Jenn Donovan was our 2020 Making a Difference (Business) gold award winner.
Jenn Donovan, ex-conveyancer, ex-retailer and now marketing thought leader, change-maker, social entrepreneur, coach and mentor for small businesses, keynote speaker and podcaster (Small Business Made Simple). She is the founder of Social Media & Marketing Australia.
Jenn’s also the founder of the massively successful Facebook group, Buy From a Bush Business with a community of over 310,000 members and co-founder of Spend With Us – Australia’s marketplace supporting rural and regional small businesses only.
Jenn is all about community and believes that the currency of “community” is underestimated in business and in 2021 is more profound and deeper than many business owners, corporate companies or solopreneurs realise, to the success of their business.
Jenn’s walked the walk and now talks the talk around using marketing and social media to boost your profile, your people and your profit.
Social Media and Marketing Australia was founded in 2018 and Spend With Us – Buy From a Bush Business was founded in 2020.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
When my retail business was sold, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had more to give. I’d learnt so much about growing a business, about marketing and social media and could see where so many more were struggling – I didn’t think I had a choice – I had to help as many small business owners as I could and share the knowledge that I had. So Social Media and Marketing Australia was born!
The business name “Social Media and Marketing” came from (a) wanting a name that said exactly what the business was about and (b) the domain name was available – that itself was too freaky not to be a sign – so that’s how my name came about!
The inspiration behind Spend With Us – Buy From a Bush Business originally came from my Facebook group that I set up in October 2019. So many rural small business owners I spoke to were sad, feeling despaired and just tired – the drought had been going for so long and the impact was becoming too great for many.
So, I thought, if I created a Facebook group, invited my clients, my friends, they invited theirs then they just might get some sales to a new audience, outside their towns.
The group took off and now stands are over 311,000 members.
The online marketplace platform was a natural extension of the group – as things disappear so quickly in such a big group – so having the option of a website for our sellers was the next step in their online journey.
I guess at the core of both my business, is the desire to help and impact as many small businesses, with the skills and knowledge I have, as possible.
What are you most excited about in your business?
I get excited when clients or audience members (when I’m speaking) have AHA moments! That moment when something that they thought was so complicated – like an Instagram hashtag strategy – becomes so simple and easy to understand and do.
That lights me up every time.
Being about to positively impact people in their businesses daily, is a gift. I am the luckiest person in the world, having the business I have and the clients I get to work with.
Everyone is so appreciative. I’m excited where my businesses can take me too. I have big hairy audacious goals and I am enjoying the process of trying to reach them!
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say get my first few clients! Until someone is paying you for what you do, it doesn’t feel real – it feels like you’re just playing. So, getting the first client or two was the biggest challenge.
Standing out from the crowd is another. As a marketer and social media mentor, there’s one of us for almost every corner of every street in Australia, it’s possibly one of the most competitive spaces – so understanding what it takes to stand out from a crowded and busy marketplace was a challenge. But in the end, I think the decision to do a podcast – Small Business Made Simple – which I started as soon as I started my business – and just start showing up as me (and putting my face out there) were the two things I did the best to stand out.
Like I said when I won my Ausmumpreneur Award last year – just do it. My manta is READY, FIRE, AIM. Yep, not the other way around because the world doesn’t need another person “aiming” to do something – the world needs action takers.
So, get ready, fire and just adjust your aim as you go along. It’s never going to be perfect – but until the market tells you they want to buy your product or services, it’s just guesswork. So, put it out there and test, measure and adjust until the market says “yes”!
Why did you enter the AusMumpreneur Awards?
Honestly, because my dear friend, Sarah Crawford from Alined Design nominated me. I’ve never met Sarah personally. She’s my web designer that I found on a Facebook group and we’ve become good online friends. To think that she took the time to do that for me was amazing enough for me to continue the process in that honour.
I’m so glad I did though! Thanks S!
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?
I enjoyed watching the process. From nomination to interviews to the Awards Night (although dressing up and attending Sydney would’ve been fun – darn you Covid ☹)
I am a process-driven person, so I actually get a kick out of watching other people’s business models and processes – so I did enjoy that!
I enjoyed connecting with my fellow nominees on Instagram and LinkedIn and learning more about their businesses too. I love meeting new people and especially those who are working hard and enjoying their business.
What surprised you most about the awards?
That I won! HA! But aside from that, having never been a person to embrace awards, I was surprised how much I loved it and will be making an effort in 2021 to enter more awards, including AusMumpreneur again!
How did the awards help you in your business?
The awards help build my confidence in my business, they helped me in building a community around me and they also helped bring awareness to my business in the marketplace.
What advice would you give to others mums thinking about entering the awards?
Do it! What’s the worst that can happen? I think the process of applying for an award can teach you more about yourself and your business than actually winning.
In business, we are so busy looking forward, what’s next, that we forget to look back and see how far we’ve come. Going through the process of applying for an award can help put what you’ve achieved into perspective and I think most people would be surprised how amazing they are, once they start writing everything they and their business has achieved. So, the win doesn’t always come from winning, it comes from looking at yourself and thinking “wow, I did do all that – I’m amazing”!
The community I’ve built, the people I’ve met and the impact my skills, knowledge and community have had on others are hands down the best thing about my business. The best thing about being your own business owner is flexibility. Flexibility on who you work with, when you work and how you work.
What’s happening next in your business?
For my speaking/podcasting/marketing/social media business it’s getting back out there, doing tours, speaking from stage and supporting businesses that have been through so much. Some through drought, then fire, then Covid and now floods – it’s devastating and taking its toll on rural Australian businesses.
I also have a new passion project, this one a bit closer to home that I hope to pull off in the coming months!
For Spend With Us – Buy From a Bush Business, our goal is to be the Amazon for rural and regional small business – so we will keep working towards the goal of helping those businesses and business owners. Currently, we support almost 1000 on our marketplace and over 311,000 in our Facebook group – the goal is to impact over 1 million small businesses – so that goal keeps us busy! Markets, magazines, TV shows – they are all on the vision board – so we’ll see!
What are your big plans for the future?
I want to speak all around our country (and perhaps the world, when we’re allowed), encouraging small business owners to make marketing a priority, so they can earn what they’ve worth and make a bigger impact on the world.
My podcast- Small Business Made Simple – currently has about 1000 downloads each week – I’d like to add a “0” to that number! Impact is what drives me. The more impact I can have, the more I can change lives.
And I want to help my region – where I live. It’s very much a tourist town and area, so I want to do some innovative marketing and strategies around that to help my region not only survive but thrive through challenging times. As for Spend With Us – Buy From a Bush Business, as I said above, being the Australian Rural Amazon, doing markets around the country, printing magazines showing casing the sheer talent or rural and regional Australia and perhaps even a TV show or two! You just never know what amazing idea or connection is just around the corner to help shift the vision board into reality!