We recently caught up with Upstart Alumni, Josh Walker, to see where his entrepreneurial journey has taken him since participating in the Upstart Challenge three years ago. Over to you, Josh!

Hi Josh! Please introduce yourself to the Upstart Community…

Hi – I’m Josh! I went through the Upstart Challenge in 2017 – at that time I was going through year 12, and finishing school. At the moment I’m working a couple of days a week at a digital marketing agency as well as doing my own thing, helping out eCommerce businesses increase their profitability and sales through Facebook Ads.

That sounds exciting! How did you get into that? 

With the idea I entered into the Upstart Challenge, I had to do all my own marketing. Through that I became interested in marketing and it’s all happened from there.

My plan was never really to go to uni or anything. The first year out of school I took off as a gap year to focus on the business (that I had worked on through the Upstart Challenge). That did pretty well but I wanted to change it up and do something different. Mid-way through 2018 I took an online digital marketing / consultancy course. From there I started working with gyms, helping them to acquire new clients. Recently with COVID that focus has changed and now I’m working with ecommerce brands because they’re crushing it at the moment.

What was your Upstart Challenge idea? Have you progressed this idea since you pitched it?

My original idea was reselling vintage clothes. At the end of year 11 I started op-shopping with a couple of mates and was finding some cool stuff. Some of it just didn’t fit me, so I decided to start up an Instagram account and start selling. My mates didn’t think it would go anywhere but half a year later I had 5000 followers! So I entered my idea into the Upstart Challenge, and through what I learned in the Challenge the idea morphed into a platform where other people could sell their vintage stuff, similar to Depop.

I stopped that business at the end of 2018 to focus on some other opportunities. I was working on that with a business partner at the time – they were also working full time, and we were spending our weekends doing photoshoots.  It was a great experience that started me on my journey!

How has being involved with Upstart Challenge helped you get where you are?

After taking part in the Upstart Challenge, they connected me with another program through Runway. Through that program I met some pretty cool people and when it ended, one guy offered me a job in an agency. I thought it would be some good experience and I joined them about 8 months or so now – and I’ve been enjoying it ever since!

What does your ideal career look like over the next few years?

Working for myself full time is the end goal. I’m learning a lot at the moment from my job, my boss is a great mentor! Once I have built up a portfolio of clients I’d like to work for myself full-time.

What skills do you think are necessary to make that transition to working for yourself?

Copywriting, sales and good communication skills are pretty important for any business. I already do a lot of copywriting in my job, lots of ad writing and I’d like to start improving my sales skills. I think those are important because you need to be able to sell your business idea and communicate it to external stakeholders.

What skills did you learn from taking part in the Upstart Challenge?

I’d say being able to get out of my comfort zone a bit more, and just going for it! Public speaking was also a good skill, as well as networking which I also started to develop through the Upstart Challenge.

What did you enjoy most about taking part in the Upstart Challenge?

The people! I hadn’t really been around many other people doing the same things or who were interested in the same things as me so getting to connect with some other like-minded people was pretty cool. It was great to work alongside mentors – the people who are more experienced than me and know what they are doing so that I could learn from them was probably the best part.

What’s the most valuable piece of information you picked up during Upstart Challenge?

Getting outside of my comfort zone. That’s important to learn!

What advice or words of wisdom would you share with students looking to take part in the Upstart Challenge this year?

I’d say just go for it and try it out! Going along to one event could change your life, literally. And for me, it all started with that one decision.

There was one course that I went to before Upstart Challenge in the Golden Plains Shire – it was a youth business mentoring program. Because I did that course, they connected me with the team at Upstart. Taking part in the Upstart Challenge connected me with Runway, and through Runway I got the job I’m at today – so that one decision to try the first course has led me to where I am, and I’ve met a whole heap of pretty cool people along the way.

What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?

Working towards your own dream, rather than towards someone else’s – that’s how I would define it.

Who do you admire and why?

A few of my biggest inspirations are:

  • Sam Ovens. He’s one of the guys that got me started with the first online program a while ago. I admire his laser like focus, and how he works hard towards what he’s doing. He came from a similar situation to me – he had no business experience before, and has worked his way up.
  • My boss, Dean Denney, because he’s so open and happy to let me make mistakes and learn from them. There’s so much learning that goes on working with him which is pretty cool.
  • David Goggins. He’s a navy seal who’s done all of these crazy ultramarathons. His mental toughness is really inspiring.

Tell us about something positive in your world as a result of Covid-19?
It’s a great opportunity to get ahead. If you can learn a new skill or start up a business, it’s a good time to be focused!

What three things would you take on a trip to Mars?
Some sort of air would be ideal. Some seeds and dirt to grow plants to be able to survive – I might have to consult Elon Musk on that one!

Thanks, Josh! You can connect with Josh via LinkedIn or check out his website here.