Parenting a business with Bobbi Aralica
Bobbi Aralica’s foray into entrepreneurship begun when she became a parent.
Bobbi did not set out to become a business owner. It was through her daughter's school that she got to know many other parents who owned small businesses. She often made referrals and recommendations for these businesses, but realised that they struggled to access an enormous market right at their fingertips - the school community itself. Apart from bringing these businesses on board as corporate sponsors, schools lacked the ability to connect this network of thriving businesses to each other.
Bobbi saw the problem - and an opportunity.
That's how LISMN was born. LISMN is a digital platform that connects schools with their local business community. Creating a centralised school network where these small businesses can be easily found. Similar to a business directory, it allows businesses to create a portfolio for the school community who can then use the platform to search for services they need.
LISMN then donates a portion of the listing fees back to the school. While the businesses gain traction, the school receives more funds to help with fundraising initiatives - a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” solution.
What started as a community initiative became a tech startup that is both software company and social enterprise.
Prior to LISMN, Bobbie never had entrepreneurial aspirations and was thrown into the deep end.
“I didn’t even know what a startup was. I didn’t know entrepreneurship and I didn’t know innovation,” she said.
“All these terms like ‘co-working spaces’, ‘gig economy’ and ‘freelancer’ were new to me. I realised there is a market there, people want it but I have to build something better.”
Bobbi clearly states that her business is not a typical startup. LISMN was self-funded without any seed capital and has no co-founder.
“I don’t wear a t-shirt with my brand all over it. I build slow and do a lot of testing,” she said.
Unlike most tech startup founders, technology is not her forte and was the most difficult aspect for her to grasp. After all, the “mumpreneur” comes from a marketing background, having graduated from the RMIT Diploma of Business (Marketing Management). She then spent seven years in Olympus Australia’s medical instruments division doing marketing and product management.
“I had my first software company before downloading my first mobile phone app,” she laughed.
“My mantra is: You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s just learning as you go.”
The world of edutech was new for Bobbi. Faced with a steep learning curve, she often found herself questioning her capabilities.
“Jumping in with both feet, it’s the scariest thing,” she admitted.
“But you just build the confidence. The more that you research, the more confident you become.”
Hearing Bobbi speak, it is clear that she possesses a deep understanding of her customers’ needs. Making money is not her sole concern- she cares about generating traction for small businesses in the school community and expanding their market. In her research process, she analysed and reverse engineered similar platforms from universities like Yale and Harvard to improve LISMN. Bobbi’s hard work is a testament to her incredible passion for the business and school community.
“Solve a problem or follow your passion – either way, you have to provide value. If you solve a problem, make sure you do it well,” she said.
“I always thought that having my passion out there was a negative thing because I come from a corporate world,” she said.
“But now, I talk to passionate people every day because every small business is passionate. I got the best of both worlds.”
Passion aside, her not so secret weapon is her knack for building relationships.
“I’m a natural connector,” she said.
“Dad had an engineering firm. There was no sense of hierarchy and I was used to seeing him talk to people. So I grew up in an environment where networking was a natural thing to do.”
However, networking in the digital age was something Bobbi also had to learn. She had developed a well-cultivated professional network within the medical industry and had never needed to use LinkedIn until recently.
“I’ve become obsessed with Linkedin because someone said to me two years ago... ‘link with me’ and I went, ‘what do you want me to do?’,” she laughed. “So that’s how I got introduced to LinkedIn.”
Today, she is an avid fan of the business networking platform and enjoys recommending connections to others. This year alone, she has already facilitated 80 introductions and connections within her own LinkedIn network.
“I’ve even connected with 16 and 17-year-olds on LinkedIn who ask me to mentor them,” she said.
“I’ll never say no. I’ll mentor you and have a three-hour coffee with you. I just give give give.”
Naturally, Bobbi’s biggest advice for students is to build connections.
“[Networking] is not something you start and stop to get an internship or placement. It’s building relationships. You need to build your network in different industries,” she said.
“I’ve gone from the banking industry, to medical and now education. I built my network over the years. While young people understand the concept of networking, they don’t understand that the benefits are also long-term.”
She is also quick to inject a dose of reality into her advice.
“People read startup stories and they go: I want to be a millionaire or get this traction. No, that’s not reality. The reality is that it will take time to [build your business] and to build up relationships.”
“Give yourself permission to fail. Everyone is on their own path so don’t be afraid to try.”
Bobbi Aralica completed the RMIT Diploma of Business (Management)
"People read startup stories and they go: I want to be a millionaire or get this traction. No, that’s not reality." - Bobbi Aralica