In my first few weeks of business, I raided the company piggy bank. But not to pay for business cards, a working phone line or even the rent; I rallied the spare cash I had for something so much more indulgent – to send myself to a conference.
As I look back on that decision, I am so ridiculously proud of myself that even back then, at the very beginning of my business journey, I had the foresight and guts (going totally against the ‘rule’ that paying the rent is far more pressing in those early days than softer needs like PR and networking) to put the best weapon I had – my brain – first.
“I had a huge smile & technology held together by Band-Aids.”
It’s important to point out that I’m not exaggerating here – at this time in my business life, I had barely any semblance of a client base or steady income. I was right at the beginning, with a huge smile, lots of ideas, about two clients, a mobile phone the size of a football and some technology held together by Band-Aids.
I still remember the moment I wrote out the cheque for $1200, where I was standing and even what I was wearing – not because I’m into fashion per se, but because of the significance of the moment.
Everyone seemed to be talking about this one particular business expert who was revolutionary – a real disruptor and thought leader – so I looked into him and discovered he was about to have a two-day conference. But, the ticket price was $1200. Obviously, this was ridiculously out of my reach by about $1199. But, after labouring on it, I eventually thought, ‘Stuff it, I need this’. On the cusp of expanding my thinking – it was time to think big – I bit the bullet and sent off the cheque (and no, it didn’t bounce).
“What happened over those 2 days changed me forever.”
At the conference I discovered hundreds of learnings; really meaty ones that I could take home straight away and implement. The thinking challenged mine, some of it frustrated me, angered me, some inspired me and some definitely empowered me… but above all, it threw me into a room with smart, innovative people that lifted my entire being. What happened over those two days changed me forever.
On a practical, revenue-generating level, that event also threw me into a room of my business’ exact target market and I was able to convert a handful of them immediately to clients, each bringing in around AU$50,000. It was the start of many new clients, and the people from that room and their networks formed the basis of my business foundation, from which Collective Hub would later grow. So, for that conference ticket I’ll be forever indebted.
“The thinking challenged mine & also empowered me.”
This experience is actually one of the reasons we started running events like Kick. Start. Smart. I had always wanted to bring the pages, wisdom and inspiration of the magazine to life, but the motivation behind these events was more about empowering people in a really solid, practical way to achieve their dreams, just like I had over the years (and still am).
And that $1200 conference wasn’t the first time I’d prioritised myself with good money. Years before, with even less cash in my pocket, I somehow scraped together the deposit (in the thousands) for a personal development course called The Hoffman Process – a week-long retreat tackling anxiety, relationships, grief and leadership issues. The course radically changed my thought processes and set my inner self (which was quite toxic beforehand) on a vastly different, and vastly more positive, course.
Then, when my business was still an absolute baby, my marketing director and I jumped on a plane to Toronto, Canada, to meet with magazine creators and distributors from all over the world. While this move was not about personal development, it was key to building industry confidence in us both, because we knew we’d need it once home and trying to create a space for Collective Hub in the cluttered (and somewhat struggling) magazine industry.
This trip was a HUGE cost to us at that point in the business, but was paramount to us forging international relationships and securing a host of extra countries for distribution. We launched being distributed in 13 nations and today are sold in 37 countries, which was largely due to the relationships we made at that conference and have fostered since that time.
“It showed them we were serious about our small business.”
Going to Toronto, rather than just approaching people on email and phone, meant that potential contacts could catch the spirit of what we were trying to do, but it also meant we could understand their unique distribution processes and challenges. It also showed them that we were serious. They were so surprised to see us there and said few independent or new publications like ours ever attended – which is exactly why we needed to be there; to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we were the real deal. Making that trip was not just about brand reach and future sales, but also about validation and personal gumption.