The truth about starting a small business that no one tells you


Starting a small business is equal parts liberating and downright daunting. It’s a giant leap of faith and one that doesn’t always leave you standing on solid ground. Odette Barry, the media, digital marketing and communications expert behind Odette & Co, has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. When she launched the business back in 2016, she did so with the intention of achieving two things: to offer unparalleled social media, digital marketing, PR and content creation services; and to lead a more balanced, beachside life with her young family.

Two years on and she’s ready to share some home truths about starting a small business that no one tells you.

The good news…

  1. It opens up a world of opportunity – for you, and your family

Before taking the leap to launch Odette & Co, Odette led a successful marketing career for more than 10 years, working for the likes of TAFE NSW and the Australian Physiotherapy Association. But truth be told, stepping away from full-time employment opened up a world of opportunity not just for her personally, but for her family.

“This is what fuels my soul,” she says. “Being my own boss gives me the ability to be there for my son and spend my mornings on the beach with my dog, watching the sunrise. And while there’s a lot to be said for the security that comes with working for someone else, I wouldn’t trade this in for anything. It’s been truly liberating and I get such a buzz from finding solutions for my clients’ many marketing and communications challenges.”

  1. It means you can mould your own team

Having the flexibility to do away with the more traditional structures that come with big corporate gigs has also been a buzz. When you’re the one running the show, rigid hiring strategies simply don’t apply – you can be flexible, agile, when it comes to building your own team. This is particularly useful when you’re in the early stages of business and need to make the most of your resources. The result? Odette has built roles around the key skills displayed by her existing team members, and it’s working.

“It’s so hard to know the tipping point in small business, that moment when you can really afford to grow, so having the opportunity to really pinpoint the key strengths that lie within your team and moulding roles around those core capabilities is crucial,” says Odette. “We’re literally growing something from the ground up, and it feels good.”

  1. It will fuel friendships

Small teams are tight knit – no matter where they are in the world. Since Odette regularly draws on expertise from freelance folk dotted across the country, she knows that distance means nothing to a strong working relationship, and friendship.

“This digital world has opened up so many opportunities for me and my business – the connections I’ve made have led to some long-lasting friendships with people I’ve only ever spoken to on the phone or over FaceTime/Skype,” says Odette. “It’s a wonderful thing, being able to draw on the expertise of people outside of your business’ immediate footprint. And what I’ve found along the way is that kindness is such an under utilised commodity. We need to remember that more often in business.”

The not so good news…

  1. It can be difficult switch off

Yes, being her own boss has been good on so many levels for Odette – we’re talking dogs and cats in the office, time out with her son and even the odd day spa visit. But having that flexibility doesn’t mean her mind ever really switches off from Odette & Co.

“I’m not going to lie, there have been times where I’ve felt chained to my desk until 2am,” she says. “It comes with the territory and it still completely fills my cup – but you need to establish some boundaries and try your best to stick to them. This can be particularly tough in the digital media landscape when both your work and social lives are intertwined on social media platforms. That’s where a self-imposed social media detox has to be scheduled, every now and then, for my own sanity and for the sake of the business.”

For Odette this means leaving the screens behind, even just for a few hours. She minds in this time that her attention span increases, creativity soars and her memory and focus improves.

“You’ll be present in the moment and you’ll communicate better. So leave your phone in your bag whenever you can, don’t have it sat in front of you on your desk. Leave it at home when you go for a walk and use airplane mode when you need some mental space. Need additional motivation? Delete social media apps after hours.”

  1. It will see you question your self worth

It’s next to impossible to extract your sense of worth from your pricing strategy – particularly when you’re starting out. The best lesson I’ve learned is to separate the emotions and become friends with a little hardnosedness when it comes to pricing. You don’t need to discount, if you are asked to, perhaps think about if the client is really worth it.

  1. It’s a steep learning curve

People who launch their own business obviously know their immediate field inside out and back to front – serve that up with a healthy dose of courage and they’re ready to take the leap. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be steep learning curves along the way, something Odette particularly found to be true when it came to understanding a business’ legal requirements.

“I’ll put my hand up to that one – I didn’t know much, but that’s where you need to seek out professional help,” says Odette. “I’ve since outsourced not only my legal admin work, but my accounting too, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I know my business is ticking all the right boxes and it frees me up to focus on what I do best. Still, I do believe the next generation should be better educated on these kinds of topics – mandatory entrepreneurial subjects at school would be a massive bonus.”


Odette Barry is Founder and Director of Odette & Co, a digital marketing agency that aligns with brands to create impact in a meaningful way.