Business Launch Podcast
Rosary Coloma Interview - Beneco Futures
October 4, 2022
Rosary shares her journey in starting and co-founding Beneco Futures and how she has pivoted through life experiences and the impact of COVID in making sure that she stays afloat. 3 Tips for Entrepreneurs: 1. Start with Why are you in Business. 2. Understanding the problem you're trying to solve or the need that you're trying to address. 3. Understand your customers You can follow Rosary at her socials below: linkedin: Instagram: Email:
Rosary Coloma Interview - Beneco Futures

[00:00:00] Carlo: Hey, welcome back to the Business Launch Podcast. I'm here with my guest, Rosary Coloma, who owns Benco Futures. She helps a lot of businesses that that she'll explain later on what she does. She's actually, I was asking if she was a professor, but she said, She's not a professor, so she's academic, worked for the, she's more academic who's worked with the UTS startups and U N S W startups at uni here in Sydney.

[00:00:35] So welcome to the show, Rosary. Thanks 

[00:00:40] Rosary Coloma: Carlo. Thanks for having us. 

[00:00:43] Carlo: Tell us a bit about yourself. So what was your life like before starting your business Pen? 

[00:00:51] Rosary Coloma: Okay it was quite varied, . I, Cuz you, I only started BeneCo maybe about [00:01:00] four years ago. So I had already done a lot of other things.

[00:01:07] Prior to that, like career wise I'm not one of those that's had that like straight line trajectory. So originally I'm like from the creative background, creative industries And I'm, musician, trained as a musician, but I also went to art school. So I originally graduated with that like in visual arts, but in majoring in object design.

[00:01:35] And I did a lot of things. I went to live in London for a couple of years, worked in design studios and stuff there. And at one point had also had an art management business that I was running. And what else? I worked in the innovation space. I guess that's how it [00:02:00] evolved that I ended up working in the startup space.

[00:02:04] And part of That's part of how I ended up in academia as well. So I was actually doing my masters at UTS and then got offered a job originally. First it was at the business school, but then I got offered a role at the innovation and entrepreneurship unit to that. That's awesome. 

[00:02:28] Carlo: I like that kind of space, so I like.

[00:02:32] Rosary Coloma: I like, Yeah, it's very experimental but it wasn't called UTF Startups at the time, so the precursor was called, we had like a suite of programs called like hatchery and hatchery accelerate and yeah. And then at UN s w, though I teach at the I teach at the agsm, so the [00:03:00] Postgrad Business School, but I work for the Center for Social Impact.

[00:03:04] So I, I teach like social entrepreneurship and that kind of that kind of area. So you've 

[00:03:12] Carlo: worked with a lot of small businesses or startups that's can do you can mention some of the startups that you've worked 

[00:03:20] Rosary Coloma: with? If you're, then I have to suddenly remember everyone's business names.

[00:03:28] Cause it's been a while since currently we're like in my current academic role.

[00:03:35] Oh, okay. Yeah. 

[00:03:37] Carlo: So we're, back again. So it's still Okay. . So back at so there's a lot of the UTS and the N S W businesses like, Cross 

[00:03:53] Rosary Coloma: paths, yeah. Yeah. So some of them are not just from one uni.

[00:03:58] That's what I found. Like [00:04:00] they, they yeah, so a lot of, cuz these are very early stage startups. Startups, a lot of them are still students. There are some that are founded by alumni or co-founded, but yeah, a lot of them are young and, it's their first business, so it also won't necessarily.

[00:04:20] Be their last either. So try to build a culture of being okay with failure as well. To try and I love that. 

[00:04:30] Carlo: I love that. Yeah. I think there's a lot, I think a lot of young people now, I think there should be encouraged to actually try and Yeah. And. for not just if they fail and they give up.

[00:04:45] So I guess this, gives young entrepreneurs just to be able to try and actually if you fall, you can actually go start a new one, I yeah, 

[00:04:55] Rosary Coloma: exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Cause there's always learning, so it's never [00:05:00] wasted. 

[00:05:01] Carlo: Yeah. So working with both universities, what event in your life made you decide that you are going to start VCO Futures?

[00:05:13] Rosary Coloma: Oh, okay. I don't know if it was one singular event, but it was more of A series of things that I was noticing in particularly in that whole kind of innovation startup space. So I used to have to be in a lot of judging panels for startup pictures and stuff like that, and I was getting really frustrated by what I was seeing.

[00:05:41] In that whole innovation space, I was seeing a lot of what I call like tech for tech sakes and not really solutions looking for problem. So not really solving real world problems or. More for me, not really solving meaningful [00:06:00] problems too that need to be addressed in the world. And, then that put that with my life experience.

[00:06:07] So as my mom worked at Qantas for a long time, so I grew up traveling and my parents always tried to show me, not just sure we did Disneyland and all that stuff, but also like other cultures and experiencing different cultures, seeing different, Yeah.

[00:06:30] And, I've, from a life of traveling, I've seen a lot of Bigger things that need addressing in the world. Extreme inequality, extreme poverty and, I was just getting pretty jaded by what I saw in that whole tech world. I was like this is not meaningful for me

[00:06:53] And that's originally what inspir. [00:07:00] My original co-founder and I, wasn't by myself to start, BeneCo was partially to address that, but it then obviously evolved into something else though like, 

[00:07:12] Carlo: most businesses do. Yeah. So you start in one place, you ended up on the other.

[00:07:17] Yeah. Yeah, There's some, I think it's the same stories with some of the people that I've, I. Ah, yeah, I sure as well. What were the big wins early on that made you realize that it's, this is really gonna work for you or 

[00:07:34] Rosary Coloma: system work? I don't know if I'd call any big wins yet, . Cause like I still, even though it's been maybe close to four years or something, I still don't feel we've had big winds.

[00:07:50] I think there were maybe. A series of small wins that helped me to keep going and not give up, but I, don't actually think [00:08:00] we've gotten to the big wins yet. So it was always, it's actually the smaller things that get me going like, how I try to take it one step at a time and, it could be as small as Cold calling and cold email campaigns are hard and at an extremely low conversion rate.

[00:08:22] So when we would secure meetings from completely cold outreach, I counted that as like a small win because like they don't know us. So to give us an opportunity for me is already a small win. 

[00:08:39] Carlo: So a lot of it started off with cold calling I or Yeah. Yeah. Getting, in touch with your network.

[00:08:46] Rosary Coloma: Yeah. Yeah. Originally I guess we did start with our network and then we did also have to do a lot of cold outreach. 

[00:08:55] Carlo: Yeah, on the flip side, what events [00:09:00] happened where you weren't sure if your business would survive, though?

[00:09:04] I know a lot of people I've spoken to. , the pandemic really hit them hard 

[00:09:10] Rosary Coloma: with their businesses. Yep. Yeah. That's, exactly what I was gonna say. That's, I think it, that would be the the moment where I thought this may not work out was the beginning of the pandemic, like the, original lockdowns.

[00:09:29] And I remember it happening almost like a. Like watching a, train wreck , because I at first thought that it wouldn't really affect BeneCo cuz I was thinking it's not like a hospitality or a retail business or I just didn't realize it would directly affect it. But then, I noticed we started getting meetings canceled and we had things [00:10:00] we had leads like in the pipeline that were looking good and, then those meetings were getting immediately canceled and not even by then, it wasn't even.

[00:10:12] Postpone cuz it was, things were so uncertain during the first lockdowns that people were like, I'm not sure when we can pick up this conversation. And then eventually a lot of our leads also. Disappeared. Like I noticed a lot of people in our database also lost their jobs. Decision makers I guess.

[00:10:34] Yeah, In businesses. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's when I thought things were pretty darn may not work out. And what was the second part of the question? ? 

[00:10:48] Carlo: , would survive. But you figured out a way to 

[00:10:50] Rosary Coloma: pull out Oh yeah. So that's, that was the point that I thought it wouldn't survive.

[00:10:56] And then I guess figuring out how to get out of [00:11:00] that. At first it wasn't an immediate, like there wasn't an immediate strategy or anything. Had to. Let things lay low for a while cuz it was so uncertain. There was I mean we did try a few things reactively but I think I eventually learned that cuz a lot of businesses did go and pause as well.

[00:11:24] And I, think I realized that sure, we could try things in a panic but, then it got to a point where like it was actually for the best to pause for a while. So yeah, so Ben. Being on pause for a few months, like I don't remember how long anymore, but but coming out of it business wise, one of the things we had to do was really to think be agile and [00:12:00] strategic about how we pivot.

[00:12:01] And it sounds like a cliche, but now anyway, cuz everyone had to do this, but part. Part of it was to pivot more to online digital services. But to be honest, the other part was like personally as well, to be personally mentally healthy. Cuz it was like a really stressful time.

[00:12:24] So I think the downtime was actually necessary to also think straight cuz it's so stressful that you end up doing kind. Like, I said, reactive panic things. So it's better to take, the time and think clearly. Yeah. It's 

[00:12:44] Carlo: Yeah, it's you. I think you're not the only one that's, I think there was a lot of businesses that went through mentally physically, emotionally, with Yeah, With the pandemic, because having a stable income Yeah. In bus [00:13:00] business owners not being able to pay. your staff behind that and then not having money there to, actually keep the companies moving forward as well. 

[00:13:12] Rosary Coloma: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:13:15] Carlo: What makes Benko stand out from your competitors? 

[00:13:21] Rosary Coloma: It's that has had to change.

[00:13:24] Cuz originally when we first started the business it was more about getting, so we originally thought the big corporations would be our target market. Oh, actually no. Original, iteration of BeneCo was that universities would be our target market. And then we the business changed a bit and we became more of a kind of a B to B business.

[00:13:53] And what we originally thought was our differentiator was that we were going to take [00:14:00] these kind. Senior decision makers out into like what we call immersion programs. So, actually getting them to experience that kind of environmental or social impact that needs addressing. And rather than just being like in a boardroom so getting them out in the field but that didn't end up being viable even.

[00:14:29] Prior to the pandemic, like it was actually a very long sales cycle to try and convince people that was necessary. Now I think the differentiator. We have from our, Cuz now things have changed even in the last four years in the area that we operate in around kind of sustainability and social impact.

[00:14:56] A lot of the big consulting firms now, like the big [00:15:00] KPMG is pwc. They've now expanded their offerings in for example like sustainability consulting or social impact consulting. And we can't compete with that cuz we started. That wasn't big. And now that it is, this whole market 

[00:15:19] Carlo: became a 

[00:15:21] Rosary Coloma: lot bigger.

[00:15:21] Yeah. Yeah. But now that the big consulting firms are trying to grow in this space as well, there's no point in us trying to directly compete with that. So what we found was where better able to help the small to medium. Enterprises in this area. But but our differentiator, I feel anyway at the moment is that we're able to get more granular with them.

[00:15:49] Cuz when big firms consult in this area they do high level recommendations and then handed over. [00:16:00] And I think one of our point of differences is that we actually help them build the knowledge and skills to address sustainability and social impact in their operations and supply chains.

[00:16:12] So we go, more granular, go deeper with them and more practical to, Yeah. Yeah. But we'll see how that works out. , 

[00:16:22] Carlo: hopefully things pivot for you and Everything works out. So what, motivates you daily? 

[00:16:35] Rosary Coloma: Gee, that's, It. I know it sounds simple, but it's actually hard cuz I think gets a lot of things.

[00:16:43] I think one is that in terms of the business anyway, one is that we're trying to achieve something meaningful. So I didn't just start a business to make money, and that for me is one of the big motivators to keep going is that [00:17:00] we're, actually trying to make an impact in the world. That helps me to keep going cuz if it was just about money, I could have just looked for a new job.

[00:17:14] Yeah, 

[00:17:14] Carlo: tell me about it. . . I'm actually in that space thinking of what's next for me? Which is actually, I totally get it. A totally, yeah. Who are your influence influences? So 

[00:17:33] Rosary Coloma: growing up in 

[00:17:35] Carlo: business? Yeah. Or even 

[00:17:36] Rosary Coloma: life. Okay. I suppose it would be different. Cuz in life, I'd say my parents Yeah.

[00:17:46] Are my big influence in business. Growing up though, I can't remember growing up who, I would've looked up [00:18:00] to in business, but like currently it would be, it would actually be people like Jacqueline NORAs who talks a lot about patient capital. And she started Acumen, Plus.

[00:18:17] But yeah, I can't, cuz growing up, I don't know if it was actual like. Business like entrepreneurs that I looked up to was a lot of more like artists because it came in the art space, yeah. Although there were I can't remember their specific names now but, now that I've said that I, do remember admiring a lot of like independent, like people who had founded independent record labels or independent production companies.

[00:18:53] So, I guess it was like the entrepreneurial creatives that I really liked [00:19:00] back then. Yeah. 

[00:19:01] Carlo: That's awesome. With Going forward, what big goals do you have for, BeneCo for the next three to 10 years? Ah I know it's a big, thing to think about, but I know that a lot of businesses are like just trying to stand up on their own treat at the moment 

[00:19:27] Rosary Coloma: Yeah, that's what I was gonna say.

[00:19:28] I was like, oh cuz I think maybe at the beginning I thought like that, but at the moment it's more are we gonna we gonna survive the next few months? Yeah. But I think in the next few years, I think one of the, I didn't, I don't know if this is the only one, but one of, I think the big goals would be that we're operating more at a kind.

[00:19:57] Whole of systems level, so not [00:20:00] just that one to one client work. Yeah, so essentially I'm saying that I hope we reach scale to, create a bigger impact. Cuz part of part of how we're trying to pivot at the moment is also through a, learning platform that we're working on.

[00:20:18] And Hopefully we'll help to scale what we do as well. That's awesome. Yeah. Yeah. And there are 10 years. I don't know. I, it's too 

[00:20:30] Carlo: far in advance at the moment, , I haven't just still recovering from 

[00:20:34] Rosary Coloma: exactly. A 

[00:20:36] Carlo: lot of things that's happening in the world, yeah, exactly. What's your top three advice for inspiring entrepreneurs or business?

[00:20:46] Rosary Coloma: Top three? One would be to know your why . So that's what I was saying about [00:21:00] your, what motivates you everyday. Question. Yeah. Because I think knowing why you do something, why you've decided to start a certain business. That, really helps to continue the drive when things are hard when things get too hard or look like it's not gonna make it.

[00:21:27] So yeah, keeping that bigger picture of why you started, this in the first place, so not just what you're trying to achieve, but why and what that two more On a practical level, I would say also understanding the problem you're trying to solve or the need that you're trying to address.

[00:21:54] Because like I said, when I was dealing with a lot of the [00:22:00] when I was still running startup programs and stuff, I saw a lot of solutions looking for a problem, like a lot. what people thought were great ideas and then there was not a real market need for it. So really this may sound like a cliche, but really understanding your customer.

[00:22:20] Cuz even if you know who your customer is, sometimes people come with offerings like services or products that don't actually address that specific customer problem or the way they need it addressed. Yeah. I guess third one maybe. I think the to don't go at it alone, and I don't necessarily mean like you shouldn't be a solo founder, cuz like at the moment I, actually am, I started with a co-founder but he couldn't stay.

[00:22:57] But don't [00:23:00] be too proud or worried about asking for help, whatever that may be like. Yeah. Even if it's not a particular business kind of thing that you need help with, but even if it's like moral support reach out to your networks. So yeah. So build a good support network around you, cuz it's hard. Yeah. 

[00:23:23] Carlo: Having your own business is super. Yeah. And people don't understand until they actually on working on the business or in the business. And then it's not having That's right. A support really, people struggle. So yeah. That's a great, Yeah, that's a great advice. Okay, so give you a fun question.

[00:23:54] If you recommend one book to our listeners what, would it be and why? [00:24:00] 

[00:24:02] Rosary Coloma: One book is hard. Maybe because there'd actually be a lot I'd recommend, but since only a allowed one, since I have brought this up a couple of times now, it's probably appropriate that I would suggest.

[00:24:19] Start with why by Simon Sinek. . Yeah. I like Simon Sinek. Yeah. Yeah. Because I, feel like that's a good starting point for For the people that are at a stage of thinking about starting a business or, just starting one. Yeah, that very kind of early stage. I think this is a good book to, Yeah.

[00:24:44] To start with, if 

[00:24:46] Carlo: our listeners need help with business or questions for you and they want to work with you what is the best way for them to reach, out to. 

[00:24:59] Rosary Coloma: All [00:25:00] our social channels are the same name, so it's BeneCo Futures in one word. LinkedIn is, I'll put it. Yeah, I, Okay. You can share them.

[00:25:11] LinkedIn is probably our most active one. Yeah. Social. Yeah. The email though is hello benco 

[00:25:21] business-launch-podc_rosary-coloma-beneco-futures_rosary-coloma-interview-beneco-futures_composer-5cg8s91lj_clip_2022-aug-18-0435am-utc-riverside: Perfect. 

[00:25:22] Carlo: Easy. Thanks. Thank you again for the chat and thank you for pleasure for coming in to be interviewed and hopefully we'll get this show released shortly and then and I'll let you know when that is and thank you again and My pleasure.

[00:25:39] I'll see you 

[00:25:40] Rosary Coloma: soon. Okay, great. Thanks. Thanks for having me.