We had the good fortune of connecting with Debbie Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debbie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Starting my own business happened as a result of many “happy accidents.” It wasn’t something I had planned. I got my first job through an internship program during my last year of college. I interned that year, then was hired full-time upon graduating. The job was managing the web presence for a destination marketing organization during the dawn of social media for business. After 3 years, my employer was going through a transition period and I knew I’d be laid off. Thankfully, I was offered a job at a marketing agency with whom I’d partnered at my previous gig, so I started working there the month after I was let go. As I prepared for the job transition, I consulted many business associates. The most valuable advice I received was to create something that was “mine.” I had done so much and created a name for myself under the guise of my former job, but then didn’t have anything to take away with me when my time at that job concluded. I subsequently started a blog called Social Hospitality. Since my gig had involved working with hotels and restaurants, one person suggested doing a blog on marketing for the hospitality industry. That’s where I started. A year later, I began getting contacted by a variety of people, in a variety of locations, either commenting that they found my content useful, asking if they could guest post, or wanting to hire me to help them with their own blogs or social media presences. I then began freelancing in addition to my full-time job, and was able to build up a decent side hustle and savings. I eventually turned Social Hospitality into a full-fledged digital marketing business that I ran for a few years on the side. I ended up working at the marketing agency for six years, and finally departed in early 2017 to focus on Social Hospitality full-time.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One thing that sets me apart from other marketers is that I have brand, agency, and entrepreneurial experience. In my current role, I can easily work autonomously, or I can become engrained into your marketing team. It’s totally up to the client. I’ve done and enjoy both angles. Overcoming fear was one my biggest difficulties about going out on my own. I used to be incredibly shy when it came to any form of speaking out in person, and now I can comfortably talk about business, social media, etc., and not worry that I sound like a novice. It came down to realizing that the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired gives me something to offer others. In addition to developing and owning my brand, I had to learn to run a business, save money and balance my finances, plus learn how to retain and acquire clients. I did that “on the side” for six years til I was comfortable enough to make the leap and commit 100%. I’m grateful for that experience because I was able to learn a lot from my previous employers while also being able to grow my business and test different aspects at the same time.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m in Orange County so I’ll focus there! For beach time, we’d head to Laguna for the restaurants, views, and art options. For movies or live comedy, we’d head to the Irvine Spectrum, which also has some great eats. Costa Mesa has several fun areas to barhop, and is also a great city to catch a live theater performance. There are also some great breweries and wine bars in Costa Mesa. We could also rent a duffy boat in Newport Beach and picnic on the water.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many great people that have impacted my career. I made some great connections, many that turned into great business collaborators, and many others that turned into close friends. I attended many conferences and events, read many books, and connected with many great fellow marketers. Specifically, in my early networking days, Neal Schaffer was a great source of encouragement and inspiration. He was the one that recommended my blog, and also gave me some freelance work early in my freelance career. Later, during the period in which I was switching from employee to entrepreneur, my dear friend Vickie Adams was pivotal in supporting me through that segment of evolution and life.