Zoe Simmons writes to make a difference. As an experienced journalist who’s been published hundreds of times around the globe—including by News.com.au, Daily Mail, Kidspot, Popsugar, Mamamia, the Sydney Morning Herald, the New York Post and That’s Life and New Idea magazines—Zoe knows how to captivate audiences through the raw power of storytelling.
She was first published at the age of 16 by her then-local newspaper, and at the age of 24, Zoe began building her copywriting and editing business, where she now works full-time, helping businesses small and large to find their perfect words. She’s had words on ethical journalism published in Kathy Divine’s book Golden Age Politics and made her speaker debut at the 2021 National Young Writer’s Festival. She is also the Silver winner of the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the 2021 Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Clever Copywriting School’s 2021 Member of the Year Award. When not running her business, Zoe can be found writing poems, advocating for chronic pain and mental illness, and working on her first book about her hometown’s survival in the Black Summer bushfires.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Zoe Simmons: I’m Zoe, a 26-year-old writer living in Melbourne. I currently run my own copywriting and editing business and am writing a book on my hometown’s survival in the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires—which I’m currently pitching to agents and publishers.
I write to make a difference. Whether it’s by writing freelance articles for news outlets where I can raise awareness for important causes, or by helping businesses small and large to find their perfect words. I love telling stories—and I know that words have power. I want to use that power to make a positive impact on the world. Already, I’ve been able to help raise around $40,000 for people in need by sharing fundraisers and promoting them in the stories I write.
In the future, I’d like to keep helping people. I’d love to get more into the advocacy space—particularly for causes I have lived experience with, like chronic pain, disability, mental illness, bushfire recovery, and more. I’m also hoping I’ll be able to get my book published, and further pursue speaking and other writing opportunities.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Zoe Simmons: When I was young, I wanted to be a scientist to find a cure for my mum’s psoriasis. I also wanted to be a rockstar (I still do! I love to sing and write music). But eventually, it was my love for words and storytelling that drew me to writing. I originally wanted to be an author. I’ve been penning creative stories since kindergarten! But I decided to jump into journalism, because I love it, and because I figured it had better job prospects. At the age of 16, I did work experience at my then-local newspaper, where I published my first few articles—and I LOVED it. I just felt this spark in my soul and knew I had to follow it.
Eventually, I did a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Wollongong, where I was in the top 15% of my degree. I briefly worked in social media at the Daily Mail, before jumping into corporate communications for a forensic mental health organization. I also started building my copywriting and editing business and did a lot of freelance journalism on the side. Earlier this year, I made the leap into my business full-time! I live with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, so running my own business also helps me to put my health and well-being first. I also wanted to write my book—a collection of stories about my hometown’s survival in the Black Summer Bushfires. I’m trying to get my book published, so hopefully, I’ll be able to call myself a full author! (Although I have had words on ethical journalism published in Kathy Divine’s book Golden Age Politics, and have a chapter coming out in a book next year.)
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Zoe Simmons: Alongside writing, I’m also a musician. I sing and play the piano. I’m currently writing and recording an EP. Music is my other love. It’s saved my life. I love being able to express myself creatively, and, like writing, it helps me to work through my darker emotions, and transmute them into something beautiful. I still secretly dream of being a rockstar!
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Zoe Simmons: I think anyone who runs their own business is an entrepreneur. Someone who challenges the status quo, and who isn’t afraid to step out on their own—and out of their comfort zone. It takes a lot of courage to be an entrepreneur!
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Zoe Simmons: A supportive and inclusive culture is vital—particularly for disabled people. So often, anything that differs from the so-called “norm” isn’t even considered, which often means that important and diverse voices aren’t heard. Whether it’s for a mental illness, a chronic illness or chronic pain condition, or any other kind of disability, accessibility matters. You can’t be inclusive if you’re not accessible—because everyone deserves a seat at the table.
Inclusivity is also important in terms of including and supporting people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as any kind of belief system. We all deserve kindness and respect, and we all deserve to feel and be heard. Diversity is beautiful, and it can certainly make the world a better place. Everyone deserves to feel and be supported—and that can’t happen without inclusivity.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Zoe Simmons: I think we can be distributive by doing what NEEDS to be done, instead of just doing what’s always been done. It’s good to question ourselves, and the way the world works. It’s the only way we can improve. I think COVID-19 especially has helped us see what’s important—and what isn’t important, as well as what needs to change. For me, it’s about standing up for what I believe in. It’s talking about the things that impact me, and so many others—the things we’re often afraid to talk about, especially things like mental illness and chronic pain that have a lot of associated stigmas.
It’s not enough to just be a leader—I think you’ve actively got to be trying to make the world a better place, and help society shed its often outdated skin for the better. And the best way to do that is, to be honest, genuine—and above all, kind. It’s a rebellious act to back yourself. But when you do, you also encourage everyone around you to do the same. So I share my ups and downs. I share my struggles and my triumphs. I’m not picture perfect—but I wouldn’t want to be, anyway. I think in a world ruled by unachievable perfection and unrealistic hustle goals, being true to yourself is as disruptive as it gets.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Zoe Simmons: I tell stories, and I help businesses write words that help them sell their products and services.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Zoe Simmons: I think one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my business was the decision to leave my communications job. I loved my job—but when my chronic pain and chronic fatigue symptoms worsened, it became too hard to juggle my journalism, my business, writing my book, and my job. At one stage, I was working 17-hour days—it was just too much. I needed more time to rest. I needed more time to look after myself, and longed for more time to pursue my creative projects. So, in July 2021, I resigned. I was rather terrified! I was worried I’d regret it. I was worried that at 26, I’d be ruining my career. I worried I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills, particularly my skyrocketing medical bills.
But the results of leaving have been pretty phenomenal. I’m now able to put my health first and rest when my symptoms are too much. I’ve been able to work with a lot more businesses and organizations on some great projects, and I’ve been able to get back into my writing more—both for journalism and for my book. It’s also led to speaking opportunities (I made my speaker debut at the 2021 National Young Writers Festival), TV appearances where I’ve been able to raise awareness about chronic illness and chronic pain, and even awards. I won silver in the 2021 Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the Clever Copywriting School’s 2021 Member of the Year Award.
I’m also getting a chapter published in a book next year, which is AWESOME, and am crossing my fingers and toes I’ll be able to get a book deal for my book next year (it means a lot to my community!). Seeing the impact of my work has to be the best part of it though—like when others with chronic pain or chronic illness tell me my words helped them. It feels good to raise awareness—but it feels even better to know my work has helped someone else to not feel so alone. Success for me is to know that someone else has breathed easier because I have lived—and since leaving my job, I feel like I’ve been able to help so many more people. It’s a nice feeling. After spending most of my life doubting myself and battling mental illness, it’s also a nice feeling to know I’m backing myself!
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Zoe Simmons: I am good at befriending animals of all kinds! If I’m at any kind of gathering and there’s a pet present, you can bet I’ll probably be best friends with them before the night is over. I love animals so much—all animals (it’s why I don’t eat them). I wouldn’t call that talent useless though!
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Zoe Simmons: I mean, I am writing a book about a pretty significant event in my life (surviving a bushfire), but for my life as a whole… “Anxious and fabulous?”
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Zoe Simmons 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 Zoe Simmons or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Did you enjoy this article? Check out similar stories:
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.