Vets on Call

Morgan Coleman

Not only the founder and CEO of one prospering startup, Vets on Call, Morgan Coleman also has stakes in two other companies. To say that his approach to business is nimble only begins to describe the tenacity he brings to his work. But Morgan says that despite working in very different industries – pet healthcare, property development and psychology – the same skills are crucial: to be flexible and determined. “You’ve got to be very adaptable,” he says. “I don’t think entrepreneurship is for people who aren’t willing to get their hands dirty. You’ve got to be willing to invest in your business. It’s a baby, it’s so fragile.” Undoubtedly dedicated to Vets on Call (a mobile app that connects pet owners to vets for home consultations), on any given day Morgan can be found meeting with investors to discuss huge deals or “literally licking stamps” he says. There’s no task too big or too small when success is the goal. “If you were to be like, ‘Nah I don’t want to pack boxes’, then your business is going to fail,” he explains. “Being a startup founder, you need to wear a lot of different hats.”

A Torres Strait Islander man who grew up in Bendigo – on Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung Country – in Central Victoria, Morgan identified his fairly strengths early in life. At school, he excelled at accounting and business studies not only because they interested him but also because he could understand their real-life application. “I think school was too stationary for me,” he says. “I wasn’t a terrible student, but I wasn’t amazing… I think it was mainly because it was too static; I like to be active and moving.”

Somewhat rebellious and constantly challenging the status quo, Morgan has never been one to take too many orders from others, so entering the world of entrepreneurship was perhaps inevitable. “I think I had a bit of an issue with authority, particularly as a teenager. I’m not sure that ever really went away,” he explains. From his childhood years to his first jobs, he questioned everything. “I found it really difficult as an employee when a boss would be like, ‘This is just how we do it.’ I couldn’t see the logic in that,” he says. “Tell me why we do it like this… Tell me why. If you can’t, then you’re not getting my attention.” Later he completed a degree in commerce at university and landed a position at a property development company. Several years into his career, something shifted – that independent spirit still very much alive. “I had this moment,” he says. “I was sitting in front of my computer and I just felt like I was bigger than what I was doing. I had always had this desire to start my own company and – right in that moment – I felt that if I didn’t empower myself, then I would continue to be disempowered in the workplace, which is how I felt.”

After an experience at a traditional veterinary clinic with his dog, Morgan saw an opportunity to disrupt the industry and to become his own boss. In 2017, he founded Vets on Call, but much like his other ventures, Morgan’s job isn’t to perform the central duty the company provides. “My job isn’t to do the business, it’s not to do the core service of the business. My job is to facilitate the core business,” he explains. “People would say, ‘Are you a vet?’ and I’d say, ‘No, I am a disgruntled customer.’ That was a bit tongue and cheek, but the way I saw it I didn’t need to be a vet to fix a system that wasn’t serving me as a customer.” Vets on Call shaking up the vet industry: connecting pet owners with vets (rather than clinics) and taking the entire experience on the road. The bold concept was initially met with some skepticism, but Morgan understood the value in his idea. “We need vets in our business, but a vet doesn’t have to run this company,” he explains. “What this company needs is someone who is willing to push the status quo, who is willing to challenge the outdated views of how a business in the vet industry is to be run. When I started, I had all these guys who had been in the industry for 30 years, and they told me Vets on Call would be dead in two years. Two years later I had them calling me asking how they could be a part of the business.”

That kind of confidence in an idea, and in one’s self, doesn’t always come naturally. But Morgan believes that entrepreneurship can be learned. “It’s not as if I started Vets On Call one day and the next day, I was super-successful. It’s just not how it is,” he says. “I really think that the learning comes from when you start. That’s entrepreneurship in general.” Vets on Call has been in business for three years, and Morgan is close to closing out a $1 million investment round. While the mobile app was born from a personal experience and Morgan is determined to see it transform into a billion-dollar company, he isn’t afraid of failure. “I say to my wife, ‘I’m never going to work for someone else again.’ I’m just not. If Vets on Call can’t get off the ground, there will be another business,” he says. “I have a really clear vision of the life I want and that I’m creating for myself. I’m willing to sacrifice what I need to, to create that life.”

It’s that kind of ambitious, future-forward thinking that he wants to instil in young Indigenous people. “I do think that, particularly for Indigenous kids, so much of society tells us that they don’t expect much for us. There’s a tendency to believe that and not expect it from yourself,” he explains. “What I would say to an Indigenous kid that’s thinking about business, is anything you see other people do… you can do that too. But you have to actually believe that you can and be thinking about that all the time.”

He speaks from experience and believes those who saw his Year 12 grades might not have expected much of him professionally. And it’s a challenge that, even as a successful entrepreneur, he still faces. “This is something that is a pet peeve of mine, when you speak to investors and the government, and they’re talking about Indigenous business, they pigeonhole you to be in a community business. Like you could only be serving your local community, and not create a massively scalable, fast-growth business.” Of course, he’s not criticizing community businesses, but Morgan worries that kind of messaging “encourages us to think small,” he says. “Even still, when I speak to some of the people running Indigenous business information sessions, they're talking to me like I don’t know what a mission statement is. That, to me, is baffling. Look at my business and look at what I’m doing. See beyond the fact that I’m Indigenous. I would just encourage any person – particularly a kid starting out – to think, ‘How big do you want to go?’ and times it by 10.”

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