What I’ve Learned After More Than 30 Years As An Entrepreneur And Why THIS Is the Year for a “R-evolution”

By Karen Corban | Business

Jan 09

I’ve actually never worked for anyone else, except for one summer holiday spent working in a fashion store on a Thursday night when I was an 18-year-old uni student.

Apart from that, I’ve always been an entrepreneur.

When I started my current business, Universal Events, 20 years ago, I’d already had two very successful companies in the fashion industry and I clearly remember the passion, energy and excitement with which I started Universal… it was as though the skills in sales, marketing and management that I’d developed running the other businesses and my passion for learning and helping others was coming together in a really exciting way.


Like many startups, at that time we ran things out of a spare bedroom in my Sydney apartment. And as the business grew (rapidly) it wasn’t long before it took over the whole house and, one day, as my sales manager was trying to make calls from my kitchen table, while the events team packed for an event in the same room, with product stacked so high around them that they could barely move, I knew it was time to take the next step and get “real” premises.

The business was evolving and I needed to take bold action to enable that evolution.In many ways it was scary. Taking on the responsibility of a lease and counting on more growth by taking bigger premises than we needed right at that moment gave me a few butterflies in the stomach! And, of course, it paid off. We went from strength to strength and grew in ways we never could have if we’d stayed all cooped up in my apartment.

Over the past 20 years, there have been many such “evolutionary” moments. In fact, they’ve created such incredible shifts that I think of them as “r-evolutionary moments.”

I remember when my husband and co-owner of Universal, Ken Wood, joined the business full-time, bringing his IT and systems experience with him.

Another r-evolutionary moment.

He assured me people would want to register for events online (up until that time we took every single event registration by phone!). And, although it was uncharted territory (we were pioneers of online event registrations in our industry), it enabled our business to, literally, take off.

The same thing happened when we introduced a r-evolutionary (at the time) referral program based on printed tickets and a generous reward program. Even though over the years many companies eventually copied this idea, our first-mover advantage gave our business such a boost, we became one of the fastest growing companies in Australia for three consecutive years (BRW Fast 100).

I could go on and on about the number of times we’ve had these turning points over of the past 20 years.

And, here’s what I know for sure.

R-evolutionary moments will come in every business.

Sometimes those moments are obvious (like the crowded moment in my kitchen all those years ago) but more often than not, these r-evolutionary moments come quietly and your window of opportunity can open and close before you’ve even realised it.

The entrepreneurs with a keen eye for those moments and the gumption to take the sometimes bold action required to leverage them, will be the ones who succeed and make the biggest difference in the world.

Think Steve Jobs.

Apple had countless r-evolutionary moments whilst he was at the helm. And it was his ability to identify and then promptly and boldly act in ways to encourage that r-evolution that gave Apple the headstart in so many niches.

Like the unprecedented deal he did with the music companies to sell their music one song at a time for just 99c on the iTunes Store. It revolutionised the music industry and came from Steve’s passion for allowing iPod users to buy new music and store and load it seamlessly onto their device. When he unveiled iTunes on April 28, 2003 at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco, he said “This will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry.”

And it was. They thought they’d sell a million songs in 6 months. Instead, they sold a million songs in 6 days.The day Bill Gates and the Microsoft team saw the iTunes Store, they realised Jobs had caught them all by surprise with his amazing “r-evolutionary” strategy.

“We were smoked” said Jim Allchin, head of Windows Development at Microsoft in an email to the inner circle at Microsoft. And Bill Gates replied “Steve Jobs’ ability to focus in on a few things that count is amazing.

”Every r-evolution asks you, as an entrepreneur, to focus in on the few things that REALLY count.

To step up and be amazing.

To feel the fear and take action anyway.

To follow your gut, push through the resistance and tread new ground.

And, whilst sometimes tough, the rewards are great – a business you love; a business doing something meaningful that people value; a business others will be passionate about being part of.

Today is another one of those r-evolutionary moments for us.

Today, after 20 years as Universal Events we are changing our name to Universal Stars.

Of course, this is more than just a name change.

It reflects our evolution and sharper focus as we move into offering a dedicated service for entrepreneurs, business owners and professional experts, helping them to grow their businesses, make an impact on the world, increase their incomes and create the kind of future they really want.

The change reflects our own r-evolution as we hone in on making a significant difference for our community of more than 60,000 entrepreneurs throughout Australia and New Zealand by helping them in three key areas:

  • Starting their business
  • Growing their business
  • Building their wealth through powerful investing strategies

We’ve chosen the name Universal Stars because we believe everyone in our community is a star.We believe entrepreneurs and people who create great products and build businesses make a tangible difference in the world and deserve recognition and, more importantly, support.

We believe the Business and Success Mentors we bring to Australia & New Zealand to support our community are also Stars – the world’s best.And we know that our dedicated team are Stars, each and every one of them.

Universal Stars is our commitment to excellence. It’s us saying “YES” to being r-evolutionary. It’s our promise to respect and support you and always be on the lookout for the best in business and success education, wherever it is, around the world.

It’s significant, for me, that we are making this change as we embark on our 20th Anniversary Year… When Universal was started 20 years ago, I dreamed about making a huge impact and helping others to grow and learn. And this is, personally, a real milestone to reach the two decade mark... and to share it with such a talented, committed and wonderful team and such a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, difference makers and such extraordinary, respected and generous mentors.

Thank you!

Here’s to being r-evolutionary together and having a sparkling 2013.

Let us know your thoughts about our name change by emailing us here.

Karen Corban
Founder and Managing Director
Universal Stars (a division of Universal Events Pty Ltd)


About the Author

A visionary entrepreneur, Karen founded Universal Stars (formerly Universal Events) in 1994. Her mission is to inspire people and companies to grow, through bringing them live events featuring more than 100 of the world’s top speakers on business and success. A graduate of UNSW (Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology), her passion is to educate and inspire people to be the best they can be. Karen delights her clients with her unique blend of enthusiasm, inspiration, charm, care, wisdom and generosity.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Comment: