This year I was asked to speak at an International Women's Day event in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney. This is my home town, where The Marketing Bungalow is located (Caringbah, NSW 2229) and I was nervous! I've spoken many times before but always about my knowledge; brand, marketing, communications. This time I had to talk about myself. I was so very overwhelmed and grateful that my decision to go with the raw, real me was the right one. Thank you to all the people who approached or contacted me to share kind words after I spoke. So with that and in the theme of my talk on the day, I'm sharing below the written version of my speech. The delivery was not to the letter of the below as I'm very improv when in the moment, but this is my story. I hope you enjoy a little insight into why I'm so passionate about being authentic and why The Marketing Bungalow is more than just a 'business or a 'job' for me.
What challenges have you overcome & how has it led to change? This is an opportunity to share your individual story of challenge and how you have chosen to create change in your world.
There are so many challenges in business. Cash flow, people, the economy, time.. Then we add to that being a spouse or partner, a parent, a student, a friend and we often forget about the person that is most important to ensure all of that is successful and continues to thrive and that’s US.
For me in particular I find that my biggest challenges have often led to the big growth moments that show me how I can elevate myself and in turn my business by learning from a weakness I have, disappointments or stepping into my self worth to walk away from a bad opportunity or situation.
And then, the scariest of all is taking steps to scale and grow and trust the plan and my ability to adapt as needed while accepting that there will be lots of hard days and some setbacks and maybe failure too.
And so far it’s taken me 12 years to get to where I am so far.
After a redundancy during maternity leave, I started a solo marketing business in 2009 to test the waters with a core focus on brand communications for small business namely promotional campaigns, social media (which was fast emerging as a valid channel) and digital communications like website content and email marketing.
I’ve always been a people pleaser, curious and a fast learner so I started building on my University degree and corporate experience in marketing by completing my diploma in design and lots of tactical short courses. So from all that the business organically grew as I had multiple skills to offer, I was a one-stop-shop!
But, at the same time my young family grew, my clients grew, my responsibilities grew and I found myself constantly chasing my tail and having no time, working until early AM hours most nights, working every weekend and in all honesty not really achieving more as I was so burnt out.
By late 2014 I was a wreck. I ended up in the hospital with a pancreatic infection on an IV that in the end turned out to be gall bladder disease so after surgery (noting that I did get my husband to bring my laptop into the hospital so I could continue to work) and, two weeks off I hit my first big change decision moment.
I was five years in and although making an income it wasn’t what I would get in a full-time corporate marketing role. So, I narrowed things down to two choices and that was to either go back to a day job or bite the bullet and scale this business by building a team, finding more clients and outsourcing the things I was really bad at (so basically anything to do with bookkeeping and accounts).
The challenge ahead brought the fear of failure, fear of financial stress and fear of being rejected but for some reason, I decided to do it anyway! I started with zero dollars capital and funded the rent of a 13sqm meter office and one and a half staff out of my own income and a $1,000 overdraft. No loans, no cash injections. Just me. There were many narrow escapes. Success for the next two to three years was essentially survival.
Then in 2018 a few of the planets started to align, we had a routine and a groove and we had built to a stage that we decided it was time to purchase a 50sqm office through our brand new and very modest self-managed super fund and get an overdraft to build the team to a level where my whole existence was no longer all things to all areas of the business.
By this time, I had a great accountant, two team members and by putting ourselves out there we started winning more business as the focus and plan to grow was established. I kept pushing even though I still questioned myself constantly, even as we won our first international client, maintained our core clients and worked with the ebb and flow of projects and short term clients.
So now in 2021 we’ve survived COVID (so far), we’ve continued to grow and we’ve added two more amazing team members so we are now a team of five and I’m just so overwhelmed and excited all the time that these four talented women have chosen to share their skills with the Bungalow.
I’ve also decided to extend our scope so we are taking our design services to the next level by launching our sub-brand Bungalow Creative which focuses heavily on graphic design so brand identity, print, animation and digital design services. This step has involved investing in new equipment that allows us to add to our services with brand pieces such as custom-designed apparel, merchandise, stickers, posters and decals.
So, on the good days, I do stop and think, wow, you’ve done alright kid and, in all honesty, it’s only been very recently that I’ve had a few moments of ‘oh I’ve done this from scratch, from zero dollars and it’s taking shape and I’m doing a pretty ok job here.’
It makes me feel cringe-worthy and self-absorbed to say ‘You’re doing a good job Kelly’ and that’s actually my challenge. To have the confidence to back me, to believe in myself and to not be afraid to tell the world that the Bungalow brings so much to any client’s table.
I feel many women and men are often scared to say ‘I’ve’ done this or ‘I’ve achieved that as we’ll sound conceited or full of ourselves but as I grow I think it’s important to be able to say that about yourself, to step into that self-worth as a business owner because it’s bloody hard work and to stick with it is really challenging. No one will believe the value you offer if you don’t own it.
And even though I’m starting to change how I position myself personally to the world I’m still growing. I still cry at least once a month because I’m tired or stressed. I still worry every fortnight what if there won’t be enough money to pay the wages one day. I still do negative self-talk. I am very aware every single day that many things can go wrong and further growth isn’t a given.
Each stage of small business is a new battle. But, with the world in the state it is I also realise and am so grateful for how very privileged I am to have been born in Australia, to have had the opportunity to get an education, get jobs and be in a position to build a business from scratch. To have a husband and kids who believe in me more than I’ll ever believe in myself. To have a team of legends, to be able to lean on some amazing mentors as constant sources of support.
So, mine is not a romantic story of making millions or achieving Zen work-life balance. It’s a grind and a constant challenge but it’s a challenge I get to choose, it’s my journey and that’s why I keep going.
Find out how The Marketing Bungalow team can help you elevate your business by contacting us HERE