In the modern world of inbound marketing, SEO is now a service that has never been more important to be on top of your game. StudioHawk is a specialised SEO agency founded by Harry Sanders after being inspired by his Dad.
What is your business (include name) and when did you start?
StudioHawk is a boutique SEO agency that focuses on one thing, getting you found online through search. The company was founded 2 and a half years ago during my last year of high school.
What inspired you to start your business?
I was motivated to start my own business when my Dad signed up for SEO services and saw some results, but also saw a lot of poor execution. I decided at the ripe old age of 13 to give it a go and through perseverance (well, mostly through being told that I couldn’t) I kept trying and eventually managed to rank him for boat license training which resulted in floods of new business for his company.
I was then headhunted at the age of 14 by a digital company to train their SEO team based on the work I did for my Dad before going on to another agency at 16 and starting my own business at 18.
Tell us about the journey you have been on with your businesses?
I think the biggest part of the journey has been about establishing my business. Initially I started doing web design alongside SEO for clients, and wanted to maintain that as a large portion of the business. Over time, I learned that the web design market was already being serviced well however the SEO market had terrible service and few good providers. I pivoted my business into specialising in SEO which has had one of the most positives impacts of anything I have done within the business.
How do you handle the naysayers?
I try to tune them out by keeping myself busy, but you will find that the more you grow, and the more you can demonstrate that you have achieved, the less you will hear from them. In my first year I was told constantly that I would fail, but entering the third year now where we had growth and staff, I rarely hear it any more.
Where do you envision yourself in the next 5 years? How do you plan to do this?
In 5 years’ time I want to be maintaining the company, keeping it true to its roots ensuring that we are not price driven, but service driven. We want to be pioneers in the SEO space, sharing our knowledge with business owners on how they can best implement that basics that get them going.
What has been a challenge you’ve had to overcome that has shaped you and your business?
A challenge that we have had to overcome as a business and as a person is the ability to network and get out of my comfort zone. I had no previous networking experience and was afraid to go up to strangers and chat about their business, but it worked, and sometimes that’s is what you need to do, so be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it might be more than just going up to people, it might be public speaking, which was another challenge that I had to overcome in order to grow my business.
Who inspires you? Why?
There are a lot. I believe that you can learn something from anyone, especially from people who might not be so involved in technology. I would like to specifically mention one of my mentors, Graham Robertson. Graham motivated me learn a lot of the ins and outs of business and always had faith in me, even when I didn’t. He helped me get through some of the tougher times in my business purely by being there, in his spare time, out of the kindness of his own heart.
What has been the biggest tip you have received off someone that has stuck with you?
The biggest tip would be from that same mentor and that would be to persevere and to create partnerships with other businesses. Now those partnerships might be sending them work, or it could be as simple as a mastermind of sorts where you collaborate on ideas to help grow each other’s businesses, but it’s important to surround yourself with people that are good at what they do.
What is a tip that you would give to a young person thinking about starting a business, but not sure how to start?
The best advice I could honestly give is just start. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to doubt yourself. The only way you are going to learn and improve is to go through this. No business ever started out perfect, you will go through ups and downs but as long you stick to your fundamental beliefs (not necessarily your original idea) and persevere, you will grow.
What are your top 3 biggest lessons you have learnt in your business?
- Several bad businesses become big simply because they have been around a long time, people hear of them, and they grow naturally. Oftentimes it’s easy to feel defeated and wanting to quit, but getting past that is what separates real business owners from wantrepreneurs.
- Do right by others. Sounds like a simple one but many small businesses believe that the only way to move up is to drag others down. Act how you would want to be treated and don’t try and make a quick buck.
- Not just information, be prepared to share referrals. Referring people that aren’t a good fit for your business to others is a fantastic way of growing relationships and growing referral partnerships that will help you grow.
What is a book you can recommend?
The Game by Neil Strauss took me from understanding that everything in life was my responsibility to realising just how powerful my ability was to change the things I didn’t like about my life. A great book to read when trying to become more self-aware.
If you could choose one place in the world to work, where would you go?
New Zealand because it has faster internet compared to Australia’s joke of an internet, and has the most lovely landscapes.
What was one of the first goals you smashed in your business?
Getting your first real client is always going to be the hardest part and often the first goal of your business. Someone that isn’t just a family or friend, but has just engaged you because they think that you are the best company for the job.
Where can we contact you?