Personal Growth

Disruptive DNA: Mentoring Entreprenaissance

December 2016

Creel Price has many claims to fame; being described by Virgin boss Richard Branson as “the living breathing definition of an entrepreneur" is just one of them.

Now in his mid-forties, the boy from Cowra - a small town in Central Western NSW - has come a long way from his first foray into entrepreneurship of selling strawberries from his family's farm, through a number of business ventures culminating in the sale of his flagship company Blueprint Management (co-founded with Trevor Folsom) for $109 million in 2006.

Since then he has not taken a break, concentrating on a wide variety of socially responsible and philanthropic activities. Add mountain-climbing and elephant polo to the mix and is it clear that Price is not a run-of-the-mill entrepreneur.

Price's first teenage business venture was prompted by his yearning for a Commodore 64. He planted 1,000 strawberry plants in his first year and soon made enough to buy his coveted computer. Over three years his strawberry-production venture grew to 3,000 plants, becoming his longest pre-college project.

Describing himself as a “necessity entrepreneur," Price started several other short-term ventures to help support his family, with mixed results. These included honey production, the cross-breeding of feral goats with angora goats and wooden spoon holders.

disruptiveDNA-creel-price-feature2.jpg

The Value of Sales Skills

Leaving school, Creel enrolled in a business degree at Australian National University - and while in college, began his own landscaping business. He graduated in 1992, but finding a job was a challenge: he received more than 300 rejection letters before finding a sales position at Household Financial Services.

Price describes the company as innovative as they rewarded employees based on merit rather than on position or seniority. Soon, Price was leading the sales team. He firmly believes that “any employee needs to be good at sales" - something particularly true for entrepreneurs, he says.

Three years later, Avco Financial took over the company. Price received a bonus and an offer to remain with Avco, (itself acquired by GE Capital in 1999) - but he declined, instead taking a year off to travel.

Investible: connecting aspiring entrepreneurs with angel investors

The Turning Point

On his return, with his batteries recharged, he founded Blueprint Management Group with a friend, Trevor Folsom, who was also from country NSW. Each invested just $5,000 of their own cash in start-up capital. The company provided outsourced call centre services to large corporations.

Within a decade, they had grown the business to 1,000 employees and sold it for $109 million.

Price says part of the success of that business was timing: he was in the right place as new marketing techniques (focusing on customer retention and more products per customer) emerged in Australia. But to this day, the legacy he is most proud of leaving at Blueprint is the company's culture. He says his best 'mistake' was hiring a young woman over the phone, based on a gut reaction. She became one of his most loyal and longest serving staff members.

The two founders grew Blueprint organically, without any additional investment from either the founders or third parties. Creel says his best and worst career moments stem from the Blueprint start-up phase. The classic dilemma was true—“needing clients to get a reputation and needing a reputation to get clients". He fondly remembers the company's first large cheque, a $30,000 sum from ANZ Stockbroking for ticket sales for the Olympic Stadium in Sydney.

Selling the company meant Price could "retire" in 2007 - at the age of 35.

 

"I call it the Entreprenaissance"

Post-retirement

His financial security assured, Price wasn't the type to sit by a pool sipping exotic cocktails. He realised he now had the free time to concentrate on his personal goals: to foster entrepreneurship globally and in a way that is socially responsible, with profit not the sole aim.

He says the world is entering a new era where entrepreneurial spirit will drive people to create successful businesses that change the world for the better. "I call it the Entreprenaissance," he says.

To date he has founded or been involved in a myriad of projects, which include:

  • Global Ethics Australia – From 2007-2010 Price was the founding director and chairman, raising $5 million for Play Pumps in Africa from global One Water Sales.
  • Global Accelerator­—in 2014, Price joined a handful of other entrepreneurs to help the UN tackle global challenges
  • Halogen Foundation Australia—From 2013-2015, Price was a director of this not-for-profit social enterprise that aims to inspire leadership in primary and secondary school students.
  • Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Since 2011, Price has selected Australian entrepreneurship for inclusion in his unique training course. Orienteering, climbing and other activities are used as a metaphor for business success. Price considers this far better than the Silicon Valley case studies presented in business school, given that “entrepreneurs have a short attention span."

Focus is Key

Price is careful not to take on too much and compares his desire to limit his activities to using the sun and a magnifying glass to ignite pieces of paper. It is easy to ignite a single piece of paper but if the glass is constantly moving to other pieces of paper, none will ignite.

Therefore, Price currently devotes his time primarily in encouraging young entrepreneurs (providing resources that he had to discover for himself in his youth) and in helping start-ups obtain capital.

The Club Kidpreneur Foundation was founded in October 2010 and fosters entrepreneurship in 8-12 year-olds. Addressing the safety concerns of parents, the organisation is a non-profit and helps to create “an environment where kids can use their imagination and initiative. To date, product-based activities have generated half a million for Australian charities.

To accelerate start-up growth for existing entrepreneurs, Price and his former Blueprint partner founded the for-profit Investible, which aims to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with angel investors. To aid decision making a proprietary app called Fingerprint for Success allows entrepreneurs and investors to benchmark talent.

He also continues to work with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

However, Creel does not lead a sedate lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination. He is not always in the office and even during his time in Blueprint, he and the company staff went on strenuous trips that included cycling from Bangkok to Saigon and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It fact, it was during this African trip that Price was inspired by Sir Richard Branson's autobiography.

Price also captained the Australian team in the 2009 World Elephant Polo Championships.

As Price points out, thinking outside the box and disrupting conventional business models is often necessary when solving problems. He remains risk-averse and has invented a concept called decisionship “where decisions are made without the angst".

What does the future hold? With two young kids (3 and 5) that anchor him in Australia and his worst fear - of dying before his socially beneficial ambitions are realised - driving him to achieve, Price is focused on socially responsible projects in Australia for the moment.

But he's not ruling out future expansion to other countries. After all, there's a whole world out there just waiting for an Entreprenaissance to happen.