Interview with Thrive Insider Magazine

Interview questions from Thrive Insider

Who are you and what business did you start?

I am a single mum and entrepreneur with a passion for bringing people together. I have always loved organising events and hearing people’s individual stories.

As founder of Steppin’ Out Events, myself and my event-planning team organise social events for our members in Australia We specialise in events for mature-aged singles. The Steppin’ Out Events portfolio also extends to Business Events including Conferences and Seminars, Networking Breakfasts, End-of-Year parties, and promotional events. We also run online events for our clients.

I also write articles which I have called the “Human Odyssey Collection”.  Interviewing my members on the hurdles they have overcome to broaden their friendship circle or find a partner. Articles on topics discussed in the Over 40’s arena.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My background prior to events is in the Policing and Security sectors. I myself became a single lady over 40 and after attending many ‘singles’ events, I saw that there were none catering specifically for the mature-aged single community. I spent a couple of years researching and refining a business concept to provide singles events tailored to this specific market and Steppin’ Out Events was born.

The Steppin’ Out community consists of thousands of members from diverse backgrounds and stages of life. It’s a friendship group and I’ve seen some lovely relationships blossom as a result, including a few weddings.

I also really enjoy meeting other business owners and decided to create a second arm to my business for Business Events. I’m a big believer in supporting my local community and cross-promotion with small business.

Describe the process of launching the business

The process was slow at first. While working full time as an Event Manager and Security Contractor, I invested all my spare time in researching. This included distributing questionnaires to my target clientele to expand my knowledge on the types of events that mature-aged singles would be interested in. I then began to break down and outsource areas of the business where there were skill and knowledge gaps to start bringing my concept to life. This included:

  • A Web Designer who implemented a customised ticketing system for my business.
  • Marketing Manager to develop the Steppin’ Out brand and image.
  • Photographers and videographer to establish my digital asset portfolio.
  • Content Writer for editing and input into SEO and ‘catch words’.
  • Email Marketing Manager to setup and facilitate email marketing.
  • Social Media administrator to learn how to best engage with my target market on social media.

The entire process from the original concept to launch, took just over three years.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Like many businesses, since launch, Steppin’ Out Events has had to endure varying COVID restrictions over an extended time either stopping events completely, or heavily limiting capacities and types of events that can be held.

I learnt early that my private, reserved personality and running singles events was not the best fit and I needed to expand out of my comfort zone. Doing so has helped me engage members by building trust and a sense of safety by showing that I am real, down to earth and that I truly understand being single at an older age.

During the COVID-19 pandemic my business pivoted and went online, where I held weekly events for members to meet and get to know each other. I took this time to continue branding work for myself and the business.

Staying real, relatable and authentic has seen me really get to know my members, making some amazing friends, tripling my membership base and launching in other states and countries.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

If I placed my 5-year plan next to my revised 5-year plan, other than the name and the mission statement, you would say they were for different businesses. My business has dramatically evolved and the growth I could not have foreseen. COVID-19 saw a huge influx of members, with singles wanting to connect with other singles whilst in lockdown or realising they wanted to broaden their social circles.

The future looks amazing. I have now had the time to source some truly amazing venues, collaborated with some brilliant entertainers and the amount of start-up catering businesses is abundant.

Best of all, I have an amazing bond with my members and truly understand the event elements that both sides look for when looking to attend an enjoyable and stimulating night out. This means that I can strive to provide the best event possible with the right fundamentals and tweaks so that everyone has a memorable time.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have upskilled along the way so that I can run components of my business in-house, where previously I had outsourced.  I have utilised business and industry platforms and benefited from deeper understanding of many facets. Aligning myself with other business owners has been integral. Business networking groups bring an exclusive, centralised wealth of knowledge and contacts that is hard to find anywhere else. Business owners love helping other business owners and are happy to tell you what worked for them.

Overall, I know that mature-age singles were frustrated that there was nowhere to go to meet like-minded singles of the same age-group and life stage. Our events are designed to create the perfect atmosphere for this purpose, while providing a safe place to feel comfortable and form new friendships. The noblest art is that of making others happy.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Facebook, Instagram, Xero, BNIconnect, Square, Stripe, Canva, PlaceIt, Zoom, Mailchimp, Google My Business, Fiverr, Freelancer, Google Analytics, Visual Watermark (photos), WordPress and WordPress “ad ons” for my ticketing system/photo galley/video galley/list events. Spotify (I have different music libraries to call upon, depending on the theme of the event), Kahoot.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’ll tell you a secret… I use Blinkist, which is a ‘micro-learning’ app. I found it by accident one day! When I come across something I don’t understand or would like to learn more about, I jot it down. I used to do this a lot in meetings. Then when I had a couple of minutes through the day, I searched the app for audio books on the subject and added them to my library. At night when my eyes were sore after hours on the computer, I would go to my library and in just 15 minutes I could listen to the key insights from best-selling books on the topic. Sometimes I took notes or listened a couple of times. By the end I had a new understanding and if something really resonated with me, I would note the author of the book and purchase it to read the entire book.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Your business will start at the end of your comfort zone. Get comfortable with the unknown and just make a start!! You will never know everything you need to know to run your business at the start, but if you enjoy learning and are humble enough to source the answers then JUST START.

Mentors and Business Coaches are worth their weight in gold. You may have been in positions in the in the past where decisions were made by co-workers or your boss… but now it’s just you. It’s great to bounce ideas and strategies around with someone qualified and experienced in your field who will be honest and helpful.

Your word is your bond and protect your image. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” is twice as strong in business – if you say you are going to do something, then do it. If you have a Facebook account full of images of you in a negative light, then delete them. Always remember that whatever you put online is FOREVER.

Owning your mistakes is a given. You will make some and you will get bad publicity because you cannot please everyone. You may have 50 fantastic reviews and one bad one. Your reply is very important. Never demean the writer, argue, or simply ignore the negative comment. This will do a lot more damage than the negative review.

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”  – Lin Pernille