It’s the 4th video in the entrepreneur interview series, and Akshaya has roped in Jo Sweeney for this one. Jo is a multi-award winning art director and entrepreneur from Australia. She has a diverse background when it comes to her career, from food to computers to arts. She started her career from advertising agencies, design studios, printers and prepress houses.
By 19 she was the art director for the Hog’s Breath Café Australia, and by the age of 22, a marketing and communications officer for Queensland State Government. And it wasn’t long before she started her own venture at the age of 23.
She possesses expertise not just in one field but in multiple arenas. Her Venture deals with:
- Development of brand identity and creative solutions for small-medium enterprise across all industries.
- Deployment of automated creative tools
- Product development
- Local and state government marketing and communications
- Ecommerce business development
- And the list goes on.
Jo does projects but they are only a few selected ones. Currently she has multiple ties in the market. Starting off 7 years ago, she had a store front, but no physical presence. Her venture was in a purely digital space. She works one on one with the businesses and encourage small businesses. Jo goes on to tell Akshaya that she doesn’t get right inside all of the businesses, but she is involved in the strategy and development. And when she gets to work with a business in her own arena, being a graphic designer by trade, she sees to it that the individuals have passion and energy for the work.
Its been 20 years of her career whilst she moved levels from doing designing to art direction for the agencies. And now as Jo states, she is more into teaching and consulting space. Jo finds working with the small business funding stuff an interesting journey in entrepreneurship. She is proud that her hard earned knowledge is helping the other people in starting up their own venture and having their own success stories. It makes her feel good to impart all her knowledge.
Jo grew up in Queensland. She wanted to be an art teacher from a very young age. In a bid for that, she did a personal brand identity project, which was appreciated hugely by her graphics teacher.And from that very moment every decision she took was to be a graphic designer. She was lucky enough that right across her house, she had a mac training room. The technology was just gathering up pace that time. They still used pencils to make designs. Her parents wanted her to go to a boarding school in the country. But her zest towards becoming a graphic designer gave in, as she searched every school and dug up their graphics infrastructure, and finally found a coed of her liking. And even if it was a coed, the teachers were very progressive, even not every teacher had a forwards thinking during her college days, but they did teach her and her mates to be able to become anyone they want. The teachers gave them all everything they needed to know about the latest technologies so that they be able to use them, and grow in their own accord. And courtesy to their teachers, all of Jo’s classmates are doing exceptionally well in the industries.
It was Jo’s grandfather, who started the family branding. She tells that, the brand was initially just used to identify the cattle who wandered off while grazing. It’s almost historic for the family. She considers herself the lucky one in the family to be able to use the brand as well.
“Actually my brother has same initials, my father used the same cattle brand. Although the branding thing we are talking about here is something we put on cows to identify which ones are ours. But I think it’s cool to carry it through the times” Jo tells Sweeney.
On asking whether her feels content with the pace her work is going or if she would have wanted something to be better than they are at this moment,
Jo says, “I feel blessed that I am able to attract awesome projects. Yet on the flip side of that is , I wish I could do better, I could manage my time really well, manage my own custom streams, I just want to gain that balance. Since you really live through the startup journey, thus maintaining the balance would be lovely.”
For an ecommerce business, the major component is social media management. Jo manages a lot of social media accounts for other people’s businesses. She has to constantly shuffle through all of the stuff coming up every day. According to her, it is not just about putting the things on Instagram. Its more about working on the profile. And its about being fast with the social media. And then there is this mixing the advertising the discounts and sales stuff, and maintaining the balance within all of this.
“We work with a very tight business plan. We have moved on from short front phases, to a cool distribution point. We have novelty products in our store now. Now when we see the social media expanding, we need to re-plan our marketing strategy again.” Jo says.
As far as personal use of these social media is concerned, Jo have a mix of friends and clients and business people connected with her. As a platform it becomes very easy for her to jump in and help with their issues, political or business or even promote an event.
“I use my personal brand there as well.” Jo tells with a smile.
On asking whether she prefers to go heads on single handedly or if she has a team, she says, “I sit on both sides of the fence. ” . Having a head injury some time back Jo took a whole year off. Her studio, the web company, and the other startups. Her injury changed pretty much everything. It’s obvious for her to have the right people around her, even though there is this constant race all around.
Jo being in almost the last phase of her parenthood as her daughter is about pass high school, has become a digital nomad.
Thus, right now her focus is getting the right job out there. Like, if they are working on an application, then they have to make sure that they have the best chief technical officer available.
“So, yeah I do have a team.” Concludes Jo.
Jo believes, that you cannot become an overnight .com success. Jo states, that if you know even just Microsoft word, and even just two years back, if you didn’t have much money, still you could have got your ecommerce store up and running. But the key always was the website, which’s just 1/5th of the journey. And that takes dedication and time.
“It’s pretty easy for me, and ironically it will be work less and travel more.”
Laughs Jo, when asked about one advice she would have given to the younger version of her. “When you build stuff you are just caught in a cycle. And I wanted to be everything ‘mom’ and everything ‘career’, and then keep saying yes to everyone to keep them happy. So yeah one advice I would have given myself some years back is to keep building, and staying hungry for growth and entrepreneurs. And make sure to work with
On asking about the best advice she has received till date, Jo told, it was the advice to take everything slow. That one brick after another makes the building, you have to take one step at a time.
The three pivotal points in her life were, when while working as a creative personnel, she started working outside the creative space. Acquiring the knowledge about litigation and intellectual property theft, to secure her artwork, after one of the original artifacts was copied right in front of her, while she didn’t know how to deal with that. And learning to choose the battles and going through them. Then branding the articles so that people knew it wasn’t copied crap. And above all, her head injury being the pivotal changing point always.
As an advice to the young entrepreneurs Jo asks you:
- To keep and maintain a digital journal of your duty list
- Have a website and have an online presence
- Avoid confrontations and be transparent and honest and not to put on any mask
Jo is currently working on a cumulative project, working with tomato farms on the funding, economic development to grow food tourism. And she feels great to be able work in an arena which has a major impact on something like food tourism.
Wishing a very good luck to Jo for her future adventures, and hoping that the youngsters out there about to start their own ventures did learn from this talk. And that will be all for this one.
We would love to know what you thought about our first guest and what you learnt from this interview, so leave a comment below for us..
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