The below is a guest post from Morgan Coleman, CEO and founder of Vets On Call.
It was an easy choice for me, an unlucky number for some but for myself it felt like it was one tiny step closer to my dream, one step closer to becoming like my hero Michael Long. My first ever junior football jersey with the number thirteen emblazoned on the back made me feel like I was inching toward attaining the success of the Indigenous sporting icons I admired so much.
I wanted to be a professional sportsman, I wanted to be like them, most of all I wanted to be successful. The reality was that for an Indigenous male growing up in regional Victoria in the nineties, sport seemed like the only way I’d ever accomplish such success.
I was a teenager when I realised I wasn’t going to play AFL. Decades later that moment is yet to be forgotten. I just found out that other boys my age were already being scouted by AFL clubs and I hadn’t even made a representative side yet, the truth was inescapable but given my lack of success on the football field I’m embarrassed that I didn’t figure it out sooner.
What’s stuck with me all these years isn’t the disappointment, it’s how scared I was. I felt like the one vehicle I had to a better life had just evaporated in the split of a second. It seems crazy to me now given my optimistic outlook on the world but I don’t blame my younger self for feeling like that. It’s not that there weren’t Indigenous Australians doing amazing things, it was that you just didn’t see them and the message sent by so much of our society is that we really don’t expect much for our Indigenous Australians. So, when I tried to think about what I wanted in my life it was impossible for me to imagine obtaining it without the avenue of sport. At the time I felt like if I didn’t succeed at sport, I simply wouldn’t succeed at all.
There is a big difference between knowing what you want and believing you can attain it. One thing that has never wavered throughout my entire life is my desire to succeed, the burning ambition to build a better life for myself and my family and my aspiration to build the kind of influence that would enable me to help improve the lives of those in my community.
After a few years in a large corporate I realised that it, too, would not bring about the kind of disruptive change I needed in my world. I felt disempowered there, I felt like change took too long, that there was too many politics and I felt like I was only ever going to be a passenger on someone else’s ship, not the captain of my own. I wanted rapid change, I wanted to feel empowered and I wanted there to be no ceiling to the things I could accomplish. I knew I had to start my own business.
When I set my goals, I aim high and I wanted to create a business that could scale rapidly, become a household name and ultimately stand as a shining example, a legacy, of what Indigenous Australians are truly capable of. After a chance encounter at a veterinary clinic I created Vets on Call – a technological disruptor to the $4b Australian Veterinary industry. At Vets on Call we’re redefining the way veterinary services are acquired and delivered and, in the process, I hope to help redefine the expectations Australians have for their Indigenous peoples.
These low expectations are not only rife amongst the average Australian, but are deeply imbedded in the institutions that claim to exist to help us achieve. The little capital that is allocated to Indigenous businesses predominantly goes to micro businesses with little scale up potential and the accelerator programs funded to assist Indigenous entrepreneurs to grow their businesses focus on teaching what an ABN is or how to write a mission statement. For those of us at the helm of fast growth, rapidly scaling businesses with huge upside potential the attitude of our collective society simply isn’t ready for it.
Vets on Call has become my life. I live and breathe it. I love this business with every fibre of my being. I love it not only because of how enjoyable I find the challenge of disrupting a $4b industry that has operated the same way for decades, nor because of how exciting I find my vision for its future. I love it because the disruption it is causing goes well and truly beyond the industry, it filters into my personal life and into the psyche of those who witness it shining. It’s disrupting a cycle of struggle and allowing me an avenue to create a better life for my family and I. Better still, it challenges the low expectations Australians place on its Indigenous Australians by publicly demonstrating the capabilities of our First Nations people.
When I reflect on the disappointment and hopelessness I felt as a teenager and at times through my corporate career I realise that it’s easy to allow yourself to believe in the low expectations that our society has for Indigenous Australians. It’s easy and at times comforting to believe you are powerless. However, with business and Vets on Call I’ve never even been tempted to allow myself to be comforted by that. Regardless of how hard it is, the gut-wrenching disappointment you can feel and the weariness that sets in with a prolonged, constant grind, I have never for one moment felt anything but truly empowered.
We’re still young at Vets on Call and we’ve a long way to go to accomplish the lofty goals we have for the business, but it has already changed my life. When I left my job and started my own business I was seeking self-empowerment. Business has given me that. Where once I felt like a passenger going with the flow, business has made me the captain of my own ship. It’s allowed me to determine my destination and to set my course and it reminds me daily that regardless of the obstacles I face, if I am to succeed it is entirely up to me. In my opinion that’s exactly how it should be.
About the expert
Morgan Coleman is a 31 year old Torres Strait Islander who was a finalist in the 7News Young Achiever Award (2020) and the Ernst & Young Indigenous Entrepreneur Achiever Of The Year Award (2019). No stranger to entrepreneurialism and hard work, Morgan was offered a place at Melbourne University but faced significant financial barriers to get there. An Indigenous scholarship from Trinity College allowed him to afford accomodation to study at university and gave him access to some of the finest business minds in Australia.
Today Vets On Call is one of the most innovative businesses to disrupt the $4 billion dollar veterinary industry and it’s traditional business model and offer quality veterinary services that are more affordable, convenient and stress free for pets and their owners.
Image description: Morgan is leaning over a table, standing next to a woman. They are both looking at a piece of paper on the table and Morgan is writing something, holding a pen in his right hand.