flourishing business emerging from the wreckage of a past failure.

Through his e-commerce growth, Leahy found that many Australians lacked the knowledge of how to expand globally. To help educate budding entrepreneurs, he launched Retail Global, an annual conference geared towards helping e-commerce SMEs and enterprise retailers tackle overseas marketplaces.

“I truly believe every step in my life led me to Retail Global and a large part of that was though shared knowledge and education,” says Leahy. “Retail Global has become a success for that exact reason; people share what they have learnt to help others prosper – how they failed, how they succeeded, tips and tricks.”

“I saw a similar conference model work in the United States and knew I had to replicate it in Australia. I wanted the opportunity for other Australians to have access to the same information I was obtaining in overseas conferences and also to get a group of like-minded retailers in a room together to help each other. That’s how the conference was born and established. Education is the key to success, and we share secrets without fear,” Leahy adds.

It has been thirteen years since Retail Global’s inception. This year it will be held in the Gold Coast from 29 to 31 May at the Gold Coast Convention Centre with speakers including Alexander de Leon, Head of Product Marketing at Instagram, Brittany Rinker, Program Manager at Amazon, Kristian Haigh, Senior Director B2C at eBay and Naomi Simson, Founder of RedBalloon and Shark Tank Judge.

Retail Global is about delivering fantastic content to like-minded individuals looking to grow and improve their businesses. The game is constantly changing at a rapid rate and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve and learn from others,” says Phil.

Never miss our best stories. Sign up for Power Retail’s free weekly newsletter and find our daily stories on FacebookTwitterand LinkedIn.