Business Chats & Long Blacks: Sam from Stairway Marketing

Do you love peeking behind the scenes of other peoples businesses? 

If you’re anything like me, working from home and doing this thing pretty solo, then you probably love an opportunity to chat business with others who are also growing a business… hearing what’s working for them, what’s NOT working and so much more. 

Introducing Business Chats and Long Blacks

(A working title, inspired by the first time my first interviewee, Sam, and I caught up IRL, what do we think?) 

Once a month I’ll be interviewing a fellow entrepreneur/small business owner. We’ll take a peek behind the curtain of their biz, see lessons learned, celebrate wins and gain some valuable insights. 

This month, for my first interview, I chatted with Sam Hearnden of Stairway Marketing

Sam is an email marketing genius and word wizard, who I met through a virtual co-working group last year, hired her services – then found out she lived like 10 minutes from me 💃🏻 (Virtual business friends are integral, but real life ones are the cherry on top).

Okay, let’s dive in!!

1. Tell me, who are you, what’s your business, and what do you do?

Hello, hello, hello. I’m Sam Hearnden, the founder and director of Stairway Marketing

I’m also a newlywed, a dog mum of two (follow us on the ‘gram for plenty of pooch content), a mega book nerd (so much so that I run a monthly business book club 🤓) and an email marketing expert. 

I’m on a mission to help more small business owners not only survive (because holy heck, can we pause for a minute to acknowledge how hard small business life can be?!) but thrive – thanks to good marketing content and even better emails.

2. Why did you start your business?

Prior to founding Stairway, I spent seven years climbing the corporate marketing roles ladder. While I’m incredibly grateful that I got the opportunity to work with so many iconic brands like Coca-Cola and Telstra deep down I always felt a little restless. 

From late 2018 I began working at a startup and got well and truly bitten by the startup bug! Being involved with launching a product that was genuinely offering the world something that didn’t exist in Australia at the time made me realise I was restless because I was unfulfilled. 

It took me a couple more years to grow the balls to back myself and jump into my business full-time but from that point I knew I wanted to use my skills and experience to help small businesses kick some serious a**!

3. What thing has had the most positive impact on growth in business?

Oh gosh, are we talking about “personal growth” or “revenue growth”?! 

Actually, for me, I think the answer is probably the same regardless. 

Something I’d encourage any business owner to do, especially in the early days, is to get into the nitty gritty details of your finances. And by nitty gritty details I’m talkin’ cash flow forecasts, budgets and keepin’ your finger on the pulse of these each month. 

I know, I know, you’re probably sighing or rolling your eyes at me and I get it. I hated maths at school and I still hate it today but I used that as an excuse to avoid properly learning the financial side of running a business (which, unsurprisingly, is super bloody important).

I wasted way too much time stopping myself from asking the “dumb” questions like “why does my budgeting feel like a stab in the dark?” and “why do I feel insanely busy but my bank account is empty?”

Engaging Jodi Facy to help me understand the nitty gritty details of Stairway’s unique financial situation (because every business’ situation is genuinely different) seriously changed my life. 

4. What has changed since you first started your business?

Ha! What hasn’t changed is a way easier question. And I think what hasn’t changed is the purpose of Stairway and the fuel motivates me each day. 

Everything else? Completely different. My services changed, my prices changed, I’ve got a team now rather than running Stairway by myself, and I have a much, much, clearer picture of who we best work with and how we best provide value.

5. What’s been the best investment you’ve made in your business and why?

A photography session with Heist Creative was a game-changer for my self-confidence and has been hugely beneficial for my proposal documents, website and social media.

6. Have you had any big “fails”? What were they and what did you learn?

I think the saying is especially true for small business owners that “you are your own harshest critic” so honestly I feel like I’m failing at something on the daily! But that’s also half the fun 😜

I think one of the bigger fails I had was bending over backward to win a client – I’m talking multiple 1 hour+ phone calls and emails packed with free advice (🤦‍♀️) when deep down I *knew* the match wasn’t right. 

One month in I ended up respectfully pulling the plug on our working agreement, which I don’t regret but boy I could’ve saved myself some heartache if I listened to my gut from the start!

7. What’s the best advice you’ve received in your business?

“If you ever doubt yourself for a second, remember you are awesome. Full stop. If doubt persists, read the above again.”

A good reminder that our self worth as humans shouldn’t be tied to the notion of being “successful”. And a reminder that I need to hear often!

8. What’s something you wish you’d done sooner?

I wish I got more involved in the small business community sooner. I’ve learnt so much from so many lovely (and generous) small business owners so this is something that I actively make time for in my business now – whether it be by having a coffee with another small business owner, jumping into a virtual co-working session or sharing my thoughts in a Facebook Group (if someone is asking a question relevant to my area of expertise).

9. Anything exciting coming up?

I’ve got a few things I’m keeping under wraps but I did just launch a free quiz to help small business owners find the right email marketing platform for their businesses. 

If you’ve been thinking about gettin’ started with email marketing (which you absolutely should!) or wanna check if your current email marketing platform is providing you with the best bang for buck, you can take the free quiz here!

10. What advice would you give someone starting out or growing their business?

Don’t go it alone! Surround yourself with like-minded humans that can relate to your experience, lend you their ears and provide advice selflessly – the more people you can find the better! If you don’t know where to find peeps like these, I highly recommend One Roof.

11. What’s a question I should ask the next interviewee? (And can you give us your answer too?)

I think you can tell a lot about a person from their favourite Disney character! 

For me? Hands down, Edna from The Incredibles.

12. Where can we find and follow you?

Linkedin // Instagram // Facebook // Podcast // Website

Fun fact: Sam also snagged herself one of my website templates and has just launched her new website! Go check it out! And while you’re there, take her incredible quiz on which email marketing platform best suits your biz. 

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