Finance Work The secrets to becoming a self-made millionaire

The secrets to becoming a self-made millionaire

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Surely you’ve daydreamed at least once of being your own boss, building a company from scratch and becoming the next Bill Gates.

So long as you’re prepared to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and aren’t looking for ways to get rich quick, then read on because The New Daily has interviewed five millionaires to uncover the secrets of self-made success.

We purposefully didn’t talk to any Gina Reinhardts or James Packers – those who were born to money. The one thing each of our interviewees has in common, aside from wealth, is personal responsibility for their stories of triumph.

Making millions may sound wonderful, but it sure doesn’t sound easy.

Annette Sym. Source: Supplied.
Annette Sym. Source: Supplied.

It’s hard work becoming a millionaire

Not only has Annette Sym become a millionaire from her series of low fat cookbooks, she has used her own recipes to lose 75 kilos.

“I was making all these recipes to help me lose the weight, like cheesecakes and pies and cookies and lots of great, fabulous food and I decided that I’d put a cookbook together.”

For Ms Sym, as with every one of these winners at life, wealth came not as the lucky consequence of birth, but as the result of very hard work.

“I borrowed the money from my husband’s parents to do my first print run, because I didn’t have any and the banks weren’t interested in me.

“I used a bench in the kitchen to do all my work from. It’s just phenomenal to think of where I am today from where I began.

“People look at me and go, ‘Oh my god, she was so lucky.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, lucky I like to work hard’.”


The rise of Maureen Houssein-Mustafa from general manager of a beauty salon to number 29 on this year’s BRW Rich Women list, with an estimated fortune of $40 million, is a similar tale of extreme dedication.

Her beauty school, Australasian College, is now in the mainstream of training providers, offering degrees in hair, beauty and make-up.

But in the beginning, Ms Houssein-Mustafa was an outsider, struggling to provide the quality education she thought was sorely lacking in the beauty industry.

For the first 15 years, she would work six or even seven days, sometimes up to 11 hours a day.

“I didn’t say it was too hard. I didn’t say I’m too tired. I didn’t say I didn’t like it. This went on for years.”

Aside from sheer effort, Maureen credits her carefulness with money for pulling her through.

“I drove a Holden Barina for the first 15 years of my business life.

“For me, when it was a choice between a $10,000 holiday or a new machine for the college, it went to the college.

“You can’t have the Mercedes and the holidays and the business. You’ve got to really commit yourself, dedicate yourself.”

Fred Schebesta. Source: Supplied.
Fred Schebesta. Source: Supplied.


Fred Schebesta, who co-founded the very successful comparison website, thinks that the majority of self-made millionaires are quiet, unassuming people who work hard and keep a close eye on their money.

“I actually think the self-made millionaires, they don’t talk about it. It’s very quiet,” he says.

“They just put away savings throughout their life, live in a not-too-expensive neighbourhood, pay off the house, and I think that’s the everyday Australian millionaire.

“It’s something I’ve always been big on, saving money. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been like that.

“I think every entrepreneur needs to be quite frugal, because it enables them to take risks that they otherwise couldn’t take if they weren’t financially stable.”

Vision, passion and brand

Phil Di Bella, owner of Di Bella Coffee, attributes his success to a very simple formula.

“Anyone can become a millionaire if they have a vision, passion and a brand,” he says.

Phil started with $5,000 and a drive to create what he called “the ultimate coffee experience.”

“A lot of people have a vision and something they’re passionate about, but they fall over the last hurdle because they haven’t created a brand.”

From very humble beginnings when “no one wanted to know about me or my product,” Mr Di Bella has developed something very unique – the only coffee company in Australia to buy its entire product direct from farmers.

“We wanted to create a connection between a person and their coffee by having a brand of excellence. That’s why we’re really careful where we put our product,” he says.

“We don’t put it on supermarket shelves. We’re predominantly cafes and restaurants. So when people see our brand, they know they’re going to have a great cup of coffee every time.”

No shortcuts

An auto electrician from Townsville, Greg Leslie turned a ute and a tool box into a business with an annual turnover of $4.4 million.

His is the most successful in the Battery World franchise network of 82 stores, and he knows well the allure of becoming a millionaire.

“When you are growing up all you think about is making a million dollars. That’s the goal everyone sets for themselves so cracking that still stands as pretty momentous. It is that Holy Grail of business,” he says.

“Having had the success we have I often get asked what is the secret? Those who have asked leave a little disappointed when I tell them there is no secret. Success is available to everyone who will make the conscious decision to take action.”