Hello Mr. Pink
Walking along the beach in Surfers Paradise, Ben Mulcahy, founder and CEO of a successful gay media company, takes me through how it all started.
He spent his childhood in Melbourne, six years in London (in two three-year stints), and now lives in Sydney. He has two driving passions: entrepreneurism and wanderlust.
He first left for the UK two days after finishing a commerce degree, missing his own graduation. He does not regret it. Returning to Australia three years later, he founded his first advertising business, aged 23. Apple Advertising consolidated advertising space in gyms across Australia, selling it to brands targeting health-conscious consumers. Within three years he had become so successful he sold it to his chief competitor.
“I had a great time, and I learned so much about business. Individual gyms couldn’t negotiate with big brands, but when you get them all together and reach a critical mass it becomes a lot easier. It’s strength in numbers.”
After his second spell in the UK, he spent a year touring the world before settling back in Australia, taking a nine-to-five job selling ads on mobile apps that ultimately failed to satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit.
“It took me a while to find my next gig,” he says. Working for someone else isn’t “his gig”: he has to be running the show. “I want to be in charge of my own destiny,” he says.
Two years ago he found what he was looking for. He noticed that most advertising features white, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon couples with 2.2 children. He set up Pink Media Group to help connect brands with a community they were overlooking.
“If the theory of one in ten people being samesex attracted is true, then this community is around 2.2 million Australians, with a disposable income of around $20 billion per annum.”
Ben is much more comfortable talking about business than himself. He eventually reveals who inspires him – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Harold Mitchell and his dad – and he mentions a supportive family and friends as reasons for his happiness. He is also surprisingly open about coming out professionally.
“Opening this media business involved coming out to many long-term clients for whom sexuality was never relevant. The vast majority were brilliant. Only a couple stopped returning my calls.”
But when I ask him whether he ever secondguesses himself, he pauses. “They don’t need to know that, do they?” It turns out he does, and these bouts of selfdoubt are intense but temporary. He never lets it stop him doing anything. He just carries on and moves on to the next thing.
Since Pink Media Group, he has launched two more businesses: Pink Rewards and Pink Financial Group. The first, an online deal site, which offers products and services to gay and lesbian Australians at rewarding prices, came about because Ben didn’t think that established coupon sites were relevant enough for the gay community. Pink Financial Group was launched in December 2012 to offer home loans specifically to the same-sex couples.
Ben donates a percentage of every campaign with Pink Media Group to leading LGBT community charities and funds a donation to the borrower’s preferred charity with every loan from Pink Financial Group.
Being able to give back to the community he belongs to is in itself rewarding, but Ben’s real passion is the work itself.
“When you do what you love, it stops being work,” he explains. “The two things that stop most people from starting their own businesses are fear of failure and fear of the unknown. It’s hard to leave a reliable income. I really admire people who find something they know and love and just go for it.” Paul Wild is a Sydney-based writer and editor. He is cynical, sarcastic, cold-blooded, ruthless, and cruel. He’s also utterly lovely and bakes fantastic pies. Follow him @svenym.