After 20 years of working in the male-dominated marketing industry, Michelle Fragar abruptly lost her job. It motivated her to launch a branding agency, and within a few years, she was recognised with Australia’s top marketing award. Here, she shares the lessons she has learned from doing it differently.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
I worked in a male-dominated industry for 20 years. One day, I was suddenly made redundant from a new role. I had two options at that point: cry in the corner or take control of my destiny. I went straight out to buy a laptop, and my business BRANDiT was born.
Starting a business takes courage. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Starting a business is one of the most frightening yet empowering things you can do. You initially get into the habit of thinking, “But what if I fail?” You need to back yourself and know that you tried everything to succeed. Allow yourself the time and space to grow, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
What challenges have you faced running your business, and how did you resolve them?
When running a business, it is essential to understand all aspects and seek professional help where you need it. In terms of the services I offered, I knew those back to front. However, my strong understanding of finance didn’t include how it applied to all the new policies and procedures required to run a business. So, I hired a mentor and outsourced where I needed to, which has greatly benefited my business’ success.
What achievement/s you are most proud of and why?
When I started BRANDiT, I was working out of the spare bedroom of my home. My greatest achievement to date is moving into my purchased brand-new office with 10 employees by my side. My business has doubled yearly, and I’m proud I backed myself five years ago; it’s exciting to see where we will be in another five years.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
Imposter Syndrome is real, and I think we have all faced it. In those moments, you need to look back, be confident, and reflect on your achievements. For me, that came in 2022 when I won the highest award in Australia for a marketer, “CPM of the Year”, from the Australian Marketing Institute. Being acknowledged at that level reminded me that I was doing something right.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey, and how did they help you?
While working at BOSCH, a Fortune 100 company, I had a great relationship with the CEO of Australia and New Zealand. I’ll never forget when he said, “come on, Shelly, let me teach you the game”. It was and will always be the most impactful experience of my life. It allowed me to be a woman in a man’s world, to develop my skills, and recognise and deliver on what management needed.
What skills do you believe women must have to succeed as a leader?
Women need emotional intelligence to succeed as a leader. They should process each situation by using common sense and sticking with the facts. I worked in a male-dominated industry for 20 years, and men leave their emotions at the door. I had to grow a thick skin and quickly see things for what they were. Being passionate is great, but don’t make emotional decisions.
Work/life balance can be difficult. How do you manage it, and can you share your ‘tricks of the trade’?
I have a son and husband, and it can be tough to see enough of them during the week. My day typically starts at 5 am and finishes at 7 pm. I’m trying to create a habit of my son coming to the office straight from school before he heads to football practice. I want to make my weekends all about family time.
Still, the business can’t pause if an urgent issue arises; I can’t let my clients down. I also don’t want to let my son down, so keeping up good communication and knowing he has additional time with his dad helps make it work.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I only wish I’d taken the leap of faith earlier. I am incredibly proud of my agency, our services, and what I have achieved within five years. We control our story and journey; you don’t need to be stuck where you are now.
Michelle Fragar’s Top 3 Leadership Lessons Learned:
1. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from trying something new. Get out of your head. Failing is growth.
2. Find a mentor; we can’t know it all.
3. Allow your staff to be heard and help them grow. Longevity and commitment are better than a revolving door of staff.
By Laini Bennett, MBA