You don’t need to do it all by yourself and you don’t have to have a big bank account to make good things happen. Outsource when you can, get advice when you can. You will learn new things and validate others.
Sarah has worked in the hospitality and tourism industry throughout her career and has a Masters in Tourism Management where she developed a keen interest in sustainable tourism. Following 4 years working for the South Australian Tourism Commission in online marketing, management and project management roles, she undertook training via the Climate Leadership Corps, lead by Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States. After completing this training Sarah moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia where she worked primarily with the NGO sector and responsible tourism practices, during which time Plastic Free Cambodia was formed. Specialising in consulting to businesses and delivering educational workshops on the topic of plastic reduction and other environmental issues. Sarah now also consults to other countries around Southeast Asia and has her sights set on home, taking the program to Australia soon. Thanks to the experience she has derived from her experiences and growing knowledge of climate change and plastic pollution issues in the region she aims to inspire more people to take action.
Where did the idea for PlasticFreeSea.co come from?
I saw plastic litter everywhere when I moved to Siem Reap in 2014. There was also a lot of plastic being given out EVERYWHERE: coffee, market shopping, take away rice. Thousands of people were blissfully ignorant that this usage was doing them harm, directly and through environmental pollution. I decided to run a Plastic Free July campaign (started in Australia in 2011), in 2015, and it was a huge success. I found like-minded people and they wanted to know more, so I began running workshops around the issues of plastic pollution. Since then I have developed many different ways to engage individuals and businesses to change their habit of plastic use through educational and motivational programs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Gym is where I like to start my day; listening to a podcast on environment or business entrepreneurship. I make small videos for the community so this is normally something I do from home before I relocate to my shared office space. I write down my top 3 tasks for the day (thanks Brene Brown) and get cracking. I generally schedule regular important tasks into my calendar, such as newsletters and events and I prioritise which events I should attend and which are not bringing or giving value to PFSEA or the event audience. I finish most work days at ‘normal’ hour then socialise or recharge by spending time alone. Occasionally I will go home and join a webinar in another time zone or finish off an urgent task, but I do my best not to make this too regular.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get a lot of inspiration while I’m at the gym listening to podcasts, often there is a spark that I know I have to do something with, so I’ll research that as soon as I get to my computer. I work alone so often it’s challenging to discuss ideas with people, but I am fortunate enough to have a few business minded friends and I love it when I can chat through an idea and that person helps me to fully form it with their feedback and inputs. Other times I sleep on things and when they keep occupying my mind I find a way to put it into place right away or onto a wish list to develop later. Sometimes things on the list for later reveal themselves as more important and so I figure not waiting is good and reprioritise it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Podcasts, are podcasts a trend? Or am I just late to the party? I love consuming knowledge by listening!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Time management, it’s taken a lot of practice but being protective of my time enables me to prioritise what’s important. I’ve found that asking people to outline their goals if we’re to have a meeting results in one of two things; a really productive and mutually beneficial meeting or no meeting. These are both good outcomes because in my work I find a lot of people just like to talk with no real purpose. I’ve also discovered which events bring benefit and which don’t … that ones that don’t I have stopped agreeing to. Sometimes this feels hard because I hate to say no or feel that I’m letting people down, however I cannot do everything and accepting that is very freeing. It means I can focus on the things that really add value.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was in my early 20s people would tell me to start my own business (Fun fact: I was a wedding planner at the time!), it felt so scary back then, I didn’t do it. Given the chance, I’d tell my younger self to just do it because it would have been amazing!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I have less than 100 Facebook friends. True.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen to podcasts! That and not to worry about perfection, nothing will ever be perfect and doing your best is often good enough, when it isn’t, learn from that for the next time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A couple of years ago I got a business coach, whilst we worked together for around 6 months, I still seek the advice and expertise of respected business owners and coaches to continue to guide me. My original business coach and an excellent strategist I worked with lead me to take the biggest growth steps for PFSEA. In both instances they got me to work out the best use of my time, the most effective ways to reach my audience and the confidence to charge what I’m worth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had was when I wanted to expand the business, I thought that having a full time staff member with me would be the answer to all of the problems I faced. It turns out that the person I hired was not the right fit for the business and not passionate about learning new skills in order to fulfil the job description. It was a really difficult time but what it helped me realise is that I could tackle things differently, I could outsource parts of the work to freelancers and professional service providers who were passionate about their work (and therefore mine) and keep my costs and stress levels lower.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My hometown has a couple of really amazing artistic glassware studios and through my work, minimising waste and recycling is the main focus. The business idea I’d love to see one day is an artistic glass studio that uses only recycled glass and provides vocational training for artists.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Living in Cambodia I rarely spend $100 in a single purchase…but I did spent about $30 on a microphone to start doing more videos and podcast interviews for my business which I’m really excited about, it gives my videos a more professional edge.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’ve just started using Capsule for CRM, I decided I need help for following up on leads. I’ve already realised how helpful it is when I consider leads I don’t think are worth putting into the system have given me an insight into what I think is important and the level of interest I really feel from the potential client.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Living in Cambodia, I don’t have access to many books, but I listen to a lot of podcasts and many of those people are writing books. So, maybe I can recommend one podcast and one book (that I haven’t read)? Entrepreneurs on Fire is a really inspiring podcast that I find a constant source of motivation. Do Less by Kate Northrup is a book I’d love to read, I’m convinced we can be successful and productive without overworking.
What is your favorite quote?
Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
PFSEA would not be where it is today if I had laboured over perfecting every small part of the program.
- Use tools to help keep you and your clients organised. For example, calendly or similar calendar booking platforms can help you organise your time effectively without lots of back and forth, and get a commitment from your client to really want the meeting. It also ensures you both have the same meeting details in your calendars.
- Adapting along the way can keep things open to new ideas and new ways without being overly invested in a concept that’s been overworked and under-tested. You can test on a live audience which will give you excellent and accurate feedback.
- You don’t need to do it all by yourself and you don’t have to have a big bank account to make good things happen. Outsource when you can, get advice when you can. You will learn new things and validate others.
- Starting a business doesn’t have to be that scary. There are ways to minimise risk and build things up bit by bit without feeling like you have to go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat. If you’re currently employed, start working on things outside of that normal job, build it up to a point that enables you to adjust your work hours and put more into your own project. A lot of entrepreneurs start this way or by having a part time or casual job that has reliable money coming in whilst their passion project gains momentum.
- Remember that just because you receive an email at 3am on a Sunday, doesn’t mean you have to reply immediately. Set healthy work parameters and don’t think you have to do everything immediately and all at once.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.