After more than 25 years running marketing for small and large companies, Sharon Mostyn never thought she would start her own company. However, her passion for helping others led her to start her own agency, Creativation Marketing. We talk with her about how she knew it was time to finally quit her ‘Day Job’ and what advice she gives to others just starting out.
How did you find that idea that started your business? Where were you at in life when you started your business?
I had worked at small companies and large corporations, but starting my own company wasn’t something I ever considered. At one job, several of my coworkers and I really worked well together, and we discussed what we would do “after”…after we left that job, after the kids grew up and moved out, etc. Someone mentioned starting our own marketing company and after months of ideas, we had an actual meeting to start turning the dream into reality. Within weeks, we had registered a name, designed a logo and started taking on clients!
I didn’t realize how much I missed the diversity of clients and varied duties in agency life. When I left my “day job” to work full-time at Creativation Marketing, I was CMO, responsible for both marketing and customer service, at a major lacrosse retailer. The hours were long and the challenges were continuous…sort of like my days now, except with your own company you get all of the benefits from your hard work.
How did you know your business idea was something that you were going to make happen?
We started small, but ramped up quickly once word spread. When one of my business partners put in her notice at her “day job” it was an indication that we were on our way!
What was the biggest fear you had to overcome to take that first step?
I would imagine that most entrepreneurs share the same fear during start up: money. No guaranteed income, no health insurance or other benefits like paid time off, uncertainty around startup costs and other financial considerations, etc. make entrepreneurship a scary proposition. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family who helped make the first step a little less scary.
What is the biggest fear you are still knocking down every day to keep your business moving forward?
Finding new business is always a big fear since there are now both full-time and part time employees at Creativation Marketing. I don’t think of myself as a salesperson, so I find that’s the most challenging part of owning a business. Networking and helping others is a great way to let people know what you do and to spread the word about your company. I joined the Board of Directors at B’More Creatives, a Baltimore-based group connecting more than 1,000 creative, tech and marketing professionals. Since Creativation Marketing is also a Google partner, we had the opportunity to host a Google workshop during National Small Business Week. Although our client list ranges from local small businesses to national and international corporations, holding a workshop like that is a great way to combine helping businesses with spreading the word about our company.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
My husband has been my biggest cheerleader for nearly 30 years. He convinced me I was capable of starting a business and constantly reminds me to go for it whenever I’m nervous about taking on a big project. His support and advice is invaluable. He’s my rock.
Who was your first client or first sale? Do you remember how much your first sale was? (hoping to show women here that big bucks don’t come right away)
Two months after we started our company, we sent out our first invoice. Our first month of billing totaled $300. And since it was the end of the year, that was also our total for taxes that year. It cost more to file the taxes than we had actually earned.
Six months after we started, one partner was working full-time for Creativation Marketing, and not quite a year later we had enough business to support two partners full-time. I’m looking forward to our next anniversary to see how we continue to grow!
What is something you do for self-care?
Self-care for me means family time, travel (preferably somewhere warm by the ocean) and reading. Although I haven’t done as much traveling this year, I’m able to spend more time with the kids now that they’ve graduated college. Also, I constantly keep a TBR (To Be Read) pile of books ready for times when I need to get away from it all.
How do you balance work with family life?
I try to schedule “normal” business hours in order to make sure I’m done working by the time everyone gets home. I also get work done when everyone is off doing their own thing, or at night when things quiet down a little. I’m getting my family time in by working out with my husband and kids and playing in a softball league together. When we’re looking for something not quite as active we enjoy playing board and card games.
What do you hope your children are learning from you?
I hope my children are learning that you can do anything you want as long as you’re willing to put in the effort to make it work.
What advice would you give women just starting out?
The advice that I would give women just starting out is to learn from people who have done great things – no matter what industry they’re in. My closest confidants have never been marketers, and some haven’t owned their own business, but everyone has something that they can teach you.
Next for me is to figure out how to build the business and find ways to increase our passive income stream. I’d love for the business to keep bringing in revenue even after I’m ready for retirement!
What is your go-to singing – top of your lungs, windows – down in a car song? (mine is anything Justin Timberlake 2000’s ;))
My current car is a cute little Mini Cooper convertible, so it’s not unusual for me to be found singing “car-aoke” with the top down as I’m headed down the road. I listen to a wide variety of music – everything from show tunes to country, pop, R&B and hip-hop! If you see me at a stoplight, I could be belting anything from “Popular” and “Master of the House” to “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and “Love Shack” or “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair.” Right now, I’m obsessed with Hamilton, so there’s been a lot of “My Shot” and “The Room Where It Happens” on my sing-along playlist.