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Fit for success: Open Colleges' interview with a Small Business Owner

by Chloe Baird
Posted: November 11, 2020

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Carly Steggles started up her own small business almost 10 years ago. She’d decided that working in a corporate role was no longer the career path that she wanted to follow. So, she became her own boss and started up an outdoor fitness business based in Manly, Sydney.  

Read on to find out what Carly has to say about the rewards and challenges of managing her own small business, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch our full video interview with her. 

What does it take to start a small business?

There were a few things that motivated Carly to start her own business.  

I used to be an Accountant,” she says when asked why she chose to open a fitness business. “It was quite stressful, and I wanted something that I was more passionate about, that was more flexible, where I was my own boss. And I love being outside. I've always been into fitness. I love organising… people. And this business just bought all those things all together.” 

But Carly admits that you need more than passion and a great idea to make your small business a success. 

The single key skill you need to set up a business is perseverance. Because you need to keep going. It's really tough in those first couple years, while you're trying to get something off the ground.” 

She also believes that it’s important to “find your niche and stick to it.” 

Carly explains, “The fitness industry goes through lots of fads and trends, [but] I actually try to stay away from them because they are fads. And I just deliver outdoor exercise sessions without any gimmicks that are effective and fun.

What does a typical day in the life of a Small Business Owner look like? 

Carly has two separate brands that she runs: OzSquad and Buggy Bootcamp, which is for new mums. Based in Sydney, her exercise classes take place outdoors on Manly beachfront.  

For Carly, running a successful small business means being able to wear lots of different hats and persevering through the challenges. For her, no two days are the same.  

When you're running a small business, you're everything,” Carly points out. “You're the operations, you’re marketing, you're finance, you're the cleaners…Some days I might be doing my books, some days I might be marketing, some days I'm instructing, other days I'm organising socials, events.” 

Many Small Business Owners would probably agree with this assessment — especially when you’re first starting out and you’re in the early stages of your business.   

But Carly says she wouldn’t have it any other way.  

The biggest risk I've taken is quitting my corporate job to set up this business. Taking that plunge in the first instance, with no real knowledge of whether it's going to work or not, was quite scary. But actually better once I'd done it and taken the leap. It became much easier.” 

What are some of the challenges faced by Small Business Owners? 

While running your own small business can be hugely empowering and rewarding, it does come with its challenges.  

If you’re considering starting your own small business, then it’s important to be realistic about things and be prepared to put in the hard yards to reach your goals. This means doing your research, building a business plan, working on a supporting marketing strategy and investing time and money in ongoing education. And, as Carly says, it’s all about perseverance.  

“For the first five, six years, it was just me,” says Carly. “I now have a few contractors that instruct for me, I've got some admin help, a yoga teacher. I've got some IT help. It’s a small team, but mainly me.” 

Carly also mentions that during the pandemic, she had to pivot quickly to ensure that her business was still able to operate, even if outdoor group classes couldn’t go ahead.  

During the pandemic, OzSquad just basically closed down overnight… And it meant that we had to flip to online [classes] in 24 hours when if I hadn't had the pressures of the pandemic that probably would have taken me one or two years to implement.” 

Conversely, this is one of the aspects that Carly likes about running her own business. 

[When] you work for yourself, you can have an idea that morning and implement it by that evening. There's not lots of red tape and procedures to go through to get stuff done.” 

How to make sure your business remains relevant in a competitive industry 

The fitness industry in Australia is highly competitive. Customers have a lot of choices out there.  

So how do you remain relevant and avoid going out of business if you’re working in a similarly competitive space? 

Carly says there are two main performance indicators that she relies on to monitor how well her business is doing.  

First is client feedback. If these guys are telling me that we're doing a good job, then I'm happy. Secondly, having a healthy waitlist. That means that we're operating at capacity, which means that I'm making the right level of profit that I've set, so?as long as?I've always got a funnel of clients coming in and waiting to become members, then I know that I'm doing okay.” 

On top of this, Carly also believes in the value of ongoing education for Small Business Owners. As well as studying a Certificate III and Certificate IV in fitness, Carly has also completed a number of other courses to help get ahead.  

Before I started my business, I didn't really have any marketing experience. So I did some online courses to teach me how to advertise through social media. And just general marketing concepts that I'd not come across before.” 

How important is advertising and marketing for small businesses?

Marketing's really important for small businesses,” Carly states. “When you're not a big brand with a big budget you need to know and understand how to market effectively. 

I advertise my business through social media, through SEO [and SEM] on Google, through signage at sessions, and probably biggest one is through word- of-mouth referrals.” 

In today’s connected world, social media marketing has a supremely important role to play for small businesses. Having a strong social media marketing strategy can be the difference between success and failure for some businesses. But once you’ve got a solid strategy together and are attracting and engaging with followers, you’ve then unlocked the most important marketing channel of all — word of mouth.  

I think a course in marketing would help any Small Business Owner. You can't really run a small business without doing it, so you need to understand and know how to do it.” 

Through her marketing efforts, Carly now has a strong, loyal customer base and a healthy waitlist of customers. 

If you want to watch the full interview with Carly, check out the video below.

What are the benefits of ongoing study for Small Business Owners?

To help you remain ahead of the curve and stay competitive, ongoing study can go a long way to ensuring that your business is successful and profitable, year after year.  

Carly was lucky in that her background in accounting has helped her to manage some aspects of her business. But there were other knowledge gaps that Carly knew she’d have to fill herself instead of hiring outside help. 

Whether you need to brush up on your social media marketing skills, your finance know-how, or are looking for a great course to give you an strong, all-rounder base to work from, Open Colleges has you covered.

We have a range of online courses that can help you reach your business goals. Check out our available online courses in Leadership and Business Management today.  

Start making things happen today. Enrol with OC and find out how you can make your own small business a success.  




Chloe Baird

Chloe is an Open Colleges alumnus who now works full time for OC as a Content and Copywriting Specialist. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their goals through education.

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