My First Job
• Founder and CEO, Kogan
When I was nine I had a little golf ball selling business. My family and I lived in the housing commission flats in Elsternwick and I used to walk past the local golf course on my way to tennis lessons. I saw lots of golf balls that had been hit out of the range. I knew golf balls sold for about $2 each, so I started collecting the lost golf balls.
I took them home, washed them and put them in egg cartons. I sold them for 50c at the golf course.
I used to make $20 to $30 a weekend and I spent most of it on lollies at the milkbar. I was king of the milkbar! I bought whatever I liked, but my favourites were Warheads, snakes and Paddle Pops.
I could also have lunch orders, which was a huge luxury at our school where a lot of the kids came from the commission flats.
I sold the golf balls for a couple of years before I started washing cars.
I used to wash my parents’ car for $5, but I knew the professional car washes were charging $40. So I bought a chamois and some hoses and started door-knocking. I washed cars for $40.
Pretty soon people started making appointments and I had to get three or four mates on board to help me. I printed some pamphlets and we began washing cars not just in Elsternwick, but Brighton and Elwood too. I made $200 to $400 most weekends.
I used the money to upgrade my computer, buy new mobile phones every two months – I loved mobile phones – and just saved a lot of it.
So while other kids were playing video games, I was out there working.
I don’t regret it. Even though I spent a lot of time wheeling and dealing, I still got up to a lot of mischief. My childhood wasn’t wasted because I loved doing it.
But it did create some problems. My parents were frustrated by the fact they couldn’t discipline me with money. I never asked for pocket money because I was financially self-sufficient at a young age. If I wanted to go to the movies, I did. If I wanted to buy myself a new computer, I did.
I was five when my parents and I left Russia and came to Australia in 1989. We had $90. I watched mum and dad work three to four jobs at a time and I was used to hearing, “Sorry, we can’t afford it”.
I realised at a young age how important it was to work. The want to work played a big part in my personal development and from a very young age I knew I wanted to be a businessman.
People ask me if I got my business skills from my parents, but I’d say no because entrepreneurship wasn’t really encouraged in communist Russia. But recently an elderly gentleman approached me after I gave a talk at an entrepreneurs workshop. He said I had learned more from my parents than I knew.
He said what it takes to be an immigrant is similar to what it takes to be an entrepreneur. You have to drop everything, travel into unknown territory, take a massive risk and work your arse off for an opportunity that may not even pay off.
He was right. My parents played a big part in my drive and determination.
And my first job selling golf balls definitely shaped me to be the sort of person I am today. If I see an opportunity, I don’t wait for things to happen. I go out there and go for it.