Rebecca_Wilson_portraitFrom a background in marketing consulting, Rebecca Wilson applies her entrepreneurial passion and love for community through Starts at 60. Rebecca founded Starts at 60 in 2012 to offer the information, insights and ideas those in the over-60 age group are looking for. Starts at 60 is a news, blog and information website, and online community for over-60s in Australia and New Zealand.

Rebecca gives us an overview of how she has grown throughout her career, and the transition from consultant to tier one firms to successful entrepreneur. 

Can you tell us about the Rebecca Wilson story?

My story starts back at university. I studied nothing in particular in a really entertaining way but I got involved in university clubs and innovation groups and got sucked down this addictive hole of entrepreneurship. I can put that as a really exciting thing to have done outside the framework of university that started my hunger.

After university I did the classic ‘get a good job, in an industry that looked good to your family and your friends’ to tick that box. Everybody gets one of those. I was a trainee stockbroker in an era where the Internet didn’t exist and that made my dad smile. My school education was validated and everyone thought, She is going to be safely employed for the rest of her life. Ten months in I moved to London, fell in love and away we went.

I think we left with only six weeks worth of money, not knowing we would arrive in London with six weeks worth of money because the dollar was so weak. We got to week five, we had no jobs and we were looking at that money going ‘we don’t want to ring home and ask for money.’

Week five on the Friday, I got a job at Morgan Stanley and that was a magnificent experience. I worked 60 hours a week for two years in the investment banking industry to fund my ‘backpacking thirty-three countries around the world in two years moments.’ Then I transitioned to the next step, which was coming back from London.

I landed in a friends business who was a 21 year old entrepreneur. I took as much risk as I could in the .com boom- travelled the world, raised capital, did some really cool things that I possibly didn’t realise that I was ever going to do again for fifteen years. Then I went into corporate. The world of .com fell apart and my safety sense was to use all the skills I’d learnt in entrepreneurship but go into that corporate environment and build a career.

I ended up in consulting in tier one and two consulting firms. Learning my way through the engineering industry, basically plodding along what is a very nice, safe career path. I left to have kids at the age of 27 and the management team of the business I worked for said I could come back minimum four days per week or as an administrator, if I wanted a job. At that point I politely said no.

I started then working as a consultant and it was the first taste I had working as a consultant. I worked for $20 an hour in marketing consulting providing advice to people on how to grow their business. My business, Stretch Marketing, started to turnover a decent amount of work and I worked my way to tier one firms in the CBD and very good hourly consulting rates. I did consulting for ten years and stopped taking consulting work in January 2015.

Stretch Marketing started in 2009. I wanted the marketing I did to be a demonstration of how well I would market my clients. From that point I committed to writing blogs, learning more about marketing and found leaders all over the world I wanted to learn from. Since 2009, I’ve been committed to staying on the front of that wave of knowing everything in marketing that I need to know.

That process of hitting the end of Stretch Marketing was really scary as I had just founded Starts at 60. I ended Stretch Marketing because I had effectively ended up back in the corporate world, managing more corporate teams than I was people in my own business.

What inspired you to start Starts at 60?

The over 60s are my parents, they’re cool, they’re awesome. We can all look at our parents who are 50, 60 or 70 and know that they are in a phase of their life that we haven’t seen yet. The generation has never been seen this proactively before. People haven’t been this healthy, worked this long and they haven’t had as much affluence.

I could see this in the corporates I was working for with opportunities for them to work with baby boomers as a great emerging market and I would sit there and rattle their cans going ‘please take notice, these people need you to notice them.’ In the end I sat back and thought, ‘am I taking my own advice? In two years time would I still like to be consulting or could I be doing something more meaningful?’

I’ve got a big social development background which started when I built a website [Flood Discounts] during the 2011 [Brisbane] floods. I built the site with my now business partner overnight when the floods hit to build a community of discounts available for people. We built a website where companies could lodge their discounts and we had 9,000 discounts lodged in the website within 2 weeks. It was a voluntary project and there was no profit because this was my community in Brisbane. The learning of it was how awesome community is. It’s so awesome to do something to change the world a little bit. That’s why I started Starts at 60.

How did you navigate you transition from the corporate consulting world to being an entrepreneur again?

Not very elegantly! I kept trying to wait for the perfect moment to tell my clients that I changed paths but sometimes you don’t want to give up what’s working really well until your new wheel is built and I didn’t know if this new wheel was going to work.

A lot of my beautiful clients are very close friends so they knew I was evolving into something different. They knew I wasn’t going away but they also knew I wasn’t going to be there to provide their ongoing consulting support. I certainly one day didn’t go and announce that I was shutting Stretch Marketing.

I probably could have done it better but you rarely get perfect timing in entrepreneurship. Other than the window we got two weeks ago when we secured a tier one investor and we went, ‘the door now shuts on every earlier project and we are focusing on the things we should do not the things we could do.’

How did you face the challenges when moving from the corporate world to Starts at 60?

We had 3 people a year ago and now we’re up to 18. The first challenges were confidence based. They were around when to hire and what to hire into our team and how to grow and mentor. As a consultant I had never learned how to be a mentor. I had been a really good external mentor but I had never been accountable for somebody’s day-to-day behaviours. Learning how to be a very good manager of people became my next big skill set to work on and I’m still working on it everyday of the week.

When did you introduce a board to Starts at 60?

In January 2015. I had a group of three wonderful people around me as mentors who came around to get me really focused. I had ten things I wanted to do back then but I also wanted to close my investment round. I knew focus was an important part of that. I brought my ten things to the table and my mentors said ‘wow, you could change the world but you can’t do it with all those focuses.’

They told me to knuckle down on a number one focus, run a great business and then the other focuses, which is what we have done. A year later I am so proud of taking their advice because they were right on. We are only at the beginning and they were right to focus me. That’s what a board has been fantastic for.

How will the investment from Seven West Media help Starts at 60 continue to grow?

It doesn’t change who are today. We have built here in this office a very successful business. The people in it are so passionate about what they do; it’s exciting to come in everyday. We wanted to be at the very frontline of media technology as it evolves [and] it takes a fair bit of investment in analysts and data because that is where media is moving. The last thing you want to do is get caught running a publisher with an old-school business model in an evolving media industry.

You want to be running a fully integrated media business that has a great way of understanding how to evolve as the media market evolves. There are lots of reasons for working with [Seven West Media], number one is technology for us and number two is they have enormous reach into the baby boomer [audience]. They really love what we’re doing, we’re an innovation investment and it brings to them an asset they don’t have in digital to do some of that innovation.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

At this point, the biggest lessons are around people. I’m constantly learning about recruitment and staffing which I have never had a background in. There’s nothing I would do differently because everything you do that didn’t work, you learn something from that I will use in the future. Without those learnings I don’t think I’d be where I am right now.

What have been some of your biggest lessons from Starts at 60?

Putting deals together. Putting together the deal with Seven West Media, I feel like I got an MBA in 9 short months and it is a privilege to work with a team like that. They are really smart in different things than I am smart in so the mutual strengths are terrific.

I’ve also learnt about building websites at speed with traffic. The developers go ‘Rebecca, you think that’s going to take this long. Multiply it by four.’ The risk of dropping something that isn’t tested properly into 5 million page views can destroy everything and you can’t afford to take a risk with any of the moving pieces.

I think I also would have brought sales people on earlier to make decision making easier but that’s because you think you can do the job for too long. I’m getting better at learning what job I’m good at and now packaging roles and bringing people into those roles where they are going to provide better value than me doing everything. I’ve done almost every job in the business before somebody else did it. I just keep inching myself towards more leadership oriented roles.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

  1. When you’re sitting in the corner going ‘why am I doing this?’ just keep going.
  2. If you don’t feel a little bit sick in your stomach, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.
  3. It’s okay for you to want to be challenged and it’s also okay to have phases of life where you don’t.
  4. Be confident to work out who you are. I know we all feel like imposters, it’s normal.

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing her insights with Leaders in Heels!


I hate that ‘elevator in the morning’ feeling. That feeling you have when you get in that lift ride going to work thinking, ‘here we are’. I hated that feeling when I was in a normal working environment and I knew that’s the thing I wanted to break away from as a culture and a business. I never want myself or anyone working for me to get that sinking feeling when they’re coming to work and I don’t think it breeds innovative thinking.

Petrina_Buckley

A self-confessed ‘multipotentialite’, Petrina’s role in her businesses highlights her diverse career background and passion for empathetic creativity. From a background in business development and marketing, Petrina Buckley applies her multi-skilled background to designing training and development courses through Magneto Communications and Credosity. Magneto Communications is a live online and classroom based business-writing organisation taking copyrighting psychology and applying it to business writing training. Credosity meets busy professionals’ demand for just in time learning through real-time analysis of your writing and tailored tips on structure, logic, audience engagement and persuasiveness.

Petrina gives us an overview of how she has built her successful career and the challenges and rewards of having your own business.

Tell us the Petrina story. How did you get to where you are today?

I think about this all the time. There’s a whole language around being an artist versus being an entrepreneur. I think those two worlds are very close to each other and my mind was centred more on being an artist but I’ve always had a big passion for business. I was unfortunately born into a house that didn’t understand what business was and there was no role models but it was something that I clearly had an interest in.

I found my way via art because that was the world I hung out in throughout my 20s with artists, filmmakers and people doing the unconventional.  What emerged for me was that I liked to be more in control of the outcome so artistry became entrepreneurialism. After being in the art world you realise how much easier it is to operate in the business world. In the art and entrepreneurial world ambiguity is everywhere. You have theories, passions, interests and intent but the outcome has more ambiguity than you could ever imagine.

I started out in events marketing for nightclubs and that sort of space, which is hilarious given I am the biggest health junkie on earth. I don’t know how I ended up there but quickly went ‘that’s not for me’. I did learn in that space there’s a lot of hustlers. If you want to hang out with a lot of hustlers, go and hang out in the nightclubs space. This was in my early, early 20s. Just hanging around them I learnt a lot about business because I would have to work with the founder, as they’d open up new nightclubs or new hotels that were pretty big scale projects. You saw first hand what it was taking [to build] from the ground up so it was a good learning curve and I think that’s why I hung around because it was so fast paced.

As soon as you’re in hospitality you learn a very fast cadence of delivery on everything. Every night that restaurant is open breakfast, lunch and dinner and there’s events on all the time – there’s no stopping, it’s 24/7 every day of the year, it just keeps rolling and you learn to keep rolling no matter what. As much as I look back at it and go ‘cringe’ at the same time I can get the lessons were around delivery. You had to consistently crank out something new and stepping it up to the next level. It always had to be layer upon layer.

How did you and Paul get the idea to start Magneto Communications?

Magneto started about ten years ago [in] 2005. Paul [Jones] and I had known each other for years but came together when he had a client who booked a training course in three weeks time and Paul hadn’t built the IP yet to deliver the training course but he’d already got the cheque. Paul said ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t put it together’ and I said ‘I can put it together, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing- I know I can do this. I’ll help you build that first program’. Paul been working for the Australian Institute of Management so it’s not like he hadn’t done it before, he just hadn’t done it for himself though so he hadn’t built his own version.

I remember just lots of pieces of paper out on the unit floor just frantic all night really running up against time and we put it together in the three weeks. The client had already paid, the feedback was fantastic and we went ‘maybe we’ve got a business here’ and really that was it. That’s the exact way you should build a services business – sell first, build the marketing… the one-pager ‘here’s what you’re going to get on the day’ and then build the business.  Paul was doing copyrighting at the time and I was doing all sorts of projects – a lot of values exploration workshops for Diabetes Australia and corporate clients so we both kept the day jobs and kept [building] up the business.

Paul also had another business at the time called the Last Thursday Club, a networking group in Sydney and that was just starting to take off as well so I came in and started shaping that into a business. So that’s usually what I do is I come in and create the order and the systems and I’m a bit of an all rounder. We took [the Last Thursday Club] up to the next level over two years. Then we sold it because Magneto had built up. We’d got some great corporate clients, the promise was there and we needed to focus. We got out of the events game but took that learning into our corporate training business.

The 7-year itch…

Fast-forward to 2013/2014…the business had grown and we had a really strong corporate client base. It was a year where we had definitely got the 7-year itch with the business. I think it’s a real thing in relationships and business. It usually comes at 7 or 10 years they say and I think we got it at 7. We went look ‘it’s renovate or detonate’. We knew we wanted to step up to the next level.

We had dabbled in e-learning and online learning and all of it was great but it wasn’t sticking, not just because the business wasn’t sticking but I believed more in just-in-time learning where you work alongside the habit that people already have. That’s how we ended up building Credosity for Microsoft Word because our clients were clearly enterprise and government. That’s who had the pain – managers inside those businesses having to review other peoples’ work or having to just be embarrassed by what was going out on behalf of the business. That’s why they [corporate clients] would come to us to get the training. It was about rethinking learning, identifying existing habits and creating a better learning experience for those existing habits when clients were back at their desks.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Being a non-technical founder in a technology company, it’s been a disadvantage and an advantage. The disadvantage is you are reliant on getting incredible people around you that know the technology and you can trust to make incredibly built to last decisions.

Enterprise software is tough,anyone will say that. Getting that right and developing it in a way that is built to last that can keep up in very rapidly changing landscape [is challenging]. It’s never been a better time to be building on Microsoft.

Rewind two years ago and people would say ‘Microsoft? There’s so many other cool options out there’. Now I think those people have very rapidly been proven wrong because Microsoft has an incredible pace to it now that was never there two and a half to three years ago. The disadvantage is making sure you understand the technology and you’re focused in the right way. I now know more about enterprise deployment than I ever thought.

The upside is I’m more people focused than technology focused; it’s a huge advantage because smart human software cannot be developed without the empathy piece, without the people piece. That’s what we found, a lot of the solutions out there we would look at them and go ‘that’s just developed by developers for developers and no human could look at this and make sense of it’. It was either too much or too technical and it didn’t have the type of design thinking I can appreciate. I was just seeing something that your average user in a corporate, the type of person we’re trying to help, would open it and go ‘this is not for me’. It was overwhelming and confusing.

We wanted to use the people side as being the advantage of having no idea about the tech. I now know things I never thought I would know or needed to know but apparently I know way more than I thought I could ever imagine about enterprise deployment. You want people to be using it so you have to work through all the roadblocks and build your own knowledge until you understand it so it was a huge learning curve.

And the Rewards…

Many many many! Financial reward is the one that people think ‘that’s going to be the reward’ and it will fix nothing. I’ve had some extreme first hand experience of that not fixing a thing for a friend who has got plenty of it. I can think of two guys who I’ve been particularly close with, one was someone I worked with and the other a close friend. I just got some up close and personal experience with the hell they were in thinking that was going to be the important one. I had the benefit of learning from their mistakes and I know not to pursue that. I shift that [focus] in my head and we’re always making investments so I want a healthy profitable business and I never want that to change because I think that’s what’s sustainable.

Beyond that what I think you get as the biggest reward has been the personal learning and the opportunity and freedom when you get an idea and you can actually implement that idea. You go ‘I actually think we should go do this’ and you don’t have to check that off with anybody else or I don’t have to write a board paper. There’s no red tape, there’s just go, and I love that freedom. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge that as much as I should and go ‘that’s pretty cool’. There’s no handbrake I hate handbrakes and I hate people who are handbrakes too, unless it’s sensible. I don’t like the emotional handbrake or the real world handbrake and I think that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you too. I go ‘we’ve got to step on the gas over here and even if I slam into the wall that’s okay, I’ll own it.’

How do you stay focused?

The biggest thing I ever did and this was a long time ago, probably 12 years ago, I got really clear about my values and articulated those. They’ve changed a few times as I’ve understood myself better. Working that out and actually knowing for you ‘these are my unshakable, don’t mess with me, don’t cross the line parts of my life’ will help make and shape your decisions.

My three fundamental values that I keep coming back to are health, family and business in that order. If things are wobbly, you have to come back to the moment and assess where your core values are at seeing if you’ve let anything ago and being able to turn that into action the next day. I’ll ask myself have I exercised this week? Are we having enough family time?  Where are we at? What do we need to do?

And being clear that business is number three and keeping that in perspective. I’m borderline workaholic and I love to work.

What is the future for Magneto and Credosity?

That Magneto becomes the enterprise communication standard and we are a model that is best practice. When someone sits down to write something important or wants to evolve their communication skills, they turn to Credosity as a source of learning and trusted advisor to help them.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

  1. Don’t wait for permission.
  2. Follow and trust your instinct.
  3. Don’t worry about what everyone else says.
  4. Worry about what’s right for you, not what is right for the rest of the world.
  5. Hurry up!
  6. Know yourself; know that you’re worth it.
  7. Get going and don’t look back.

Thanks to Petrina for sharing her insights with Leaders in Heels!

Images via Petrina Buckley.

Nicola Smith

Nicola Smith is a research and policy analyst with experience in the property and technology industries. Nicola is eager to learn and thrives on intellectual challenge ensuring this translates into informative content for Leaders in Heels’ readers. Her goal- to create the informative career content that you’re grateful to receive from a mentor, colleague or friend.