When you reinvent yourself and move to the other side of the world, as far as you can be away from what you know and what you are used to, you know you are in for an adventure. Sonja Ceri, Director of the Strategic Marketing Agency ‘’Four Drunk Parrots’’ did exactly that and started her career in Australia, after graduating from an elite university in Germany with 3 masters degrees.
Before Australia came into her life, she was about to start a Ph.D in Fiji on climate change!
Sonja:’ “I quit my life in Germany, packed my backpack and bought an around-the-world ticket. Before settling down in Fiji, I planned to visit Australia. I fell in love with Australia immediately and changed my (life) plans completely, in favour of immigrating to Australia. As soon as I got my permanent residency, I started working for myself in social media and media training. Initially, it was just me consulting to SMEs. The demand (this was 2011) was huge. I partnered up with a local web and graphic designer and started the company Media Junkies.
“Six years forward, we had grown to a full service marketing agency with 23 staff and a suite of services. When I felt pregnant in 2017, I decided that I had to scale back to something more manageable and winded up the company, moved near Byron Bay and started a new company while 8 months pregnant. I had 6 weeks to recruit and train my new staff before I had the baby. My maternity leave was only 3 days because I love what I do.
‘’I have been in Australia for nearly 10 years now, and have been self-employed the majority of this time. Being a business owner is now imprinted on my life and I couldn’t imagine working for someone else again.’’
Sonja’s Business Drive
Sonja: ”After working for 10 years in media and journalism (during my studies), I had a good understanding of how the newsroom work and how to create newsworthy stories. Social Media was just on the rise and Australia was just trying to find their feet in this changed landscape. This was a great opportunity for me to branch out with social media and PR training services.
‘’Growing the freelance business into a full-service marketing agency was the next logical step. Over the years, the projects became even more exciting and of course, they also became bigger. With bigger projects comes more responsibility. I thrive on challenges and enjoy the process of working out strategies from start to finish. When starting Four Drunk Parrots, I moved the business model to purpose before profit. I found that myself as well as my team feels more fulfilled in their daily work when they know that what they do has a positive impact on the environment, humans or the world. We mainly work with companies or organisations who align with our values and mindset. Not only charities and not-for-profit organisations but also purpose driven companies who have outstanding products and services that we can stand whole-heartedly behind. This is the new drive for myself as the leader but also for my team.”
About her biggest challenge in creating a business
‘’My biggest challenge is that there aren’t enough hours in the day.’’
Sonja:”As a new mum but also with a newly founded company with new staff, I found myself being pulled into all directions. However, the solution was to get support on both ends, the family as well as the business. My partner went on paternity leave so I could focus on building a solid foundation for the company.’’
Her biggest achievements:
- Within 18 months, we have grown from just me to a team of seven. Our first two tax returns show profits beyond expectations which we invest back into the professional development of our team, a new office and passion projects. We are now at a point, where I don’t need to be in the daily grind, to ensure the company is ticking over. Everyone has found their place and knows what is expected of them which gives me the freedom to focus on outstanding customer service and service delivery as well as on growing the company further. One of the most exciting achievements over the past 2 years is that we have increased the company revenue for one of our CMO clients by $2million dollars by implementing an Inbound Marketing strategy.
- Another exciting passion project was helping the Oceanic Research Institute in Ballina to get off the ground. The team and I have worked relentlessly for 3 months pro-bono on this project and we are now happy to see the Institute doing their thing which is establishing the largest independent research fleet for Oceanic Research in Australia.
How she deals with failure, if so?
Sonja: ‘’Our goal was to keep a 100% customer retention rate – if we had failed to achieve this the company would have gone under before it even started.”
Scariest moments in your time as a business owner?
Sonja:’’Everytime I get a BAS – Business Activity Statement from the ATO, haha. But that is just in my mind. I just can’t get used to the large sums that you have to put aside to pay to the ATO on a regular basis.’’
What makes you a great Leader?
‘’A question my staff should answer 🙂 ‘’
Sonja: ’’One of our core company values is to be brutally honest – with ourselves as well as with our clients. No sugar coating, no hiding behind complicated reports. If we screw up, we own up to it. If there is a conflict, we solve it. My staff knows that I can take the truth and they don’t hold back telling me when I have a bad idea or sometimes, simply should shut up 😉 .’’
ABOUT her life mantra?
Sonja: ‘’My alter ego, if I had one, was Pipi Longstocking – the children’s book character by Astrid Lindgren. Pippi doesn’t live by anyone’s rules but her own, and she’s perfectly fine with being a little different! ‘’
How Is it possible to manage family and business in a balanced way?
Sonja: ‘’Support. We have a live-in au pair and for my business, I have great financial advisors, mentors and tech people around me that I can turn to when I need help. It’s important to feel ok about asking for help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. ‘’