After years of gruelling and intensely lonely study as an international student at RMIT, when I scored a corporate job at a big marketing firm, you might think that I would have felt that I had “made it.” It couldn’t be further from the case. I felt stifled and stunted at the large agency, rather than energised and motivated. Though I was putting out good work, I felt that something was missing.
Immersed in a corporate marketing agency, I was able to see from the inside how the old way of doing things—companies hiring brick-and-mortar agencies to handle their marketing, at huge expense—would have to change in the future. Especially in today’s world of global online commerce, marketing just isn’t what it used to be. And for small to mid-sized companies especially, the enormous cost and questionable value of hiring a bloated marketing agency just isn’t a smart move.
That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment. I envisioned a solution: an agency dedicated to small business. The idea was not refined and we were an agency in the sea of agencies. Two years into the business, that vision changed and start to shape up to what the company is today – a full-stack outsourced marketing department, full of global experts linked by cloud-based software, helping companies scale their marketing. The lean, efficient, cloud-based model could work for anyone from small mom-and-pop stores all the way up to multinational corporations. The cost savings are a major benefit, as well as the ability to access a plethora of experts from around the world. It is a wild mix of technology, logistics and creativity.
When the idea first struck, I wondered to how make my dream a reality. It was risky, but I knew that to not take this chance could potentially cause more harm due to the opportunity lost. When you know in your gut that something is right, you owe it to yourself to go for it. I quit my lucrative corporate marketing job, and I started Marketing Bee, on $400, out of my two-bedroom apartment. Talk about being a lean start-up! The funds went to getting a website and my cousin did our logo. At the time, that was where we had to start.
Here’s my two cents on starting a company from zero.
Be ready to buckle down
Once I passed the romantic phase of start-up dreaming, I knew that this was a period of building my business, not enjoying the fruits of my labour, so I traded in gourmet dining for economical fare at my desk and exciting travel for 14-hour workdays. I firmly believe that hard work eats talent at breakfast and that although the journey to building a successful business is hard and stressful – it is well worth it. In today’s entrepreneurial world, much of the focus is placed on quick exits and seed rounds. I believe this is the minority. My advice to any budding entrepreneur would be to learn to become disciplined, consistent and to keep grinding even when times are tough. The real breakthroughs often happen when things get hard. In the process, treat yourself with kindness and take the time to recuperate. I burned out too many times by not doing that.
Recruit a trusted team and built a considerable network
I was lucky to have friends and colleagues in business who stood by me through lean times and are still at my side today in more successful times. I have made a lot of mistakes during my business journey and many were worth learning from. However, if I could do things again, I’d recruit a team of advisors a lot earlier. Someone’s years of experience is invaluable when you are working on something that is just a cool idea for a very long time.
Work on your mental strength
Last, I continually looked for opportunities and kept creating them. I tirelessly networked, attended events and seminars, incorporated changing technologies and built new business relationships – we pivoted so many times until we got to the right fit. When you’re not sure what the next day holds for your business, it’s vitally important to explore every possible path to success and not be scared of change, the likelihood that your idea will remain the same after your business evolves is very low – hence why agility and mental strength are key to progress.
Even with all my hard work, it wasn’t always sunshine and roses. About a year after founding Marketing Bee, I nearly lost everything I was working so hard to build when personal circumstances turned my life upside down and I was in danger of having to leave Australia. But I worked hard, I didn’t give up on my dream, and I pushed through. Encountering setbacks as you work toward your goal is normal—it’s what you do in the face of adversity that matters. Always choose to keep fighting and keep showing up day after day. It sounds dead simple but it is not – it takes commitment, energy and confidence.
I’m proud to say, taking the risk and following my wild dream led me to independence and success that I never could have fathomed back at my corporate desk. Plus, I’ve had more adventures than I can count and plenty of fun along the way – working with great people, amazing projects and servicing some incredible household names.
I’m not ready to stop betting on innovation and hard work: Our latest challenge is named Hivernate, we’ve set out to change the landscape of marketing around the world by creating a program whereby companies can hire a remote department—uniquely tailored to their needs—for less than the cost of one full-time employee which they can manage 24/7 around the world – from any device. Our plan is to do this across a number of countries and that’s going to be another challenge I need to raise up to. I want to keep growing, keep changing, keep challenging myself.
If I hadn’t risked it all, I never would have known what might have been. The other day I read a quote which really resonated with me as an entrepreneur, I cannot recall the author but it said:
Remember that all the things you have now you wished for a year ago.
This quote really summed up the entrepreneurial progress for me, occasionally you will feel like you are stuck in a rut but the small steps each day make all the difference in your story.
Sharon Latour is the Founder and Queen Bee at Hive HQ. As an under 30 CEO, she is constantly on the pulse of what the digital generation has to offer, has a meticulous commercial eye, business flair and has been referred to as a ‘Biz Whiz Kid’ and ‘conceptually brilliant’ in the media. Queen Bee is a true believer in disrupting the industry with strong, bold marketing solutions.