For our next Q&A interview, we speak to literally the coolest, most fun-loving, REAL women in digital! Meet, Cherie and Cat from The Digital Picnic! These two social media geniuses have done business their way since the beginning and totally rocked it. Case in point: they met online! If that isn’t ‘on-brand’, then we don’t know what is!
They share their business REAL story below. More info about The Digital Picnic can be found here: https://www.thedigitalpicnic.com.au/
1. Please tell us a bit about your company and your background
We met online via Facebook, OF COURSE! What started as friendly banter on a local Facebook group in the Inner Western suburbs of Melbourne, blossomed into what is now The Digital Picnic.
The Digital Picnic offers social media workshops and digital media training to individuals, small business owners and corporate teams who want to become more social savvy. We’ve trained over 600 social media workshop attendees and run social media workshops across Australia, in addition to our ePicnic Online Social Media Course.
The Digital Picnic manages a range of digital media services for our clients including social media strategy development, content planning, email marketing and influencer outreach.
Cherie - In all honesty, I was always destined to ultimately land up in social media marketing; even before social media marketing was a thing.
In high school, I was the uber-nerdy type that people paid to do their assignments for them [yep. It’s true. My first forray into entrepreneurialism, ha!]. I was on the high school chess club [this is where my love of strategy well and truly began, & flowed seamlessly into developing digital marketing strategies for small-large business’ today via TDP]. When my household got the internet [albeit, dial-up], it was one of the happiest days of my life & I lost hours exploring everything online I could possibly explore; mostly being drawn to anything that had some degree of online community feel about it [i.e from yahoo chat rooms where I practiced my French, to mIRC chat rooms where I practiced coding].
You name it? I wanted to be a part of it.
As an adult, I played around with freelancing writing > landed gigs freelance writing for parenting magazines > wrote a blog > grew my readership to 80,000 unique views per month > received invitations to manage online communities on behalf of the parenting magazines I wrote for > moved into social media marketing for small - large business’.
Years later, I loved my craft so much that I decided I wanted to teach it; and that’s my happily ever after, because I’m doing what I love / naturally good at, every single day.
Cat - I’ve worked in the marketing space for the past 18 years, with the last 10 of those specialising in digital marketing. Throughout my career I’ve worked in hospitality, property, utilities and until I went on maternity leave I was the digital manager for a global beauty brand. When I wasn’t able to return to my previous role in a part time capacity I started my own digital marketing coaching business, working with small business owners to upskill them in the digital space. Shortly after Cherie and I ran our very first TDP workshop - not quite expecting it to become what it has today ;) 2017 sees me return full time to TDP now that my youngest will be in daycare and I can’t wait to have full days in the office with our brilliant team!
2. What are some epic achievement highlights in your career?
Cherie - it’s been staying true to my personal goal of #socialmediaforsocialgood
We have facilitated all day training workshops for those within the NFP space, particularly those NFP providers who are working on causes close to our heart [i.e our favourite experience was working with an NFP in the domestic violence space, rehoming women at risk into safe houses].
I don’t think anything about what I am achieving in business matters to me, if I haven’t used my business & its influence to make a positive impact into the lives of those who need it the most.
Cat - Now? I’m really proud of the fact we now have a team - transitioning our business to a company structure and employing staff was such a huge thing! We’ve had a number of points in our journey that have felt incredibly scary, but then there’s huge growth and transformation that happens as a result. It’s definitely a rollercoaster
In my past life - working for a global beauty brand was intense, but an incredible experience. Working in international teams with large budgets and having the opportunity to innovate in the digital space are things that I’ll never forget.
3. Who do you look up to in the business world?
Cherie - Kate Toon. Zoe Foster-Blake. The women who are hustling their small businesses into the early hours of the night, with little people waking them in the early hours of the morning the following morning. The brave. The intelligent. The creative. The kind.
Mostly, I’m attracted to business owners who are renowned for their kindness. I’ll be entirely honest, I’ve met a lot of arseholes, & so I am positively attracted to anyone who continues to operate a business whilst staying true to their “good-egg” roots ;)
Cat - LOL, Cherie and I have so much in common - which is why we make such great business partners! ;) We both adore Kate Toon at the moment, she’s a breath of fresh air and loves to poke fun at the entrepreneurial fluff that is clogging up our Facebook feeds!!
On a more broad level I love reading about how other working mums do it their way - I find other people’s routines and approach fascinating so I’m a huge fan of The Grace Tales.
4. What is your business REAL moment? Because, let’s face it, business is not glamourous all the time – we want to know your real stories and how you overcame your struggles.
Cat - Being a partnership, communication and respect are critical to the success of our business. I guess I see our business almost as a second marriage - and in the beginning we probably spent way more time communicating [at all hours of the day] with each other than our actual partners! Obviously that wasn’t healthy or sustainable in the long term so we’ve introduced a few things to help us manage our business day to day and allow us to have more work/life boundaries.
Cherie - Oh man, this is easy. 2016. I’ve never worked so hard in my entire life, & I didn’t tell my friends / family, because I was genuinely too embarrassed to admit how many hours I was pulling each week. I was grappling with comparison’itis, & jealous of everyone who talked about this alleged work / life balance, because I can tell you now, 2016 for me came with absolutely zilch balance and seemingly no life outside of work.
Now? I’m seeing the fruits of that positively insane labour. We can afford staff now. We’re building a team. And I’m learning that this “work/life balance” thing only comes if you’re willing to put in some initially incredibly intense hours.
It sounds cliche, but good things come to those who work hard for them, & so I’m enjoying 2017 so much thanks to 2016’s blood / sweat / [plenty of] tears.
5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received and how do you apply this every day, month or year?
Cat - Run your own race - it’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, particularly on social media. Our space [social media training] has new competitors popping up all the time - we trust in the strength of the brand we’ve built, believe in good business karma - there’s enough business to go around :)
Cherie - trust your gut. Those e-mails from potential new leads that just … make you feel a little bit uncomfortable about the possibility of working together? Don’t work with them.
The client that you’re spending as many hours justifying your value / work, as you are actually executing said work? Fire them.
That attractive opportunity that seems almost-too-good-to-be-true making you lose sleep at night because you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something just doesn’t feel right? Something ain’t right, and your gut ain’t wrong.
6. What is the one mobile app you can’t live without?
Cat - Instagram! Now that Instagram stories are a huge feature of Instagram it's our fave social platform more than ever, both for business and personal use. It can be a huge time suck though, but that’s one of the upsides of having a digital business ;)
Cherie - Asana. I mean seriously, unicorns fly across my screen when I check off deadlines, … what’s not to love?!
In all seriousness though, Asana keeps me on track, & working in accordance with which deadline is due according to its priority. Genuinely can’t imagine business life without this magnificent app.
7. What is your best tip for time management?
As Cherie mentioned above, we use Asana as a team - it’s brilliant for task management, reminders, and general team communication and collaboration.
8. What are your favourite things on your work desk RIGHT now and WHY?
Cat - A cup of coffee - always! [Sad, but true :) ]. We’ve had a lot of fun styling up our office space so there’s always gorgeous things to catch your eye and make you smile - and you’ll see our signature cacti and flamingos EVERYWHERE. People are really attracted to our brand and our beautiful workshop attendees often send us cards and gifts in the flamingo / cactus theme.
Cherie - my children’s art. I only have to look to my left, & I have this colourful little reminder of all of the reasons that I’m sat at that desk right there.
9. What are your growth plans for your business?
Cat - We have some really exciting events planned for this year and are looking at ways that we can expand some of our service offerings.
2016 was a big year for us with hiring some fabulous team members to help us- we feel really blessed to have the support of these talented women!
Cherie - 2016 was a huge year of growth [beyond what we even anticipated], so we’re really aiming to streamline our processes / nail our customer service in 2017.
It’s so important to us that we don’t just continue to grow, without putting in appropriate processes to make sure we [& our little team] are dotting all of the business i’s and crossing all of the business t’s.
10. How do you ‘work-life balance’?
Cherie - Hm, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the answer to this, but I can share one recent work/life balance hack that I’ve recently implemented this year;
I uninstalled the Facebook app / Facebook messenger from my phone. I personally can’t stand the timestamp feature on Facebook that lets everyone know when you were last active on FB, as it means that [if you’re not careful] client’s can say, “oh, while I’ve got you, can you do x, y and z?” and / or see that you’ve ‘seen’ a message despite the fact that at that point in time, it doesn’t suit you to respond to it.
Try it guys, this tiny little life hack has changed my life. I now check FB for 20 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes at night; in my own time, and on my terms :)
Now when I log on to Facebook? I wade through 100+ notifications that - actually - aren’t really all that important in the whole scheme of things. But the thing is, when you have the app connected to your phone, you think all of the ‘likes’ and the ‘so and so has liked your comment’ and the ‘someone you don’t even know has commented below a post you commented on’ are all important, because they’re red notifications.
Not for me, not any more.
They’re just 70+ notifications I scroll through now in order to get to the stuff that matters; i.e my Dad commenting on a photo of his grandchildren, an invitation to a friend’s birthday who I haven’t caught up with in far too long, friend’s having babies, & all of the stuff that Facebook used to be exclusively designed for ;)
Having a business in the social media space it's really easy to work on your business [and your clients businesses’] ALL the time. Cherie and I are both chronic people pleasers and it’staken a long time, but I’m finally at a point where I can go for a decent amount of time NOT looking at my phone and checking in on email / social channels / all the THINGS. The moment I do, I feel I need to be ‘on’, regardless of whether something is urgent or not. For me, not checking obsessively helps be more in the moment.
Finding time for ‘me’ with a young baby has been hard this past year, but this year I’m scheduling in that ‘me’ time and treating it as ‘not-negotiable’ time ;)
From a practical perspective I use Asana to help organise me / jot down things to remember, and a personalised wall calendar to try and tame the family and our growing list of activities.
11. Let’s future gaze – if you could see yourself in the next 10 years, what would your life look like?
Cat - OMG - I’ll have 2 kids [almost] in high school! Wowsers ;) But, seriously, I’d love for TDP to be the benchmark provider of practical, results based training in the digital marketing space. We’re building a great reputation, and I’m excited to see where the TDP journey takes us.
Cherie - Sheesh, 10 years from now is hard to imagine.
Personally? I’d love to be happy, because that encompasses everything I want from my life; happiness and health.
Professionally? My goals are exactly on par with Cat’s above, which is probably why we’re in small business together ;)
12. Lastly, what is your favourite thing to do in your downtime?
Cat - spend time with my family - our kids are still very young, so we’re still discovering their amazing individual personalities. Time spent together is treasured and I love that I have had the opportunity to put my family first and still do what I am passionate about.
Cherie - I’m a real homebody. I’m happiest when I’m with my family; whether that’s doing big, fun things, or small staying-at-home things. It doesn’t matter. If I’m with them? I’m at my happiest.
Outside of Mum life? I want to explore my interest in photography further, & this year I’ve enrolled in 3-4 different professional development courses to develop to really grow professionally, which has been in line with some of the resolutions I had for 2017.