Meet Tina Brown, Founder of King Publications Pty Ltd. She has an IT background and previously owned and operated an international student services business in Sydney, Australia. She still owns this business and it is slowly returning to business with students entering Australia.
The ‘Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post’ was started during the pandemic due to the withdrawal of local newspapers by major outlets. It’s now known as ‘The Post” and is focused on ‘bringing the community together’. This monthly newspaper is hyperlocal to the Upper North Shore, celebrates good stories and those community groups making a difference. It is printed and delivered across the communities of Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai and Willoughby. The other publication she started during the pandemic is the ‘Northern Willo’, a high gloss magazine for the Lower North Shore, again with hyperlocal news and stories for locals, this publication was placed on hold during the last lockdown in 2021 and will recommence by June 2022.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Tina Brown: I was raised by my mum with my brother, from the age of 13 I started working as a babysitter and was solidly booked most weekends, I then took on working in a local department store from 15 and continued babysitting at the weekends, I’ve always worked. I don’t ever look forward to being fully retired and I don’t think I ever will be. I’ve always had a constant drive to succeed whether it was playing monopoly or working my way up with each new position I acquired.
I have a background in program management and started life as an Executive Assistant. I took over a family-run business back in 2008 in an effort to reduce my work fewer hours and have my children. However, I ended up owning that business and transforming it into the education services sector, and ultimately working even more hours. This business was hit hard and early by Covid and has been in a coma with no international students entering Australia for nearly 2 years. During this Covid hiatus,
I pondered what I could do with myself suddenly having so much free time. That’s when one winter’s day I came up with the ‘Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post’.
I’m the sort of person who can’t sit still. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch, gardening, cooking, and spring cleaning, I had to work and I saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start something new. For me, it was a welcome change to move from a very structured formal work environment to something incredibly creative.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Tina Brown: I believe entrepreneurs are born. The inate decision to take the risk of starting something new or something no one else will venture into comes from a deep desire to make a difference in that field. Undeniably there are skills, experiences, and techniques that are learned along the way in life that brings you to the point where you are ‘ready’ to take a risk, I think you just know if you’re ready.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Tina Brown: I am a creative and passionate person, I’m driven and outcome focussed. I was also willing to take a calculated risk to see the potential opportunity come to fruition. This has taken enormous commitment and I’ve achieved it in the face of adversity and with the loyal support of excellent staff and my family.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Tina Brown: The company I own is King Publications which operates the hyperlocal newspaper publication ‘The Post’ in Sydney Australia. This new business was started at the height of the pandemic in July 2020. It was in my opinion, born out of necessity, having lost all our local print media over time and due to Covid. Where I live and work the local paper is nonexistent, this void in a time of great need provoked me to see if others felt the way I did and would welcome a printed newspaper.
The paper focuses on hyperlocal news, sports, health and lifestyle, community, and much more, In fact, it focuses on the unsung heroes in our community and gives a voice to so many local not for profits and charities that rely on volunteers and donations. It has grown to include professional columnists and local politicians who also contribute a column about what’s happening in their areas.
It’s grown in readership and distribution and we are the only paper that took the initiative of delivering to the local aged care facilities during the pandemic so that the elderly would have some local news to read. We continue to do so and we continue to grow in editorials and also advertising. We are fortunate to be operating in a wealthy area of Sydney and advertising has been the biggest challenge, but by the third edition, we broke even and started making a profit thereafter.
We have also grown to welcome Journalist interns from surrounding Universities and even started several cadetships which are very valuable to journalists starting their careers and looking for real experience. The last change that we have welcomed is a change of name. We originally included the name of the local government areas we were covering and now we are just “The Post” which means the paper can continue to grow geographically without any limitation on location, that’s a big lesson learned.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Tina Brown: A good assumption is that there are going to be clients, however that doesn’t mean you’re going to get them. The best way to promote your own business is by promoting others and as you are seen as active in that space your brand will grow naturally.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Tina Brown: Definitely the business name could have been broader from the start, we had the suburb name in front and it was definitely limiting. Assume that you are going to grow and don’t tie yourself down geographically or otherwise, think about the business name and where you want to be in 2, 5, and 10 ten years’ time. A rebranding is expensive and time-consuming, when growing the business it’s a costly distraction.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Tina Brown: Don’t be afraid to contact absolutely anyone at any level if you believe they will make a great network and add value to your business. You have to put yourself out there. There is no room for complacency or being ‘polite’, introduce yourself with confidence, and like will come to like. Not everyone is a match for your business, you need to find a way of ‘filtering’ out the undesirable contacts who are going to suck your energy and leave you depleted, a good example is when you meet someone new at a networking opportunity and they do all the talking and you can’t get a word in. Depending on what your business is, of course, this is probably not going to be a mutually beneficial relationship and time has proven this for me.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Tina Brown: I was once told ‘start at the bottom and work your way up, don’t intimidate the girls in the office’. I was coming into a business that I later ended up owning, I was told to tone down my appearance, wear less makeup etc. I was horrified at the time and I still remember that advice and laugh.
In all honesty, if you have a presence when you walk into a room, just own it. Don’t change you, this is what contributes to your success.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Tina Brown: Covid has made people more nervous about starting something new. Covid quickly took out all the poor performing and fragile businesses who were likely operating on constrained finances and limping from month to month, their days were always numbered. A badly run business will quickly succumb to a recession. The businesses that survived were either less impacted by Covid (such as aged care and health services) or were able to pivot and add/change services to fit the climate. The opportunities haven’t vanished, it’s about finding them.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Tina Brown: A myth is that entrepreneurs are rich or will get rich quickly. I have a family to support and a mortgage, so this is not true for me. However, I do appreciate that being a self-employed business owner means that I have huge flexibility with my family and this was always top of mind for me.
Before starting a new venture, you need to think through how much time you can realistically dedicate to the business without impacting your entire life and upsetting everyone around you. If you can’t dedicate some quality time to the new venture consistently it won’t succeed and generally, only you can do this. The other myth is that entrepreneurs know exactly the path they are taking and have the answers, this is not true which is what makes it so risky, this is also how we learn though, trial and error and fine-tuning.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Tina Brown: I believe you must be able to delegate, you can’t be a control freak or you just won’t get anything finished and you won’t be able to keep staff. You need employees who are capable and trustworthy and this is only viable if they are allowed the room to flourish. I also believe that being able to have many plates spinning at the same time is key, there is always going to be a lot going on – if it’s a successful business it’s hectic, you have to be comfortable with always having a lot happening. For me being able to say no, stay calm and always find some time in the day to be still help keep the balance.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Tina Brown: To be ready to face the challenges and ups and downs of entrepreneurship I believe you have to know yourself well and have faith in yourself. This includes the good, bad, and the ugly. You have to be honest with yourself and trust your gut instincts.
A good book that speaks to the sense of fulfillment in my business was ‘What makes us tick?” by Hugh Mackay an Australian author.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Tina Brown: I love creativity and colors, so if I were to start over I think I would probably lean towards interior design and colour consulting.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Tina Brown: Rosa Parks as she the mother of the freedom movement and she was courageous and stood alone to make a difference.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Tina Brown 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 Tina Brown or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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