Starting a Business: Q&A with Tim Micallef

This series will offer insights from four entrepreneurs covering four very different industries. In this installment, we will hear from Tim Micallef, founder of Custms.

How do I start a business?

First things first – you need to do your research. Find out exactly what you will need to invest to bring your business to life, as well as the time and planning that will be required to turn this dream into a reality.

Every business idea has different requirements, that is why we asked four different entrepreneurs, who operate across four different industries, to offer us their insights. Learn from those who have first-hand experience in setting up a business, so you have the confidence to start your own.

In the first installment of starting a business, we spoke with Simon Barratt, founder of NCHE, a high-performance wetsuit brand. Simon shared the challenges and victories he faced starting his own wetsuit brand.

In our second segment, we spoke to Helena Gvozdenovic & Shelley Hodges, co-founders of eastbound hounds, a pet services provider. Helena & Shelley shared their passions, fears, accomplishments, and advice on starting a business to help any novice.

In the third installment, we heard from Nina Hendy founder of The Freelance Collective, an online community of Australian freelance creatives. Nina offered some advice and motivation to get budding entrepreneurs started.

In this fourth and final chapter of starting a business, we will be hearing from Tim Micallef founder of Custms: a personalised sneaker brand.

Learn from Tim's challenges and be inspired by his wins as you discover the trials and triumphs that come along with setting up a business.

So, what are you waiting for? Let's get started!

Entrepreneurs in Focus: Q&A with Tim Micallef


Name: Tim Micallef

Age: 28

Business: Custms


  1. What products and services do you offer?

Personalised shoes.

  1. Is this your full-time occupation? If not, do you hope for it to be and how do you juggle your workload?

No, it's a side hustle. If it became my full-time job that would be perfect, but the way I've set it up it basically automates itself. So, in theory the only time that needs to be spent is on marketing, which I now do outside of work hours so it's fine. Currently, I work on Custms outside of my regular working hours, after work when I get home and on weekends etc.

  1. Is it stressful doing that?

Yes, of course. Not so much the work, more the stress of the overheads that come with it. You've got a 9 to 5 job to do and then on top of that you have to worry about if the other business is making enough money to stay afloat, otherwise, it comes from my back pocket.

  1. What inspired your business idea?

Early growth.

  1. What inspired your business idea?

To be honest, I just saw a gap in the market. Basically, everyone was getting personalised accessories and I figured there was no equivalent for shoes. I researched it; the market, the costs, overheads and costs per items, which all stacked up. From a marketing perspective, I could get it to a price point that I thought was right, which to date has been the success of it. People are buying it because it's a cheaper, high-quality item. I was probably influenced by brands like The Daily Edited because I saw how many people were getting those gifts for people for their birthday or Christmas, so I basically tried to emanate that in another market.

  1. What motivated you to take action?

Doing the research and finding it was a good investment. I went out and pitched it to a few people and I ended up getting an investment board. That was what helped me get going because if I hadn't of had that it probably would have been a pipe dream because it needed a fair bit of upfront capital to get going.

  1. What are your current core business goals (short term and or long term)?

Well, it's two-pronged, although I said I saw a gap in the market, which made it commercially viable it was something that I had a bit of a passion for. I wanted to make sure people got good quality shoes on their feet without having to pay too much. You look at the Nikes and the stuff in this world and it's super expensive. So, it's two-pronged, the first is obviously greater business, but the second is to have a greater and wider variety, so it grows into a brand people more commonly go to. I believe this is achievable as they are an affordable, really good quality shoe.

8. What have you found to be the biggest hurdle throughout this process?

Marketing on a shoestring budget. All the initial setup and systems, trying to get things to work together, and finding the right suppliers and the right partners etc. It's much harder than it sounds – trust me.

  1. Why do you think so many millennials are discouraged from the following the career path of an entrepreneur?

Fear would be one. I think more broadly, probably attitudes have shifted a lot. I just know, I look at my parents' generation and it wasn't unusual for people to open a fruit shop, milk bar, plumbing business. This was a bit more commonplace, whereas now I guess everyone's got this idea that if I'm going to start a business it's got to be this big thing and working for yourself is challenging. There is a lot from admin perspective, like the taxman and everything can be a real hassle, compared to just turning up and getting your pay and leaving. Plus, everyone's going to Uni and getting higher education etc. and they're going out and getting decent salaries, so the need to start a small business is probably not quite there.

  1. What have you found the most rewarding?

Honestly, the first time I saw a pair roll off the conveyor belt, having actually created something was very rewarding.

  1. What advice would you offer other budding entrepreneurs?

The same thing that was said to me, ‘however hard you think it's going to be, it will be harder'.