Why I Work In, sponsored by Stafflex, is a regular feature where we ask people about their job, career and the industry they work in. This time – to mark International Women’s Day – it’s Melissa Cooper, founder and MD of Denby Dale-based Beanie Media.

What it is like to set up a digital marketing agency as an 18-year-old woman?

Melissa Roberts set up Beanie Media at the tender age of 18. Whilst studying Business Studies at Kirklees College, she decided that a digital marketing career was for her and worked as a digital marketing executive at a local agency alongside her studying.

Upon leaving Kirklees College, Melissa worked full time as a digital marketing assistant at another agency but knew deep down that she wanted to work for herself and set up her own business.

As well as the huge achievement of running her business Beanie Media for almost six years, Melissa has also won ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ at The Examiner Business Awards. Here Melissa talks to us about setting up a digital marketing agency as an 18 year old woman.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

My dad has always had his own business, so growing up I’ve always been around business conversations and was shown the importance of working hard. Seeing my dad work hard for himself is where a lot of my self-belief came from.

When I discovered my interest in Digital Marketing, I was only 16. I got a job as a marketing assistant when I was still at college, but I wanted to throw myself in deeper and develop my skills quicker, and I knew I wouldn’t have that opportunity as the office junior in a small company. When I’m interested in something, it takes over my brain and I have to give it all of my energy.

I didn’t want to have to travel to Leeds or Manchester to find a big opportunity and I think I’ve always I had an ambition to work for myself and had a passion for marketing, which is what pushed me to quit my job to start my own business.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?

Firstly, just go for it! When you have a business idea, you’ve usually got lots of things going round in your head and the hardest part is getting started.

My second piece of advice is don’t do it alone.

Setting up your own business can be a difficult time, and you need a good network of support around you. Speak to family and friends about your idea, and even better, try and attend some local and industry specific networking groups. I’ve met a lot of amazing people through business, who have become friends that I can bounce ideas off and ask for their opinion on situations.

I’ve also had a business mentor from a similar industry, so I was able to learn from someone who had set up and grown a similar business.

There’s going to be things you don’t know, and if you try and do it alone, you will spend more time stressing and figuring things out than working on your business. Instead, collaborate with people who can support you on your journey. One of the best business decisions I made was finding an accountant and bookkeeper who understands our business.

How does your business look different now vs. when you first started?

When I started Beanie Media, I didn’t have much direction in terms of the client’s I’d work with – I’d work with anyone who showed interest, taking on any jobs that I could!

Today, Beanie Media is a team of skilled digital marketing professionals. As a team, we know what our strengths are, and the industries we’re passionate about, which means we’re strategic in the clients we look for and work with.

Working with clients who share our vision and values has not only escalated our success, but also the job satisfaction of the whole team.

From when I started the business, my vision has grown because I’ve seen what’s possible, and I’ve kept on proving to myself what I’m capable of.

Where do you see your business in five years’ time?

My vision has grown, but not in the way that you’d automatically expect. A couple of years ago, my vision was to have a huge company, that employed lots of people, and worked with huge clients.

That’s genuinely not the case anymore.

While running Beanie Media over the past six years, I feel like I’ve found myself. I’ve grown the business, got married, had a baby, and I’m at a place in my life where my perspective has changed from what it was a couple of years back.

My goal is to keep on strengthening our client base, with longstanding, meaningful relationships. Alongside this, lead a team of people who are able to work flexibly and maintain a positive work-life balance.

Essentially, I want to provide the best experience and results for our clients, while living a meaningful life, working with a team of positive people where we all support one and other.

I truly believe these client relationships are on our doorstep in Huddersfield and the surrounding areas.

How do you set Beanie Media apart from others in your industry?

When I set up Beanie Media at the age of 18, with no contacts or connections (or money!) I had to work really hard building the business from the ground up. Because of this, I have a mindset for returning clients’ investments with minimal spend, because I know how important ROI is for businesses, especially smaller ones.

In addition to this, at Beanie Media we’re constantly testing and experimenting with algorithms, website layouts and social media platforms, so that we can stay on top of our game. The average age of an employee at Beanie Media is 25 years old, it’s the age group who have grown up with TikTok and Instagram, and the ever-changing digital landscape. We’re living and breathing what we do for clients.

Aside from staying ahead of the curve, what makes us different is the fact we listen to clients wants and needs and communicate with them honestly. Many businesses who come to us have had some sort of experience with an agency already but haven’t got the results that they wanted.

Sometimes what a client wants isn’t always possible, and when this is the case, we communicate that. This means we’re avoiding giving false hope and promises.

What is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur?

Balancing everything! Since starting Beanie Media at 18, I’ve got married, become a mum for the first time, employ 5 people, and our client base has significantly grown. Ensuring I give everything enough attention can be tricky at times.

Running your own business means you never really stop, and even though I have an amazing network, it can still get lonely. Sometimes you’ll have to make tough decisions, or you’ll be thrown into a situation you’ve not been in before which can be daunting.

Being organised is the only way to go when it comes to making sure I don’t drop the ball professionally or personally, and making sure I talk to my husband or family if I’m stressed about something helps me to not worry about things and deal with things better.

How have you grown personally from becoming a young entrepreneur?

Since I started my business as a young entrepreneur, I’ve gained a new level of self-confidence, and become more decisive. When I started Beanie Media, I was choosing a different path to my friends and people I went to school with. I didn’t know anyone similar age in business, so I’d doubt myself and worry if I was doing things right. I also didn’t feel confident in speaking to people I didn’t know well.

As a business owner, you have to be your own cheerleader 24/7, you have to make quick decisions and speak to people you don’t know in order to expand your network and speak to potential clients. Over time… my confidence has grown and it’s like I’ve proven myself to myself, so not much worries me anymore.

In my personal life, I’ve learned to adopt one of my business habits, and ‘stop waiting for the right time.’ Building a business has allowed me to create a schedule where I’ve felt able to become a mum and balance a work and home life.

I have also become a much better communicator, which is essential when running a business, and this has enabled me to be a better partner – to discuss things, good and bad, and find a resolution to them.

Since becoming an entrepreneur, and dealing with business scenarios on a day-to-day basis, it’s helped me with my approach to any challenges that I’ve faced personally too. Feelings of disappointment or upset are easier to deal with because I’ve learned to be so resilient, and it’s given me an “anything is possible” mindset.

If you could describe your job in only three words, which would you choose?

Fast-paced, diverse and technical!

What do you love most about it?

I love the diversity of digital marketing and entrepreneurship. No two days are the same. Some days I’m looking at client work, others I’m working on our own business strategy.

I love digital marketing, but working within an in-house role probably wouldn’t satisfy me, as I enjoy working with different businesses.

I love that I get to speak to different business owners, learning about their own businesses, industries and their experiences in business.

What words would your colleagues use to describe you?

I wasn’t sure about this…so I asked them! Determined, ambitious, kind, calm, entrepreneurial and self-assured. (Thanks team!)

Finally, who is your biggest role model?

My Auntie is a strong woman who has always inspired me.