Spotlight on Small Business Owner, Scribe and Social and Influencer, Sonia Styling.
After an abundance of positive feedback from our first interview in our ‘spotlight on small business’ series, we are super excited to introduce you to our next stylish small business lady, Sonia from Scribe and Social (and aka. Sonia Styling).
Helen had the pleasure of working with Sonia back in the days of her first online fashion business (where they collaborated on an influencer arrangement), and ever since, we’ve continued to stay ‘connected’ via our socials, and recently on a trip back to her hometown of Adelaide, Jacqui got to sit down with Sonia over a ‘decaf’.
This post is a beauty. We not only chat to Sonia about her experience with launching her own lady startup, but we also get to use her extensive experience as an ‘influencer’ to chat about all things collaborations and influencing. There is a lot of nervousness amongst small business owners when it comes to engaging with an influencer, we receive lots of questions on how to get a collaboration started, and sometimes, it can be as easy as just asking. Anyway, enough from us, read on for all of Sonia’s insights into her world…
Tell us about how Scribe and Social started and how long you’ve been in business.
I launched Scribe and Social in 2017, after deciding that I wanted to try working for myself… but wasn’t quite sure what that would look like.
Countless coffee dates with friends who are business owners helped me identify that my “brain picking” topic was social media. So, I quietly took on one client. And then another. And another. And another. All while working full time.
After five months of working all hours of the day (and night), seven days a week, it reached tipping point and I handed in my notice and stepped into the big wide world of business ownership.
We often find that in the lead up to launching, a lot of small businesses spend a lot time on the operational side of things, and not much time or resources on business planning and strategy (which can see them come a little unstuck when they hit ‘go live’) What was your experience?
When I first floated the idea of my business, one of my dearest friends who has an incredible strategic mind (and has worked for herself for over 10 years) came over to my place and we mind mapped my business.
We had big A3 sheets of paper and I basically emptied the contents of my head and heart onto it – the types of businesses I wanted to work with, how many hours a week I wanted to work, the types of services I wanted to offer, and everything in between.
By the end of our session, we’d designed my business structure, my rates and put together a business plan to get me started.
I’ve kept the bones of that plan and it has evolved along the way, with the benefit of time and experience.
Does this sound familiar?
We can help you with your Business Planning & Marketing Strategy
whether you’re just starting out or been around for a while
and in need of a bit of focus and clarity.
Your online story started with your blog, Sonia Styling. Can you tell us a little about how you started in this space and how you evolved into an ‘influencer’?
Would you believe my husband – who is not on social media – set me on this path?!
At the time, I was an active social media user, avid blog reader (and commenter) and seeking a creative outlet. So, my husband suggested I start a blog to indulge my love of writing and share things I was interested in and passionate about.
Sonia Styling was born in 2013 and I had an instant audience, because I’d spent those few years prior being an active member of the online community.
Two years later, I signed with an agency that represented bloggers. I look back on this time with so much appreciation because it taught me how to value myself, how to be professional, and how to produce great campaigns. It also afforded me amazing opportunities with huge brands.
I now represent myself and work more with small brands and businesses, which is incredibly rewarding in its own unique way.
I decided from the very beginning that I just wanted to be me. I didn’t niche down, which may have been a mistake, but what it has meant is that I’ve built a beautiful community of women at similar stages of life as me.
They follow me because they see either themselves, their sister or their friend in me. I tell it like it is. They know they’ll always get honesty from me. I’m not a stylist but I love fashion, and so I not only share my outfits, but how I’ve styled the item to suit my body shape, as well as how it fits and feels.
I also share quite a bit of my life, which further strengthens the emotional connection I have with my followers. I have the most candid (and intimate) conversations with them in DMs – it’s awesome!
I feel incredibly privileged to have the platform that I do and I value it with all my heart.
What impact do you think influencers can have on a small business? Do you have any good (or bad) stories that you can share with the group? (perhaps one of the collaborations that you’ve created for your clients).
Influencers can have an incredibly positive impact on a small business!
I’ve had countless small businesses tell me that their following has increased, or an item has sold out as a direct result of working with me through Sonia Styling.
It just goes to show that when the fit is right, and both sides really get each other, magic can happen.
I now get to be on the other side of the relationship with Scribe and Social, and have advised clients through the process – including setting up ambassadorship programs, identifying and pitching collaborative opportunities, and creating sponsored campaigns.
Has there been a pivotal moment/activity/experience in your small business journey that catapulted you to the next level? Perhaps a collaboration/promotion/product that saw a massive uplift in your web traffic and/or followers?
With Sonia Styling, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to work on national campaigns with brands such as Schwarzkopf and Katies. Being flown interstate and being on set really does create some “pinch me” moments… I even saw my face in Coles magazine once!
With Scribe and Social, I recently launched my very first freebie which is an email opt-in and part of my welcome series. This offering, which I’ve only promoted with a couple of social posts so far, has seen my mailing list increase by 422% in less than two weeks! (And no, that’s not a typo – I triple checked it!)
What are the key things that a small business owner should consider when looking to work with an ‘influencer’?
OK, there are a few things here:
Be super certain that they are the right fit for your brand, and vice versa.
Be open to exploring the best way to work together.
Be clear and upfront about expectations.
Remember it needs to be a fair value exchange for both sides.
There needs to be trust. As a business, you need to trust that the influencer knows their audience best and knows what products/services and content will resonate with them.
Plus, an awareness that you’re not just accessing the opportunity to be in front of their audience, you’re also accessing that influencer’s time, creativity and resources. Many of us won’t just post any old photo with a lazy caption. A lot of care and consideration is taken – more so for a campaign than for any other content, I’d be so bold to say!
Also, don’t expect a miracle! Chances are this might be the first introduction of your business to a brand new audience. So, you may not always experience a stampede of new followers and orders straight off the bat. Instead, they may trickle in – which is still a win. It’s just the start of the conversation.
Forward thinking businesses see the value in ongoing relationships with influencers and this is where you’ll really experience the very best these types of collaborations have to offer.
We find that some Lady Startup's feel very nervous about approaching potential influencers for a collaboration, what would your advice be to them about the best way to approach someone?
Firstly, you need to follow them and engage with them. That is: like their posts, leave (relevant, valuable) comments, interact with their Stories. Be on their radar.
After some time, approach them with an email or a DM. But please don’t make it generic! Take the time to tailor a warm and inviting introduction.
Use their (real) name. Share what you love about them. Tell them why you think you’d make a great fit for one another. Even pitch a few ways that you could potentially work together. And then, hand it over to them to think about and get back to you.
Be yourself! The massive advantage that small business owners have over big brands is YOU. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your business, and you know it better than anyone. So, share yourself with that influencer to start a genuine connection.
What does a sales and marketing strategy session look like?
We work with you to turn your business goals into marketing objectives, through branding, content planning, creation & execution for email,
social media (including collaborations & influencer ideas) , PR opportunities + more.
It also seems like these days, everyone is a ‘wannabe influencer’ - do you have any tips on how to identify the real deal?
I think most people have a fantastic online BS Detector these days. We can spot a fake a mile off!
The woo woo side of me says you’ll know in your heart and your gut whether they’re for real or not.
The logical side of me says use a website such as Phlanx to check their engagement rate. And don’t be afraid to (discreetly) ask friends, family, colleagues and industry peers what they think of that influencer, whether they’ve had any dealings with them and what their experience was like.
As an influencer, I’m well aware that everyone talks, so I have absolutely no issue with someone doing a bit of investigating before approaching me. In fact, I value it!
Looking back on your journey, if there was one thing you’d tell your (1) month old self, what would that be?
Prioritise your business! I fell into workhorse mode very early on and have only just recently dragged myself out of it. I now allocate time each week to work on my business and myself. Allowing that time and space to experiment, learn and grow makes me a better service provider to my clients and a joyful, inspired person.
Who do you go to for advice/inspiration/motivation? (maybe, favourite podcasts and/or bloggers or social media profiles).
I have a small but mighty tribe of women that I can share openly with and in return, they give me their 100% honest opinion. I’m so incredibly grateful for that because this can be a lonely existence, running a solo online business!
I also have an incredible coach, Carly Stephan, who has completely transformed me as a person and business owner these past eight months that we’ve been working together.
And finally, I really enjoy following:
Sonia Bavistock is a fashion and lifestyle blogger (Sonia Styling). For the past 5+ years, she has taught herself everything digital and social media and built a community of nearly 35,000 engaged and loyal readers and followers. She’s also worked on national campaigns with well-known brands such as Schwarzkopf, Katies, Australia Post and Bupa - to name a few.
In 2017, Sonia took everything she’s learned online and offline to launch Scribe and Social and help other business owners with their social media and copywriting.
Sonia is all about online presence with substance and style.