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Success Stories: In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, Sam Hickson is a fearless and inspiring innovator

Sam Hickson Founder and CEO Yellow Door Productions

Sam Hickson Founder and CEO Yellow Door Productions

Sometimes the best time to start a business is when you are left with few other choices. Rather than seeing her Covid-related redundancy as a tragedy, Sam Hickson saw it as a massive opportunity. She signed up for the Rare Birds PropelHer program and never looked back.

What gave you the confidence to start a business during Covid?

I was made redundant at the start of the pandemic and that gave me time to reflect and think about my next steps. I recognised it was a perfect opportunity to start a business and for me, that was the best path forward.  I already had experience in building a business and have confidence in my abilities to make Yellow Door Productions a success.  Covid changed the landscape and created many opportunities. I realised with my background I was in a unique position where I had the ability to help companies transition into the new world we were entering. It was an ideal time to start a digital marketing agency, specialising in virtual tours.

Prior to the pandemic, I was working with a company that were disruptors in their field, so I had firsthand experience of showing people and companies how to think in a different way. I’ve delivered the outcomes that innovation brings: process efficiencies, new insights and increased revenue. I know that Yellow Door Productions can deliver these outcomes to our clients with virtual tours.

How long had you spent building your plan?

I hadn’t been building a business plan, and I certainly haven’t taken the traditional path of building a business, but when Covid hit, I saw it as an opportunity, rather than a problem, and started building from there. I could see massive potential in how the world was changing, and I felt ready to start a business that would tap the possibilities.

What have been some insights you’ve gained since launching?

Some of the insights I’ve gained since launching are:

  • Everything takes longer than planned
  • Lead times for decision making are longer in the current climate
  • Education is key.  Most people haven’t seen virtual tours before, or certainly not in the innovative ways we are approaching them. We need to make people aware of possibilities they weren’t aware of. When they have seen what we do, they recognise the potential. We take the client on a journey. 

What has been a barrier to success and what did you do to overcome it?

Lockdown, as for most, has been a barrier to growing as fast as we could have.  I’ve had projects cancelled, clients’ budgets have sometimes been hit hard with loss of business and others have gone into survival mode and will re-emerge when things are more certain.  It’s meant that it’s been harder to get in front of potential clients, industries we would usually get business from are dormant and the uncertainty of being able to get across state borders (or back again) makes project execution more challenging.

I’ve overcome those barriers by diversifying the industries we work in earlier than planned. I’ve started focusing on our long-term plans and goals and become more strategic about how I get in front of people.  As with building the business, again, we haven’t taken the traditional path to sales.  We’re constantly adapting to the situation and trying new pathways.  If one way doesn’t work, there are three or four other ways to get there.  It may not be the conventional way of doing things, but sometimes convention doesn’t work.

What was your biggest ‘A-ha’ moment?

I already had a clear idea of what my business could be. First seeing the virtual tour platform that could deliver my idea was my ‘A-ha’ moment.  As soon as I saw it, I knew what could be done and how much value could be created.  I knew what I wanted, and as soon as I saw the virtual tour, my mind exploded with the possibilities.

Who have been your best supporters on your business journey?

  • Mentor: I’ve been fortunate to have a mentor who has complete faith in me and my vision. 
  • Former colleagues and peers: I’m amazed by the amount of time past colleagues have given me, some of whom I worked with 15 years ago. These people are experts in their field and have provided incredible insights and opportunities,
  • Close friends: I have friends who have been asking me for years ‘when are you starting your own business?’. Having supportive friends is invaluable.
  • My team: they have believed in my vision, understood, and supported me.

What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs about launching their business?

  • Trust your instincts.  If something isn’t sitting right with you, push yourself to investigate the reasons why it isn’t. Once you’ve discovered the reasons, you can then address them and work out the next steps. 
  • Cut your losses.  If you’re pushing uphill in a certain area, there’s a reason why.  Investigate why it’s not working and if it can’t be fixed easily, then it’s time to take another direction.  Mentally let go of the time and money that you’ve spent.  If you hold on, you’re only going to spend more resources and money in an area that isn’t going to get the outcome you need.
  • No is the first answer.  Persistence is essential to achieving success.
  • Stay focused on the end goal and the bigger picture.  It’s easy to get sidetracked when opportunities arise by saying ‘yes’ to everything.  But think if that project is going to distract you from achieving the potential of the business
  • Lastly, keep the faith.  Not everyone will see the potential or understand what you’re doing.  That’s ok, it doesn’t matter.  They’re not your target audience.

What does the next 12 months look like in your business?

The next 12 months look exciting!  There are going to be the challenges of scaling, managing the uncertainty of how the company grows, cash flow and a lot of decision making.  But we also have some exciting projects that are going to be delivered, with clients that are going to embrace and really make the most of the potential and opportunities that virtual tours can deliver.  I think we’re going to see virtual tours used in unique and interesting ways.  We will continue working towards our long-term goals helping our clients to adapt to a very different environment and grow.

Please add anything else you would like to say

At the start of March 2020, I had my career mapped out.  I arrived home from Paris after a business trip to London and 4 days later I had lost my job.  I was working in the events industry, which of course was immediately and massively impacted.

The last 18 months have been a rollercoaster. I acknowledge there are challenges and it’s hard.  But it’s also thrilling, with possibilities never seen before.  I am sticking with my vision and despite all the difficulties, I see wonderful potential for my business.  It wasn’t my choice at the time, but I’m glad I was pushed onto this path.

I believe virtual tours are the future, and people’s positive reactions and feedback to the virtual tours are what drives me.  Now more than ever, virtual tours are an incredibly valuable tool for all businesses.

To learn more about Sam’s new business venture, visit her website.