Interview with Hannah Statham, Founder of Media Mortar

What do you do when you’ve reached the top of your career ladder? Bask in the knowledge that you’ve accomplished such a great feat? Breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that life’s challenges, at least career-wise, now cease to trouble you?

If you’re Hannah Statham, you pack your bags, collect your client list and start again! Loath to spend to rest of her days seamlessly navigating her way to an easy pay check, Hannah decided it was due time to start her own business. Creating Media Mortar in April of this year, the aptly named company specialises in the construction industry, a niche market that Hannah stumbled upon through a chance occurrence. A true trailblazer, Hannah has already outgrown her hot desk arrangement and is planning on an office upgrade – all within six months of starting.

Who knew the construction industry was fraught with people in need of a social media makeover?

Hi Hannah, can you tell me a bit about what you do?

I run a marketing agency called Media Mortar, which is a content marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry. We manage a lot of social media accounts, website copy, ad creation and flyers and also help to create and mould company’s brands. This involves designing logos and websites and even small things, like creating company business cards.

How did Media Mortar end up specialising in the design and construction industry?

I have an extensive background in the tourism industry, due to my experience working as a publicist for Tourism and Events Queensland. My role involved me managing publicity for destinations, hotel brands, and airlines. Working with the construction industry was a bit of a happy accident, as it happened quite organically. My boyfriend is an architect, and he wasn’t the best at showcasing his work digitally, so I managed his accounts for him. After a while, people he knew began to ask me to manage their accounts too. I ended up stumbling upon a niche that no one was servicing, and there were a lot of people that needed my help.

What made you decide to take the leap and create your own agency?

I’d worked for an agency for a number of years and had reached the height of my career. There wasn’t any more room to grow and I was looking for a challenge. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss and it seemed like the right time to do it.

I left with my own personal client base and my monthly income sorted, so it wasn’t a process I rushed into. I would describe the whole experience like jumping out of an airplane with a parachute. It’s scary and exhilarating but I knew I would be fine, or at least, likely fine!

How many people did you start with?

I have the classic founder story of starting a business from my lounge room. I began this venture in April of 2017 and by May I had reached working capacity and required an intern to help me manage. As a lecturer for The Queensland University of Technology, I thought it would be worthwhile to put some feelers out so I contacted my course coordinator and enquired about working at the library until I found a suitable space. I hadn’t thought much about coworking as I’d done it a few times before and had never taken to it. My course coordinator told me about The Coterie and I contacted them immediately.

I’ve been at CEA for six months now.

How big is the team now?

I currently have two leaders, which is Emily and I, and two interns. We’re growing at a rapid rate so I’m definitely looking to bring someone in full-time next year.

What are some obstacles you have faced starting your own company?

Oh, a lot! It’s funny, I was with my business coach yesterday and she asked me the exact question. I’d say instead of obstacles it’d be lessons learnt, with my biggest one being ‘don’t work for friends.’ I did a project for a close friend of mine and they never paid me, which I never expected from someone like them. If you’re going to work for someone you’re close to I definitely recommend having an agreement set in place and taking a 100% deposit up front. Think twice about giving discounts. If it goes well you can always give the money back but don’t ever discount your worth to people as they can take advantage of it.

I’ve found it challenging to manage finances, as I’m not someone who’s ever been driven by money. It’s unavoidable as a manager though, as no one else is going to do the bookkeeping, or set your revenue targets for you. It’s that and delegating. I’m terrible at delegating as I’d much rather just do something myself. I’ve learnt that the best way to force delegation is to keep yourself so busy you can’t possibly do everything. Emily has been a lifesaver. She practically reads my mind half the time and always knows what needs doing without my direction.

What would be some common misconceptions people make about running an agency?

The biggest misconception would be that we all get drunk and drink champagne all the time! I don’t think people realise how hard we work, the hours we put in or how hard we have to hustle. I structure my business with three types of people – the finders, minders, and grinders. I’m the one who finds the clients, Emily is the one that minds them and the interns grind through it. People have this idea that we’re out there having fun but we’re almost always chained to our desks. If one more person says to me, ‘oh you’re never in your office’, I’ll go mad! Yes, I was in Sydney all day yesterday. Was I sightseeing? No, I attended meetings all day!

Do you ever miss working for someone?

To be completely honest, yes, especially when I’m feeling stressed. As an employee, I took it for granted that someone managed the cash flow. When you’re an employee you don’t have to worry about bills getting paid, or how long you’ve got between pay checks. It’s now my job to make sure the company has money to pay employees and enough in the kitty for when something goes wrong. There’s always something, whether it be an unexpected deal, broken equipment, insurance – I’m still paying off my HECS debt too. I do sometimes miss just picking up a pay check and not stressing about stuff like that!

What are Media Mortar’s goals for the future?

I have quite a few! I spent all day yesterday with my business coach outlining a plan for the future. My long-term goal would be to have five staff, which I’ll start implementing next year by bringing on another full-time employee. For every one employee hired, the company needs to make double the revenue. More people in the team will also require me to expand the space as we’re currently working from permanent desks. An office at CEA is definitely in order!

Check out Media Mortar here

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