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The Small Business Spotlight shines on Kara Wood of Succinct Social Media this week. Succinct is a virtual, boutique social media marketing agency based out of Toronto.

How long have you been in business?

I founded Succinct Social Media in 2013.

How did you come up with the concept for Succinct Social Media?

I graduated from university in 1996  with one of the first degrees offered in something called New Media from the Fraser Valley University in Abbotsford BC.  – New Media was what they called the study of the internet at the time. Traditional media was television and radio.  I studied how the internet was going to change us politically, economically, socially and culturally.

When I graduated, no one knew what the internet was. I tried to get a job in PR in Vancouver. There were mostly small satellite offices as most head offices were in Toronto or NY. They didn’t know what to do with my skillset there as their clients at the time didn’t even know what a website was for.  They told me, “you need to go to London, Toronto or New York if you want to work in this space”.

So I picked up and moved to London, England and within 3 days I had a job with IBM.  My job at IBM was support for the team that sold computer systems to all of the big companies.  We put together the network of the first personal computers that sat in front of people for banks and companies like KPMG and then we taught them how to use them.  I taught people to sit down, log in to the internet, connect to the intranet and how to send emails.  From there I just branched out and I quite often have always worked in a consultancy role. I came back to Canada and started in 2000 working on building websites, and started to advise people on how to advertise on the internet, etc.

Fast forward, spent a couple of years having kids, doing this, doing that.  When social media hit the ground in 2007 – I said ‘wait a minute’ it is being used for personal use – FaceBook and Twitter and I thought to myself, people are going to start to use this for business. What I needed to do at that moment with my knowledge and understanding of what was coming, was to start a company that advised companies how to get onto social media and use it.  So I went and studied everything I could find – remember this was early days, there were no books written. There were a few blogs that existed and there was a community of people that were sharing online knowledge of how to use social media for businesses. My husband works in a business where companies are looking for investor relations or PR and he was able to be an advocate for me to companies for whom he was raising money – and that is how I landed my first client. An important element of starting your own business is support – you will need help from those around you. Then in 2013, I decided the demand was such that I needed to form an agency. That was the beginning of Succinct Social Media.

What service(s) do you offer?

We offer the full spectrum of digital marketing.  So anything that has to do with being online –  we consult and advise and build.  We build all the social platforms, we build websites, we advise on the product.  If you want to build out an app we can help you with that piece. Need video? We’ve got that. Brand Strategy? We’re here. Basically everything custom-built to whatever will help the client grow their online presence.

 What is unique about your business?

We specialize in working with highly regulated industries – industries like banking, health care, legal, wealth management,

What made you choose this type of business?

In 2010 when I was looking at who were the first people to the marketplace –  it was retail, luxury brands, it was events and simply anything that had fast and changing trends and I thought – that is going to be A LOT of work and is not my niche.  My husband works in banking, his family works in banking, why would I go in another direction – why would I go against the flow – the flow for me at my house is banking and I hear it all day long – I talk about it – they talk about it – and I don’t see any agency at this point specializing in highly regulated industries.

I needed to make starting my business as easy as possible and needed to find a niche and I knew that I had three little kids at home and doing luxury brands and events were not going to fit into my life.  This made sense so I made sure I studied and spoke to all the people who were working in highly regulated businesses and studied how media was going to be monitored because that was a really big deal at the time and companies wanted to make sure they were not going to be breaking any rules.

What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?

Seeing first-hand, the value that we can give our clients.  And making money! That is, of course, important to all entrepreneurs!

What is the hardest part of owning and running a business?

Having to say no. We want to help everyone but we can’t always. We only take on the clients that we feel we can help to grow their business.

What are your responsibilities as a business owner?

I have three contractors that are always with me and then I have about 6 part-time contractors.  I work with contractors as our work is usually project-based.  And I hire contractors based on skill.  As the business owner I am responsible for the invoicing, pitching sales, proposals, I do client-facing 100% of the time.   I do a lot of the consulting – anything that involves going and meeting with the clients – putting together strategy and of course I am responsible for making sure we have of all of the latest social tools paid for and in place to give our clients the best service.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?

Keep your overhead low – low-low-low. Do not rent a big office space. Do not hire a bunch of people. Try to get a retainer-based model so that you know you have money coming in every week and have contracts signed for 6 or 12 months.

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