Two years ago, I signed on the dotted line to set up All Things Social here in Guernsey. In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, I wanted to just take a moment to tell you how I got set up and how I got to where I am today.
I started my little online life when I was at university. I was living in Spain studying languages. Everyone used to consistently ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and often presumed that I was going to be a French teacher. But with both parents as teachers telling me that I didn’t want to do that, I started to look around at what I was good at. My goal had always been to become fluent in the languages that I was studying, so I hadn’t really thought about a specific career goal. I had a good think and I realised that I was getting a lot of ‘Too much voice!‘ comments on my written essays. I had always enjoyed writing and I figured that I may as well put this ‘strong voice’ to use.
I started my blog ‘Stefanie Grace
‘, at the time it was about fashion and I wrote about trends and fashion news. I became fashion editor of the university newspaper and I just picked up social media along the way, because I was spending my time online. My plan was to become a fashion journalist and use my languages when I travelled. Graduating into a recession (2009) when I wanted to go into an industry like magazine journalism was not great timing. I did a few internships in London after graduation, staying on friends’ couches and going back home to Lincolnshire at weekends to save/earn money waitressing. That was back when social media was something that companies wanted to do, but just couldn’t justify paying for. I acted as a social media consultant/strategist for a company at 22 years old for free. I did this on and off, still writing my blog, for about a year.
I then randomly got an offer to move to Costa Rica, as my boyfriend at the time had been offered a job there. It was a no brainer considering my situation and language skills. Moving there meant that the online world became more important to me than the big city. I went back to my love of language and taught English and ended up using my Spanish to help out in the guys’ office, eventually earning myself a job. Managing an office of 80 poker-playing men in two languages wasn’t the easiest of tasks, but I loved it. Then my friend set up a Groupon-style company locally and asked me to head up the Social & Editorial Department for her, again in both languages. It was great fun and I loved the challenge and responsibility at such a young age.
In this time, my blog had moved away from fashion and more into lifestyle. Personally by then, I was into travel and health and that’s where it went content-wise – into personal lifestyle. Plus, fashion blogging had changed a lot and I wasn’t about to start taking outfit selfies on a daily basis. When Costa Rica came to a natural end, I came home and tried blogging & freelancing but I just didn’t get it and I wanted to be in London. So I went into a social media marketing job – again for a gambling company. I acted almost like a consultant in the office there too, because I was only one whose job was purely social media-based. All of the brand and account managers used to come to me for advice. At this point, I was 25. This was actually great for me because I had a lot of freedom in my role and a lot of solo time, so I read up a lot on the latest industry news. I watched a lot of webinars and I made notes & plans and really cemented my knowledge in social media. I even bought a simple domain, allthingssocial.co.uk
, back in 2012 as I thought I should start a social media blog alongside my personal blog, documenting everything that I was learning and testing. But I never did. Silly really
. I still went to blogging events. I worked with Kodak, Royal Albert, Visit Poland, Visit Morocco and Baileys amongst others. I was backstage at fashion weeks. At this point, I wanted to do something different industry-wise & I wanted to write more, so I started applying for simple copywriting and social media jobs. One was an office manager position in a freelancer coworking space where you sat at the reception desk, ran the social for the coworking company, but also had downtime to write/network etc. It sounded perfect for me – And I mean P.E.R.F.E.C.T!
However, the owner passed my CV to her friend who ran a charity donating wheelchairs across the world and needed someone who was organised, could speak Spanish, do marketing tasks and who could travel confidently. I fit the bill. So, long story short, 6 months later I was sitting in a remote Rwandan hospital fitting specialised wheelchairs to disabled children with a photographer/videographer alongside me to capture it all before coming home and pulling it all together to show people and, essentially, get more donations. I travelled a lot – it was 3 weeks in London, 1 week out in the world at one point. I was always balancing the project management side and the marketing side. I did wheelchair training in Indonesia for 3 weeks in order to try and bring structure to the speed at which the organisation was growing and systemise everything that we were doing. Unsurprisingly, I got burnt out. As much as I loved what I was doing, it was a very stressful job as a result – mainly in the office rather than out, and I wasn’t happy.
I realised that I probably had to pick social media or charity work and I knew that I had to go back to my passion for communication so I quit. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I did barely anything for weeks. I slept, I exercised, I looked at jobs and articles on how to find clients, I relaunched my blog, but in essence I was pretty lost. I felt guilty for leaving my projects and my colleagues, and I really needed to have a real reason to wake up in the morning. Eventually, I turned it around and picked up some great clients. I started working with a couple of London startups, plus a luxury store in Mayfair. I was in their store a couple of days a week and I spent time in their marketing team. I helped with their website launch and content and was even offered a full time job! However, as good as I was at social media management, I knew I wanted to do more with my business. But it was good money and I had a good work-life balance, so I didn’t really plan past that. Looking back, I guess I was comfortable. I didn’t think long-term and so when we moved to Guernsey, I realised that I needed to slowly hand over these London accounts and move my business more towards training, strategy and writing to account for the fact that I was in a smaller place. However, at the time I was really busy and took on a virtual assistant for a few hours a week to help me out with these clients in the meantime. She was an ex-intern of mine from London so I knew I could trust her to do a good job (that’s the lovely Mary
At first, once again, that was difficult to do. The Guernsey business world wasn’t quite up on social media – or at least not to the point where they wanted to pay for help with it, but I plugged away doing free events, working on my blog and site and cold-emailing local businesses. I picked up a few good contacts and clients. Money started trickling back in. And then I started chatting to people who knew the island better than me and someone suggested that I email agencies. I’d built up more of a name for myself by this point, taking on the Guernsey Literary Festival and hosting workshops. I started working with Oi in Guernsey, providing consultation and training for their clients and in-house staff.
That’s where I’m at now. I am an in-house consultant a couple of days a week, at Oi in Guernsey, occasionally popping over to their Jersey office for training and meetings. I’m responsible for their clients’ social content strategy & new social media business for them. I also train junior members of staff and consult with account managers. At the moment, it’s a relationship that works well and still gives me time to work with my ATS clients and workshops and grow my team here. It’s also great to work with more corporate clients and budgets – and have access to a full creative team. However, I still love my small business clients and I do love helping small business owners as that is where I find all of my inspiration – in those conversations with them. I love being able to make a tangible difference to a small business owner. It’s definitely where my passion lies.
What does the future hold for All Things Social? More of the same, I would like to think! We are happy to grow. I’m happy to expand the team and I’m happy to take on more clients and work. It’s exciting and I’m pretty proud of how far we have come.