Meet Aria Schulz, a marketing generalist with several years of experience in education, alongside hospitality and retail. In 2021 at 23 years old, she co-founded EmpowerUp Marketing with Clare Hewitt. EmpowerUp is an Australian digital marketing business that supports SMB’s and provides affordable marketing solutions. They are proud to support clients in a variety of areas including SEO and content marketing, email marketing, advertising, social media, website development and holistic strategies.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Aria Schulz: Hello! My name is Aria and I am a marketing generalist who co-founded EmpowerUp Marketing, alongside my incredible business partner, Clare Hewitt. I handle all sales, creative and client experience for EmpowerUp and specialise in providing branding, content strategies, copywriting, social media strategies and creative for clients.
To get us started, Can you tell our readers what does your company solve differently in the crowded marketplace? Give an example or share a story.
Aria Schulz: We witnessed that there are-many micro and small business owners struggling to find the right information on marketing. This was really how EmpowerUp was born. From here, we were able to have important conversations with clients about the lack of control they feel and how they are pushed to blindly trust agencies, in order to achieve marketing results. We know that people start a business to be in control of something they love to do and to make the opportunity their own. So why take that away?
Up against big marketing agencies, we are wanting to create affordable digital marketing support for smaller businesses who want to keep control, learn how to do it themselves and to be empowered in their marketing by us. It might take a little more time and effort on our end to educate, explain and empower but that’s exactly what we want to provide. We prioritise keeping our overhead costs low so that we can suit smaller budgets because everyone – no matter how new or small the business is – should have access to good quality marketing. We also aim to always keep our pricing as transparent as possible. We know that small business owners don’t have the luxury of time, and hiding a service cost behind several meetings or email chains is just not viable.
While your company is growing, what are some of the challenges you face? Hiring? Tech development? Raising capital? Branding? Tell us more about the journey.
Aria Schulz: A big challenge we face is wanting to do everything at once, then remembering… there’s just two of us! Every day we experience that pull in two directions – investing the time to work with more clients and build our business credibility, against putting serious work into our long-term plans for the business. There simply isn’t enough time in the day! We never want to lose sight of developing OUR business because we are too busy developing everyone else’s.
We are proud of how far we have come in expanding our offering to business owners, as we aim to be flexible to their needs. This also lends itself to the challenge of ‘changing goal-posts’. It’s great to be continually aiming for growth, however we try not to fall into the trap of moving away from our original goals. Instead, we have found building on those goals and developing them into a better version of that goal has been instrumental in our business growth.
Everyone has a different story, what influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur, what would you have done differently?
Aria Schulz: When considering how I wanted my career to pan out, I never actually saw myself starting my own business and making that my career. I envisioned working my way up the ladder in a large company, being able to meet and work with a variety of professionals. I was working in a corporate role where I had been for over three years with a good team and a manager that I fiercely respected. She was my mentor and taught me so much working underneath her. It was more the opportunity presenting itself in a time where I felt I had lost my passion which influenced me to start my own business. In my corporate role, I didn’t get the chance to form meaningful relationships with the customers of that company, or to be in a front-facing role which I love. I also began to notice how limited marketing support options were for smaller businesses, faced with the daunting decision of learning it themselves, paying large prices for agencies or trying to find someone to hire internally. A colleague in my marketing team at my job had very similar ideas and approaches to marketing as me, and we just simply clicked. We decided to look at starting our own business, and before we knew it, a start-up company had approached us for being their key marketing support. That was all we needed to take the leap, resign from our roles and commit 100%. We had ideas about where we wanted to go with our business and what we wanted to do, but that has developed over time to lead us into unique pockets of the market where we’ve found our offering.
Sometimes I think about what it would have been like to instead resign and work in marketing for another company, just for the team experience and to broaden my skills. There are great benefits when working for a larger company, however when I saw an opportunity with EmpowerUp, I took it and I’ll never regret that – even if this journey turns out different to what I expected! One thing I do wish I had done differently is look into renting a communal office space rather than decking out a home office. I have worked remotely since early 2020, and being a people-person I miss the day to day engagement with others, especially since my business partner resides in a different city to me. This is something we are wanting to set up for next year which I am looking forward to.
Now for the main focus of this interview: what qualities or characteristics do women entrepreneurs have that make them great leaders? Please share some examples.
Aria Schulz: I think women are naturally fantastic planners and strategists which means they can see the vision before there’s anything solid there. This of course is incredibly useful in business, where losing sight of the big picture can mean tunnel vision and the subsequent consequences.
I have always credited the importance of emotional intelligence in business. Being able to understand and empathise with your clients, employees and colleagues allows for a more trusting and solid business relationship. This is a characteristic that females generally possess and champion in leadership positions. For example, it’s so interesting working with my business partner Clare remotely. Often we have our morning meetings as voice only, and she is always able to pick up on how I am feeling that day – through just hearing my voice! Overall, being able to identify and assess someone else’s feelings allows you to tailor your communication in a way that is beneficial to the conversation or issue at hand.
What are some of the biggest challenges you still see women face while conducting business, compared to their male counterparts? What would you like to see change, and how would you make it happen?
Aria Schulz: Being 24, I have grown up in a very different environment to what my mother and older colleagues have. Sexism in the workplace perhaps has been much more subtle to what it was, and may have even flown over my head a few times! My corporate role was at a company led by a woman and I always admired her tenacity, vision and passion. Where I experienced some interesting challenges was branding and starting our business. There is a stereotype of women in marketing to fight against and the majority of junior to mid-level marketing roles are held by females. Unfortunately, a lot of marketing leadership roles and majority of all sales roles – consider how closely sales and marketing work together – are still held predominantly by men.
When branding EmpowerUp, we needed to make a decision to either lean into our ‘women in business’ element or not even consider gender in the business and services we offer. We went with the latter, and decided despite a very minute number of our target market potentially perceiving us as ‘incapable young females’ we would blaze ahead as if gender doesn’t matter for the services we provide… because it doesn’t!
Blunt conflict and calling things out is not something that comes naturally to me or my business partner. Perhaps it’s a hesitation many female professionals have in fear of rocking the boat and being seen as difficult by others. It’s been something we have been forced to learn as we now don’t have a company to back us and our decisions. Through different experiences and conversations we have developed in this and I am very thankful for it.
Interestingly, 90% of our clients are female-led businesses. It’s great however, we still see that in large-scale companies those sales and marketing leadership roles are still unbalanced and I would love to see more representation here. I wonder if it’s unbalanced because many women do what we have done, and go out on their own instead of climbing the career ladder. Mentorship and support from leaders such as my old manager gave me, gives younger female professionals the reinforcement that it is possible to excel in these positions. If I had continued in the corporate pathway, I would have focused on mentoring and supporting the youngest most junior employees right from the very start, to build and strengthen that confidence from the get-go. This is actually one of my personal goals I wrote down when we started EmpowerUp, for when we hire our own employees.
With all of your experience as a business leader, what is the most important thing you can tell fellow entrepreneurs that you’d like to share with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Aria Schulz: Don’t feel like you need to do it all yourself. It might be your idea or your business plan, but finding like minded people to help support your dream actually makes things easier. I would not have been able to start EmpowerUp Marketing without my business partner Clare, and she wouldn’t have been able to start it without me! Outsourcing is also your best friend. You learn pretty quickly that burnout is very real, and very bad for you and ultimately your business. Know your capacity limits right from the start.
What do you plan on tackling during 2022? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Aria Schulz: The first few months of business were really busy looking after our foundation client, whilst also trying to build out the EmpowerUp website and develop our platforms. Balancing the needs of clients against your own business development goals is a tricky one. More often than not we have found ourselves so focused on achieving results for our clients that we forget to keep chipping away at our own marketing goals! This is what we will be mindful of this year, and a goal that has come out of it is to hire our first employee by the end of 2022.
We are really excited to be developing our email marketing campaigns further, now that our website is set up properly. Both Clare and I have been working hard to fine tune our customer journey so we are looking forward to being able to continuously improve that this year. We anticipate that it will be an awesome learning experience as we find and settle in our market space. Perhaps a different target market will emerge for us, and perhaps the target market we thought would excel may not be successful. Only time and the data will tell! More than anything, we just want to fuel the right attitude each day as we work towards our goals.
How do you keep learning? Podcast? Books? Audiobooks? Videos? Share some of your greatest sources of inspiration? Share an impactful story.
Aria Schulz: Every Friday afternoon, Clare and I put aside our time to focus on upskilling. This often looks like researching and undertaking new certifications, or reading through informative articles from the big players. I have found following industry experts on LinkedIn incredibly useful – no one can go past Bruce Clay, Glenn Gabe or Barry Schwartz for the most up-to-date SEO information.
I have also grown accustomed to the new way of video through short sharp snippets of valuable information, via social media. My ‘saved’ videos are full of insightful commentary from experts, interesting information and competitors’ content. About every two weeks I sit down with a coffee to rewatch these videos, and then write down the ones I feel are still important to me and my learning. Then I will conduct further research on those topics each morning before beginning work.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. Where can our readers follow up with you?
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Aria Schulz for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Aria Schulz or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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