"I believe in the law of attraction," says Julian Petroulas, an Australian entrepreneur who started his own management agency from scratch with virtually nothing. It's a sunny day in Los Angeles and as he takes a slow sip of his freshly brewed coffee, it's clear that Julian is not your stereotypical entertainment manager. "I'm also his best friend," Julian says of William Singe, a Youtube singing sensation who has just signed the largest US record deal of any Australian artist.
You see these colossal names. Uber. Facebook. Twitter. All of these remarkable entrepreneurs and you sit there thinking, "They're smart though. They love technology and I have nothing to do with that." You tell yourself that you can't be that successful because you've invested years studying for a degree or you don't know how to start a company or you're simply afraid of failure.
However, for 24-year-old Julian Petroulas, this was not the case. "I used to tell kids in school that I was going to be successful but they would just laugh," he says scrolling through his laptop in his Los Angeles apartment. With a successful management agency managing one of the biggest Australian singers and with sold out tours across North America and Europe, who would have thought this all blossomed from tumultuous music, a plethora of mud and his name blasted everywhere online? Some 16-year olds sit at home using Tinder to find new girls to hook up with and Snapchat to document their "super cool lives" of just posing for Instagram pictures but for Julian, he created a festival in Australia which sold an astonishing 4,000 tickets quickly. After realising the potential success of festivals and the entertainment industry, he chose to drop out of high school at the tender age of 16 and pursue this industry.
"Music was and is my passion," says Julian Petroulas, smiling as he reclines on a grey sofa with Will's latest single 'Rush' playing in the background. With his tousled dark brown hair and chilled aura, Julian could easily replace Zayn's spot in One Direction. Growing up in Sydney and Byron Bay, Julian started out as a musician himself, posting his own original music on MySpace, reaching 25,000 streams and becoming one of the top played musicians on MySpace Australia (which he says was a "big deal back then.") However, flash forward a couple of years and you'll find him sitting in his Los Angeles apartment, tapping at his laptop, booking in William's latest show for a cool US$50,000, "I remember booking Will for US$400 when we first started, so to be able to now lock in shows for this amount of money is pretty next level."
So, how did a high school dropout/aspiring musician end up creating such a successful management agency? Julian, who has just flown in from Sydney to Los Angeles, looks comfy in a crimped white jumper and his bed head brunette hair in a messy ponytail, "I was trying to figure out how to use the following I had built with my own artist project when I was a teenager to earn money. I was making money from posting my songs on iTunes but I knew that there was something bigger than song sales alone and my passion for being an artist was fading. Eventually, because of the following I had built, MySpace approached me and offered me an endorsement deal where they would pay me a monthly retainer to continue using specific elements of their platform to keep my audience engaged as they knew competition from Facebook had started to ramp up."
However, instead of Julian using his leverage to continue his own career as an artist, he decided to become an entrepreneur and create his own music festival from scratch, "I was 16 and had earned a little bit of cash from my own song sales as an artist but didn't have the slightest bit of understanding of business or investing. That's why when I look back at the decisions I made, it's mind blowing to see how much I gambled and how I decided to put every cent I had earned into starting my own music festival. By the time I paid for everything, every dollar I had was gone into the hope that this festival would work. Almost everybody told me I was an idiot and that it wouldn't work. Thankfully, the event went on sale and it sold out instantly to 4,000 people. I dropped out of high school immediately."
Today's millennials feel the increasingly tremendous pressure to fit into a certain category at a young age. At the age of 10, your parents will say, "Be a doctor" or "Be a lawyer". However, true entrepreneurs and successful millennials see the gap in any industry that they enter and see its incredible potential. And that's exactly what Julian did. At an age where most 20-year olds are college students cramming for midterms, Julian had just sold his festival promotions company and upon realising the desire for fans to get closer to their idolised celebrities, he developed a subscription tech company where fans could communicate with their favourite celebrities.
Inevitably, it was only a matter of time before Julian moved to the Big Apple to really follow his dreams. Engulfed by the megalithic skyscrapers and the endless bouts of people walking, he poured his heart into gathering inspiration for the tech company. With soaring profits and a strong audience, surely there'd be no incentive to ever give up the company? After all, isn't that what we would all strive for? However, for Julian, when he realised that his "heart wasn't in the tech world", he decided to sell his start-up to a larger tech company. Whilst many of us millennials wouldn't even dare sell such a successful company, Julian knew that there was no point in investing time into something that he truly wasn't passionate about, "I realised after a while that making money is awesome but making it for no purpose isn't. It started to feel more like a job and as soon as I had those feelings, I knew something had to change so I sold it and left."
With an undeniable love for music, after leaving the tech world, Julian started his own management agency at the age of 21 years old. "We had always been best friends. I knew that Will was destined for more." Will had been part of a boy band, 'The Collective', which had been put together on X-Factor. After 2 years, the boy band had fallen out and Will left the group, the label they were signed to and his previous management agency. "After, I asked if I could manage him as I had just started my own agency and he said yes!" says Julian, whose air of self confidence and positivity is undeniably something unique.
"I sat down with Will as soon as I signed him and we talked about everything he wanted. We set goals for how big we wanted to grow his socials, how much revenue we wanted to bring in and we talked about every detail of what we were going to do even though we knew how unrealistic it probably was," he says as he taps his shoes rhythmically on his table and sips his second cup of freshly brewed coffee. From starting off with only 2,000 Facebook likes, in under 12 months, Will grew to a staggering 2.5 million likes. "Once we grew the socials to a point, we announced 4 tours without really knowing how they would perform. We set to have over 50+ shows across the US, Europe, Australia & Asia and they all sold out in seconds and that's when we knew this was something incredibly special."
As Will hums to his latest single 'Rush', Julian turns around and smiles beamingly, "Once the labels started hearing about Will, they wouldn't stop calling. We had offers from almost every label in the US and it became less about being excited that this was paying off and more about making the decision of which label to choose." Now signed to RCA Records, all of this was negotiated in the hands of the 24 year old Julian Petroulas.
So, what's the secret to his success? "You need to be hungry, passionate and willing to take risks. You need all 3 - you can't have 2 and miss the other," Julian says with hefty self assurance. Although he's only 24 years old, he uses his young age to his advantage. He's not your stereotypical manager. He organised all of Will's 9 sold out tours and produced Will's touring documentary which MTV now wants to license. He was credited as a writer for Will's latest single 'Rush' which was released 3 weeks ago (with already 4 million views on YouTube). Although a relatively young guy living life himself listening to the latest trending artists, he exudes a certain air of maturity that only a few truly have.
When asked what his proudest moment has been so far, he says with a soft humility, "Whilst I've made more money doing other things, seeing Will's project blow up has been my proudest. Seeing life transform for the both of us, the places we have travelled to and the doors that have opened for us both." And that's the beauty of his entrepreneurship. It's not money motivated, it's for his passion.
Does it all stop here? No. Entrepreneurs keep on going. They'll see failures. They'll see successes. That one glimmer of radiating success will have involved hours of (hopefully not blood but) sweat and tears. Life isn't easy and following your dreams certainly isn't easy. However, if it's something you're truly passionate about, it will come regardless if it takes 5 or 50 years.
It's not stopping there. 2017 is only just the beginning for the careers of both Will Singe and Julian Petroulas. "It's strange to think where we'll be in 20 years. I've always been passionate about finding enlightenment. Finding the purpose of my life, why I was put here and why I am actually doing what I'm doing. In a sense I am much deeper than my work/life leads me to be," he says.
So, is the moral of Julian's story to quit your day job and pursue your dreams? No, of course not. It's about realising that if following your dreams is what you truly want to do, you should go for it and never be afraid of the consequences. It's all about believing in yourself (as cliché as this is) and going for it from that point onwards. Some people are always going to be dreamers and some are always going to be do-ers and if being a do-er is what you want to be, you can.