She is at the helm of two successful companies. She is the entrepreneur who never sleeps. She is Mellissah Smith, the Queensland born Sydney based businesswoman who packs as much into life as she possibly can.
Insomnia is an apt name for a business run by someone who gets by on just a few hours sleep a night, but Mellissah Smith didn't name her first business after her sleeping patterns, she was in fact inspired by a late night television show. "I was 25 at the time and I thought ‘how would you market a company called Insomnia'," says Mellissah.
The thought sowed the first seeds in the birth of her PR and marketing company. She had already developed a skill set the envy of anyone else in her age bracket having studied marketing and then gone into jobs with an advertising agency, a retail jewellery company, London MTV, a government funded project called the Queensland IT&T Development Program and several public relations companies. Her stint with the advertising company taught her about market trends and understanding client needs – it was her first real taste of performing in a service-based industry.
"You understand your market by understanding your clients, that is key in marketing," says Mellissah. "Understanding trends, being aware of what is going on and trusting your intuition is also very important. You can't learn that anywhere, but you can pick things up by being an avid reader and an avid learner."
Mellissah is a sponge soaking up all she can from people she trusts and respects. Along the way she has acquired several mentors to help in her own personal and business growth and her quest for knowledge and new ideas has played a vital role in her own success. However she very humbly admits that, "I have always had people around me who are much more successful than me, or than I could hope to be."
Yet she downplays her own success. She began with the advertising firm when she was just 17. "I learned how to run a business, they ran it impeccably everything from customer service to creative to operations. It was a fantastic company. They gave me a lot of opportunity to be responsible for different areas."
She made a success of the IT&T awards where she learnt to be innovative and forward thinking; she worked alongside creative teams at Channel 7, where she grasped the importance of teamwork and communication. "I've worked in a few different companies and that was the best thing I could have done because I've been exposed to so much more than I would have if I'd stayed with the one corporate."
30 at 25
The experience culminated in Insomnia. She had intended to wait until she was 30 before starting her own business, but fortunately was convinced that at 25 she could make a good fist of things. "At 25 you have a lot of enthusiasm and no financial boundaries. If you fail it doesn't matter, it's a good time to start a business." So over a cup of coffee with her business partner they began an IT based marketing company.
"The first three months were fantastic," says Mellissah. "We had amazing growth and we never had a situation where we worried where the next dollar or client was coming from."
Mellissah puts the success down to her enthusiasm and the fact that people had faith in her product. "You don't start a business in pharmaceuticals when you have no experience in it, so specialise in what you know and you can do it better," she states.
The business began in Gold Coast but soon moved to Sydney. The technology boom of the 1990s meant they were in the right place at the right time and they also had the intellectual backing of a venture capitalist who assisted them with the move.
"Sydney is a different market. In Queensland it is a very laidback lifestyle, in Sydney everything happens so fast and it was the tech boom so everyone expected everything yesterday. But coming from Queensland was an advantage because we had a very fresh outlook and clients were receptive to that. I also had a lot of people mentoring me. A lot of original clients came through contacts and from referrals and mentors helping to introduce us to different companies. We grew very fast from that."
Growth was difficult to manage at first. Mellissah would work seven days a week to keep up with the demand and her understanding of operational procedures was still a little immature. However she was encouraged to write a business plan. "I would tick off the business plan as I went along. I think that's been really beneficial – rather than writing it and putting it in a draw, I wrote it and used it."
The plan was to grow a national boutique agency to acquire a decent cross-pollination of clients. It was to be innovative and to build technology around PR. The company soon grew from two staff to over 20 and is now self sufficient, which meant that Mellissah could turn her marketing eye to other horizons.
The eyes have it
Two years ago when Mellissah reached the age of 30 she came to the conclusion that her life would change. That she would at some stage settle down and marry. It was the catalyst for her next business vision – a company that didn't depend solely on Mellissah, a company that understood the needs of women because marketing is so dominated by the fairer sex.
The company was Marketing Eye designed to "allow women to work for whatever amount of time they could commit to the organization, but working at the same level they did when they were in corporate." Mellissah explains further, "I set up a company that allows for women with children to work as many days as they want a month while being outsourced to companies who would normally not be able to afford their expertise.
The company has an interesting premise. Marketing Eye outsources women with high-level corporate backgrounds to SMEs who need marketing assistance. SMEs pay a flat annual fee of $24,000, meaning they have the privilege of working with outstanding consultants all for what is essentially a junior wage – it's a win-win scenario.
"Marketing Eye is more employee oriented than Insomnia," says Mellissah. "The whole business is based around the consultant. They have a program where they can talk to other consultants about issues they have, they have flexible working hours, we're smarter about how we run and operate for our clients."
Marketing Eye now consists of six consultants, six full time marketing staff and the goal, as with Insomnia, is to break nationally in metro and regional areas. Mellissah is also looking into Asia and has been approached by companies in Dubai and the US. "There's a lot of interest in replicating the model," she says.
"I think it's quite easy to break into a market such as Singapore or Silicon Valley, but you need to hire locally and have the ability to operate locally. They need to understand the market and what drives that market. To open up in areas around Australia with clients who are looking to grow overseas can really kickstart the move. The formula works because there is a lot of cross-pollination. A lot of businesses we work with want to grow and we want to help them grow."
As Marketing Eye continues to develop and Insomnia runs itself, Mellissah's initial ambition to work in a creative environment has morphed into her being cause related. "You get yourself into a situation where you realise how fortunate you are and realise you have the ability to give back."
She will balance this with the rapid growth her companies are experiencing. "We're growing so fast it's ridiculous, and with that you have to learn to adapt and change and sit down and say I made a mistake and talk about it. That type of sharing information is invaluable."
Mellissah attributes her success to the people around her, and no doubt they have played a major role, but at 32 her ambition, enthusiasm and creativity have taken her a long way in a short time.
Mellissah's five keys to success
Have people around you who are much more successful.
Get results for people.
Have a plan
Give back to society.
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