Rags to Riches Inspiration for Harvard Startups: How Nick Bell Turned His Last $400 into $45million


At the age of 24, Melbournian Nick Bell decided to quit his recruitment job and launch his own skincare business, SkinB5. But, after three years selling the product designed to control acne, Nick had just $400 in his bank account. The business wasn’t going well.

But, always an optimist, he saw a silver lining – since his business was online-only, he’d picked up plenty of knowledge about search engine optimisation over the years. In what he described as his ‘last crack’, Nick turned his bedroom into an office and invested $250 into a website to start his own SEO company, Web Marketing Expert.

Today, WME turns over at least $45 million globally, with offices in seven different countries around the world. So, how did he do it?

Reinvesting Every Dollar

Just five days after his new business launched, Nick’s perseverance had already begun to pay off and soon he had his first cheque from a paying client, whose SEO he had worked on all by himself. Soon, Nick would receive a large payment of $10,000 from one of his early clients; he decided to invest this money back into the company and was able to significantly expand, finally renting an office space and even hiring his first full-time team member.

Giving Up Home Comforts

Although Nick may be known as a Smart50 finalist today, things weren’t always going so great for him. In fact, during the early stages of his SEO business, he describes finding himself in a situation that felt like he was back at university, except for that he was in his late twenties by now. Looking back, he says that to save money, he furnished his room with items that he’d found dumped in rubbish heaps; his concerned mother even advised him to go back to the corporate life and ‘get a real job’.

Employing the Right People

Neither the hardships he faced nor his mum’s worries could deter Nick. With his experience in recruitment, he knew that hiring the right people would take his company to the top. Today, he says that he ‘has to like’ the people he works with; developing strong relationships with his team members has certainly paid off. On picking the right people, Nick says that it’s important to surround yourself with passionate employees who care about your company.

Constantly Evolving

On working in the SEO industry, Nick’s advice is that ‘a sense of urgency is absolutely critical’. With 4,500 competitors trying to beat him in Australia alone, Nick says that without a sense of urgency, he would have undoubtedly been beaten.

Delivering the Best Results

With four years working in the hospitality industry behind him, Nick knows a thing or two about delivering great customer services. His advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to always be on your game; when it comes to service, it’s crucial to always deliver on what you say to improve your reputation and relationships with your customers or clients.

The main secret? Nick always wants to do better. No matter which milestone he reaches, there’s always another one ready for him to go for.

Related Information:

Nick Bell | Sammway

Web marketing expert: How serial entrepreneur Nick Bell is taking his $45 million digital agency WME to the world | Smart Company

Beware bosses bearing ‘workplace happiness’ jargon | SMH

How WME’s Nick Bell perfected the art of the cold call | AFR

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