Hello! I’m Aria Schulz, a marketing generalist with several years of experience in industries such as education, hospitality and retail. In 2021, alongside Clare Hewitt, I co-founded EmpowerUp Marketing. We are an Australian digital marketing business that supports SMB’s and provides affordable marketing solutions.
I’m that person who is always described by friends and colleagues as ‘bubbly.’ Whether this means I talk too much or just the right amount, I’ll never know! I do know however, that I have a hopeless tendency to end every sentence with an exclamation mark… it just feels so much nicer than a full stop!
I have always been a social extrovert, with a knack for customer service and sales. From 13 years old, I had the opportunity to work for businesses at both public expos and trade fairs. This is where I was able to hone my sales skills and realise just how much I enjoyed the in-person element of sales and business.
During, and after completing my university degree, I was working in a corporate role with a great team and a manager who I considered my mentor. However, I wasn’t entirely happy. I didn’t get to actually talk to our customers in my role or really be able to communicate with external stakeholders. One night, a chat with one of my team members, Clare, about her business idea sparked something in me. We then met virtually twice a week after work, to hammer, twist and mould that original idea into a full blown marketing business! My heart just wasn’t in my corporate role, despite having a great manager who had taught me almost everything I knew. My passion for marketing and what it’s actually about – helping businesses succeed – was back.
I decided at 23 years old to completely resign from my corporate role and take the plunge of co-founding a business with Clare, who ended up resigning 30 minutes after me (our poor manager!). I was prepared to use up most of my savings to make it work and put in the long hours. We were very fortunate to be selected by a start-up company over a bunch of established marketing agencies to be their dedicated marketing support. That gave us financial support and the kick we needed to be 100% committed to our passion.
I am lucky to share the same passion as Clare for helping businesses find solutions in marketing and grow. Is it strange to have this as your passion? Maybe! But it is certainly a wonderful feeling knowing you are truly helping someone build THEIR passion with your knowledge and support.
As an successful entrepreneur please share your view point if you believe that entrepreneurs are born or made?
The word entrepreneur simply describes someone willing to take a risk and begin something that is their own. I love that anyone can do this which is why I believe entrepreneurs are made. You don’t have to be the most confident, or most successful, or most skilled. You just need to have a passion that you are willing to take a risk with, the drive to start on your own and the willingness to learn along the way. As I have learnt, the best part is you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to be business savvy to own a business because you can find others who are, who share your passion and want to work alongside you to make it happen. You can be the most ‘entrepreneurial’ personality ever, yet you still have to make it happen (this was wise advice from my very entrepreneurial-minded boyfriend).
I’m a firm believer that the greatest gifts we can offer to the world come from our greatest suffering.
Nelson Mandela once quoted – ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’
What has been one fear you have overcome?
The fear I have overcome is thinking I don’t have enough expertise to offer in a highly competitive industry. It was so easy for me to doubt myself when I decided to leave my corporate role of over 3 years, and at 23 jump into providing marketing for others. Just because there are professionals with over 20 years of experience operating in the marketing field, does not mean I don’t have valuable insight and ideas to provide to clients. In fact, due to the nature of marketing and how rapidly it changes – having years of experience and foundational knowledge is nowhere near as advantageous as other areas of business!
I overcome this fear by remembering that I am doing what I love and I am learning so much about myself as a person. I get to prove every day that I can exceed what I thought my professional limitations were. Age is just a number, and despite being in my mid-20’s, I have so much more knowledge to provide to clients than that fear tells me.
Tell us what the word “empower” means to you?
The saying knowledge is power always comes to me when I hear the word ‘empower.’ But being empowered, and empowering others is about so much more than that. It’s through that knowledge being yours, built off the foundation of your passion and your ideas that you are truly empowered in your business.
Most agencies want to gatekeep their methods and ways of achieving growth results as a means of keeping the customer paying each month. That’s not who we are. We aim to share that knowledge with every one of our clients because that makes for a far greater business relationship. We know this means our clients won’t be with us forever because they will eventually have the knowledge and means of taking over what our services provide – but that’s great! That means we have accomplished our goals and stayed true to our passion.
What has been one of the biggest business ideas you have had and how did you have the courage to implement it?
We have worked hard to understand our clients’ needs better by simply listening to what they’re after and then making sure our recommendations line up with what they want. We noticed that our competitors were gating their pricing behind a string of meetings when small business owners just don’t have the luxury of time to do that. This is why we have gone to a lot of effort to make our pricing as transparent as possible on our website.
We are working on a variety of big business ideas but this is the idea so far that has paid off the most! Business owners, especially smaller business owners, greatly appreciate the transparency of our website pricing. It comes down to suiting our clients’ needs and valuing their time. We have a discovery call with every client interested in our services to make sure it’s the right service for them and achieves the results they are looking for. We also make an effort in being transparent to offer flexible and customisable solutions, because we know that every business is different. It can be scary valuing your time and services as a business owner and hoping you can survive in the competitive market. I think it’s the element of saying “hey, this is what I am worth.” At the end of the day we want to be open and honest with our potential clients and this is why we had the courage to implement this idea.
Running your own business can be scary. Success requires moments of courage to push through to the next level, please tell us one of the moments you have had to push through to take your business to the next level?
Coming into an industry where we are competing against established agencies has been pretty daunting. We are up against big marketing agencies who have large scale clients and resourceful teams and it’s currently just Clare and I! When we first started, we were unsure of what price to charge for our time and knowledge.. Prices vary greatly in our field, with SEO for example ranging from anywhere between $200 – $15,000 a month! To make sure we’re setting a fair price and reducing the risk of us going out of business, we had to step up and really think about what we were worth and the value we wanted to provide to our target clients. It’s a difficult question that I am sure every business owner grapples with, particularly when they see competing prices they’re up against. We decided we wanted to provide high quality, valuable marketing to business owners that was affordable to them, but also portrayed the value we provide.
Learning how to value ourselves fairly and justify our rates was a moment where we were able to level up. It takes experience and a few trial and error situations to really understand you need to back yourself as a business owner, because you don’t have a company to fall back on!
Tell us what attributes you feel make a good leader in business today?
Honest communication. I think that being honest and transparent is the key to everything. Becoming a leader in business shouldn’t be done through deception or mystery because people find this difficult to trust. I fiercely respect any individual who can be honest and transparent and to me that’s what leading is all about. Being honest about your expectations, your mistakes, your strengths and your weaknesses means coming to the table with a solutions-focused approach, every single time. As a leader, you want to inspire loyalty and encourage others to achieve their goals. What better way than through honesty and truth, that those looking up to you know who you are and what you stand for.
What is your favourite quote about empowerment?
“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”― Steve Maraboli
So often we look at each day in the week as just one day closer to the weekend. We tick off our daily to-do list for that day, we make our dinner and we go to bed. Yet every day is a chance to be one step closer to what you want to achieve – whether we waste that chance or seize it. We don’t have to be defined by what we stuffed up yesterday, or what we wish we had done better last year. We can keep moving ahead, towards our goal and take the chance today to be better.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
The advice I would give to anyone wanting to start their own business is that whilst you are starting on your own, you don’t have to do it alone. The most important thing I have found is that a good support system quite literally keeps you sane. It can be friends, family, your partner, an online forum or group of business owners, a business coach who is in your corner – someone to be there as your cheerleader. When you have great days you will want to share it with someone, when you have a bad day you will want to get some feedback and support. When you need advice, you’ll want to turn to someone, or people you trust. I am grateful to be on this journey with an incredibly capable and talented professional, my business partner Clare. We support each other every day through both professional and personal hiccups even though we live in different cities. I would not be running the business today without her, and she probably wouldn’t be without me either! We complement each other in the best way possible which is why it works so well.
What would be one (1) question you would you ask the person who most inspires you? Also share with us about this person and why they inspire you?
I am pretty lucky that the person who inspires me every day is someone I can call up for a chat! My mother, Ally, is absolutely the person who inspires me most. I appear to be following in her footsteps, as she resigned from her corporate role in the early 2000’s to start a faux fur products business. Her business (which she has since sold), became internationally successful, with loyal customers from all over the world who just loved her brand. Ally is now pursuing other lifelong dreams of running a ready-made meals business and has also recently started up a pottery business selling her own handmade clay pieces. Not to mention, she does all of this whilst raising two teenagers and working 24 hours per week for another company. The woman never stops!
The question I have asked Ally most is this – “How do you balance life commitments with a career and also find time to do things you enjoy?” And being able to ask it means I can share her answer: “I always try to be self-aware of my capacity. I never sign on to do more with my time than I can handle, and always include planning and wind-down time for different commitments throughout the week. I also focus on my priorities and what order they are in. For me, I need to have a creative balance in my life which is my pottery and cooking. This luckily feels like my enjoyment time and not a job! I have always encouraged my children to pursue careers in something they can get enjoyment out of. Have balance so that you are able to incorporate something you’re passionate about into your weekly life. Find time for it and if you can make a job out of it – work as hard as you can to do that.”
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