24 Sep EW MIXTAPE #1: Andy Benke
DJ & ENTREPRENEUR, DARLING POINT, SYDNEY
Ten years ago, I was living like a hermit and found it really tricky to get out amongst it. My life has always been about work. Always two jobs and very little sleep, writing into the wee hours of the night. One evening I decided to ditch the laptop and attend Jonny Croft’s birthday in his trendy one bedroom pad in Surry Hills. Arriving fashionably late, I walked into an apartment full of DJs, marketeers, musicians, artists, models and a collective group of wild dancing groupies – all drinking Southern Comfort cocktails. That’s when I first met Andy B.
Back then, he worked in the fashion industry. Although reserved, he reminded me of a lion trapped in a tiny cage. Probably due to the woman standing next to him saying he’d had enough to drink. Bear in mind it was only 9pm on a Saturday night. So Jonny and I kept topping up his bottomless glass, much to his delight, so ‘she’ wouldn’t notice.
Looking back, it’s tricky to name the precise moment when we actually became friends. So I have to go with my gut feelings and say from this evening on. Andy B is like one of his favourite mixes – fun, sassy and highly entertaining. Dressed in the latest street fashion, including one of his infamous caps, he hands over a cup of Earl Grey tea in a gold knuckled mug, whilst laughing at my reaction. With Andy B it’s the little details that count the most.
Growing up in Coogee in a strong Eastern European family had it’s moments. And his parents are still happily married after 50 years. Andy B’s mother taught both her children impeccable manners. In fact friends gathered a few years back for his big birthday [can’t give away how old], and on meeting his parents and his older brother, made us adore him all the more.
Andy B started his career in the fashion industry with a partner. When they parted ways, he helped out a friend (DJ & Entrepreneur Jonny Croft) with fashionable caps for an alcohol event, and that’s how Juice Promotions began. He has grown the business into one that not only supports his world travelling lifestyle, but enables him to purchase anything he desires. Clients include Coke, HTC, Panasonic, Graincorp, Audi, the NSW police force, and many blue chip corporations.
When you first meet Andy B socially you may think he’s a ‘good time guy.’ Until you get to know him and realise he’s a highly intelligent individual and extremely humble. He agreed to this interview face to face in his home at Darling Point and was slightly uncomfortable about revealing his path to success, even though we’re good friends. Andy B thinks he’s still got a way to go for success. But from where I’m standing he’s already hit a home run.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE as a KID?
I was very much a rebel growing up. My parents were confused as to why I would come home to sleep straight after school. [LAUGHS.] I’d get up to eat dinner and watch TV. Then study from 10pm until 2am on a school night. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t a normal kid. I’ve always been quite stubborn and do things my way. I know the best way to do things. I get bent out of shape if I am told to do it another way.
I did make one very clear decision that was crucial. I wanted to get out of Coogee and didn’t want to follow my friends to NSW Uni (university). I went to Sydney Uni to meet new people, and not be stuck into a bit of a rut. So that’s where I met Crofty (Jonny Croft), and Linton (Linton Meagher). I feel quite blessed with making such amazing friends.
HOW DID YOU BUILD your BUSINESS?
When I first started I wasn’t expecting to make a million dollars in the first year. I fell back on being a DJ at night and building up the business during the day. I was kind of lucky having the best of both worlds. Being a DJ although fun was always something to fall back on to earn money, while I had my training wheels on.
A lot of people don’t choose to start their own business because a) it’s hard and b) they get on the treadmill earning $150k per year and don’t know how to get off. I was lucky because when I got out of Uni I knew I wanted to get into sales. Once in sales I knew I wanted to learn how to run a business, and then after that, I knew I had to start a business.
HOW DID THE IDEA OF JUICE PROMOTIONS come ABOUT?
I originally was involved in importing clothing from Europe. Crofty came up and said, “You’re in fashion, do you want to make some fashionable caps for me for Southern Comfort?” I had no idea how to do it, so I called my suppliers in Europe to see if they had contacts in Asia that could help me. I explained there was no conflict of interest or competition. They had no problem with it.
When I finished this project. The guys at Jack Daniel’s asked if I could supply branded key rings, t-shirts etc. I had to fly over to china, meet the suppliers to understand the business by visiting factories, and learning the ropes. I started supplying Jack Daniels – because they had a lot of events on. It began small at first, and then it got bigger and bigger as we developed trust. It’s all about leveraging relationships.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR business GOALS?
“Am I getting money back? Is it creating awareness, and is the awareness creating value.”
You have to invest time and money into a business. Being single helps when building up a company, because you don’t have much time to do anything else. At the end of the day, when it comes down to how much you are investing into it compared to what the return is, will allow you to see if its worth it. Also if you create value for your customers.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY for YOU?
Mondays I start a little later. Wake up, have a coffee, jump on emails and answer them as much as possible. Then I break up the day into sections, ie, follow up emails, sending emails to potential clients, and the rest of the day calling up people, to see if they want to use our service. Then other days I break up things into other areas, such as suppliers, reviewing costs, marketing, sales, ways to improve website, really the list is endless.
It’s all about lifestyle. Having your own business is the best thing. I’m happy and not overly stressed. I earn good money compared to the lifestyle that I live, and most of all it gives me choice. I can choose to work from home or the office. When I want to go away on holiday. The people I want to work with. It’s a combination of things, I can even choose when I want to get up and start work. Being your own boss provides freedom.
HOW DID YOU GET TO be a DJ?
A long time ago, I was a DJ for food, when I first started. L’Otel said they had a spot on Wednesday nights but could only pay me with a meal. So I thought you know what, 3 hours in a great bar, for an awesome meal and drinks isn’t all that bad. At the end of the day, I was working as a resident DJ at L’Otel, and able to go to other venues and say:
“I DJ at the Fringe Bar and L’Otel”
The response was always:
“Oh you’re at L’Otel, you must be really good.”
You have to do what it takes in the beginning. It’s a means to an end.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT being a DJ?
It’s so much fun. It’s been a passion that I have always loved. I’ve never been shy of being the centre of attention. [LAUGHS] You just make people happy. It’s a work environment, but also a social environment and really rewarding. There’s nothing better when you fire a track that no one’s heard before at a bar and you see people dancing and loving it. I get such a kick out of it, especially when I play something that makes people happy and they get into the moves.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE your MIX?
Music has always had connotations of being positive reinforcement for me. I play a tune and something good happens when I play it. I can be playing a new song, people dancing with their hands in the air, so when I play that song at home, it takes me back to that one moment.
This mix of songs string together good memories, through fun times. I’ve called it: ‘I love you darling, but I choose disco.’
Thanks Andy B for letting me spend part of your work day in Darling Point and for sharing the amazing MixTape: I LOVE YOU DARLING, BUT I CHOOSE DISCO.
interview by Caria Watt 2016