Recent graduates and Managing Directors of RISE Digital Marketing, Ashley Elliott and Matthew Metcalfe founded their venture on a shared vision to help SMEs accelerate their digital presence.
Tell us about RISE Digital Marketing.
The name RISE came about because we wanted to use digital marketing to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) rise to the top of their industries. The real power of digital marketing is that it levels the playing field for businesses. Gone are the days when you require large budgets and resources to be able to reach your target audience. This means that SMEs now have just as much opportunity to compete in the marketplace. SMEs have great products and services to offer, but many often struggle to be heard due to high competition, usually from larger businesses with more resources. Our core focus is to help SMEs share their message and promote their solutions to the right audiences.
What did you do to start this venture?
We started the business when we both were in university. Initially, it was challenging to get the venture off the ground due to limited resources and experience. However, we knew that the success of our business would come by expanding our network and contacts. After establishing our business plan and marketing strategy, we put the word out to family and friends as the first step in initiating our network. On several occasions, people questioned our skills due to our age. To overcome this, we offered “free trials” for one to two weeks to demonstrate what we could do. This was a successful campaign and led to our first paying clients.
How did you form your business partnership?
Our partnership initially developed from our personal relationship. While attending the same university and working part time at our respective employers, we then came to learn about our shared passion for digital marketing. Noticing the stress on our employers to meet requirements and sometimes just to pay the bills, we also saw that their marketing efforts were limited and not as impactful. From these experiences, our objectives began to develop: 1) to help SME’s by giving them a voice in their industry, and 2) to start something that was more than just a business generating money. We wanted to make a difference.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the initial phase of your venture and how did you overcome it?
Baby faces, as we looked very young! Starting out when were 21, people were sceptic about our skills and experience. People naturally questioned our ability to deliver, and it did create a barrier. Refocusing on our business plan and the driving passion from which it developed, we shored up our skills to match, master and polish as much as we could. We also reviewed our personal branding, developing a more mature style for conservative clientele.
What does success mean to you?
We believe that success is making a genuine impact on people’s lives and inspiring people to live their dreams. It’s easy to get lost in just chasing money, but we like to stay grounded in things that really matter.
With many established competitors in digital marketing, what challenges did you see entering this space?
It is true that the digital marketing industry is extremely crowded and competitive. Our biggest challenges have emerged from having insufficient resources and budgets which have meant we have had to work smarter and be more innovative than our competitors. Another big problem is only having two of us rather than a whole team. We have had to continuously evolve and grow our skills sets to be able to help our clients in the most efficient way possible.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to become an entrepreneur?
Be comfortable with the unconventional. We looked around our workplace and struggled with being different. We didn’t have the regular schedule, and we didn’t think conventionally. But that’s okay. That’s what will make you a standout entrepreneur. Our advice would be to keep struttin’ when everyone else is walking.