Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast


The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 31: Building a business is an adventure in itself, with Joyce Watts of Hot or Not

Joyce Watts

Founder of Hot or Not

June 28, 2022
Founder of Victoria Australia's parenting blog Hot or Not, Joyce has built her online business from the ground up while having and raising her two young children. She's passionate about helping families, making beautiful memories. Together with being a Mums & Co member, Joyce Watts brings serious energy to our member meetups and her passion for helping other women led businesses


Hot or Not


Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Joyce Watts

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    • Building a business is an adventure in itself

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Episode 31 Transcript

Carrie (00:00):
Founder of Victoria Australia's parenting blog Hot or Not, Joyce has built her online business from the ground up while having and raising her two young children. She's passionate about helping families, making beautiful memories. Together with being a Mums & Co member, Joyce Watts brings serious energy to our member meetups and her passion for helping other women led businesses. We're inviting her to join the podcast today to share the secrets of her business success. But also an insight into how she made it all work, particularly in the early days of her website. Welcome Joyce.

Joyce (00:38):
Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Carrie (00:41):
Now we'd love hearing women pitching with confidence and clarity. We'd love hearing about your business journey and story. So can you please share yours?

Joyce (00:51):
Okay, great. So at Hot or Not, I make family fun easy. So that means I help families to explore things to do in Melbourne and regional Victoria with kids. And the idea is we want to help families make happy memories together. I've been publishing content for about 10 years now. And Hot or Not is now Melbourne and regional Victoria's biggest family travel blog.

The other side though, which wasn't mentioned in the intro is that because of the pandemic, there was a lot of traveling not happening. And so like every good business owner I pivoted as well. And what I did was I took the digital marketing skills that I used on my blog and turned it into a digital marketing consultancy.

So I now have a second business called Bright Smart, and it has two arms. It's Bright Smart Digital, where I help businesses with their SEO, with their email marketing, with their social media and Bright Smart Media where I produce written video and image content to tell the stories that businesses like to share.

Carrie (01:55):
We have a kindred journey of amplifying people's stories. I do love how you describe Hot or Not in terms of those precious memories that we are trying to create with children that grow up rather quickly.

Lucy (02:19):
Joyce, I wanted to focus on the blog a little bit because it's all about bringing that sense of adventure to daily family life. As Carrie said you've just discussed that sense of memories too, which when both parents are working can be really hard to find the time to find somewhere to go and to make the most of the weekend. So you're meeting a fantastic need there. But I'm also wondering what's that inspired for you in terms of bringing a sense of play and adventure to your own sense of wellbeing as a mum. As a business owner, is there something you do daily to look after that aspect in your own life?

Joyce (02:59):
It's very evident for my business that play and adventure is part of our family life. I started the blog because this was the resource that I was looking for. When I first had children 11 years ago, I was on maternity leave. I used to be a go-getter that would fly around the world, would go to cool bars and restaurants. And now I couldn't do any of those things, or I felt like I couldn't do any of those things. So it really turned my attention to things that were available in my own backyard, seeing my own city in a different light.

I had no idea how many playgrounds Melbourne had until I had children. So in that sense, what I do is actually just my life. It is the daily, what can we do today? Or what plans do we have today or what's something fun we can do together as a family on a weekend. And instead of just doing it and maybe sharing it on my personal Facebook or Instagram, I share it with hundreds of thousands of people across Melbourne and Victoria.

Lucy (04:02):

Carrie (04:05):
I love that. I also used to joke that sometimes you just need to be a tourist in your own city and in your own backyard. Because prior to covid, we were so focused on going places. And then when you go to another city or another country, you make the most of every single hour in that place. You research it and you go, where am I going to eat and where I'm going to experience and what shows do I need to watch.

You do that, but in your day to day. You don't put that much effort or you don't create those moments of enriching your life with those sorts of experiences. So I love that you kind of just took all that legwork out of it and you share your recommendations. Because you are a bit like me, you're a parent and, you are looking for those types of family friendly experiences, that's what I love.

And the blog has evolved obviously over the last couple of years. You've turned it into two other businesses, which I also love. It’s all about women and about mums running businesses. We are so entrepreneurial, and it tends to be multiple businesses that are spawned. So what is something that you love the most about running the business in the format that it is right now and, and feel free to take either of your three businesses?

Joyce (05:38):
I actually have two active businesses. I do have a third business, but that's kind of on hold. So I only actually have two. But what I love about it now is that it has grown a lot in the last two years. Despite that first hurdle with COVID the business in terms of the blog has actually done better than it ever has. And that has meant that I've had to build a team. I used to be very much me doing everything and now it's simply impossible for me to be doing everything.

And so what I most enjoy is that I've moved away from doing all the things I've moved away from being the implementer of everything into more of a visionary role, which is actually where my strengths are. So it gives me more time to think, gives me more time to chase really ambitious goals and try new ideas that I simply wouldn't have time for otherwise.

It also means having a team gives me some of my time back. So it means that as my kids are getting older, I am more intentional with the time that I spend with them. Because I know frankly, we have 18 summers with our kids and my children are now nine and eleven. So I probably have about eight to 10 years with them before, they won't want to travel around with me. And in fact, I've got a tween now, so as she goes to high school, I fully expect that she won't want to hang around me as much. And so I'm never going to get that time back. And so having that team I am moving away from doing all the things and it meant a lot to me in terms of how I spend my time with my family.

Lucy (07:19):
Wow. I mean, firstly, congratulations on the growth of the business because we know that once you get to that stage of having a team, it's an exciting milestone. But two you've given me goosebumps then talking about the 18 summers that we have with our children. It certainly makes it come into a stark reality how little time we have.

I'm wondering as you've evolved in this way, then in terms of one aspect of it increasing the business to include staff, but obviously the blog being an online business where does risk factor into those processes there? Is it something that you consider to be important and how has that evolved as you've grown the business and, and brought more people in?

Joyce (08:03):
Well, I think very much that risk is part of being a business owner. It doesn't matter whether you have an online business like mine or a physical bricks and mortar business without risk, you can't grow. No change happens if you stay in your comfort zone. The whole purpose of owning your own business is to embrace risk. And obviously, don't go and do crazy things, but you will never grow unless you challenge yourself just to push your boundaries just a little bit.

So I actually think that risk is important for all businesses, not just online. I mean a big risk is obviously cyber security without a website or without any online presence, I don't have a business. I know that it feels like a nebulous kind of risk, but hackers actually, don't just target big business. In fact, small businesses are even more vulnerable because we don't tend to have those kinds of enterprise level solutions that a big business will have.

So they can just as easily steal customer data, break your website, so you can't get into it, hack your Facebook and Instagram pages. All of those things happen to small businesses. And if you're an online business that is a big risk to manage.

Carrie (09:24):
Absolutely. I think that the balance of measured risk for growth, I feel like if you're always in your comfort zone, you are probably not improving or you're not optimizing. And I think that's something that we always have to do. And then from a risk perspective gosh, that's a really scary statistic and, and yes, one that we know or too well. And I was just wondering how are you tackling that? In terms of cybersecurity and, you know, are there little things that you can do and any sort of big things that you can do as well?

Joyce (10:09):
So a great resource is the Australian cyber security centre. They actually offer a guide as to how to help small businesses protect themselves from cyber-attacks. And it's not scary. It's not like implementing hundreds and thousands of dollars' worth of software or getting a specialist. The guide is for small businesses. They're aware that they need to find things that aren't necessarily very expensive or very time consuming.

So the suggestions they make for instance, would automatically update your software. As you know, whenever you get those notifications on your phone saying iOS update, do that straight away. And so you don't have to even think about it, automate those updates and install two factor authentication on everything.

So for those of you who don't know, that means that in order for somebody to access information, they need two sources of information in order to access it. So they have to have a password and maybe something, a code that goes on your phone. Those sort of things should be installed, particularly on things like email. And you think about what your most valuable assets might be, say your database.

Another simple one is just using past phrases instead of passwords. So past phrases are longer phrases that are long, unpredictable and unique. So for example, the password Billy goat is not particularly secure. The past phrase through Billy goats gruff is okay, but it still sort of makes sense. So what you really want to do is have a passphrase that something makes no sense at all, like Billy eats rainbows for breakfast and that is going to be the most secure.

And then you chuck in a couple of numbers and punctuation, and that is going to make it hard for hackers. Those are three very simple things that don't cost money and don't take a lot of time. But they will just add that extra layer of protection. If you're a small business and you rely on having an online presence, that’s imperative.

Carrie (12:27):
Thank you, Joyce. Those tips are so important and such little things that I don't think is part of our attention mindset yet. I know my kids just love my iPhone. Like they're always picking it up. They're always wanting to have a look at it and they probably jump onto something on YouTube that leads into somewhere else. And I think that we're always having sort of this cross set of exposure of risk with running a business from home.

There's just a need to be a bit more aware of especially cybersecurity. So thanks so much for those resources. I guess flip side at the moment, I'm really keen to understand, how would you actually describe perhaps one of the biggest challenges in your business right now? And the reason why I'm asking is because we're Australia's most caring business movement for business mums. There's always someone who can actually introduce you to someone or who can help you move through with a challenge. So in the wider mums and per community who could perhaps help you. So yeah, what's your biggest challenge in your business right now?

Joyce (13:44):
Look, if you'd asked me that two years ago, I would've said a pandemic is my biggest challenge. I lost five years of growth in two or three months because no one was able to leave their house. I live in Melbourne, so we had lockdowns. But now that we've come out of that, my biggest challenge is actually finding the right staff for my team. It's finding the right people for the right positions. And it's about moving into what I explained before being more of a visionary.

So my job now is to clarify a vision for this business to have a mission as to why we do what we do to make strategic plans. To set out goals so that the whole team knows what they're doing, why they're doing it, and that we're all pulling in the same direction. That's a new skill set for me, because as I said, I've always either worked in corporate or I've been a solopreneur.

So at the moment, I'd say the way in which Mums & Co could help is that I am looking for contributors. So if you are in Melbourne or you are a writer then I'm looking for people with kids, basically I'm looking for writers and photographers and videographers. So if there is anyone out there who is keen for that sort of work, enjoys working remotely, exploring Melbourne in particular with their children, then they're the people I'm looking for.

Probably my second ask in terms of Mums & Co is just sharing the fact that this website exists for families in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Every week I send out a newsletter with the best events that are happening in Melbourne that week. As well as inspiration for other things to do with your kids in Melbourne and, and surrounds. So it's a very useful resource to lots of families. And so again, if you know someone or you are that person who needs or wants that kind of information, then I encourage you to sign up to our weekly newsletter.

Lucy (15:55):
What a great call out. I'm sure that there's lots of people listening now that could fit that description. So hopefully we can connect you to someone there because obviously family is central to your business. Even in terms of when you're looking at employing new people for the business and at Mums & Co, we just love recognising the support of our Co. Which to us means the men and women, family members, partners, friends, clients, you name it, the people around you that support you in the business. Can you share with us a little bit about your co and how they work and, and how they best support you to run the businesses that you're running?

Joyce (16:35):
Sure. So in the last 12 months I have installed a leadership team into my business. So that leadership team means that there are now four people who do different parts of what used to be all my job. And then I've just hired an executive assistant to assist those leaders. And that's because we all have big jobs and we're all mums with kids. So I know what that's like. And just having that assistant to look across everyone's workload just helps alleviate that. So, we are very much a team. That's not to mention all the other people who work for us in terms of virtual assistance and graphic designers and web developers and so on and so forth. So those people have skills and knowledge and time and energy that I do not have. And it's so important.

I couldn't do it without them. My husband has a full-time job. So, in order for our family life to work, sort of as smoothly as possible, there's a lot of discussion and negotiation that has to happen between him and I. And now that my kids are older, they get paid a talent fee to be part of my content before they had no choice. And they didn't mind being in front of the camera. Now they get pocket money, and this is one of the ways they earn pocket money. I feel that being talent is a job. Sometimes I'm paid a talent fee for being talent. So therefore, they should be paid as well and know the value of earning money for doing something that maybe they don't necessarily want to do.

And then I'd say the final aspect of the co for me is about household support. So, I am not a great cleaner, I'm not a great gardener. So, I outsource that work to professionals who can take that off my hands, take that mental load off my mind, but also frankly do a much better job than I do. And as I said, all of those things together help me to have the business and the life that I want. And without any of those things yeah, without that, I'm unbalanced.

Lucy (18:50):
Now thank you so much for sharing all that. I am most interested in this talent fee. I'm just hoping that our kids who have not been paid yet to participate will not start asking for that, but I also wonder if it encourages them or are kids still kids even in the face of pocket money or does it always get them over the line?

Joyce (19:13):
It doesn't always get them over the line, but it, I think it demonstrates the value of what they do because let's be honest without them, I couldn't do my job. Without them, I wouldn't have even thought of creating this business. And so, in the same way that you know, if I'm expected to be in photos that are going to be on a billboard, most of the time I'd expect to get paid for that work, no matter how much I enjoyed it.

And so, enjoyment shouldn't mean that I don't get paid. And in the same way, I feel that's an important lesson for my children to learn just because they enjoy it, it's still work and there's value to it. And it creates value for me. And it creates value for the clients that I work with. And therefore, I'm not saying that they get paid like modelling fees because they're not professional models. But as I said, one of the ways that they earn pocket money is if I need them to be in a photo or, in a series of photos and to be directed to do something. As opposed to here, you just do whatever you like, then they get paid for it in the same way I would pay a writer or a photographer or any adult doing that sort of work for me.

Carrie (20:24):
I can imagine your children having a very head start to commercial acumen and, and certainly perhaps having that sort of an entrepreneurial mindset. I know so many younger children they observe what their mum's doing and they pick up processes. And I know a team that can actually navigate the term sheet because they know how to capitalize. So, they understand all those elements. I think it's a lovely, lovely way to be a role model.

Now we at Mums & Co describe or we talk about harmony as this triangle of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. So, all these parts are important to us, and we need to make them work together or sing together harmoniously. Can you describe the shape of a good life for you?

Joyce (21:23):
I think I am so privileged to be able to have a life where I can basically do what I want, where I want when I want and with whom I want to. So that is the joy of owning my own business and not being answerable to a boss, so to speak. In practice that means I'm very intentional with how I spend my time. So, part of the reason for having my own business was that I want to work only during school hours because I want to be more present for my children outside of school. So, I hold onto that very tightly.

And again, that's part of the reason I have a team. It's because working six hours a day is, at the scale of which this business is not actually physically possible for one person. I'm working very, very hard to try and implement a four-day work week. It's not always successful, but that's one of my goals for this year. Because my oldest child is in her last year of primary school. So next year she starts high school. And again, I'm, I'm just very aware that my children will start pulling away from me more and more as they get older. And frankly, once they do that, I also would like to have that extra day to pursue my own hobbies and do more volunteering work, all of those things that make a life more complete in my view.