When Tobi Skovron landed in LA, he had a great idea, a start-up mentality, and the Global Financial Crisis awaiting his arrival. Luckily he doesn’t believe in negative thinking.
Tobi Skovron explains:
I’ve got this unbreakable spirit, I can’t explain where I got it from but it’s just deep inside. When something like the GFC presented itself, I just felt there was no alternative other than to keep going. To me, the glass is always half full and I never once looked at that situation with doom and gloom.
Skovron puts his positive attitude down to many things, the most significant being the death of his father when he was just 16.
It was a life-changing experience. My mom didn’t focus on the loss, she focused us on what we had, and so perhaps this played into the way that when things go sour I can just shake it off. It’s just who I am.
This relentlessly positive attitude is paired with an incredible ambition to succeed, which came in handy when Skovron first launched Pet Loo into the Australian market in 2003. It flew off the shelves, and so Skovron and his wife made the decision to expand their horizons and take Pet Loo to The United States.
He laughs when asked about his experience of starting, growing and selling a business in America.
It was horrible. We ate cereal for dinner for 4 years! I had no money and it was all hustle and very hard, but once someone gave me a chance, Pet Loo became really popular. When it came to the eventual success of the business, there were no tricks, it was all hard work. It sounds crazy to say, but something I did quickly learn was just how huge the US is. As the business took off, we quickly started to ship to a number of different states and cities and I think we went too quickly. If I could do it again, I would start with one city at a time instead of the whole country. It put pressure on everything. However, it was great, in hindsight, and I certainly learned a lot about my limits. Saying that, when it came to launching Creative Cubes, I ignored everything I learned!
While Skovron’s experience in the American market was hard work, there’s no doubt that it was incredibly successful and spawned his next entrepreneurial brainwave, Creative Cubes.
He explains how his time in America had influenced his move back to Australia.
When we were in LA I was doing everything from the spare room at home and unfortunately living, working and playing in the same 200-meter apartment was starting to become taxing on me and my wife’s relationship. I knew I had to start to compartmentalize my life. I originally rented an old garage in LA, but found I spent a lot of time managing things like electricity bills and toilet paper rather than my business, so I decided to outsource my office. I moved into an old co-working space, which was the old Google headquarters, and after joining up, my business thrived. I attribute the success of Pet Loo to being around other “hungry” people, because I learned so much from listening to their opportunities and struggles and they listened to, and advised, me. I also really fell in love with co working, and when Pet Loo was acquired by PetSafe, which is the biggest pet company in the world, the exit gave me enough cash to be financially free. I reached out to my business partner and asked him to come to LA to have a look at the co-working space and see if he thought we could do something similar in Australia. He did, and Creative Cubes was born.
The message driving Creative Cubes is one of inclusion and community and, of course, positivity.
When I’m asked why community is important, it’s a simple answer. As a kid, my parents liked to do things for me and their reason was that they wanted to do for me what their parents didn’t do for them. I want to do the same. I want to develop a space where people feel they belong even if they’re an outcast. I want to give people what I didn’t have when I ventured out with Pet Loo. The most important thing, for me, is to give people with ideas a place where they can be a rock star. It’s a way to give back and to give people what I didn’t have when I was starting out.
Here’s a video of Tobi Skovron speaking at the WeTeachMe’s Masters Series.