I am so thrilled to be featuring the delightful Ali Balch from the newly launched Ampersand MC & Ampersand Collective on The Spotlight Series tonight. I first laid eyes on Ali (and yes - I was taken with her from the first moment!) at a League of Extraordinary Women event, where Ali was a guest speaker on a panel. I was so impressed with her knowledge, dynamism and warmth, and so many of her business philosophies aligned with my own. I knew straight away that I wanted to work with her - but wasn't sure at the time in what capacity that would happen! Finally it did - as my business grew, I knew I needed a keen set of objective eyes to help me take my business to the next level at the start of 2017. Ali and her team (at what was then Halo Communications) put together an incredible marketing & PR strategy for my business at the end of last year and I was blown away by the quality of the work. Not to mention they are all so much fun to work with! Ali has just recently launched Ampersand Collective, a beautiful co-working space in Subiaco that she basically made with her bare hands, as well as re-branding Halo under Ampersand MC. If you don't know Ali - you need to! She is as sharp as she is warm and is one of my favourites in the Perth small business community. Read more about the fabulous Ali below x
Can you share the story of why you started your business?
My story is a similar one to many I’ve heard. After 8 years of working in corporate marketing, I was feeling frustrated every day with the lack of flexibility in my role, and the way I was putting heart and soul into working for ‘the man’. I was managing a fantastic team and running the communications for 12 brands in a national company, but no matter how hard I worked, something was always missing.
I had met a number of people in small business who were doing the hard yards – the sleepless nights, the self-doubt, stretched cashflow, etc. and I felt an immediate yearning to help them. They had the big ideas and the drive to make it happen, but just couldn’t break into the market because they couldn’t afford tens of thousands a month in advertising, and even if they could – they didn’t have their message right, or the expertise to bring it to life.
I started my agency as Halo Communications, a very personal name that at the time reflected what the business was - me, at the dining table, in my active wear (with a blazer, should the need for a Skype call arise), and my dog by my side.
The more businesses I worked with, the more I started to realise that my approach to understanding the people behind the business was going to define who I am as a marketer. The people I met had been so focused on their product or service, they had never taken the time to actually understand the profound impact they could have on the world, and how THAT is their marketing message – not the features/benefits of what they’re selling.
Our recent rebrand to AmpersandMC represents our focus on collaboration – the ampersand shape (the ‘and’ symbol) is used to demonstrate a close partnership. As part of this rebrand, I have also launched a collaborative space in our Subiaco headquarters. The Ampersand Collective is a gorgeous space with a great vibe, where people can feel comfortable, inspired, and connected. I understand the isolation of working from home and how sometimes, a change of scenery is just what you need to get your mojo back!
Tell us more about the services you offer.
For many businesses, we are essentially their local, outsourced marketing team. If you think about a big company, they usually have a Marketing Director, Marketing Coordinator, and then specialists in social media, graphic design, web development and more – with salaries of upwards of $1 million for the team. With AmpersandMC, you get access to all of us for a fraction of that cost – and as you don’t pay for our superannuation, PAYG, sick days, consumables, software costs or other overheads, it’s truly a revolutionary way to access cost-effective marketing expertise!
· Marketing Strategy Development
· Website Design & Development
· Digital Marketing & Social Media Management
· Branding & Design
· Public Relations
· Events Management
· Marketing Workshops
· Consultancy Services – one-on-one or via Skype
For the Ampersand Collective, we have hot desks for $25/day inclusive of WIFI, tea, coffee, chats, and usually wine! We also have a beautiful workshop space for hire, and the natural light and gorgeous décor makes the space the perfect place for a photo shoot.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
The people I meet, and the excitement on their faces when we make magic. I love seeing people light up when we come up with an amazing campaign idea, or the excitement in their voice when they rediscover their passion for what they do.
So often, we get lost in running the business, that we forget why we started. Part of my role with a client is to help them rediscover their why – none of the clients we choose to work with started their business to become rich. They had a vision to make a change to an individual, a community or the world – and I absolutely love helping them rediscover that.
Our role in marketing is to help them clarify their message, communicate it clearly, and amplify it to the world. We can usually see when we get this right – everything just clicks!
What’s your #1 tip for those just launching their business?
Surround yourself with people who are experts in what they do, and genuinely care about you and your business. It’s taken a long time for me to get over my ‘superhero syndrome’, thinking that I could and had to do everything myself. As business owners we wear many hats (bookkeeper, administrator, researcher, cleaner, tech support, human resources department) but I found out the hard way that sticking your head in the sand when it comes to tax, law, company structure etc., is NOT the right decision! My accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers, HR advisors, etc. give me the confidence that I have the right foundations to grow the business, and that gives me peace of mind not only for myself, but for my employees too.
Anything exciting in store you’d like to share?
I’ve recently completed my first course in Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing, which has been an area of fascination for me. I think the study of human behavior and how we make decisions is vital to marketing as an industry, and I hope to one day lead the way in this field.
I’ll also soon be launching a subscription service aimed at micro-business and start-ups to be able to access marketing expertise on a regular basis. I will be trialling the service with five business owners in June, so if you’d like to find out more, please get in touch!
In August 2017, the fourth annual Cancer No Bueno fundraiser will be taking place. This event is for a cause close to my heart and one I am very proudly part to donate my time to as part of the Board of Directors. We have raised over $140,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation, and this year is promising to be bigger, better and more spectacular than ever!
We've also got two masterclasses coming up, and are currently taking registrations:
Any special offers you’d like to share with The Spotlight Series readers?
We'd love to offer your readers a free full day trial at our Ampersand Collective co-working space (inc. WIFI, tea and coffee), and/or a half price one hour marketing consulting session - $100 + GST.
Get in touch: