Interview with Taj Pabari, CEO of Fiftysix Creations
One of Australia’s rising entrepreneurial stars, Taj Pabari is Founder and CEO of Fiftysix Creations, and the story of his journey is enough to put the majority of his peer group to shame, writes Ailsa Page.
Have you ever met someone that impresses the socks off you with their achievements? Someone who had a vision of what they want to do and despite the odds just made it happen? And then you find out how old they are and now you’re truly blown away?
Well, read on, because Taj Pabari is just such a person.
At just 19 years of age, Pabari has already been named 2017 Young Australian of the Year for Queensland, The Australian Young Innovator of the Year and Winner of Westpac’s Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow. He set about making a device that could inspire young children to not just use computers and tablets, but to learn how they actually worked.
From these origins, Pabari created the Fiftysix Tablet – but that was just the start.
Now highly regarded as Founder and Chief Executive of Fiftysix Creations, Pabari leads the Australian-based education and youth organisation with the aim of teaching school students, parents and teachers about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The following interview describes how it’s all come about.
Ailsa Page: Taj, when did you first come up with the concept for Fiftysix Creations?
Taj Pabari: During my primary school years, I was always the kid that was in the back of the classroom getting into trouble. After being suspended multiple times and on the brink of expulsion, I started my first business when I was 11 years old, which was a tech blog for kids by kids. Fast forward three years, the tech business was sold and I started a new company called Fiftysix Creations.
Fiftysix Creations started as a do-it-yourself tablet and we labelled it as the Lego of the 21st Century.
Everybody loved the idea of a 14-year-old entrepreneur, so the media attention the company got was crazy. I had so much fun coming up with a new business idea that actually had the potential to get up and running that I transitioned the vision of the company to entrepreneurial education in 2017.
AP: What was your motivation behind the concept?
TP: I was always inspired by people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and when I saw them changing the world I thought, ‘Why don’t I try and change the world too?’.
I understand more than most that not every kid’s strength is school work, so I wanted to provide each and every kid, regardless of their age or postcode, with access to entrepreneurial education. I loved tech – I was passionate about business and the two combined resulted in Fiftysix Creations.
AP: At what point did you know that you were on a winner – what were the indications?
TP: Media! Everyone loved the idea in the media and we just kept rolling thanks to the media support we received and the sharing of our story and the work we do.
AP: You’re now operating in three countries: Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. Have you plans to roll Fiftysix Creations out in other countries?
TP: The primary focus of Fiftysix Creations at this stage is to grow and expand our program across the Asia Pacific – our goal is 100,000 students by 2020.
An initiative I am super excited about is the Business Camp Academy, which is an online training platform for entrepreneurial education anytime, anywhere.
AP: When did your first break or helping hand come along?
TP: My first break came when I met Steve Macdonald back in 2014. When he called to say he wanted to invest, we told him we were ready to change the world and our ‘positive world domination’ started from there.
AP: What has been your greatest challenge to date in running Fiftysix Creations?
TP: Staff. We’re a small company with big ideas, so we need lots of strong people behind it. We’re scaling so quickly that onboarding the manpower has been challenging. We’re still in the process of scaling and growing, but getting to where we are now (educating over 50,000 students) has taken a lot of patience, reworking of programs and sheer determination.
AP: What has most surprised you along the journey?
TP: I think I’m more amazed rather than surprised by the businesses that have been started by our young change makers in the program.
For example, an eight-year-old in Mount Isa is now a founder of her own company that sells handmade and recycled goods back to the local community – she’s even exported her goods to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I’m incredibly proud of these kids. It’s amazing to see that we can help them take those next steps into making their ideas a reality. We’ve got nine-year-old kids in Brisbane who have made more than $5,000-plus in revenue as a result of our programs. Incredible, right?
There’s a lot to learn from Pabari’s incredible business journey to date. One of the great insights he shared with us about business was to highlight that you simply can’t do it all on your own. While it may have something to do with the fact that he was just 14 when he started, Pabari never made the mistake of assuming he could do it all.
As business owners, we fall into the trap of trying to do it all ourselves feeling it a failure not to be able to do everything in our business. Maybe we should take a leaf from Pabari. He sought help and advice and has surrounded himself with a group of experienced advisors, enthusiastic staff and mentors.
Imagine what might be possible for your business if you did the same.
MYOB is supporting Business Camp Academy, an entrepreneurial education program for school students online, in partnership with Fiftysix Creations.