With a passion for travel, adventure and a foot-in-the-door with consulting, Marie Hunter launched Hunter Digital marketing agency to help tour operators better reach their target clientele. Along the way she welcomed her first child into the world and has learned how to navigate the pathways around working and motherhood. The balance isn’t always perfect or easy, but she’s finding her groove and ticking off major milestones for her business at the same time.
Q: Where did the inspiration for Hunter Digital come from?
Like many young people, when I finished university I started looking for my first corporate job. I sent out resume after resume looking for something in a travel company or at an agency, but wasn’t getting anywhere with my job search. I decided to take some time off and pursue my passion of travel by hitting the road for 10 months with my husband, with a plan to visit 15 countries in total.
To fund this extended trip, I knew I needed to make money along the way. As luck would have it, a few instructors from university reached out for some help with marketing that I would be able to do as I travelled.
The year of travel gave me a new perspective on the direction I wanted to take my career. Since I already had a bit of momentum going with the work I had started as a consultant, I decided to continue to pursue it upon my return to Vancouver with a focus on the tourism industry. It’s been almost five years now since Hunter Digital launched and it’s been just as much of an adventure as it was travelling the world!
Q: When did you decide to add motherhood into the mix?
One year ago we welcomed our first child. To be honest, I was terrified about what it would mean for the business. I knew that being a stay-at-home-mom wasn’t for me, but I also knew that balancing motherhood and a small business would be difficult. I was worried that maybe my mindset would shift and I wouldn’t be as interested in working after his arrival, but in many ways, having a child has given me new drive and motivation.
Q: What has your childcare situation looked like?
When he was born, I took two months off to recover and make the transition to motherhood. Then we hired a nanny to come to our house for part of the day from Monday to Friday. This worked well for us as I could slowly transition back into work, but still have my son close by. Now that he is one we have him in full time daycare. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of family nearby that is able to care for him on a regular basis.
Having limited hours of childcare in the beginning meant that I really had to learn to focus on the top priorities to get things done. You know that the clock is ticking every day and you have to get done as much as you can. I’m not the kind of person that can easily work late at night because then I am too wired to sleep.
Q: What has been one of the biggest challenges so far with starting your own company?
It’s taken longer to get off the ground then I had planned. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing clients, but I still need to grow my client list, and find more consistency to keep the work coming in. Sometimes it can be hard to get in front of the right people in this industry as well.
From the motherhood side of things, the days can be unpredictable. You can plan to get a lot done and then you throw a sick baby into the mix and everything gets out of whack. You really have to get used to the amount of chaos sometimes!
Q: What has been the most surprising to you as a mompreneur?
Babies are little efficiency makers. I spent so much time before I was mom thinking that I was “working” when I really wasn’t. When Jayden showed up I really had to double down and focus and do the uncomfortable things that would make the most impact on the business. It’s easy to pretend that you’re working sometimes, but when you’ve only got a few hours in the day to work on your passion, side hustle, or full-time gig, you have to stop the social media scrolling and get down to work.
Q: What is one way mentors have had an impact on your business?
Right before Jayden was born, I joined a mastermind group, Love over Metrics. This is one of the best decisions I have made. Having this group of women has really given me the motivation to continue, even when things got difficult after I became a mom. I have taken on things I never would have dreamed of before like speaking gigs and creating the first ever Elevate Marketing Summit, with their support.
This group is comprised of 15 other women all in various stages of running their business and we meet up in a private Facebook group as well as in person with semi-annual business retreats. We all hold each other accountable and are able to ask for feedback and help. The group is guided by a mentor who has private calls with us and who also brings in rotating mentors each month to help out with different aspects of your business as well as monthly calls with a life coach. I highly recommend finding a support group that works for you with women that you can both laugh and cry with. It has made me feel less isolated and fully supported because I have a group of women who know exactly what I’m going through both as a mompreneur.
Q: How do you find most of your clients?
I really believe in the value of face time with your prospective clients so I attend a lot of conferences and trade shows to make connections. People have to trust someone to help them market their brand. I also get a lot of referrals from word of mouth and friends from online groups.
I’ve dabbled a bit in online ads, but I mostly use them to give away free content or as lead magnets for things like the webinars and summit I have put together.
Q: What does balance look like for you?
I try to look at balance in different seasons throughout the year. There are certain times that I am really busy and working more than I normally would and I don’t have as much time for family and friends. But then I know there will be other times when things are slower and I do have more down time. Fall and winter are by far my most productive time. When the temperatures warm up again in the spring and summer I look to make more time for play.
I also look at things on a week to week basis and schedule in things that are non-negotiable. For me, that’s working out three times a week and making sure I have a few hours each morning and evening that is uninterrupted time with my family. It’s a lot of shared calendars with me and my husband to make it work!
Q: What are some of the key tools and resources that help you do your job well?
Upwork has been a great resource for finding designers and content writers. I am also part of several Facebook groups including Girl Gang where I have found videographers and other people as needed to help with work.
I use a service called Vidyard that allows me to send personalized videos through email. Anytime I am getting in front of someone and really want to stand out in their inbox. I use this service to help break through the clutter. I’ve been impressed with the response rate on it and have gotten better open rates than traditional emails or newsletters.
I also use a program called Drip which specializes in automated email marketing for customer relationship management.
Q: Do you think that being a woman makes it more challenging to start and run your own business?
Sometimes I do wonder if I would be taken more seriously if I was a man. This may not be true, but it’s just one perspective I sometimes have.
One advantage of being a woman entrepreneur however, is that woman typically feel more comfortable sharing their stories and emotions and having a good cry together. It feels amazing to be able to have this release after bottling it up so tight. Other moms who are not entrepreneurs may have different challenges and outlooks about work, so finding a tribe of other mompreneurs has been truly wonderful for this.
Q: What’s next for Hunter Digital?
Launching the first Elevate Marketing Summit this year was a huge undertaking so my next step will be growing this event. I was surprised about how much fun I had doing this and how I got to bring in so many of my strengths together to work on this project. I would love to grow this into an global summit with a focus on tourism marketing.
Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting out on this journey?
Finding a support network from the beginning is so important. It often can and will be harder than you expect to run a business, but the benefits are totally worth it, especially if you are a mom or thinking of becoming a mom one day. To be able to have the flexibility of my own schedule and complete control of my career has made it worth all the ups and downs.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you first started the company?
To be honest, I don’t think I would want to go back and tell my former self anything! The journey has been so important to get where I am today, including all of the ups and downs. Each of the bumps in the road has pushed me in the right direction, and I don’t think I would take a shortcut to where I am today.
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This is part of a series of everyday mom inspired stories who made radical changes in their work life to pursue their passion, all with kids in tow. If you enjoyed reading it, please leave a comment or a clap! See the full series at: medium.com/the-mompreneur
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