Mary-Jane Devine
Fusion Marketing

Tell us about you

I’m the daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in Wangaratta in the 50s and had a range of farming businesses. With a feminist Italian mother I was told I could do anything I wanted with a good education and hard work. After uni, I moved to Sydney and fell into destination marketing and sales. When I met my now husband, I moved back to Melbourne and started Fusion in 2003 with my previous employer as my first client.

Tell us about your small business

Started in 2003, Fusion offers two services: 1) business events sales agency specialising in representing boutique collection of hotels, resorts and suppliers to business events. I also work with clients to create sales and marketing plans for their business.

Are there any areas you’re particularly seeking progress in for your business right now?

  • Technological streamlining
  • Resourcing effectively with clients
  • Balancing business and young family

How could you or your business help others?

  • Fusion assists business event suppliers by representing them to meeting planners
  • Business’ who need support to outsource their sales and marketing plans
  • Mentoring and coaching for female entreprenuers

What has been one of your best business decisions to date?

Starting my business. There is never a good time to start. Start part-time if you can so you're not under financial pressure initially. I found everything took longer than I thought.

What are your three favourite business tools and why?

  • LinkedIn – it is your own business database and way to grow your networks quickly used properly
  • Mailchimp – a way to speak to your clients
  • Mobile phone – you can work anywhere and as a business owner, we need to pick up the phone to speak to clients and not rely on digital only

Could you share a time when you succeeded and what you learned?

When I had early success with my second and third clients, I realised the value in what I offer to clients. I learnt that how I articulate that value in proposals and marketing material is crucial as you only have one opportunity at making a good impression.

Could you share a time when you failed and what you learned?

In the early stages of my business, I didn’t price my time and expertise correctly. I gave it away too cheaply because I was so happy to have a client. It never ends well as you resent the client, when in fact it is your responsibility to price jobs correctly and communicate your value to clients. I have learnt to say no to clients which are not financially viable.

What would you like to see more of when it comes to helping women in small businesses succeed?

Females being supported by other females in business. It can be very isolating starting your business and it is crucial you have a network of other business owners to share your experiences, highs and lows as well as get advice. Find a local network or start your own business mastermind group. Females balancing childcare and businesses is challenging and I don’t believe there any such thing as balance - it is a matter of trying to keep all the balls in the air and being OK when some drop.

What’s your approach to dealing with the pressures of running your business?

Red wine! When I’m busy I can easy become overwhelmed with all the different parts of running the business for clients, then running my own business ie. finance, sales, marketing, etc. I try to block out time to ‘work on’ my business and I outsource what I'm not good at ie. I have a bookkeeper and social media person as recognising your strengths in business is crucial. I also meditate and take time out for myself.

Any productivity hacks you swear by?

  • Planoly for social media so that you can plan social media posts ahead of time
  • Colour coding my calendar for work and family
  • I check emails in time blocks, so I can block off time in my calendar without distractions

Has there been a significant mentor in your career/life?

My past employer who was also my first client. She supported my business by not only trusting me with her business but also by becoming my biggest promoter. She has retired now and we still speak quarterly to discuss areas when I get stuck. It is important that you find a mentor who you admire and who is where you wish to be in five years' to assist you with the next steps of your business. Be respectful of their time and appreciative of their shared expertise, I will often send a card thanking her for her time and what her advice means to me.

People you admire / quotes or mantras that you live by?

Oprah Winfrey – among the many things I admire about Oprah as a business entrepreneur, she was determined, focused and connects authentically with people. Also, she asks what is the intention before anything or meeting - ‘what is our intention for this …..? ' Asking ‘why’ is simple but powerful. At the height of her production business, Harpo, she still signed every cheque so she knew the expenses in her business - a crucial lesson.

Also: 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel' - Maya Angelou

What’s the last book / visited bookmark / podcast that you’d recommend to a friend?

Looks 10, Chat 3 is a great podcast about two professional women who are also mums but also are refreshingly honest, intelligent, love baking and reading – what’s not to love?!

Finish this sentence: “Business mums …

... are business entrepreneurs, full stop. I don’t like this sentence at all as it is a crutch – we are business owners. The fact we are mums as is part of our story but irrelevant to our business as we don’t call male business owners, “Business dads….”

Connect with MJ

Via her website, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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