Inspirational Woman: Vicky Etherington | Founder, The Website Mentor

Vicky EtheringtonI started off my digital marketing career at the end of the 90s working for the BBC’s digital marketing department.

We were a tiny team of 5 educating the nation about the switchover from analogue to digital and we were launching the BBC’s new digital channels such as BBC News 24. It was a really inspiring project to be part of, and triggered a curiosity and excitement around the possibilities of digital media.

Several years later, I was working for a conservation organisation in California as their Marketing Director, and we realised that one of our biggest expenses was our web agency, so I started teaching myself code so we could bring the management of our website inhouse.

The liberation we felt when we freed ourselves from our reliance on our web agency was infectious. Lots of other people we worked with started asking how we had taken control of our online marketing, and that’s how my career teaching people to manage their websites began.

I now have a signature system which enables entrepreneurs to build and manage their own client-winning websites.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never.

I was always the kid who had no idea who to talk to at career fairs. I vaguely wanted to join the military as I was attracted to the idea of spending my days doing assault courses, but I knew I would struggle with the discipline and the rank structure.

I was never scared of hard work and I always had entrepreneurial tendencies. As a teenager, I held down several jobs, and I was Managing Director of a Young Enterprise business that sold covered stationery. It gave me a valuable insight into leadership, working as a team, and the excitement of making profit.

I was never tech orientated, and websites didn’t exist when I was making career decisions (!) so web design never crossed my radar until it became a necessity.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

So many.

The world of entrepreneurship is hard, and I have failed many times along the way. For years I scraped by, feeling like an imposter, and not sure if I could ever earn a decent living or get the work life balance that we all crave.

I was that girl working on a client’s site the day after I gave birth to our first child and eventually those crazy hours made me unwell.

My husband was in the military and was away a lot of the time. Single-handedly juggling a young family while keeping my business running, made me realise that I was breaking myself to build other people’s business, but I wasn’t building my own in a sustainable manner.

It’s uncomfortable to look at yourself and realise that you’ve created a broken business model, but ultimately, getting to a point where I was too unwell to pick up my kids from school, read them a bedtime story, or work in my business, was the eye-opener that I needed to make changes.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

In my business?

Switching from a 1:1 business model, to a 1 to many.

I used to build websites for clients, and could only work on 2 projects a month. That significantly caps your earning potential. And means that you’re working to someone else’s schedule, not your own.

Letting go of that 1:1 income was a wrench as it was all that I had known for so long, but I have now taught thousands of entrepreneurs how to build their own websites and it enables me to work with so many more people, and gives me the freedom to work my own hours.

It also means that my business model is infinitely scalable.

Hitting the 6-figure mark felt like a breakthrough as I’d danced around it for so long. Once that lid was lifted, I couldn’t believe it had felt so hard.

In my personal life?

Running a marathon with only 10 weeks to train to raise money for my brother’s hospice.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

There are so many, but if I had to cite just one, it would be building a team. Letting go of the parts of the business that didn’t light me up, or that I was not proficient in. Bookkeeping was the first thing that I outsourced, and gradually I have built a team to handle areas of my business which I never thought I would hand over to someone else. It’s been game changing.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Several years ago, I was asked to mentor someone for a year. She was shifting her business model and needed some guidance in the online space. It was hugely rewarding.

Since that time, I have worked with 14 apprentices, and I mentor them in different areas of my business. It’s a great opportunity to see if someone is going to be a good fit to work with you over a longer period of time.

6 of those apprentices now are part of my team and I love seeing them learn and thrive.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

There is a saying that “You can’t be what you can’t see”.

We need to show the next generation of female leaders that they can be anything that they want to be. We can do this through taking on female apprentices, partnering with schools and inviting girls into our work environment.

It’s a generalisation and not always the case, but there is a tendency for men to employ men, and women tend to employ women. If we’re intentional about diversifying our leadership pipeline, we can start reducing that gender gap.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Surround yourself with people who have done what you are wanting to do – get coaching, do masterminds and pay for a mentor if you need to.

Ultimately, you’ll shorten the time to your outcome and it will save you a fortune. Floundering alone is far more expensive than the cost of a mentor.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My biggest challenge is scaling up. My business is in a period of accelerated growth, and while that’s hugely exciting, it brings new challenges.

My goal is to build a business that can run without me for several months of the year, so I can go to villages in rural Africa and teach women how to run online businesses so they have economic stability, and can start breaking the cycle of poverty.

What fuels that vision for the future?

I spent much of my childhood in West Africa and in my 20s, I worked in a remote area of sub-Saharan Africa. Africa – the people, the wildlife, the landscapes – they get into your soul, and it’s hard not to want to go back and make a difference.

During my time in California, we were implementing education and anti-poaching programs in Zambia, where I had been based.

It’s a place very close to my heart, and I’m looking forward to going back there to make a difference.


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