TWO TRUTHS ABOUT ME AND A LIE: I took a guy in white latex into a meeting with Domino’s CEO, I had a gambling addiction at 18, I own an expensive car. SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T USUALLY KNOW ABOUT ME: My husband & I have 4 beautiful boys with two amazing mums. The mums are the parents & we are the fun dads :) SOMETHING THAT TICKS ME OFF: Bad manners.
To lead with authenticity
CHOOSING PASSION. Founding Nexba, an Australian brand leading Naturally Sugar Free product innovation, was a timely opportunity for Troy. His brother-in-law Drew Bilbe had returned from Mexico with an idea for a product to help fight obesity in Australia. “He made me think about having passion in my career. I was doing well as a paralegal, but it got me thinking if I would actually enjoy being a lawyer.”
As it turns out, Troy understood Drew’s mission for tackling obesity and unhealthy consumption in Australia. He had visited a close family friend in Gapuwiyak, an Australian aboriginal community in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Children were buying soft drinks and coffee instead of water, and there were rampant health issues within the community, he recalls. “I’ve always had a mantra of ‘Live well, love life, leave legacy.’ This opportunity allows me to achieve all that, so why not start a company?”
Troy was still in university when Nexba started. “I didn’t know anything about starting a company, but I know if I am passionate about something, I will reach out to people that inspire me in that space to find out what it is I need to know and to learn,” he says. He recalls reaching out to the late Peter Baron, a serial entrepreneur and inventor of the Unistraw, a straw delivery device. “He told me if I really wanted this, I would have no option but to make it work.” That meant drawing a salary of $15,000 for four years, as well as solving production hiccups .
Having a business partner whose skill set complements your own is important, Troy says. In the beginning, as an engineer, Drew handled the innovation and operations while Troy took care of sales and marketing, though their roles are constantly revised as the company grows. While it was not easy going headlong into the startup, Troy acknowledges that he was lucky to have the financial resources to weather staying lean during the process. That eventually paid off when Nexba landed its first national account with convenience store chain 7-Eleven.
IT'S ABOUT KNOWING HOW TO BE THE BEST YOU. Troy knew he was gay prior to starting Nexba, but he was not yet out, and it took him years to be comfortable with being gay. “I had started the business with my brother-in-law, but I was also insecure about my gay identity, and I was nervous about people knowing that I was struggling.”
Eventually, Troy discovered that being gay in business could be an asset. “Your individuality and who you are turns out to be your greatest asset, as it creates network and kinship,” he muses. He recalls befriending a gay founder of a household goods company who told him, “I can make more money off of spoons than I could with your brand, but I see your dedication to your cause. Having a brand with a purpose is critically important.”
Today, Troy with his partner Blake Bowden, help two beautiful mums raise four children and hopes his story can inspire future entrepreneurs. “I wish I had known more stories of amazing gay people who have successfully started businesses and had great families. It would have helped me realize it’s ok to be gay while starting a venture.”