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Carly Crutchfield: the young millionaire sharing her wealth

Carly Crutchfield may not look like a self-made millionaire property developer, but appearances can be deceptive.  The inspirational 29 year old spoke to editor Jen Bishop.

Carly CrutchfieldLeaving school at 12 and suffering a stroke through stress at the age of 18, Carly Crutchfield wasn’t an obvious contender for self-made multimillionaire. But when you meet her, it comes as no surprise that someone with such force of character has risen to the top.

Despite being worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars, she remains a grounded and genuine straight talker. In the last 12 months alone, Crutchfield has given more than $3 million, and a lot of time, to charity. And any day now she will appear on Channel 9’s Secret Millionaire, going undercover to give away more of her personal fortune to people in need in Melbourne.

Crutchfield, just 29, owns Sydney-based CCorp. “We’re a property development and financial services company,” she says. “We’re different because it’s young and edgy and really fast-paced. It’s all based on the fact that I was able to make a lot of money in quite a short amount of time and telling other people how they can do the same.”

No easy start

Impatient Crutchfield left school at 12. “I was in a rush to grow up,” she says. “When I moved to high school I wasn’t happy and felt I was in a completely different environment, that I was part of a system and being pushed through a curriculum which was completely pointless.  I couldn’t see how any of it was ever really going to be useful in real life. I was also extremely impatient. I never left education but I left school.”

Her first business, aged 18, was a cleaning service. She’d invested in some properties but had no cashflow to pay the bills. A cleaning service seemed like an easy one to run. It turned out she was wrong. Cleaners didn’t turn up and ultimately she ended up doing the mopping and dusting herself, sometimes working from 6am through to 4am the next morning. Until one day, while cleaning, she suffered a stroke, paralysing one side of her face. She had Bell’s Palsy and it is thought it was probably brought on by stress. Living off credit cards and $70,000 in debt, it was no surprise. And the decision to move out of home into a $660 a week house probably wasn’t the wisest move, but let’s not forget she was still a teenager.

[Next: A fresh look at life]

A fresh look at life

During three months with a paralysed face and in a lot of pain, Crutchfield hit a low and had to reassess her life.  Her friend asked her to work for her at her education business as a receptionist. She had nothing better to do so she thought why not? She quickly became invaluable and the friend gave her a 50 percent share in the business. When they later sold it, Crutchfield gave the proceeds of her half to charity. “I decided to go off and do charity work for six months. I was going through that ‘who am I?’ phase in my early twenties. “But eventually I realised that you can’t really do what you need to without money. At that point I decided I was going to come back and kill it.”

She found someone to teach her how to make money out of property. The deal was she would work for him and he would teach her everything he knew. “I soaked it all up. I really wanted to be successful in property. After a couple of years I started working for myself and doing my own property deals. I would set them up and give them to a developer so I didn’t even need a license because I was just passing them on. I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars but those developer guys were making millions.”

[Next: The birth of CCorp]

The birth of CCorp

So Crutchfield found the first major development deal of her very own in Sydney. It was a property that could be developed into 29 units. She had no money so she had to set up the finance. She didn’t even have enough lending capability so she put the loans in someone else’s name.  “It was the first time I’d done a really big deal with none of my own money,” she says.

On paper she was already a millionaire but she didn’t actually have any money to spend. “That’s when I decided to start a business,” she says. And so four years ago, CCorp (under the slogan of ‘wealth life strategists’) was born.

“I was doing my own individual deals but I needed some discipline and structure and to be around other people. I wanted a team of people to do developments with me. Now my business is not me, it’s my team. One of the most powerful things is the vibe and the culture. There’s a real buzz about this place.”

There are now seven businesses and a charity under the CCorp umbrella: CDevelop, CMoney, CCreate, CProperty, CResults, CClub, CSounds and CFoundation.  With around 35 staff, Crutchfield knows she is fast approaching that challenging time when the business isn’t really small anymore.

Motivating and educating

A lot of Crutchfield’s time these days is spent running seminars, sharing the secrets of property developing and financial management. Thousands of people have now taken part in her courses all across Australia. An inspirational and motivational public speaker, her enthusiasm for taking control of your own destiny through wealth creation, is infectious. She wants everyone to know what she knows.

But she is still a very active property developer herself. CCorp has developments all over the country and while there are no plans to develop overseas as yet, if she ever feels she isn’t challenged enough that could be a natural next step.  “For now, I think we still have more diamonds in our own back yard,” she says.

CCorp is currently involved in developments worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars. “Our core business is property development but our funnel is education. While the seminars may appear to be core business, they’re actually responsible for a very small percentage of our revenue,” she says.

[Next: Giving to charity]

Giving to charity

Crutchfield has been into helping charities since a young age. “It’s not as simple as wanting to give back because I’ve made a lot of money, because I’ve always wanted to help, even when I had no money,” she says. “Having money just makes it a lot easier to help.” And far from sitting in the comfort of her Sydney office and sending money, Crutchfield actually goes out to disaster zones to get her hands dirty and help.

She adds: “I’ve always been a very emotional person. I went out to Banda Aceh after the tsunami where quarter of a million people died. It was just harrowing. Seeing that kind of things shakes you to your core and makes you look at life in a completely different way.”

She set up CFoundation because she wanted more control over where the money went.  “I also wanted to create a vehicle to promote more responsibility among our clients,” she says.  “We also run seminars for kids, teaching them the sort of stuff I always thought I should have been taught at school but wasn’t. CFoundation is also building schools overseas. In the past 12 months alone, Crutchfield has given $3.2 million to charity.

Not-so-secret millionaire

As this magazine went to print, Crutchfield’s appearance on the popular Secret Millionaire show was due to be aired within weeks.  While she loved the experience of going undercover and giving more money to really worthy causes, she also admits to being extremely uncool by getting excited about being on a show that Russell Crowe does the voiceover for!

Crutchfield’s funky Pyrmont offices are the kind most women dream of. She’s surrounded by modern art and designer furniture and her dogs Gracie and Elvis are a permanent fixture. “I spend all my money on art and shoes,” she says. “The shoes probably aren’t the most sensible investment but the art is!” She proves you can be young, blonde, female, stylish, intelligent and successful. And here at Dynamic Business, we can’t help but think this is just the beginning.

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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