EP 7: Behind The Scenes Of 10 Years Of Building My Business

It's my 10 year business anniversary! To celebrate I wanted to share how I spent the last 10 years getting my business to where it is today. I share how I got my first clients, how I evolved my services over time, and even some less-than fun periods of feeling unengaged in my company.

Leah: Hey, this is Leah and
you're listening to ads with

Leah, a paid social podcast.

This podcast provides creative
first digital advertising education

for impact driven businesses and
marketers who care more about

quality than they do about quantity.

Stay tuned to learn how to make
amazing ads that help you reach

the right people and attract
and engage your ideal audience.

Hello, and welcome to the
Ads with Leah podcast.

This is your host, Leah Mazur.

And this episode today is going
to be a little bit different

than my usual episodes.

I'm not going to be sharing any tips for
your ads or ad creative specifically.

Instead, I want to give a bit of
a behind the scenes of the last

10 years of running my business.

It is November 2022, and my first
paying clients in my company

was 10 years ago, November 2012.

First paying client that wasn't a friend
or friend of a friend, and that feels like

a pretty significant milestone for me.

I feel pretty proud, especially looking
back at everything I've built and

accomplished in the last 10 years.

So I have been thinking for the past
couple months about how I wanted

to celebrate this and acknowledge
it and creating this podcast

episode is one of those ways.

I also love seeing the behind the
scenes of other people's businesses,

so I thought it would be cool to
give my audience a behind the scenes

into mine and what it took to grow
it and how I got to where I am today.

I'm going to be getting into how I
got into this field, how I got my

first clients, how I grew my business,
the process of hiring a team and

then deciding I didn't want one,
and some of the biggest lessons that

I've learned along the way as well.

All right, so without further
ado, let's get into it.

So both my parents are programmers,
which meant that I was exposed to

computers from a pretty young age,
compared to a lot of people my age.

I would say from about the age of
seven, we had computers in our house.

And I learned to code basic
front-end web development, HTML and

CSS, around the age of 13 or 14.

And I built my own website, like not
one on Geocities, one that I coded

from scratch, that was a Buffy the
Vampire Slayer fan site, cause that

was my obsession in my teenage years.

So I had this website,
that was my favorite hobby.

I would go on and add content to it.

And every few months I would
revamp and redesign the whole site,

which meant recoding everything.

And I got pretty good at the web
development and design part of things.

So fast forward to when I went to
university, I never even considered

studying computer science.

And I have definitely kicked myself
for that decision a few times, but I

really feel a big part of that decision
was just lack of representation.

I literally didn't even
think of it as an option.

When I thought of a computer
programmer, I thought of, you know,

nerdy men and not someone like the
person that I felt I wanted to be.

So I studied psychology and, when
I was in university, I became

friends with another woman who I'm
still very good friends with today.

And she was studying business
and she invited me to join the

entrepreneurship club at school,
and that got me totally hooked.

I started taking business classes
with my electives in my psych degree.

And I got a certificate
in public relations.

That friend and I also started
our first business together,

which was a partnership.

And we promoted local music and planned
local music events for our city.

We had a blog and a website that
went with it and we interviewed

a lot of local bands as well.

A lot of the local bands started
asking me how we built our website.

And I just said, yeah, I just
built it because it was just

something I knew how to do.

And when they started asking me
to build them websites, I realized

that there could be something there.

So I started building websites for
local bands that I knew through this

other business partnership that I had.

And eventually November 2012, I launched,
a business under like a separate business.

And I got my first paying client,
which was a local pet store.

Around this time I also started
working in marketing roles.

My first real office job was for
a nonprofit where I was doing

marketing and communications.

And then after that, I got a job
for a marketing agency, just as a

basic account coordinator position.

While I was working these jobs
I was building websites on

the side for local businesses.

After about two years of working
and running this as a side hustle,

it started getting really busy and
I wanted to be on my own so bad

that I decided to make the leap.

I did not have any savings.

I did not do this in a
very smart way at all.

I just figured that my business
would just keep growing and I

would just keep getting clients, but
that's not exactly how it happened.

So for the next two years, I think I
probably made about 20 to $30,000 a year.

With that business.

And so it was not quite the success
that I thought it was going to be.

At this time, I had also started adding
in help with social media, email marketing

services, SEO, Google analytics services,
and I'd even made my first online course,

which was a Google analytics course.

But it was a struggle for sure.

I definitely did not
know what I was doing.

I ended up moving to a new city, which was
in part because of some personal changes

in my life and also just kind of wanting.

Something new and different.

I moved to Kelowna BC and my first
week there I rented an Airbnb while

I was looking for my own place.

And the son of the woman who worked at
the Airbnb was coming over for brunch.

I was chatting with him about what
I do, and he worked for a local tech

company which was an advertising company.

And he invited me to go and interview.

I interviewed the next day,
literally started the day after that.

So within a week of moving to
this new city, I had a job.

And I was a bit disappointed.

I was excited and disappointed.

I really wanted to run my own
business, but I just knew that what

I was doing already wasn't working.

And I felt like this would at
least give me some more experience

and some money, which I needed.

And so I ended up taking the job.

During that year I was at the
company we grew very quickly.

We were Canada's fastest
growing startup that year.

We were also Canada's
largest Facebook advertiser.

We were focused primarily on Facebook
advertising and running basically

affiliate campaigns for other brands.

Because of my experience with building
websites and Google analytics, they

put me into a CRO role or like a
website testing and optimization role.

But after about six months, I moved into a
data analyst role, which was really cool.

I didn't have any experience with
that really, but it was such a

good learning experience for me.

The people that I got to train
under were incredibly intelligent.

Most people at the company
were very smart, very driven.

And it was such a good experience
for me to work for that company.

I feel like it taught me so much.

And it gave me such a good perspective
on the industry and business.

After about a year in that job,
the company had some layoffs and I

ended up losing my job, which was
sad and scary, but also, I was very

excited and also scared and nervous.

But mostly excited about the
opportunity and that kind of push to

get back into doing my own thing and
trying to make it work this time.

After I lost my job I was
putting a lot of feelers out.

I was doing job interviews and
applications, but I was also

going to networking events and
mentioning to people that I was

open for freelance opportunities.

I actually had been going to networking
events very actively for the whole year

that I was at that job because I was new
in town and I loved the tech community

there and I really wanted to get involved.

I think that really, really helped me
in getting my business off the ground.

Because I had a network built up already.

And so then to mention that I was looking
for work, most people already knew who I

was and my experience and what I could do.

I ended up landing two clients
pretty quickly, who hired

me on a monthly retainer.

And this was so crucial for
me in getting up and going.

Because they were each
paying me $2,000 a month.

My previous salary was $50,000.

So this was already pretty much
the same, or I think even a bit

more than what I was making.

On a monthly basis at my last
job I was doing a lot for

these clients on that retainer.

I was definitely undercharging.

I would say.

But it was so helpful to me to have
that consistent monthly income coming

in that gave me the stability to
then grow my business on top of that.

I think it's so important to not try
to grow when you're desperate, because

clients can feel that desperation when
you're on the sales call and people are

going to be more likely to low ball you.

You're going to be more likely
to take lower cost projects.

And then you're just going to get stuck in
this cycle of having projects that aren't

paying you enough but being so busy with
these smaller projects that you can't

go out and find bigger price projects
and i just don't think it's a good

place to try to build a business from.

One of the questions I get asked the
most is how did you get those first

clients after you lost your job, and so
I'll share how I got those two clients.

One of them was an ads agency that
I had a connection with through

previous, um, I don't even know how I
had that connection with this person.

I do a lot of networking, but I reached
out to the agency owner and I said,

hey, is there any way you need some help
with subcontracting any of your work?

And she said, yeah, for sure.

The second one was again, someone
else that I'd had kind of a connection

with, through a mutual friend.

And he had expressed interest in
possibly hiring me previously.

And so I reached out and I actually
analyzed his website and his funnel,

and I made a PDF document that
was like a plan and a strategy

for how he could improve it.

And I sent that to him and he was like,
yeah, this looks great, let's do it.

So that was how I got those
first two retainer clients.

Another thing that I feel really
helped me be successful quickly

was that I niched into one thing.

I was an Facebook ad specialist
and I only did Facebook ads.

I didn't even offer Google
or anything else at the time.

And this was way different than when I
was basically trying to do everything.

I was offering email marketing,
social media marketing, websites.

I was trying to be a Jack of all trades.

And as a result, I was spending
a lot of my time researching.

I couldn't actually charge as much
because I wasn't a specialist.

So I think that's specializing in Facebook
ads really helped me a lot to succeed much

quicker with my business the second time.

It's funny because I actually initially
planned to specialize in CRO since I had

more relevant experience to that field,
but everyone that I talked to ended up

asking me to help them with Facebook
ads, just because of my experience at

the company I'd worked for previously,
which was a Facebook ads company.

But I never actually even run
any ad campaigns at the company.

I was looking at the data.

I was hearing everyone, all the
media buyers talking about what

was working and what they were
doing and how they were testing.

But I don't even think I actually ever
ran a single campaign at that company

before going off and having people
hire me to run their ad campai gns.

This is why these first two retainer
clients that I have are great, especially

the ad agency I was subcontracting for
because they ended up teaching me a lot.

And I learned a lot from
them on how to set this up.

So within just a few months of getting
laid off, I was making five figures

a month, and I thought that was
incredible coming from a 50K salary.

I was incredibly happy with that.

And a lot of people would ask me, how did
you get this up and running so quickly?

And of course, for me, it didn't feel
quickly because I felt like I'd been

trying to start my own business for
five years because I had been, I had

been running the side hustle, I had
been trying to get something like that

off the ground for the past five years.

And I really believe that those past
five years really set me up to succeed

much quicker, because I already knew
how to manage client contracts, how to

set up my company, things like that.

So all of that foundational stuff
was kind of out of the way already.

Another factor is I would just say the
city and the environment that I was in.

It was a very small, tight knit
tech and entrepreneurial community.

That again, I was very involved in and
that really helped me to get referrals

and word of mouth to grow my business.

Another factor is that Facebook ads at
this time were just beginning to grow

in popularity and people were really
starting to see the success that they

could have with Facebook ads and Facebook
ads were incredibly cheap at this time.

I wish I could go back and have
the add costs that we had in

2017 because it was incredible.

So I think there were a lot of factors.

Um, a lot of environmental factors
that really played into things

taking off for me in that way.

Someone asked me on LinkedIn recently,
if I hadn't have gotten laid off would

I have still tried again to launch my
business and left to go off on my own.

And my answer is without a doubt, yes.

Running my own business has
always been what I wanted.

Even as a teenager.

I never really knew what I wanted
to do when I grew up, but the idea

of running my own business really
appealed to me even at that time.

I just don't think that I'm someone
that's cut out to work for other people.

And I think that type of person
makes the best type of entrepreneur

because we have to make it work.

I don't know how long it would've
taken me to make the leap though.

It definitely wouldn't have
happened on the same timeline.

I probably would have given it another
year or two, it was kind of what I

was thinking is I would stay there
for another year or two and then

go off and start my own business.

But I'm so grateful for that
experience of getting laid off

because I got severance pay with it.

I got EI.

I also got into a government program
called Community Futures, where if

you're laid off, you can get training
on how to start a business, which I did.

And that was really incredible.

And I actually still have my advisor
that I got from Community Futures.

I feel like that program set me up really
well, to create a business plan and just

understand how to set everything up
properly and set myself up for success.

So that was the first
five years of my business.

And the last five years
have been pretty different.

It's been mostly the same, but also
very different, lots of ups and downs.

The first year I would say was just kind
of scrambling to keep up with taking

on clients and that kind of growth.

I was charging 1200 a month at first,
but I had a good amount of demand.

I increased to 2100, I think.

And then 2,500 and then 3,200
pretty much within the first year.

A year after getting laid
off, I made my first hire.

Which I feel like I didn't really know
what was the right next step to take.

And I had a friend that actually
approached me and said, I'd

really like to work for you.

So, I kind of just jumped on
the opportunity because he was

incredibly smart and talented.

And so I said, yes, and I also feel
like there's just this narrative in

business that you just need to grow all
the time and be growing your team and

scaling and, you know, figure out ways
to remove yourself from the business.

But after he was with me for about eight
months, and I just realized that it just

wasn't a fit for me, and I let him go.

I also, at the same time, moved
across the country, moved to Montreal.

At this point, I started hiring
contractors to help me solve

problems and take different
pieces of my work off my plate.

I experimented with a lot of different
ways of running my business in the

next few years, which was really fun.

And I learned so much.

So this first few years was a lot of
experimentation, a lot of just getting

really good at what I do and figuring
out how to offer the best service

for my clients, how to have the best
systems for making sure that everything

that I do is quality and consistent.

And then when the pandemic hit in 2020,
I did lose a good amount of clients in

March, I think just fear and uncertainty
and people wanting to cut back on budgets.

And 2020 was a year that I actually
didn't focus a lot on my business.

I think this was the
case for a lot of people.

I think the pandemic really
made a lot of people evaluate

what's really important in life.

I spent most of 2020 focused on things
that were happening in my personal life.

I had a lot going on and in a good way.

But I did feel a bit bummed
out about my business.

And I just felt like I
was kind of in a plateau.

At this point, it had been three
years and I was kind of still

like running client campaigns.

I knew I didn't want to hire a
team, but I didn't really know

what my next steps for growth were.


It did stress me out a little bit.

I think another reason is that I used
to always work from cafes or coworking

spaces and I just freely had I really
struggled with working from home and just

like staying focused working from home.

I'm sharing this because I think it's
important to just note that business is

always ups and downs and it's not always
grow, grow, grow, and up into the right.

And I just think it's
important to acknowledge that.

I'm so grateful to my business
though, that I was able to

still make a decent income.

Even though I wasn't focused on growth.

It wasn't doing any sales at all, I
basically just kind of kept my existing

clients and kept, you know, focusing
on them and their needs, but nothing

really else outside my business.

I shouldn't say nothing.

I was thinking about it.

I was trying, but I just felt a little
directionless and normally my business

in years and years prior has been
something that makes me so excited.

And I can't stop thinking about it.

So it was really confusing
to me to not feel like that

for the first time in years.

In 2021, things started to pick up like
literally as soon as January hit I got

an influx of referrals and clients.

And that gave me a lot of excitement
and energy again in my business.

And I also, at this time started learning
video editing, which was something that

I previously had always outsourced,
but I felt like I wanted to learn.

And it was really exciting to me to have
a new skill to learn and one that I could

use to make my clients work even better.

I've always found that growth is
pretty much the most important

thing to me in my business.

And I'm not talking about revenue
growth or business growth.

I'm talking about personal
growth and growing my skills.

And if I'm learning a new skill
or pushing myself in a new way in

my business, that is what really
makes me so excited about it.

And I think that was part of why in
2020, at that point I'd been doing it

full-time for three years, I kind of
felt like I just, you know, the learnings

weren't happening as quickly anymore.

I also signed up for quite
a few programs in 2021.

And one of them was all about how to
sell digital products like eBooks, online

courses, trainings, that kind of thing.

And this has been something that I've
wanted to do in my business pretty much

since I started it pretty much for 10
years and just never got around to it.

I always found it easier to focus
on selling services because it's a

good amount of revenue upfront, as
opposed to like a course that you might

sell for like a few hundred bucks.

And it's more guaranteed.

You can spend a lot of time building
out a digital product, but you

don't know if you're actually ever
going to see a return from that.

So for that reason, I've always
really focused on my service clients.

But in 2021, I did start to play around
with some digital products and had

a little bit of success with that.

I actually have a blog post on my
website if you're curious to learn more

about that, I'm really proud of it.

It's really long and in-depth, and I
share the whole journey of creating

that product from scratch and testing
it with ads and testing different

offers and different landing pages.

And I've got loom videos that I share
as I'm going through the process,

you can really see kind of what my
thinking was with everything and

how I built it out and built it into
a little passive revenue stream.

I was pretty proud of it.

Pretty proud of proving that I
could generate passive income.

But before I scale it, I really want to
put a lot more time and effort into it.

So it's kind of just on pause for
now, but that's something that

I plan to get back into in 2023.

Since I was planning to build
out training courses, I started

becoming more active on LinkedIn at
the end of 2021 around September.

And pretty much a few weeks from being
active, and by active I mean posting

regularly, within a few weeks, I started
getting a good amount of job offers.

And there was one that
caught my attention.

It was a senior director of paid social
role out of a Toronto based agency.

AndI ended up taking the job.

It was essentially an acqui-hire.

They bought my clients, my systems, my
processes, everything about my business,

kind of just got absorbed into theirs.

And the reason I took it is the
founder said to me that it would

basically just be like running
my business on a bigger scale.

And I was really excited about that.

I was really excited to get to work
with bigger clients, work with a bigger

team and just get something different.

I was still feeling a bit of the lack
of direction than it was feeling in

2020, even in 2021, I had kind of had
this new path that I was experimenting

on with the digital products.

But I still didn't feel quite certain
of what my future held in my business.

And I also just remembered how much growth
I had at the last company I worked, so

I felt like it would be a good way
to really just up-level my skills.

And get experienced with bigger
companies, get experiencing

with managing a bigger team.

And then I could always go back out on
my own in a year or two, if I wanted to.

Of course.

I didn't last, very long at the company.

I ended up quitting.

The environment at the
company was incredibly toxic.

I'll just leave it at that.

And I should have vetted that better.

One thing that I say often, I can't
remember where I originally heard

this, but the phrase action brings
clarity has always been so true for me.

As soon as I took that job, it was
just so clear to me that my business

was the right path for me and the kind
of uncertainty and lack of direction

I had been feeling was just kind of
part of the process and that I needed

to work through that and figure it out
and get back to running my own business

because that was the only thing for me.

I'm not saying that'll never
work for anyone else ever again.

But at this point in my life,
It's just not a fit for me.

At the same time that this is happening
late 2021, there was a huge shift in

the ad industry that had kind of been
slowly happening over time, but iOS 14

really, was the catalyst for this shift.

Facebook ads used to be about targeting
and data analysis and optimizing your

ad sets and all of these like hacky
ways of setting up your ad account.

But there was a shift
happening at this time.

Towards making really good ad creative
and doing kind of like UGC style videos

and just making better ads in general.

So I left that company in November
and I took the rest of the year

off to just analyze, figure out
what was going on in the industry.

I did so much research.

I spent so much time on Twitter,
just following people, looking

at what they were saying.

And figuring out how I could.

Make a company that was really
positioned well with this new landscape.

And that would be more likely to stand
the test of time because Facebook

ads were changing and I knew that I
had to change my business as well.

In January, 2022, I launched my
new company, Carousel Creative.

I didn't actually launch the new
name and branding until April.

I believe it was because I
couldn't decide on a name.

And the branding and website
and everything took a while, but

officially as of January, it's,
it's a completely separate company.

And I like to think of it as a different
company too, because it is very

different than how I used to run things.

I feel like I really had to look at what
was happening in the industry and really

start from scratch and build like a new
offer for my clients that would help them

succeed in the way advertising is now.

This year in 2022, I rebuilt my entire
client base pretty much from scratch.

It's been really, really
fun and exciting this year.

And I feel like I have got that
excitement back in my business and

I feel like this past year has been
just so incredible and rewarding.

And I'm going to create a separate
podcast episode to share this year.

I think I'm going to do it
in the beginning of January

as like a year in review.

Because I think it'll be interesting
also for people to hear what I did too.

Basically rebuild by company again,
and I say from scratch, but you

know, I had a lot of existing
relationships and referrals that still

came in that really helped a lot.

But, I am really proud of
what I've built this year.

And where I've got my company to.

I'm earning more than I ever have.

I am feeling better about my
services and the quality of

my services than I ever have.

And I just feel like I'm doing really fun,
rewarding, creative work for my clients.

And that just feels so good.

Thank you so much for
listening to this episode.

It was quite personal for me.

I don't normally share this much
about what's going on behind the

scenes, but like I said, I love
hearing about it from other people.

And I really believe in
transparency and being open.

And if this can help anyone else
on their journey or provide a

bit of insight to someone who's
considering entrepreneurship,

I think that would be amazing.

If you want to reach out send
me a message, let me know what

you thought about this episode,
that would also be welcome.

You can message me on
Instagram, I'm at Ads with Leah.

On LinkedIn, Leah Mazur.

L E a H M a Z U R.

And I'm also on Twitter, though
we'll see what happens with that now

that Elon has taken over, um, but my
Twitter handle is at Ads with Leah.

Same as on Instagram.

Thank you so much for listening and
stay tuned for my January episode

which will be a review of everything
that has happened this year in 2022.

Leah: Thanks for listening to this episode
of the podcast and i'll see you next time

EP 7: Behind The Scenes Of 10 Years Of Building My Business
Broadcast by