Samantha Cameron on What I Learned From My Solopreneur Journey
Samantha Cameron - Social media expert, coach and business strategist - Samantha Cameron Social Media Coaching Ltd. Sam, is a social media expert, coach, and certified business strategist. She has a wealth of social media experience and knowledge spanning over 7 years and has consistently guided numerous businesses towards achieving consistency and visibility in the online space. Sam also has over 30 years of experience in sales and business development, which allows her to go beyond just social media and help business owners and entrepreneurs craft comprehensive strategies throughout their businesses. She loves nothing more than empowering entrepreneurs to create social media, sales and business strategies that generate more enquiries, boost sales and establish a solid foundation for them to be more consistent and visible in the online space. Sam is also passionate about raising awareness of a rare mental health condition that her son has called Pervasive Arousal Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and supporting parents to get a diagnosis and on a referral list within a specialist unit.
Could you begin by telling us about your background, what led you to become a solopreneur, and what specific industry or niche you've carved out for yourself?"
I didn’t enjoy school thanks to being bullied but she was always ambitious and hard working - starting out at the age of 16, in an estate agency, becoming one of the top sales people, before moving on to work in the automotive trade, where she achieved the distinction of being the youngest fleet manager for Volvo at the age of 18, at which point she bought her own home, working day and night (in an evening pub job) to pay for the deposit. My career then led her to a personal injury company, where I worked my way up to the position of Director, before relocating, where she then seized an opportunity to work in the fleet department of Mercedes. Following Mercedes, I joined RBS where I met her husband Rich. As life progressed, Rich and I decided to get married and had 2 more children, Beau and Molly. “The arrival of our little ones, with only a year between them, influenced my decision not to return to full-time employment and I made the bold choice to start my own business.”
This was when I decided to train and start my own childminding business with the intention of earning some extra money. I had transitioned from a well-paid corporate job and wanted to maintain that financial independence. Initially, I anticipated having only a few children in her care, however, within just three months, 40 children enrolled. I employed two staff members and transformed the lower floor of her house into a nursery, converting the garage into a playroom and constructing an extension for dining and recreational activities, also creating a designated room for older children to engage in activities like playing video games. “Unfortunately, this demanding setup took its toll on my personal and family life. I found myself unable to spend quality time with my own children, to the extent that I couldn't even take them to the dentist. The pressures of managing a childminding business, including administrative tasks and paperwork, gradually diminished the enjoyment I once derived from it.” Around this time, I had been using products from a network marketing company, and the sales representative approached her with an opportunity to join the sales force. “While I didn't have a pressing need for additional income due to the success of my nursery business, I was drawn to the flexibility that this venture offered. Witnessing the lifestyle of the sales representative, I recognised it as something that I could pursue alongside my existing business.” Consequently, I joined the network marketing company and started introducing their products to friends and family, gradually building a team. Within just three months I had achieved the rank of manager, something that typically takes others two years to accomplish - however the way I did this went against the grain at the time. Due to the demands of managing her childminding business, and caring for my own family, I couldn't follow the traditional methods of the network marketing world (which back then were doorstep visits and face to face interactions), so I decided to use the power of Facebook, a platform she had previously used to build my childminding business and a baby accessory and clothing business a few years earlier.
Subsequently, other network marketing companies noticed my online approach and witnessed the impressive growth I was achieving and began reaching out to me seeking guidance on how they could start implementing social media to expand their businesses - an uncommon practice at that time. I started delivering social media trainings to other network marketing companies, sharing my knowledge and techniques. Deciding this was where my passion lay, my vision became clear - what I loved was the training, so I left the network marketing company to focus on providing training to others on how social media could grow their businesses. My husband suggested that I consider starting my own social media training business, and here we are today. I quickly acquired a number of clients, which is what led to starting my own social media and marketing agency so that I could support more businesses. Since 2015 I've has been sharing social media expertise and knowledge with business owners and entrepreneurs and she has explored different routes to growth.
Starting a business is often a leap into the unknown. In your early days as a solopreneur, what were some unexpected challenges you faced, and what strategies did you develop to overcome them?
When I first started my business I didn't have mentor or someone to show me the ropes, I had to learn from my mistakes and implement ways to ensure that these mistakes weren't made again. This also encouraged me to create a programme that would provide individuals, ideally parents, with an opportunity to have the perfect work-life balance similar to mine and be there for their families when needed. This is when the 'The Social Media Managers Academy' was created allowing me to share all my skills and knowledge to empower others in starting their own social media businesses and become social media managers. The programme has now obtained CPD certification. Over the past 18 months, the academy has nurtured others who have flourished, allowing them to start achieving success with their own social media business, and create a work-life balance.
Can you share a pivotal moment where you realized that your unique approach was actually working? What did you learn from that experience, and how did it shape your journey?
In 2020, myself and my family faced a distressing situation which lead me having to take a step back from my successful business to care for my 10 year old son. Beau, our son began experiencing chest pains and required immediate attention. Concerned that he might be having a heart attack, we rushed him to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. Thankfully, after a thorough assessment, Beau was sent home with paracetamol to rest. However, his condition deteriorated over the next few days, with persistent chest pains and easily getting out of breath.
During this time, emergency services were contacted, and an ambulance arrived at our home. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the paramedics decided to conduct tests and evaluate Beau's condition at home. After a comprehensive 90-minute examination, they determined that there was no cause for immediate concern. They suspected severe reflux and recommended treating it with Gaviscon. Unfortunately, Beau's symptoms persisted, and he soon began complaining of stomach pains. Once again, we followed the advice to visit the A&E, this time suspecting appendicitis. After undergoing several tests, it was confirmed that it wasn’t appendicitis causing Beau's discomfort. Nevertheless, the medical team deemed it necessary to admit him to a children's ward for further investigations and tests. After 3 days in a children's ward, they concluded that Beau had a condition called Costochondritis and we were discharged and told that after a couple of weeks the pain would ease and to treat with paracetamol and ibuprofen. Costochondritis refers to the inflammation occurring at the junction of the ribs and the breastbone in the middle of the chest. This condition often leads to intense chest pain, particularly when engaging in movement or breathing. Fortunately, it typically resolves on its own in time. However, adults often compare the pain to a continuous heart attack, so one can imagine the challenges a 10-year-old would face while coping with such pain. Upon returning home, I with her determination looked to find the necessary treatment for Beau. After extensive research, she discovered a specialist who specialised in Costochondritis and began working with them to help Beau. They recommended daily exercise and physiotherapy. However, despite weeks of treatment, Beau's condition showed no signs of improvement. The challenges did not end there. Just two days after Beau was released from the hospital, another setback occurred. I received a phone call informing her that Beau had been diagnosed with Helicobacter Pylori, a bacterial infection that targets the stomach and intestines, leading to severe pain. Beau was prescribed a course of antibiotics for treatment.
With Christmas just a week away, starting the next COVID -19 lockdown and Beau still not feeling well, we wanted to make Christmas Day special, but Beau struggled to get out of bed and had no interest in opening presents or joining the family Christmas dinner (his favourite). As the weeks progressed, Beau's condition worsened. His appetite decreased, he withdrew from social interactions, and attending school became challenging (Beau has an Education, Health and Care Plan - ECHP - which allowed him to attend during the current lockdown). In the February, still suffering from pains in the chest and stomach, things escalated with Beau’s health and he started vomiting blood. Concerned, we sought medical advice once again and returned to the A&E. Consequently, Beau was readmitted to the children's ward, where a series of tests were conducted over the four-day duration of their stay. However, no conclusive results were obtained, despite Beau's continued complaints of pain in both his chest and stomach. The consultant concluded that the issue was solely psychological, leading to their discharge from the hospital. In their words “It’s all in his head”. Undeterred, I started to explore various treatments that could provide relief and support for Beau. However, regardless of the treatments, Beau's condition continued to deteriorate. His health declined to the extent that he was unable to attend school. Beau's appetite disappeared and he stopped consuming food and liquids, and his communication with others dwindled. Moreover, he experienced rapid weight loss. As a result, he was admitted to the hospital for the fourth time, for further medical intervention. I took a firm stance and insisted on getting answers. I refused to leave until Beau received the necessary support and treatment to get him to his former self. During our 10 day stay in the ward, additional tests were carried out, and an NG feeding tube was fitted to help Beau's gain weight. But whilst in the hospital, Beau experienced a complete loss of mobility, stopped walking, and he completely stopped speaking. The only means of communication was him using emojis on his iPad. Although 10 days had passed, there were still no definitive answers regarding Beau's condition. Nevertheless, he had regained the weight he had lost, and the consultants were assured that he would gradually resume independent eating within a few weeks at home. Additionally, we were promised various forms of support to support Beau's return to his normal self. They returned home with Beau still relying on the NG tube for feeding.
Unfortunately, the promised support failed to materialise, and Beau's condition worsened. There were no signs of him coming off the NG tube, walking, or speaking. He was unable to attend school, spending his days confined to bed without even showing interest in watching television. I found myself at a loss, struggling to balance running her business, being a mother, and providing full-time care for Beau. I had to feed him, assist with toileting, and bathe him, all without any external support. During a routine follow-up call with their local GP, I broke down and explained the dire situation. The GP was shocked at the severity of the situation and promised to initiate the process of arranging support for our family. In the following days, we began receiving phone calls from occupational therapists, physiotherapists, the community nurse team, and the CAMHS team from the local hospital. However, the underlying issue causing Beau's drastic decline remained unknown. How could a healthy 10-year-old boy go from happily playing one day to being bedridden, reliant on a feeding tube, and completely disinterested in his usual activities? As Beau's condition continued to show no signs of improvement, I made the difficult decision to temporarily step back from her business. This choice allowed her to dedicate more time and energy to caring for Beau and addressing the mental health needs of the entire family, as the situation was beginning to impact everyone. Fortunately, I had built my business over the years, establishing a solid foundation that enabled it to operate and provide ongoing financial support during this challenging period. During this time I also received distressing news about her own health and discovered a tumour on one of her fallopian tubes. Fortunately, it was non-cancerous, but the tumours were rapidly spreading. This diagnosis was to have a complete hysterectomy. It was an incredibly challenging time as I would have a 12-week recovery period following the surgery. In light of these circumstances, my husband Rich made the difficult decision to resign from his stressful job. With everything happening with Beau and also the passing of his mum, the emotional burden took its toll on Rich, resulting in a breakdown. He took a six-month break from work to care for Beau, support Sam during her recovery, but also having to prioritise his own mental well-being. After months of caring for Beau without any concrete answers or substantial support, my persistence paid off when she finally had the opportunity to speak with a specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). It was at this moment that they received the long-awaited diagnosis: Beau had PAWS. However, the journey was far from over. Although we now knew the underlying cause, the challenging work of getting Beau the necessary treatment lay ahead. Unfortunately, the availability of specialised units for children with mental health conditions was severely limited across the UK, with each unit having the capacity to accommodate only 7-10 children at a time. Beau's treatment and recovery were projected to take approximately a year, but the waiting list for a bed in one of these units was around 12 to 18 months. Beau's name was placed on the waiting lists for both GOSH in London and Galaxy House in Manchester. Unexpectedly, a glimmer of hope emerged when they received a call from The Croft, a unit in Cambridge, who expressed interest in Beau's case and offered him a bed within a matter of weeks, they also assured us that either myself or another family member could stay with Beau during his time at the unit. Finally, there was a ray of hope shining at the end of the long and challenging tunnel. Beau and I left home to go and stay at The Croft for the unforeseeable future leaving the rest of the family behind at home. With the determination of the unit, myself and Rich, and Beau himself, remarkable progress was made. Within a span of just five weeks, Beau had the feeding tube removed and began eating independently. He regained his ability to walk, albeit with the assistance of crutches, and his interactions with others increased. Encouraged by these advancements, it was proposed that Beau start reintegrating into school, initially for short periods of time, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, but it was a significant step forward. Exactly six months from the day of his admission, Beau was discharged and returned home. He gradually increased his school attendance, finding joy in being back in the familiar environment of his home and school. Beau is now aged 12, and with his 13th birthday approaching, Beau has successfully reintegrated into school on a full-time basis.
Although he still relies on a crutch for support, he is regaining his strength and participating in activities like any other boy his age. “While reflecting on the past, I’m amazed at how both Beau and I managed to overcome all of this. The overwhelming nature of it knocked me for six. I stopped going out and speaking to friends. I also suffered from anxiety and PTSD and it’s taken me a year to regain the confidence to socialise and be in the company of others again. This also allowed me to return into my business and it has gone from strength to strength since this.
Your success hasn't come overnight. Could you delve into the key principles and practices that you've found most critical in building your business as a solopreneur? What differentiates your method from others?
My unwavering commitment and the ability to adapt and overcome challenges have been the cornerstones of my journey in establishing a thriving business throughout the years. These qualities have not only shaped my entrepreneurial path but have also played an instrumental role in laying the solid groundwork for my sustained success. In an ever-evolving landscape, where obstacles often present themselves unexpectedly, the resilience and determination I possess have been invaluable in not only weathering storms but also using them as opportunities for growth and improvement. This enduring spirit has been a driving force behind the accomplishments and milestones I've achieved in my business endeavours, instilling within me a profound belief in the power of perseverance and resilience as indispensable tools for any entrepreneur.
Running a business solo requires a blend of skills. How have you balanced the demands of various roles like marketing, product development, and customer service? Can you share any tools or strategies that have been particularly effective?
I firmly advocate for the importance of creating a robust social media and marketing strategy to guarantee optimal visibility in today's online space.. My approach involves the utilisation of planners, social media management tools, and scheduling platforms to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and save valuable time. In today's competitive market, a well-structured social media and marketing strategy serves as the foundations of a successful business. It not only ensures that your brand remains prominently visible but also allows for precision in targeting the right audience.
To facilitate this, I am an advocate for the strategic use of planners, advanced social media management tools, and automated scheduling platforms. These resources serve as invaluable assets, enabling meticulous planning and execution of marketing campaigns. Moreover, they empower entrepreneurs to optimise their time effectively, freeing up valuable hours for other critical aspects of business management. By integrating these tools into your strategy, you can navigate the online world of social media with ease, ensuring that your brand maintains a consistent presence and reaches its full potential. This approach has been key in my own journey, enabling me to not only maximise visibility but also maintain a healthy work-life balance as an entrepreneur.
Reflecting on your journey, what's one lesson you learned the hard way that you wish you had known when you first started? How would you advise other aspiring solopreneurs?
During the initial stages of launching my business, I encountered a challenging situation involving a client who failed to fulfill their financial obligations by not paying their invoices promptly. This unfortunate experience was not only stressful but also resulted in a significant financial setback for my company. However, adversity often serves as a catalyst for improvement. In response to this setback, I implemented a comprehensive set of new processes and procedures to safeguard my business while maintaining professionalism and client satisfaction. One of the central changes was the introduction of a stringent policy requiring all clients to settle their invoices before any work commenced. This shift in approach was designed to prevent any recurrence of unpaid invoices, safeguarding the financial stability of my business. It not only instilled a sense of accountability among clients but also provided clarity and transparency in our working relationships. By addressing this issue head-on and establishing a clear payment protocol, I not only protected my business from future financial strains but also demonstrated my commitment to maintaining a fair and sustainable partnership with my clients. In retrospect, this episode served as a valuable lesson in the importance of proactive measures and clear communication in business management. It's a testament to the adaptability and resilience that every entrepreneur must possess to overcome challenges and steer their business towards long-term success.
Innovation is often key in entrepreneurship. How have you fostered creativity and innovation in your business? What tips can you offer to those seeking to continually innovate in a rapidly changing market?
Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I've consistently prioritised innovation in developing products and services for my business. This commitment stems from a dual focus: understanding and meeting the specific needs and desires of my clients while also keeping a watchful eye on industry trends and competitor offerings. However, it's essential to emphasise that what works for one business in the same industry may not necessarily be the right fit for another. Innovative thinking means aligning your offerings with your unique business identity and, most importantly, your clients' preferences. While it's valuable to draw inspiration from industry peers, it's equally crucial not to blindly emulate their strategies or offerings. Instead, your approach should involve a careful evaluation of whether a particular approach aligns with your business objectives and resonates with your client base. In essence, the key to successful innovation lies in finding a balance between being guided by industry trends and forging your path. Be aware to what your clients want and respond to their evolving needs. At the same time, remain open to trying and adapting new strategies and solutions that genuinely align with your business's mission and your clients' best interests. This dynamic, client-centric, and adaptable approach to innovation ensures that your business not only thrives but also continues to evolve and remain relevant in a competitive landscape.
Looking forward, what are your plans for the future of your business, and how do you see the landscape for solopreneurs evolving in the next five years?
This is undeniably an exhilarating time for individuals embarking on entrepreneurial journeys or seeking to transform their existing businesses in the years to come. In my case, I have a vision for substantial growth within my social media and marketing agency. Simultaneously, I aspire to enhance the visibility and impact of my Social Media Managers Academy, striving to equip numerous businesses with the tools and knowledge necessary for success in the online and digital space. As I steer my business towards growth, I am also dedicated to achieving a better work-life balance. By reducing my workdays and hours, I intend to allocate more of my precious time to support and advocate for parents facing the unique demands of caring for children with mental health challenges. In essence, my goals are both professional and personal growth.