Welcome to my Inspiring, Interesting Interview Series. Over the past few years, I've had the good fortune to meet and work with some incredible people. They've all inspired me, and I hope you find these interviews as thoroughly fascinating as I have. First up, say hello to a total superwoman...
An Oxford graduate, Tanya Goodin is founder & CEO of award-winning digital marketing agency Tamar. Based in London since 1995, Tamar has been at the forefront of its field for 18 years and now has offices in Cape Town and Shanghai too. Tanya is a real internet pioneer and has always had a keen eye for the next big thing: she developed enterprise websites before ecommerce existed, optimised for search engines while the google founders were still in school, and discussed the crucial role of user generated content before Facebook even had a business model. All that and she always looks immeasurably glam.
Tanya was a finalist in the Blackberry Outstanding Women in Technology in 2008 and a London regional finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. She is always on the ball when it comes to new social media trends, and was named one of Revolution Magazine’s Top Tweeters in 2009. I follow her; I can vouch for the fact that she’s great. Tanya kindly took the time to have a chat to me about social media, starting your own digital business and being a techie woman:
Hi Tanya! Tell us a bit about what Tamar does.
We're a digital marketing agency so that means we use digital communication methods (all online, no TV or print) to help brands sell and communicate with their customers.
Did you always know you wanted to start your own business?
Always! I was that classic child selling homemade lemonade from a table outside my house at 5 or 6 years old and flogging off old clothes and toys to neighbours to make money. I knew I was fascinated by the business world at a very early age, no idea why as no-one else in my family was.
Setting up a new company is always scary, but was it particularly nerve-wracking to do so with a digital agency at a time when the Internet was still kicking off (Tanya founded Tamar just five years after the internet was invented!)?
Not so much nerve-wracking as intensely frustrating. In the UK no-one really GOT the internet at that stage and so I spent rather too much time on educating people WHY it was going to be an amazing new communication medium when I really wanted to be moving on much more quickly to WHAT it could do for them and HOW to do it. It felt like everyone took FAR too long to catch-on in the early years. I probably launched about five years too early looking back now. But once I saw my first website (in about 1993) I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do.
Do you think it's harder or easier to set up an online company now?
It's still an easy business area to launch in from a capital and expenditure point of view. You really do only need a laptop and broadband connection to launch a business, you don't need a huge pot of investment capital. But in some ways it's a lot harder, coming up with a new and unique business idea now when the market is SO crowded with great businesses is tough. When I launched, the fact that I had an online business at ALL was amazing to many people. It didn't really matter what we were planning to do, we stood out just because we were THERE. Which was good because in the early days I really didn't have a clue what we were doing.
How do you think social media has changed the way companies build their brands online?
It's been a great leveller and it's taken power from brands and handed it right to consumers. The days when a customer complaint could be hushed under the carpet and dealt with via a discreet apology letter are gone. Now every element of a brand's business and the way they deal with customers can be blown right open for the world to see. It does mean consumers have become very powerful, they can make or break brands. And it also means brands have to learn to be more open, transparent and, that awful Americanism - 'authentic', about the way they do business or risk being found out. It's been a power for good, I strongly feel that.
What are the online trends we should be looking out for?
The Internet started with text on a screen, it's been about WORDS for a very long time, but the moving image is now taking over. As the lines between work, play, education and entertainment become blurred we're all going to be watching a lot more video online. People are sadly forgetting how to write as a result (I'm an English graduate, I care about this stuff).
The trend of everyone being the custodian of their own 'brand' will continue. If you're starting out now in the world you need to find and register your own domain name and networks and keep a close watch on your social 'footprint' from an early age. My generation could make all our growing-up mistakes in private (thank goodness). Your generation won't have that luxury. Things you do now can come back to haunt you in 20/30 years. Think very carefully about what you do online as a result.
Social media is going to continue to develop and go in new directions that we've never even thought of. Brands like Pinterest and Instagram are bringing a dimension to our lives that we never even anticipated a few years ago. I feel it's making us all a lot more creative, we're all content curators and photographers and editors. It's only going to get more exciting.
Do you think it's harder for women in the typically male world of technology? Have you faced difficulties as a woman?
The beauty of the online world is that it's 'sex irrelevant'. I can honestly say it's never been a disadvantage to me being a woman in digital. It may even have been an advantage as in a very male-dominated world I've always stood out a bit. I actually thing technology is very female-friendly as an industry, it enables the kind of flexibility of working that benefits you if you're juggling a business and a family. It's been a GREAT industry for me to be in and I'm really keen to encourage more women to consider it.
What advice would you give to wannabe digital entrepreneurs?
Just DO it. I didn't spend hours working out a finely-honed business plan and debating all the pros and cons when I started. I went with my gut instinct that it was the right industry for me and jumped right in. I made up a lot as I went along, and you have to be prepared to make swift u-turns and go off in another direction if something isn't working, but I've never ever for a moment regretted running my own business. It's been an incredibly rewarding path to have trodden and even after 18 years I'm still excited every morning at the thought of what the day will bring. How many people in the corporate world can say that?