Jock Fairweather - Little Tokyo Two

Jock Fairweather is the founder and director of Little Tokyo Two, Brisbane's largest co-working and event space, based in The Capital.

Jock started his career by studying at the London College of Fashion, and afterwards he stayed in the UK to launch a women’s shoe label.

Now he is back home in Brisbane, and he runs Little Tokyo Two which acts as a launch pad for many of Brisbane’s start-ups.

As career paths go, it’s about as diverse as they come. So what prompted Jock’s latest venture of providing collective space for individual ideas?

“Working from home can be the worst – I did it for seven years and went stir crazy,” he remembers.

“It’s impossible to innovate, elaborate or create new and amazing things from just searching things online. If one person can cross-pollinate their ideas and skill set with another’s, then it can be really incredible and potentially game-changing.

“That’s one of the things I love about Brisbane,” he continues, reflecting on the success of the project which saw him named Young Business Person of the Year at the 2016 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards. 

“We’ve been successful here because our community has an overarching ethos whereby we select people based on their personality, their passion and their ability to add value to other people's projects. We have 67 mentors on the books here that help us out for free.” 

“People want to help each other here - the Chief Digital Officer, the Lord Mayor, the business community. You can get a lot of support and prove yourself here, if your idea is good enough. Brisbane is an amazing place for proof-of-concept.”

When asked about the future, Jock’s plans are clear, “I’d like to be able to expand the model so that we can help more people,” he says.

“We want to grow our spaces and software throughout South East Queensland, but beyond that my goal is to pair people with others in South East Asia, for economic, financial, or cultural mentoring, whatever they need.” 

A true Brisbane success story, it’s definitely a (co-working) space to watch.   

What is your greatest business learning?

  • Sales - the best form of capital raising is revenue. I see countless companies who come to me with a product which they have never validated or pre-sold, asking for money. The key to business is user-centric design; build exactly what your target customer will buy.
  • Team - it took me two years to find my perfect team. A team that needs no micromanaging, that believes in the company and feels like they own it. Hire slow and fire fast, hiring terrible people will cost you. I find that taking on interns and then hiring them after they prove themselves is effective, or hiring wizards for a short term project works well, then they can create huge change or processes and replace themselves when they need to move on.
  • Integrity - The only rule in business is: do what you say you are going to do. 

What is your greatest business success?

By far it was to attract, foster and enable the team that I have. 

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

  • What exactly are you doing it for? Is it to free up time? To become a unicorn? To follow your passion? To create another revenue stream? These are all very different kinds of business. Make sure your 'idea' has stemmed from a unique insight that solves a real problem.
  • How much time are you willing to commit? Successful businesses are run full time, and I mean full time.
  • Do you love learning? To stay relevant you must absorb information continuously, from everywhere. 

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Patience. Not everyone can work in chaos and you must respect that. 

What have you found to be the most effective way to promote your business?

Public speaking is great, but word of mouth is the best. For two years we survived with basically no marketing budget. 

How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?

Feedly, Tech Crunch, Blinkest, a bunch of really smart friends who send me awesome articles, and listening to podcasts while I walk around the river each morning. 

Where have you sought business advice?

From people I trust and who have achieved what I would like to achieve. Surround yourself with the right people so that you can be the oracle when people come to you.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

The one thing that no-one understands is cash flow. If there’s one point in the year when your outgoings outweigh what’s coming in then you’re effectively in debt for a while. It’s about the time management of your money. 

How do you manage risk?

I hire people that are more risk-averse than I am. But in general, as any company should, we validate what we are going to do before we do it, with those who will use it. 

What value do you place in business plans and why?

China has proven that five year plans work. I have an overall goal which I have worked backwards from, but I can only generally predict one year in advance. It is important to work in quarters, so that you can always review the way the industry and your competition are going. 

02 May 2017