Tweeting his way to success

Tom Reidy
Tom Reidy

A passion for communicating - or maybe just talking - drew Tom Reidy to social media.

He established Tweet4yourtee in 2009, a company that designs T-shirts with personalised Twitter names, and then Catalyst90, the "social media agency for agencies".

Clients include the All Blacks, NZ Post, Massey University and Icebreaker.

Catalyst90 helps companies market themselves using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Tadaa.

Reidy spends up to 10 hours a day on social media sites and admits this can lead to a blurred line between home and work life. But it's all in the name of growth.

People used to communicate around the fire, and then by pigeon, then telephone, he says.

"It's part of the evolution of communication."

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I never set out to become an entrepreneur. I saw an opportunity in the marketplace, and acted on that. I was working for an email marketing company beforehand.

The use of social media was on the rise, and I saw an opportunity for marketers, and running a social media agency turned out to be perfect for my skill set.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

There are the usual obstacles of cashflow, human resources and managing growth.

Educating marketers on social media, its value and its opportunities has also been a challenge.

In New Zealand we are really good at using social media for personal use but organisations and brands are yet to grasp its full potential.

Name one thing you've learnt while in business.

When it comes to providing social media services and competing with bigger players, speed, transparency and innovation always win.

What are your business and personal goals?

Ultimately, world domination. The aim is for Catalyst90 to be a global business, so exporting our services is a main focus. First stop, Australia.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Cash! One thing I didn't start off with was enough working capital.

Making money shouldn't be the sole motivation for start-ups, but it makes things happen faster.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur?

House, car, life. But I wouldn't say they're sacrifices, it's a temporary abstinence for the greater gain.

Are you prepared for failure?

Of course. Learning from failure is part of business and drives innovation.

But five years on, the business just had its most successful year and our May turnover exceeded our entire 2012 turnover.

We have passed the tipping point, but we have to continue to adapt.

Who is your "business guru", or who do you admire, and why?

I have admiration for anyone bold enough to start their own company.

I prefer to focus on my own goals and business ideas without being influenced by others too much.

However, Richard Branson has done the world/planet domination thing very well.

What would you do if you weren't running your own business?

Since catching the start-up bug I think I would make a lousy employee.

What do you do in your downtime?

I tweet. And run. Not at the same time. And hang out with my family and friends.

If you were an employee rather than running your own business, which company would you want to work for?

Probably Google X labs, where they do all the digital secret lab stuff.

What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

I'm older than I look and have four children.