MY MONEY

How Naomi Simson turned $25,000 into the RedBalloon empire

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Naomi Simson is the lady in red.

As an entrepreneur she founded online experience and gift retailer RedBalloon in 2001 with a $25,000 investment and ran it from her home, drawing on her marketing experience at KPMG, IMB, Apple and Ansett to make the concept work.

She has been blogging for a decade at NaomiSimson.com, is a professional speaker, author of Live What You Love and Ready To Soar, and a shark on business reality show Shark Tank Australia.

naomi simson adrenaline redballoon

What was your first job?

My first job was at the local toy store. I got the job just before the Christmas rush and I worked Friday night and Saturday morning. My first paycheck came in a little white envelope (I still have it) - $5.12 for seven hours work as a shop assistant. After work on that Friday night I had dinner with my new co-workers. I had the cheapest thing on the menu - spaghetti - which set me back $12, or more than two weeks' wages. My first job taught me the value of money. I began to see things in terms of how many hours I had to work to pay for them.

What's the best money advice you've received?

That money is like water - it sometimes needs to be dammed, but most times it needs to flow. It provides nourishment. I remember reading this quote from Lynne Twist, which I have referred to many times. "Money is like water. It can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love. Money moving in the direction of our highest commitments nourishes our world and ourselves. What you appreciate appreciates. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands. Collaboration creates prosperity. True abundance flows from enough; never from more. Money carries our intention. If we use it with integrity, then it carries integrity forward."

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Investing in my own education, and continually learning, then backing myself. Knowing I could count on myself to work hard, listen deeply, and create something that impacted many. Creating the Big Red Group [including RedBalloon which was founded in 2001) with business partner David Anderson. It sure has kept me interested, learning and challenged for close to 20 years. It has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, and delivered close to eight million customers to our 2000 small business customers. Money is meant to flow.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Some of those Sharktank businesses were not quite what we expected. Worst investment by far a business by the name of Little Fairy Door. But perhaps I should not speak ill of the 'dead'.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Paints and Belgian canvasses. I love to paint but it is a very indulgent hobby. Perhaps at some point this will be my new life.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

I'd invest it in the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation. I have been a governor for many years and the work that is being done on the prevention and cure of CP is really amazing. $10,000 would make all the difference to one of the research projects.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

A ferry ticket on Sydney Harbour from the city to Manly, some fish and chips and sit on the beach with maybe a glass of rose. Then I would have the space to think about what next, where next and who next.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

A legacy and inheritance are two very different things. I am intentional about my purpose to shift the way people experience life and that job seems to be getting bigger and bigger. When I leave the world I plan to leave it in better shape than I came into it. You need the resources to change the world, as well as the vision. So I plan to do as much as I can before my demise to get that on track. And also do a lot of 'SKIing' (Spend the Kids Inheritance)

What changes would you like to see with the way people regard money?

Money must flow, and discount buying and perpetual haggling over price does nothing to put much-needed margin in business. Profit is essential for our economic growth and stability. It is not wrong, it is essential. At the same time I cannot stand over charging or obvious gouging. People work hard for their money - finding the balance for what is fair is important.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...
... the world go around.

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Julia Newbould is a financial writer and commentator with a background in journalism. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.
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