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I was a 20-year-old university dropout with no entrepreneurial experience when I decided to start my own business. Was I crazy?
My last year of high school was pretty cruisy. I was accepted into my dream university course, a Bachelor of Marketing and Media, early in the year, and so I didn’t have to stress about achieving a specific ATAR to get into my preferred course – a true blessing! I witnessed the stress my friends and classmates went through and was constantly thankful that it wasn’t me. Sure, that meant I didn’t work as hard as I could have, or perhaps should have, in my final year of school. Still, I don’t even remember what ATAR I received in the end, and I’ve never once been asked since. I did, and still do argue that the score is not a measure of your worth and is not something worth agonising about.
Throughout my final years of school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, so when I discovered the Marketing and Media course that Macquarie University offered, and that early acceptance was an option, I knew instantly this was the course for me and I applied. I’ve always been fascinated by marketing, and as a naturally creative person, it was the only career I could think of that would allow me to use my creative skills daily as well as the business skills I loved. University was always the plan as both my parents had graduated uni, and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t follow suit, let alone abandon my degree. I’m not a quitter.
The first semester of uni rolled around and I instantly regretted my decision.
I had this idea in my head that everything I would learn at uni would be relevant and applicable to a real-life job, and that I would be enrolled in subjects that I loved – but that just wasn’t the case. There was so much theory, and my textbooks were decades old and written by grey-haired old men. By the end of the first semester, I did not love it.
I thought I could learn far more by getting practical, hands-on experience and so I made the tough call and deferred. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to go back to university, which is why I tried *so* hard to land a marketing position that would allow me to learn on the job.
After bouncing around in a few random jobs, such as a kid’s party host and a production assistant at a music company, I landed a fantastic marketing coordinator role at a B2B marketing agency. This was incredible for so many reasons; they took me on with next to no experience and trained me from the ground up, it was close to my house on the Central Coast so there was no commute, and I was working directly with the two business owners, a husband and wife team, that I became really close with. I was so bloody lucky, and I’ll never take that experience for granted. Never. I learnt a range of marketing and time management skills which have since been a godsend in my business, such as multitasking, working to deadlines and marketing strategy – as well as how to deal and communicate with clients.
However, growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I knew that working for someone else wasn’t something I wanted to do forever.
My dad was a hotel manager for most of his life but also created an online accommodation website that he later sold. Now, he has his own streetwear clothing brand which, yes, is strange for a 60-year-old, but he’s killing it and I am so proud. I’ve seen how much the business has grown and how happy he is every day going to work for a company he created – and I knew I wanted the same feeling for myself. I also knew that social media was a skill I really enjoyed, and was good at – so I searched for a way to make this my career.
Social media has always been part of my life as I belong to a generation of digital natives. When you grow up with social media, you just have a sense for what works and what doesn’t work in the social media world.
I first started using social media professionally to build my personal brand as a country musician. I play (and release) original country music as a hobby/passion-project/side-hustle and when I first started, I had to compete with all the other artists who had been plugging away at it for years and had quite a big following. Social media was the place for me to find supporters, meet other musicians and network with people in the industry. It provided me with a whole lot of opportunities which were otherwise unattainable.
It didn’t occur to me until later that social media would be something I could do on behalf of others. Plus, I had no idea how to run a business, or even start one. What I did know was what I didn’t want to do.
I’d had some pretty shitty jobs throughout my teenage years, and I knew what parts I didn’t want to take from those experiences. I’ve seen bad leadership; I’ve dreaded going to work because of crummy bosses and I’ve seen how these businesses treat their staff and their customers. Witnessing all of this firsthand, I knew I wanted to do things differently. This meant I had to work bloody hard to build up my business in only a few short months and get it to where it is today.
I started my business ‘officially’ when a friend of mine asked me to run her social media for both of her businesses. She had seen me do it for myself and knew my range of marketing skills, and she wanted to help me get started which I am *so* grateful for. From there, due to our great results together, she referred me to some other brands, and everything grew from there. Of course, I used social media to build my own business presence and this allowed me to meet a lot of other business owners in my space and create a support network. Something I highly, highly recommend. Business ownership is very lonely if you go at it alone.
However, starting a business so young was also really challenging.
The average businesswoman in Australia is 38 years old, so at 21, I am definitely way below the average – but I’m ok with that. Actually, it makes me really proud of myself that I was able to find what I loved so young and create a successful business out of it. I have a really young sounding voice, so I can never hide my age on the phone – which definitely could have turned some potential clients away. I totally get why it might – there is a stigma that surrounds young people; that they’re lazy and don’t have the necessary experience to back up their work, but I think for a lot of young people, that isn’t true.
Imposter syndrome is still a mindset I internally battle, and a lot of people my age just can’t understand what it means to run a business. They think ‘working from home’ is a free pass to go and get drunk on weeknights, to ‘give myself a day off’.
Finding people my age with the same work ethic to surround myself with has been a real struggle. This is also why the support network I have found through social media has been such a lifesaver. I have so many incredible female entrepreneurs I can turn to for advice (which I did not have when I first started my business) and always have someone to rant to or share my wins with.
A lot of people my age have no idea what they want to do with their life, and I count myself lucky. Lucky that I’ve found something that I love doing that doesn’t even feel like work. But in saying that, I didn’t get here by luck. I worked hard, trained hard, and I soaked up all the advice and tips I could get my hands on. I wouldn’t change it for the world.