Today was an unusual day. It started off much like any other alarm clock-whacking, children-waking, dog-feeding, breakfast-eating, dispatching-the-kids-to-school type of day, but instead of having a cuppa and a biscuit at 11am, I decided to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. For those of you who haven’t heard of this extraordinary piece of 19th century architecture, it is, quite simply, the original Disney castle. And the perfect place to wander around, pretending to be a princess on a rather chilly January morning. So off I went.
Having had a good nosey around King Ludwig’s masterpiece and thoroughly indulged my princess tendencies, I flew up, across a bit, down a bit and then along a bit and decided to stroll down Carnaby Street, London – another fabulous bit of bonkers-ness.
Finally, in need of solitude, I ventured north and took a moment to appreciate the breath-taking scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Sigh.
Well, after all that, it was really was time for a cuppa and a biscuit, as I sat and took stock of having just gone through my very first virtual reality experience, courtesy of Google Earth.
I had actually been a little nervous. Not just of looking a bit of a tit wearing the big goggly mask thing. But of being out of control. Not able to see people around me. It all seemed a bit odd. But, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, I was determined to ‘do one thing today that scared me’. Well maybe not scared me, but certainly slightly-freaked-me-out-and-made-me-a-bit-worried.
But aside from this, I wanted to do it as VR (as opposed to AR, MR or ER as I now know) is what my client sells. And I wanted to better understand ‘what’s for sale’ before I tried to help my client sell more of it.
And that in itself is such an exciting thing to write: I. Have. A. Client. Ergo, I have a business that has clients.
Twelve months ago, I was a couple of days into the post-Christmas-return-to-work bleaugh. I was doing a job I loved – marketing – but not in the right company or with the right people. Fast-forward six months, and after twenty years as a client-side marketer, I had made the move ‘agency-side’, and I was loving it.
I loathe feeling like a fraud or blagging it. And whilst I’d wanted to make the move agency-side for a number of years, I truly felt I had nothing to offer until I’d actually worked at the client coal-face for a while. Well, twenty years definitely felt like ‘a while’, so off I went.
I loved it. Loved meeting new people – clients, competitors, random networkers with fabulous tastes in shirts – and I loved the work. Understanding new industries. Researching environment factors and new marketing doctrines that could impact a client’s business. My brain was buzzing and it felt good.
But for some reason it wasn’t quite enough. I wanted more.
Around the time of my Little Mermaid Moment (as I’ve come to term it – love the song ‘Part of Your World’), I started speaking to a fabulous human being who planted a seed. What if I started my own business? What if I created an agency that ‘did marketing’ the way I know it should be done? What if…..?
I’d never thought of starting or owning a business. Never considered that there could be a way I’d run a business that would be actually be a whole lot of fun. Never realised that I actually had something that other people would want to buy.
Now there’s a number of reasons for why that’s the case. Some of which might ring a few bells with other women in their early forties. Lack of confidence (which requires a whole other blog post another time). Lack of time (although, after hearing a fabulous debate between Mishal Husain and Martha Lane Fox, I realised that using the “I’ve got toddler twin boys and an older daughter” isn’t actually a reason not to crack on). Fear of failure (a couple of redundancies had taken our family dangerously close to the danger zone and I was frighteningly aware of doing anything remotely risky).
But actually, the reason I’d never considered starting my own business was a bit like why I’d never had a go at a virtual reality game: I’d always seen it as something that other people did. I didn’t think it was for me. Didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Didn’t think I’d get it. And didn’t have the first clue as to how to go about it.
How wrong I was.
The same fabulous human being mentioned above suggested we go into business together. Said that, actually, it really was very simple starting a business – you just had to work out what’s for sale and put it in front of the noses of the people most likely to buy it. And really, all you need in any company is someone to sell ‘it’, someone to make ‘it’ and someone to count the beans.
So that’s what we did. We launched ‘Proper Marketing’. We worked with a fabulous designer to nail our brand. We created our website and our own marketing. And all the while talking to business owners about their marketing and how frustrated they felt that it just wasn’t working they way that they felt it should.
And I was able to help them. Give them answers. Sometimes even sell them answers (which my business partner much prefers). And it feels brilliant. Helping clients to grow their business, their charity or their organisation – simply by advising them on how to change how they ‘do’ marketing – makes me thoroughly happy.
Trying new things is now a way of life. Saying ‘yes’ or asking for an opportunity or volunteering an opinion is now my ‘modus operandi’.
So, having gone on my first virtual world tour this morning, I decided this afternoon would be the perfect time for another first. My first blog. I’ve been writing for over twenty years. I’ve written as an academic publisher in Fitzrovia, a mining consultant in Santiago, a British chocolatier in Derbyshire and a software geek in Milton Keynes. But this is the first piece I’ve ever written as me. In my own voice. Which is actually quite terrifying. Putting yourself out there. Waiting to be judged. Criticised. Not liked.
But this blog might also inspire. It might give a much-needed confidence boost to a fledgling idea. Or it might simply fill five minutes whilst drinking a flat white.
Well, however you’re feeling having read my first attempt at writing (and well done for making it this far – brevity has never been my strong point) – here are a few final things I want to leave with you:
- if you’ve never done it, try virtual reality (or augmented reality or mixed reality or extended reality) – it will blow your mind. And make you look cool in the eyes of any teenagers you know, which is always useful.
- doing something as big, hairy and audacious as starting a business for a ridiculously basic reason is absolutely fine. I started my own business for the simple reason that I wanted to help people with their marketing as that made me feel happy.
- if you can, start a business with a partner. It’s a lot more fun. You can split the driving. And you do need someone to tell you you’re wrong. Or you’re right.
- finally, just do it. There’s a reason that a well-known sports brand has this as their motto.
After all, as I’ve learned from my relentlessly curious children, it’s far better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.