He is only 23, but is already a successful entrepreneur in his own right.
When Calvin Coyles, now a Social entrepreneur and international speaker, was still a student, he set up his Bright Lights business – a non-profit organisation to help struggling businesses in Australia. It became so successful that within six months it had 150 employees.
Upon graduation last year, he teamed up with Chris Howard, a leader in the personal development field – and became its General Manager to help establish Howard’s company, Rock House Global in Bali. He has since left, to set up Calvin Coyles International – his own company.
I interviewed Calvin – a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Western Australia – on his entrepreneurial exploits and picked his brains on the secrets to what makes him such a success.
Read on, to get some insider secrets from this talented young man.
Calvin, what have you been doing since you graduated with your business degree?
I graduated in November 2012 and then worked with Chris Howard to help build Rock House in Bali.
Then I came back to Australia and launched Calvin Coyles International. This is the business I am working with, at the moment. We have been doing seminars and leadership training and lots of personal development work using neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and coaching, so that’s the business I started since I left Rock House.
I have just launched a new programme called Young Ready Hungry TV too. It is a weekly TV channel that links up to YouTube and we are giving people inspiration on how to improve their lives and becoming better leaders and going out to change the world. Each week, there is a 10-minute inspirational video with some strategies included in that as well. It is aimed at young professionals so that they can go out there and do some really cool stuff. We have the first season filmed and it is looking really good.
Please share with us, how you were linked to Chris Howard at Rock House?
I was really inspired by Chris and the personal development work that he has done. He was in a position to utilise my skills and expertise and I was really excited to learn from him and to help grow his business as well. So I got involved because what I really respect is the work that he has done around the world to change people’s lives.
What is really fantastic is the opportunity for me to go there and work closely with someone that I admire in the field of personal development and NLP. Learning from one of the best in the field was something I couldn’t refuse.
Tell us something about your Bright Lights business.
The Bright Lights group in Australia is one of my companies. It is a non-profit organisation and I do a lot of volunteer work with the group.
I set up this at the beginning of 2012 and we grew from zero to 150 employees in about six months.
We set it up as a way of helping small businesses that were struggling and to help university students get some real experience.
What made you decide to take the entrepreneurial path?
I grew up in an environment where people were running small businesses, so I picked up a lot of business skills along the way by just getting involved with them. But when I started to travel, I saw that the life I wanted to live was going to be very different to one as an employee in a normal 9 to 5 job.
There were always three rules when I was picking a job. Firstly, I had to really enjoy what I was doing. Secondly, I had to have a challenge in my work and the third was that the job had to pay really well. You can certainly love what you are doing and can be challenged by it, but few people get paid really well by working for others. I saw entrepreneurialism and starting and creating businesses as something that was a great pathway for me to live the life that I wanted but at the same time, to empower other people.
Does your age help or hinder you in your success?
In some areas, my age has hindered me, but there are so many opportunities for young people nowadays. They can go out there and do what they really want.
At Calvin Coyles International, we have grown so much and all of our goals were shattered within three months. I haven’t worked with anyone over the age of 35 years old, so 99% of our business has all come from people under the age of 35 and the reason why these people in this age group are working with me, is that they can relate to me. They are also young and we have a similar connection and experience. So I think my age is the biggest asset I’ve got in the sense that if you look at the more established players in the industry, they are all in their 40s, 50s and 60s and to know that I’ve got a similar skills set to them and I’ve got 20 years ahead of them is a big plus for me. So I think my age is a real asset and if someone else can’t see that, then it’s too bad for them.
What do you think has contributed to your entrepreneurial success so far?
My willingness to invest in myself. I have invested in myself more than anyone else I know. I have attended training courses, seminars and have read books, but while a lot of people go out there and get a job and make some quick money, I was going out there building businesses such as my Bright Lights Organization and working with volunteers.
There were a lot of things that I did, which didn’t work out so well, but I still did them and it was a great learning experience and while everyone else was doing the normal things, I was investing in myself and I am really fortunate that my investment is paying dividends now.
It is about my willingness to attend courses and seminars, to read books and to invest in learning. It is just about the mobility to continue learning, to develop and to grow.
What are the biggest challenges to your entrepreneurial success?
I think the biggest challenge so far has probably been my age. It has not held me back, but when you are younger, you don’t traditionally have the same level of experience as you do when you are older. The more experience I have, the better I get. The biggest challenge for me was going out there and trying to find new opportunities to learn and develop and grow.
Another big challenge would be trying to create a balance in life. Everyone struggles with that, but for me, it’s been particularly difficult with me being in a long-term relationship, still pursuing my goals and dreams and wanting to have health as a key priority in life as well. It is trying to have a work-life balance. You could say that I am enjoying my work too much to spend time outside work! Yeah, but spending time outside work is also a challenge at times, especially because there is always someone else to help and to work with, so striking a balance is important.
The other challenge is trying to communicate a vision to people at times – to people who don’t understand it. It is trying to communicate a vision to people and to engage them in a way that brings them along for the ride. That has been a challenge, but I am getting much better at doing that over the years.
People didn’t believe I could go out there and actually help them because I am young. In fact, I still get that today. The other day, I just had a seminar and we had a leadership-training programme, similar to what you did with Chris. I had a lady in the room who’s 33 years old. She came up to me at the end of the course and said, Calvin, when I got in here, I thought, what is this 23-year-old who’s 10 years younger than me, got to teach me about life and success? But I literally sat there for the entire three days and thought, oh my god, how is it that you know the stuff you know? I believe that you are as brilliant as you are for your age. I get that quite often, thinking I look pretty young, then when I start speaking and communicating, they say, actually you make a lot of sense.
Any tips for those who want to become successful entrepreneurs at a young age?
Just start really small and play around with business ideas. When I was really young, Dad and I used to play in the backyard and pretended that we had a little stall, making food and selling it. He called that playing shop.
Go out and print tee shirts and sell them to your friends and get an understanding of business principles. Start really small and make a little money and learn, keep things going, practice and apply and learn by example. There’s some really good examples of people who are into their second or third business and they are really successful because they have been applying what they have learnt. It is not difficult to be successful in business – just different. It is about applying and practising and have fun.
What is the one thing that you need to become a successful entrepreneur?
Just a burning desire and hunger to go out there and make things happen. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet are successful because they have gone out there, failed and come back many times. To me, it is having a big dream and making things happen. When you fail, just get back up again. There are so many stories of people who are far less intelligent and skilled but they go out there and make things happen as they have hunger. You don’t need any business experience, you don’t need an education or degree, you don’t need any of that stuff but what you need is a burning desire to go out there and make things happen and if you do that every day, then that’s all you need.
What advice do you have for those who want to become rich and successful?
If someone wants to be rich and successful, they have to go out there. Their intention has to add massive value to people’s lives. That is the only way that you can become rich in the long term. Anyone can be rich and successful in the short term, but for the long-term, you need to add massive value to people’s lives. So focus on how you can make a difference to the customer, and if you get the business stuff right, as in reinvesting your earning and ensuring that you are profitable, marketing in the right way and protecting your brand image, inspiring your team and motivating your team, you will have the makings of a very successful business – which will make you rich and successful at the same time.
Set a goal and ask the question, how can I make a difference to somebody’s life today? If you do that every day, then you will make an incredible difference and have more than enough money, because if you can make a difference in someone’s life, they will pay you for that. If you are not able to make someone’s life better, then you are just wasting your time.
So get the basics right and add value to customers and if you do that, you will have all the money that you will ever need and you will be wildly successful.
What is one thing an entrepreneur should never do in their quest for success?
Stop learning and growing – no matter how successful you are, keep on building up your knowledge. A great example here is Donald Trump, who is worth billions of dollars but he became complacent and stopped doing the things that made him successful, and then he lost it all and was a billion dollars down. He had to learn to stay successful. So the best thing is to learn to grow. You are dealing with people not only in Singapore or Australia, but everywhere around the world, so you must be at the forefront of the industry and always make sure that you are learning and growing and staying on top.
Any other tips for up and coming entrepreneurs?
Get out there and start with something small and keep on learning. Learn as much as you can and as fast as you can. Fail as fast as you can and just keep getting back up again and trying again. If you are ever doubting how far you have come, remember that you are so much further ahead of everyone else who has never even tried.
To find out more about Calvin Coyles International, you can check out their website at www.calvincoyles.com.
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