eCommerce Success Story: $349 Million Ruslan Kogan’s Humble Beginnings

eCommerce Success Story

The tale behind Ruslan Kogan’s beginnings is an astounding eCommerce Success Story.

Kogan is the son of Belorussian immigrants who arrived in Australia with just $90 in their pockets in 1989.

Yet this 35 year old has managed to build up his net worth to an estimated $349 Million (2014 valuation) – as a self-made entrepreneur.

From a young age, Ruslan Kogan has been hustling and living the entrepreneur life.

As immigrants, his parents were always in financially difficult positions, working 3-4 jobs, back to back.

He quickly realised as a child, if he wanted to buy things like playing cards or toys, he’d have to earn it himself.

His first opportunity came while walking to his tennis lessons as a child.

He noticed discarded golf balls on the side of the street, hit by golfers beyond the local golf course.

So he began by picking up these golf balls at the local golf course.

He also noticed the shops were selling used balls for $2 each.

Being a true entrepreneur, he noticed the opportunity immediately.

He cleaned the discarded golf balls at home, then resold them to golfers for $0.50 per ball on his weekends.

This business earned him $20 – $30 a week.

He then noticed another business opportunity.

Commercial car washers were charging $40 for car washes.

At the time, Kogan was already washing his parents’ car for $5.

Again, this opportunity kindled the entrepreneurial spirit in Ruslan Kogan.

He started knocking on his neighbours doors and offered to wash their cars for $15.

Using his earnings, he purchased some business assets to help him wash more effectively. He bought a pressure hose to use with his chamois and sponge.

Eventually, he couldn’t keep up with the demand and started hiring his friends to wash for him.

He’d train them how to clean cars and sent them out to his customers.

Kogan would then follow up and call his customers to make sure they were happy with their car cleanings.

He was just 12 years old when he started this business.

And coupled with this entrepreneurial spirit, was his interest in technology. He liked to repair mobiles and develop websites.

He’d read “The Age Green Guide” every week, which was a publication where computer shops advertised.

The eCommerce Success Story: Kogan’s Young Adult Years

Fast forward a few years – Kogan graduated with a double degree in business systems.

However, he says that his university education has not helped him in business.

“The digital world is moving so quickly these days that by the time anything makes a uni degree, it’s old information,”

“Formal training is for people who want to look like they’re learning… Google is for people who actually want to learn.

There is no skill you can’t learn these days. It’s all out there. Just go and type it into Google.”

– Ruslan Kogan

He then went on to work in the corporate world, working at Bosch, GE, Telstra and Accenture.

However, the corporate world could not satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit.

When he was 23, the “big idea” came to him while shopping for an LCD TV.

He was shocked at the steep prices.

After investigation, he found out (from Chinese manufacturers) that the actual cost of these TVs was a third of what it was retailing for.

That’s when Kogan’s “big idea” sparked into life.

He decided to build a TV retailing business that would lower prices by cutting out this middleman.

Kogan started as a one-man operation, using his parents’ garage as an office.

The first major problem he encountered, was getting the Chinese manufacturers to accept Kogan’s relatively small orders.

But he didn’t take no for an answer and won them over by working on the manufacturer’s English marketing materials.

To fulfil the pre-orders, he maxed out both his and his friends’ credit cards.

Addtionally, Kogan was meticulous with the fulfilment process.

His philosophy is to “control what you can control.”

He flew over to Shenzhen in southern China to personally check the quality of the TVs, making sure each worked.

He watched over the shipping and fulfilment process.

With these starting steps, he built his business into the Kogan empire we know today.

Like his hard-working immigrant parents, Kogan works 70 – 100 hours a week.

He believes this is only possible due to the passion he has for his business.

“One promise to myself that I have is the moment I’m not enjoying it, I’m gone… I can’t see that happening.”

– Ruslan Kogan

In 2016, Kogan purchased only the eCommerce part of Dick Smith (all of their physical retail stores closed).

He has used Dick Smith’s online presence as a platform to sell more Kogan products (he wanted nothing to do with their retail stores).

Capitalising on the strength of the brand name behind Dick Smith, he has expanded his empire to New Zealand markets.

Read the full article here.