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Dan Murray established Sly Underwear at the tender age of 17, designing his first pair of undies in Microsoft Paint, having 1,000 made in China and selling them from a van at the beach, parties and festivals.

Murray went on to win Triple J’s Catapult competition for young entrepreneurs, which led to a six-month stint in the US with mentor of the underwear world, Jalil Keval.

When his own $25,000 investment in the business began to dry up, he drew up a business plan and went looking for investors. Soon, he’d secured a loan, recruited two mates as employees and Sly Underwear went from side project to full-time business.

Now, just three years later, Murray’s underwear is sold in 170 stores across the country. He moved 25,000 in just four months this year and has signed distribution agreements in the United States and New Zealand, with more in the works in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Murray tells Dynamic Business about the dangers of mixing business with friendship, and how his youth works to his advantage.

Q. You brought a couple of mates on as employees – how do you stop business from damaging friendships?

As soon as it’s not work, you go back to being mates. It’s been great, because everyone puts in triple the effort of what they would [if they were just employees].

Don’t take things personally when an idea gets shot down or someone doesn’t like something. You have to remove the personal aspect when you’re in business with your friends.

Q. How has all the mentorship from experienced friends and advisors helped you as a young entrepreneur?

When you add their experience and direction to my enthusiasm, my drive and my vision—that’s one of the main reasons it’s been so successful. I’ve been able to learn from their mistakes, follow their guidance and skip a lot of years of lessons I would have had to learn myself.

As important as it is to listen to everybody, you’ve also got to back your gut feeling and go for your instinct of what you think is right.

Q. How has social media impacted your business?

I wanted to be less of a corporate label and more of an open transparent label. The easiest way to be transparent and interact with your potential customers is to show them how you do your business.

It’s an easy way for customers to feel a part of the story and a part of the label. That’s what was driving me in the first place, to be that brand that people could actually associate with, rather than just buy.

Q. Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs, to help them to get people to take them seriously?

Get a proven track record, make sure you deliver, and do what you say you will. Build off your momentum.

Q. So, what’s next for you?

Just to continue on this path of providing something for that lifestyle kind of guy that wants to spend his money elsewhere.

In five or 10 years’ time I’m going to have such a good platform to launch my next thing purely through the contacts I have and the wisdom I’ve got through doing this.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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