Minal meets Ellie McBride, Calibrated Concepts
Every small business owner has her or his own specific challenges when launching and running a business. But what if you’ve moved to a new country and are trying to balance your life to work from two locations an ocean apart?
That’s just what happened to Ellie McBride of Calibrated Concepts. Having newly moved to Northern Ireland, she had to find a way to make her life work. And setting up her own business was the way forward.
In this Minal meets, Ellie shares her challenges and how she’s created a thriving successful business that lets her work from anywhere in the world.
Minal: Tell me a bit about your business. What do you specialise in?
Ellie: I help women and non-binary folks do business with more ease by helping them with the techy side of entrepreneurship. I do this through website design and system & tech consulting.
Minal: When and why did you start your business?
Ellie: I’m originally from the USA and have lived in Northern Ireland since 2017. After moving across the world to be with my Northern Irish husband, I struggled to find the flexibility to spend much time back at my other home in Oregon to see my friends and family. In this quest for flexibility, I realised building an online business from the ground up is the way to have everything I’ve ever wanted in life.
I started out as a freelancer back in 2018. As a tech virtual assistant, I worked online with business owners in areas like social media planning, creating slick systems and automations, and perfecting their email marketing systems. However, I soon realised many of my clients struggled with the same challenge. Having a beautiful and highly functional website to communicate with their community and open up their time for the tasks that truly needed their attention.
Now, I use the skills and tools I learned from my days as a VA in my work as a Squarespace website designer. I help create a solid backbone for your business with systems that connect to your website. This grants you the freedom to let go of repetitive tasks and focus on the work you’re truly excited about.
My goal? To give you a beautiful home on the web for your message and your work all while helping make your work more efficient.
Marketing challenges and successes
Minal: What was your biggest challenge when you launched your business?
Ellie: I started my business right after moving to a new country. I knew no one! Which made becoming known for what I do a lot tougher. In addition to this, understanding what doing business looks like in a new country, culturally speaking, was quite a challenge.
Minal: What have you done to promote your business?
Ellie: Oooh, I’ve tried my hand at so many things. I blog, I had a podcast, I use Instagram a lot, and I have a small but dedicated newsletter following. In addition to that, I have done free workshops, I have a great freebie, I spent the past 6 months growing my Pinterest account and am slowly growing my YouTube. I am in a bunch of great relevant Facebook groups, I’ve done work on my SEO, this year I put myself up for a bunch of awards (and won some of them) and I’ve done a lot of networking.
Minal: Which marketing activity has had the biggest impact on your business?
Ellie: Networking (AKA building relationships). People power is the best!
Minal: How much time do you spend on marketing?
Ellie: Probably around 2 hours per week on average.
Minal: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about marketing your business?
Ellie: Probably two things. It’s more than okay to start small and do what you know/are comfortable with. And, it’s okay to try things out and play around with marketing. (It’s actually important because things online are always changing and my business has changed over the years).
Minal: What’s your favourite social network and why?
Ellie: Instagram. I love how visual it is while being really community-focused.
Minal: What’s the best marketing advice you’ve received?
Ellie: Focus on doing 1-2 things really well. I know with the list I gave you earlier that probably sounds hilarious coming from me. But when I first started my business I focused on networking, Instagram and blogging (which I was awful at, at first). It gave me a foundation to work from and content to use as I expanded my efforts and outsourced some of my marketing.
Share some advice
Minal: What are your top 3 marketing tips to share with other small business owners?
Practice — whatever you choose to do, you probably won’t be amazing at it at first. I was awful at blogging at first. My first attempts at Instagram for business sucked. When I first started recording tutorials and doing live workshops I was really overwhelmed. But I stuck with them and found my own way of doing them that suits me and my online community.
Get help — I have so much help in my business. I have two fantastic VAs that help me with my marketing efforts and other project-based contractors that help too! I wouldn’t be able to focus on the parts of my business that make money without their help in bringing eyes to my work.
Have a website — it’s the only corner of the internet you can fully control. You can’t control the algorithms of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or YouTube. You can’t control live events (especially in a pandemic). But you can create a website that serves your community, converts while you sleep and drive traffic to it easily.
Share your story
I’m always on the lookout for small business owners to interview. If you’d like to be featured in my Minal meets series, let me know.