Alex Hill

'Why I dropped out of uni to launch my own business…'

Tell us about your business, what does it do?

My business is barely three weeks old as I write this! In a nutshell, Cambie + Co. is a social media management agency. We offer businesses, specifically start-ups, the opportunity to develop a strong online presence that suits their brand values and growth goals. Everything we do is results-driven – as a start-up ourselves, we understand the pressure to market your business from the outset.

The thought of ‘consistent marketing’ can leave a pit in your stomach! However, nothing should get in the way of your entrepreneurial journey. Over coffee (or tea, if you prefer), we establish a company’s growth goals and individual business requirements, and from there we can develop a bespoke social media strategy, which becomes the basis for the social media management!

What did you do before you started this business?

What didn’t I do? I completed my A levels last summer, and scored myself a place at the University of York, where I was going to study English Literature – what I always wanted to do! However, a lifelong dream turned upside down when 2 months into my first term at university, I made the decision to leave. There were a number of reasons for this. I found that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be, and I was struggling to see where I was going with a degree.

I was, however, working part time, and this is what made me realise that I would rather be working and making money, than sitting writing essays for the next 3 years! After I left university, I got myself a part time job in a local pub to keep me going, before I landed my very first full time job. A few months later, I’m working for myself and have just launched Cambie + Co.!

What inspired you to start up?

In a lot of business books and on podcasts I have been listening to lately, I’ve heard a particularly saying used a lot, which is “If you’re waiting for the ‘right time’ to start, you’ll never start.” The whole idea is to start before you’re ready. I had the drive and ambition to start now, so I decided to take the leap.

Alongside this, I have met some incredible people in the last few months, who have inspired me to go for it. I’ve also been following Carrie Green from the Female Entrepreneur Association on social media a lot, and she is definitely someone I consider as a role model. Seeing amazing women who have reached their goals definitely inspired me to start up.

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

My Grandma has just mastered Facebook after four years, so I would tell her that Facebook posts are the new newspaper ads, except way more engaging and valuable to read – and I write them!

Where do you get advice, support or help?

Definitely from my mum, who I am super lucky to have as she has an awful lot of business experience and runs 49digital – a web development and UX consultancy. I have made some amazing friends since leaving university, including my close friend and pilates trainer Sabina (Pilates On Pointe). Sabina, among some other truly wonderful people, have been so incredibly supportive through all the ups and downs of the last little while!

I’ve also been referring to The Female Entrepreneur Association a lot for advice, and I just finished their 7 Days to US$1K program, which was super useful in starting up my business. I read a lot of business-related books too. One of my favourites is Tools Of Titans by Tim Ferris. Lastly, networking events have been a game-changer for me. I have made so many connections recently, who have became potential clients and even potential business partners.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

I was very lucky – because my mum is a web developer, she developed my website for me, which saved a huge amount of money. I never actually got any sort of funding (so far), and I have found that, at this point in my business, I don’t really need any. All I need is a laptop, an internet connection, and a coffee of course.

I have some overheads, however, such as the monthly cost for scheduling tools and of course networking events, and other such investments, but I had savings put away to pay for these things. I’m so glad that I was already saving, as I don’t know how I would be paying for these vital things if I didn’t! I am well aware that there will come a point soon when I need to look into getting more finance, and I’ll be looking soon for the best way to go about getting that. To other start-ups, I would say that being resourceful is the best way to overcome this barrier. Money or no money, if you can make the most of what you have got, you should have few problems.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Getting a business set up in less than a week! To put things in perspective, a month ago today, I had no idea that I would be running a business so soon. I have also already had my very first client meeting as part of my business, and had four enquiries! It’s definitely an incredibly exciting time. I think my biggest achievement to date would be getting two potential leads from one networking event. That was pretty awesome for me.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

Because we are a start-up, we understand start-ups. We are all in the same boat. So in that sense, we understand the needs of start-ups in a completely different way to a large agency, for example. Cambie + Co. is not simply “just another social media marketing agency”. We focus on the company at hand and their growth goals, not simply the next tweet we should post on their social media.

We think outside the box in that way, and in the same sense we don’t charge per post either. Social media is the medium that leads a business from startup to success, and we provide that medium. Every company should be using social media in some way as a leveraging tool to improve lead generation and increase revenue. We want to see every one of our clients succeed, and we provide the strong online presence to facilitate that.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

In a nutshell: pretty awesome! Up until now, I have spent my entire life either in education or working part-time in pubs and stores, neither of which fulfilled me. Being my own boss means that everything I do has a meaning to me, and is tailored around my ambitions and goals, rather than someone else’s.

I also get to work when I want to – I can stop midday and have a yoga session, and use that weird blast of energy I get at 11pm to get some work done! It also means I can choose when to go out with friends or go on holiday, and work my own time around that.

Where do you see your business in five years time?

I have another business idea in the works right now, which will hopefully be up and running by then!  For this business, I definitely want to be working on the business and not in the business. And by that, I mean I want to hopefully have a team of people who I can outsource the work to, while I bring the business in. I also hope to have learned a lot more about running a business and what it takes to be successful. It’s going to take a lot of time and hard work, but hopefully I will have developed an amazing network of other likeminded business people by then too.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I would definitely say that if you have an idea and you feel passionate about it, do something now. Whether that is going to a networking event and building your circle of contacts that could help, reading a business book, starting an online course, or even just simply writing down your idea in the centre of a page and mind-mapping ideas from that, just do something!

There’s no point in waiting around for the ‘right’ moment, because the right moment will never come. And if you don’t have an idea, and I didn’t have one for a very long time before I came up with one, just skip to the next point: always keep learning. I am always learning on the go through books and online courses, and I believe this has played a huge part in getting me to where I am now.

Published: 18 September 2017

Article by Bryce Wilcock
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