Lucy Ross started her first business ten years ago while studying marketing and communications at university. What started out as a small educational website about women's snowboarding, soon grew into a thriving online website with around 40,000 unique visitors per month and a few thousand dollars coming in as advertising revenue. For the last seven years she has been helping SMEs generate traffic to their website using search engine optimisation, Google Adwords and tracking the results with Google Analytics.
Is this your first business? Do you have other business ideas?
I originally built websites with great education content that got traffic from search engines such as Google. I used that traffic to attract relevant advertisers who would benefit from our website's traffic. This allowed them to share their messages with people looking for goods and services such as their own.
It was during this time I noticed a real gap in the market - there were very few people offering businesses help getting traffic to their websites, so I decided to open my own agency EcommerceMarketing.co.nz.
E-commerce Marketing is basically an outsourced online marketing department. We are a Google Engage Agency and work with the AdWords team at Google to help businesses (both e-commerce and service sellers) generate traffic to their website and then turn that traffic into paying customers.
According to Google, 44 per cent of New Zealanders over 16 own a smart phone and that number continues to grow, so earlier this year I also launched my own mobile website development agency called Onthegosearch.com. People are increasingly searching for goods and services and making purchase decisions on their smartphones - we help clients get mobile ready so they don't potentially drive away all that potential traffic.
Do you have entrepreneur in your DNA? Have you always been entrepreneurial - since childhood?
Yes, I guess you could say that. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have been surrounded by them all my life. My grandfather started his own automotive engineering business and my dad is a pharmacist who owns a number of pharmacies around the country. I think I had my first job at the age of five, screwing bottle caps on bottles in the pharmacy, or folding invoices at the workshop in the school holidays.
I think for a lot of people, starting their own business is a scary thought, but for me it just seemed like the natural thing to do.
With your experience helping other SMEs, how often are you dealing with a true entrepreneur as the business owner?
I love dealing with entrepreneurs because they are willing to try new things and take risks. Successful businesspeople are usually those who can manage their time and focus on their strengths. These are people who stick to what they are good at and hire people to do the things they're not so good at.
I love dialling into the passion of an entrepreneur, especially if you can capture that passion in your website's content.
What sets them apart?
Entrepreneurs are willing to try new things and seem to be willing to embrace technology. They know where to focus their time for the greatest success. I had the pleasure of recently attending the "Helping Small Businesses Think Big" conference at Google HQ in Singapore to see first-hand how online marketing is helping local entrepreneurs compete on an international level.
What help do you think NZ entrepreneurs need to succeed?
If you have a can-do attitude, New Zealand is a great test market to dip your toe in the water. You can test out a business idea and if it works, scale it up internationally. The cool thing about the internet is we can level the playing field and use technology to reach customers not just locally, but nationally and internationally. The best thing a Kiwi entrepreneur can have is a good business mentor and a Kindle full of good books.
A lot of entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure. How do you view business failure?
In the online marketing game things move pretty fast and it is important to be able to adapt. We are constantly changing our techniques, testing and measuring to make sure we are Google Panda and Penguin Algorithm friendly. There will be times in business when you will fail, so it's important to look for the lesson and take the opportunity to reinvent yourself. At times when you fail, the most important thing to do is to learn from your mistakes and adjust your methods.
Next week: And speaking of never being too old to start a business, proud son, Tim Lightbourne, co-founder of Invivo Wines, got in touch recently to let me know about his Dad's business. It seems his work life is busier than ever even though he has passed retirement age. I'd love to hear your stories of businesses you have set up post-retirement, a time when you can really pursue your dreams with no worries about the mortgage hopefully.