Business In:Brief with Andonis Sakatis (Zenify)
Founder of Zenify, 2017–present
Andonis Sakatis is the founder of Zenify, a data-driven profits for purpose retailer.
Zenify utilises online data for what conscious consumers really need. Zenify uses this information to form the retail arm of its business and the products it manufactures. These everyday products - from reusable straws to slow-feeder dog bowls - offer customers a means to donate to causes they care about. This is because a portion of all profits from product sales are donated to charitable Aussie causes.
By tapping into the Australian online retail market, Andonis has been able to grow unit sales by an average 50% month-on-month and has been selected for Amazon's small business Launchpad programme.
So far Zenify has helped already over 10,000 Australian consumers donate to important causes such as Sydney Dogs & Cats Home and Plastic Free Bondi.
What was your first job?
Being entrepreneurially driven from a young age, my first job was at 14 years old and one I crafted myself. The job involved independently approaching local businesses and distributing leaflets to homes in the local area on their behalf. I realise now that it was a great lesson in scale and negotiation. The going rate was only a measly 0.6 cents per leaflet. My solution involved convincing other local businesses to let me distribute leaflets in the same areas at exactly the same time and this resulted in me 5x-ing my income per minute to a level that worked. I encountered lots of lessons learned that I still look back on even today.
What's your proudest achievement?
Personally, it has to be completing a rather chilly marathon in Antarctica close to the South Pole. Work-wise, I was extremely proud to be invited to parliament in Canberra to sit down with MPs and advisors to discuss the future of online retail and how Amazon supports Zenify's technology and fulfilment operations. The opportunity to share our insights with those who can make positive macro level changes to Australians was incredible. It was the recognition we needed, proving that we were one step closer to making a tangible difference.
What's something that you have learned in business that took you by surprise?
Whilst no founder wants to become yet another failure statistic, the biggest business leaps I've experienced have come from the biggest challenges. The more challenges you overcome, the more "value" tokens you hold and these collectively enable you to set your business apart from the competition. Create a mindset of value through adversity.
How do you plan on growing your business in the near future?
During 2019, whilst based in the collaborative culture of WeWork Labs, we've concentrated heavily on building a solid scalable foundation for the business. We prioritised the "why" and the "how" in everything we do, to ensure we have the processes and the core team required to support the scale that a modern retailer needs to succeed. What that means for Zenify in 2020 is that we will be strategically scaling up our products and increasing the value we give to our community as a facilitator. We'll be tracking how we perform and looking to prove we can now do more, with less.
Our membership has also given us the opportunity to tap into global hubs such as London and Singapore through the WeWork Labs community. This has helped us to plan our global expansion strategy and given us access to the networks required to execute effectively. In 2020, we'll be looking to expand on this further.
What other business leader do you most admire and why?
I count myself lucky to have worked for Alex Gerko of XTX Markets. I would openly credit much of Zenify's own "lean business macro effect" strategy to much of what I learned from Alex in the data driven world of the financial markets. I admire leaders who aren't afraid of a challenge and who remain skilled and motivated to be a "doer" when called upon.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
Seth Godin's book "Tribes" has one of my favourite quotes related to leadership and innovation. Seth's analogy to "be the unicorn in the balloon factory" is exceptionally important for founders. It embodies how in the safe environment of a balloon factory (the status quo), a unicorn is the unfazed leader of innovation, striding into the market. A leader's job is to change the status quo and they do so through innovating. Every balloon maker fears the unicorn and their "sharp" ideas. However, they also desperately need them. So too does the growing community of followers, who supports the unicorn's innovation as the evolution they so desperately require.
What advice would you pass on to someone starting out in your area?
In the area of retail, the best advice I can give any startup is to listen to your customers. If you don't have the tools or channels to listen, invest in them. Your customers are the key to getting your business from proof of concept to the product that provides a solution. By listening more, you create the feedback culture needed within your organisation. Feedback won't end with the customer but you'll start inspecting your own processes and the evolutionary mindset will ripple throughout your business as a whole.
Business In:Brief is a regular interview feature that profiles a notable business leader each month. It is also included as part of our business newsletter, which you can sign up for below.