Boss Lady

Lessons from an entrepreneur: How I built and leveraged 3 business models from my kitchen table.


One of the first entrepreneur lessons to learn is that with an idea and some planning, you can launch a business from anywhere.

Entrepreneur lessons I learned from 3 ventures

Leverage your skills

I have been an entrepreneur for 17 years now, and over that time have launched and run three businesses. My first business was built around an existing skill I had and one that I could leverage and set up fairly quickly once I secured the first client. It was a music teaching school I created and successfully ran for 10 years teaching after-school piano keyboard programs in primary schools, as well as private lessons for 10 years. This provided the necessary capital to build and leverage my next venture.

Look for needs to fill

As the music business scaled, I then started my second venture as a business owner running a boutique recruitment company supporting the global accommodation industry and, specifically recruiting for revenue and yield management positions. This gave me great insight into the needs of many accommodation operators, including the need for skilled talent in the discipline of revenue and yield management, which was also hard for the unskilled in this discipline to recruit for – many human resource professionals at the time, didn’t know what they needed to look for to determine candidate quality or how to assess it.

I was also able to identify training needs required across the broader market. This was a gap I had identified back in my early career as the Director of Revenue Management for The Ritz-Carlton, Sydney and Double Bay, and was my longer-term business goal. It also began to lay the structure for operating a predominately online business.

I clearly remember the day I left The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Company. I said to myself that I would return one day to the accommodation industry in a capacity that allowed me to help people grasp and apply the discipline of revenue and yield management to their businesses and grow their profits.

Broaden your experience along the way

As timing would have it, I was fortunate to land a role in revenue and yield management with Qantas Airways. I had always wanted to broaden my experience beyond accommodation, and call it luck or great fortune, it was the first time the airline had accepted external intakes into their revenue and yield management department.

This opportunity gave depth to my experience and future credibility as a leader in this subject matter. I always encourage aspiring leaders to consider taking opportunities that broaden their experience and push them out of their comfort zone.

Whilst I continued to oversee the running of the music school and boutique recruitment company, I began to develop the training materials, structure, and framework for what was to be my third business venture, ARMA – Australian Revenue Management Association Pty Ltd – focusing on online education products.

Use success as a foundation to stretch

The first two business models allowed me to take the risk and venture into a third business which was my original business passion and long-term goal.

All the business ventures have been an incredible learning curve and rewarding journey. The skills I developed and the experience gained from the first two business models laid excellent foundations for what was to become and is ARMA today.

Look for mentors

I’m incredibly aware of how tough it is to build, sustain and succeed in business, including just how resilient you need to be, so one of the key entrepreneur lessons is to find mentors. I am thankful for industry mentors that saw and shared my belief early on for the need to create quality and accessible training programs in revenue and yield management, including the need for an online accredited higher education qualification. This discipline is 100% critical in unlocking revenue and profit opportunities for business models with perishable assets. To the unskilled eye, many of these opportunities would go unseen.

At the time of ARMA’s launch, there were very little available in terms of engaging, quality, and accessible training opportunities, and very limited online programs. ARMA proudly filled this gap in both the accredited and non-accredited training sectors.

So now I get to do what I love every single day and impact the lives of business professionals all across the globe who are doing amazing things for their organisations.

The pandemic has further highlighted the continued need for strong talent in revenue and yield management – to optimise every opportunity during and beyond recovery.

The most exciting part of my business is hearing all the success stories from people in our learning community and I love seeing and hearing about their wins which come from incredibly hard work.

I love seeing lives transformed as skills and confidence grow, and ultimately the businesses they work for benefit immensely.

I also love seeing the respect the discipline of revenue and yield management has gained over the years within the accommodation industry, and today it is a highly valued and in-demand skillset across many industries globally. Skilled revenue and yield managers are “rockstars” in many organisations.

No entrepreneurial journey is easy…but with;

  1. Hard work and dedication
  2. Patience and a high value placed on the quality of work, service, and relationships
  3. Plus, an unwavering belief

… your business dreams are possible!

I always remain a student in the business world, looking for even more entrepreneur lessons and excited for what opportunities lie ahead.

“Begin with the end in mind and your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

About Melissa Kalan

Melissa Kalan is the Founder of the Australian Revenue Management Association (ARMA), providing online education programs for industry and academia and e-learning course development. Her life philosophy is centred on the principle of “always learning” and her background includes senior management positions within Qantas Airways Limited and The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Company. Melissa wrote the first nationally accredited short course in revenue and yield management, developed the Graduate Certificate of Revenue Management in partnership with Torrens University Australia, founded the APAC Revenue Management Summit and developed YIELDMAX® - a revenue management training tool for academic partners and recently published her first book drawing on her extensive public speaking experience. Melissa has also recently been appointed CEO of Global Woman Connect – Australian Chapter.

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