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Fred Schbesta

The internet entrepreneur who achieved financial freedom at 22

In 2001, 22-year-old finance student Fred Schebesta co-founded digital agency Freestyle Media, growing the business into a successful media agency which sold for $1.3 million just a few years later. Here, the young entrepreneur talks about learning from mistakes, first time around.

In the years leading up to the sale of his business, Aussies were accumulating massive credit card debts, which Schebesta told Dynamic Business opened up new online opportunities for he and business partner Frank Restuccia. The pair were inspired to enter the financial comparison space after recognising consumers needed access to financial comparison information, which would show them how to switch to a better deal to save money and avoid traps.

In 2007, after selling Freestyle Media for $1.3 million, Schebesta and his partner started a new business – Hive Empire, which runs the financial comparison site www.finder.com.au. The Finder site helps Australians to compare credit cards and find the best deal for their situation.

So with so much success under his belt at such a young age, what advice does the entrepreneur have for aspiring business owners? It’s simple, start by putting $1 in the bank.

“Make $1 profit, and put it in the bank. Then, all you need to do is scale this up. If you can do that you’ve got a business,” he said.

To achieve this, he suggests making your business “simple, small and contained.”

Schebesta said his best business decision he’s made to date was when he exited the services industry with the sale of Freestyle Media.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t actually produce anything then you really don’t have an asset,” he said.

Business lessons learnt

Freestyle Media was successful venture for Schebesta, but as it was his first company he decided to do differently things a little differently the second time around.

“All the mistakes I made with Freestyle, I fixed when it came to Hive Empire. I found out where all the pot holes were the first time around, and tried to avoid them,” he said.

Here, Schebesta reveals the three biggest mistakes he made in Freestyle Media, which he believes he’s now corrected in his latest venture.

1. Don’t have too many focuses. Narrow your focus on one thing and become the best you can be at that.

2. Hire the right people. Hiring people with the right attitude is essential for Hive Empire, and for any other business.

3. Create a scalable, product-focused business. Work towards having a consumer focus, rather than just a business focus.

When it comes to role models, the young entrepreneur looks up to Ruslan Kogan, former Intel Chief Andy Grove and John Singleton.

“Every entrepreneur has a different mix of qualities. I’m not necessarily going to copy them but I will take certain elements from them, but at the end of the day you have to carve your own stone,” he said.