Director and Co-Founder of Social Media College, a world leader in social media marketing education.
Can’t start the day without: Lemon water, followed closely by a coffee.
Go-to tea or coffee: Soy cappuccino.
Best read of all time for personal growth: The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss. This book got me into entrepreneurial mindset as I prepared for the launch of Social Media College. I also love the The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman. There are a lot of great case studies which continue to inspire me.
Top motivational music track: I love the Spotify playlist ‘Tropical House’, I often play this in the mornings while I’m getting ready for the day.
Most afraid of: Letting people down - I’m a big people pleaser.
Go-to for fun or to let your hair down: Time with friends and family, anything from simple dinners to days out on the water.
Favourite quote? “Hard work puts you where good luck can find you”.
Right now, you’re fulfilling a vision and a mission. Looking back, when was the first time you understood you wanted your own business?
My family are very entrepreneurial and my parents have launched many businesses over the years in all parts of the world.
I grew up in Bali, Indonesia, where majority of our friends and family were running their own businesses, from fashion labels to development firms, I was exposed to the world of entrepreneurialism from a very young age.
I commenced my career in media and advertising while I was still at university and I loved working in the industry, however in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to start my own business.
I worked in corporate for 7 years and highly valued the mentorship I gathered from my colleagues. During this time I would often brainstorm with friends and family about different types of businesses that we could launch, from new technology platforms to e-commerce ideas. It was only in 2014 when I saw there was a clear gap in the market for formal social media education that I made the leap, and I have never looked back.
How did you discover the business idea and what were the first steps you took to bring it to life?
During my time at AOL Platforms my role involved educating large agencies and corporates on all of the different opportunities available in digital marketing, and it was during these presentations that I noticed that there was a huge skills gap for social media marketing, and no formal qualification to match this ever-important skillset.
I started researching what educational programs were available in social media specifically, and to my surprise there was very little (hence why the industry was so inconsistent). Online education was an area which always interested me because I loved the idea of being able to assist people in achieving their dreams. I discussed the idea with my partner, Jonathon (Jon is an entrepreneur himself) over a bottle of wine and we discussed the framework which would later become Social Media College, and with that the idea for Social Media College was born!
I made a start by putting together a pitch presentation and organized to meet with a number of different investors. One of which – Scale Investors - a female investor group who provided me with some very valuable feedback. They said they absolutely loved the idea, loved my passion and would ultimately invest, however they said that I had not invested enough in the idea myself to make them comfortable with moving forward. I was still working full time but for the business to succeed it needed my full attention. I realised the worst case scenario was that my business failed, in which case I could always get another job and just go back to normal life if I had to.
With that I decided to take the plunge. I planned the next 6 months of developing the business and I quit my job! There was no turning back.
Was your employer at the time supportive of your decision to leave?
Yes, very much so, I was very close with my manager at the time and gave them 3 months notice. They did try to persuade me to drop down to part-time rather than leave altogether. It took a little time for them to fully accept that I had made up my mind and was committed to my new venture. After four months of winding down, I finally made the leap and launched myself into Social Media College on a full-time basis, in November 2014.
How did you go about finding a business partner?
I had this idea at the start, that if I couldn’t find someone willing to invest in my idea, then perhaps it wasn’t an idea worth pursuing. So I spent some time speaking with a few business advisors and investors however I quickly realised that each one wanted to drive my vision in their own direction.
I was hesitant to get tied into any commitments at such an early stage, so I spoke to Jon about my concerns and he suggested we pursue the venture on our own and self-fund to get the business live. Jon has been my business partner from day one, an advisor initially, however once we gained traction he joined the business full-time and is now CEO of Social Media College.
Were there any defining moments during your start up that really helped shape the business?
There have been so many defining moments! One particular defining moment was when we gained approval for the Diploma of Social Media Marketing, which became the first and only formal qualification in social media worldwide.
We worked on the application for the greater part of six months, and subsequently waited another 6 months for the accreditation approval from ASQA (the Australian Skills and Quality Authority). I remember the exact moment we received the email from ASQA informing us that our Diploma of Social Media Marketing was approved! It was a monumental achievement for us as this qualification is the first and only formal qualification in social media marketing. It also transformed our business as we could now work with leading Colleges and Universities in Australia to deliver the Diploma of Social Media Marketing.
Another defining moment was signing Open Colleges as one of our first partners to deliver the Diploma of Social Media Marketing. Open Colleges are the largest online education provider in Australia and this was a definite signal that we now had a serious business on our hands!
Who were your biggest supporters on your business journey and did anyone try to dissuade you?
Jon, my now husband and business partner, has been my biggest supporter since day one. I am also fortunate enough to have a very supportive family network. My parents have been incredibly supportive from the very beginning. They knew it had always been my dream to develop my own business and my mother in particular could see I really believed in the idea, she supported the move from corporate to start up.
However, not everyone showed the same level of enthusiasm. Friends and other colleagues in the business felt it was very risky and a lot of them didn’t support me in the beginning. I quickly realised how important it is to surround yourself with people who not only inspire you, but encourage you and urge you to achieve your goals.
In saying that, many of the ‘naysayers’ are now our biggest supporters!
I quickly realised how important it is to surround yourself with people who not only inspire you, but encourage you and urge you to achieve your goals.
What was the hardest point in your start-up journey?
Definitely making the jump from full time work with a great salary, to launching into Social Media College full time with no salary (this was before we had a product or service to offer). I had a fantastic career and loved the people I worked with. Everything was progressing quickly with promotions and the like. But I had a dream that I just had to pursue.
There were so many factors to consider at the time – Jon and I were getting married and buying a house, so I wasn’t sure if it was the right time. But I just went for it, with the support of Jon of course. I backed myself and believed it would be successful.
I backed myself and believed it would be successful.
What were the biggest challenges that have helped your business progress the most?
One of the first big challenges was that the business, and more specifically our social media courses, took a lot longer to launch than I initially anticipated – I had originally expected my salary to match what I had previously been earning after a year, but in reality, it took three years to get to that stage. However, because it took longer, we’ve actually established a lot of IP in the business, because we’re now that much further ahead of any other competitor that might enter the market.
Another challenge was when I realised that it would take time for our courses to gain momentum. There’s a lot of anticipation when you start a business. You’re full steam ahead developing an amazing product, you launch it into the market and you assume that students will be queuing up, but it takes time to become established as an expert. Regardless, I would not change a thing. It has been an incredible journey.
What were the best practical steps you took to get your Social Media College off the ground?
I wanted Social Media College to differentiate from any other course provider, and with that, the first step was partner with some amazing social media experts. I went to the Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers list and contacted every relevant person on this list through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and their personal websites. I wrote a lot of emails and while I didn’t get much direct rejection, often I would simply get no feedback at all. In business, you just have to get used to being resilient. Don’t take things personally!
In business, you just have to get used to being resilient. Don’t take things personally!
Do you have any tips for contacting influential people?
What I soon realized was that even the most successful people are, in the end, just people like you and I. If you present them with a good opportunity, they’ll certainly respond. You do need to hustle a little bit in order to make contact initially, a lot of time it will be their assistants responding to their emails. However, influential people often respond directly to their own Twitter accounts or their LinkedIn messages, so try to reach them from all angles. Even if you don’t get the response that you’re looking for straightaway, you may get some constructive feedback or valuable advice, or make some connections that could turn into a bigger opportunity in the future.
What have been your top “pinch me now” moments so far?
For me it has to be seeing our diploma on the UTS website, that was a real “Wow!” moment. There’s just something about UTS I’ve always respected. UTS is certainly a very innovative University in regards to their course offerings.
Being nominated for Businesswoman of the Year at the Optus Business Awards was another very special moment.
We also do a lot of team events and at the most recent Christmas party we asked the team about their highlights for the year. The comments they came back with were truly inspirational, talking about how they felt so much reward from being able to help our students realise their dreams. It was amazing to see how our vision of the business has been transferred to our team. I felt very proud.
How have you found having your husband as your business partner?
Jon has been, by far, my biggest supporter from day one. I could not have started Social Media College without his unconditional support. He has been very active in the business right from the beginning and always addressed every challenge and opportunity with a positive attitude.
We’ve always had a brilliant dynamic together and we each bring our own skill sets to the table. He’s very much analytical and into finance and I’m the big dreamer. We make a great team.
What advice do you wish you had been given in your early 20s?
The first one is to surround yourself with people who inspire you. It’s so important because there are lots of naysayers out there. If you’re doing something new or slightly different, there are always going to be a lot of people who will resist or put up walls and not believe in you, so it’s really important to find those who support you, but who will also challenge you in a constructive way.
It’s really important to find those who support you, but who will also challenge you in a constructive way.
Secondly, be selective about who you take advice from. It’s great to listen to all the advice given, but take on board the advice from those that you would aspire to be, or those that really inspire you.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to celebrate all of your wins – even the little ones. It’s so important to be grateful for the work you’ve been able to achieve, the people you’ve been able to meet. All those things add up and it’s the little wins that keep you going.
It’s so important to be grateful for the work you’ve been able to achieve, the people you’ve been able to meet
For women who want to make a positive change in their life, but don’t know where to start, what advice would you give them?
The most important thing is to get started. Whether it be your own business, or a new career. Decide what that first step needs to be and take it! Don’t wait for next week or next month. As soon as you begin, you will start to build the momentum that you need to succeed.
Also, surround yourself with people who inspire you. Reach out to your mentors and organise a coffee, or just a call. Most people will feel honoured and assist with pleasure. Ask them questions such as “how did you get started?”, that will help inspire you too.
As soon as you begin, you will start to build the momentum that you need to succeed.
Finally, enjoy every moment. The journey should be just as enjoyable as the end goal. Laugh lots and always remember that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to.
Check out the Social Media College, a world leader in social media marketing education.
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