Vikki Maver is a copywriter, content strategist, writing skills trainer and former lecturer for the Department of Marketing at Monash University. Founded in 2004, her business Refresh Marketing is a boutique writing consultancy in Melbourne. From websites to brochures and email newsletters, Vikki and her team write for every occasion under the sun – and for businesses of all shapes and sizes. They know how to use words with impact. And they know how to engage audiences in our cluttered world.
As a leading writing skills trainer, Vikki’s also been running business writing workshops for corporate teams and professionals since 2008
We got to know Vikki a little more…
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
I guess you could say it all happened by accident.
Rewind to 2003 when I was hired as the Marketing Manager for a fun and well-known Australian brand. Although it had all the signs of being my ‘dream job’, it was far from it. The workplace culture was toxic – and I was given no trust or autonomy.
So, after around 12 months of trying and hoping for change, I resigned on a whim. Without a plan. Without another job to go to.
Amazingly however, a few days into my sudden unemployment, I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. Although ecstatic, I was at a crossroads. What would this mean for my career?
While searching for the answers, I thought I may as well give freelancing a go – just to fill the time. So I sent out an email to my network letting them know that I was available for marketing contract work.
And to my surprise, the jobs came trickling in.
That trickle then turned into a fountain. And before long, I found myself juggling numerous projects for different clients five days a week. Although the type of work that came across my desk varied, I decided to hone my focus on copywriting.
So by the time my daughter arrived (and then my son two years later), I had built up a strong freelancing business – which I was able to manage from home while raising a young family.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 that I took on my first employee and moved into an office.
Today, we are a tight-knit team of four with a strong client base and partnership network.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I never woke up one day and said, “I’m going to start a business”. It just gradually happened. Starting off as a side income when my kids were young, it was very much a freelancing business.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
When you’re just starting out, there can be a lot of pressure to succeed and get money in the door quickly.
But I never felt that pressure, because my business was not my only or most important focus in those early days. For example, I also lectured and tutored at Monash University for several years while the business was still in its infancy. This helped me cover the bills – while allowing me the space and time to build things gradually.
So if possible, try to begin your journey into entrepreneurship slowly, perhaps while earning an income elsewhere. Look at it as your ‘side hustle’.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Resilience is number one. Starting a business is hard work with lots of ups and downs (but many more downs). So you need to know how to pick yourself up after all those setbacks. This includes being kind to yourself when you make mistakes – and trying hard to not take rejection personally.
Next is interpersonal skills. No matter what kind of business you’re building, you can’t possibly succeed without other people. That means you need to know how to communicate with, understand and relate to others. In my view, strong professional relationships are everything in business.
Finally, although this is not a specific skill, I think any entrepreneur needs to be a commercial all-rounder.
For example, you need to have a knack for sales and marketing – as well as a head for accounting and finance. I’m not saying you need to be brilliant at everything, but you do need have some instinct and interest in all aspects of running a business.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
I am in awe of several Australian female entrepreneurs. Namely, Melanie Perkins of Canva, Emma Isaacs of Business Chicks and Mia Freedman of Mamamia.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
Although these words were originally spoken by a famous poet several centuries ago, I first heard them from my dad:
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.”
He shared this quote with me following a tough piece of feedback I received one day – encouraging me to look at the bigger picture and stop setting such impossible expectations for myself.
This advice has helped me every day since.
What do you think your key to success has been?
I believe my business grew in those early freelance days because I have an instinct for my craft: which is of course, writing. My clients liked my work – so they came back for more and referred me to others. It was that simple.
But the key to success in more recent years has been just as much about relationships.
I’ve always been proactive about staying in touch with clients, asking for and addressing their honest feedback – and taking a genuine interest in their business and family lives. And the result? Some of our clients today are the same ones I served all those years ago. That’s a 17-year partnership – and counting.
But it’s not all about clients either. Relationships with staff, suppliers and partners have been just as important.
How have you personally measured your success?
Strong financial growth has always been a big driver for me. But that’s not the be all and end all either.
For me, nothing compares to hearing the words of gratitude from a happy client. I also love seeing our copywriting work make a real difference to people’s lives. And helping my staff grow and develop under my mentorship is a big one too.
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?
My default position is to outsource if you’re in the financial position to do so.
Of course, there are some things integral to running a business that you have to learn whether you like it or not – such as the basics of profit and loss and staff management. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hire an accountant to do my tax returns – or an HR consultant to help me write position descriptions and KPIs.
How do you generate new ideas?
Nothing beats brainstorming with others. I deeply value the perspectives and insights of my staff – as well as fellow business owners, my husband and my parents.
Having conversations with people can often make things suddenly clearer for me.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love being able to chose who I work with – including my team, clients, suppliers and partners. As an employee, you have a lot less say in the people you get to spend your days with.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
To put it simply, I hope not to be working so hard. Less stress and more ‘me time’ sounds ideal.
And that means building the business into something that’s less dependent on me day to day.
Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?
I have an amazing all-female team. And each one of them supports and inspires me every day.
However, I also work closely with a couple of women business owners whose partnerships are integral to the success of Refresh Marketing – and who I connect deeply with on a personal level too.
I also regularly seek the advice of my sister (a very commercial and practical businesswoman herself) and a former colleague who also runs her own business. She has been a friend and unofficial mentor to me for more than 20 years.