Milk Bottle Projects
Name: Nikki Williams
Location: Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Milk Bottle Projects provides PR and digital marketing services to hospitality and lifestyle clients. They help businesses launch and also drive new customers to their brand or venue by utilising the power of PR, events, social media management, branding + content creation.
What products/services do you offer?
Branding and content creation, social media management (organic + paid), PR, events and influencer outreach
Why did you start your business and how long have you been running it?
I’ve always loved PR, photography and the hospitality and lifestyle industries and Milk Bottle Projects is exactly these things combined into one business. I love that PR spreads the word about exciting happenings in the industry through journalists, editors and taste makers. Meanwhile content is absolutely key in hospitality marketing, so I get to utilise our love of photography, videography, copyrighting and graphic design and finally the best thing about the hospitality industry is that it brings people together from all different cultures. We’re so lucky in Australia to be a melting pot of backgrounds and therefore cuisines. I’ve been running MBP for seven years now and I can’t get enough of it!
What struggles do you think most businesses face in your industry and what would you say they need to do to overcome them?
The hospitality industry in particular has been hit pretty hard recently with wage and tax issues, the extreme fires we’ve witnessed and therefore costs of produce and now coronavirus, so one of the huge struggles we’ll see soon, if we haven’t already is the price of services associated with the hospitality industry. We’re also dealing with third party services like Ubereats who take over 30% of all deliveries and even though this is a lot of people’s preferred way to experience hospitality now, it makes it very difficult to make profit from a hospitality business.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
We work with some excellent clients including Made Establishment, Lotus Dining and RACV to name a few. Although George Calombaris has been a controversial figure in the media over the last year or so, I was fortunate enough to work directly beside him and his team in the kitchen and in the office and I’m still completely inspired by his devotion to his industry and passions.
What has been your biggest ‘fail’ so far?
We’ve had one PR campaign that just wouldn’t “lift” the way that our campaigns usually do. It was a new meal service business that was already launched in other countries, but for one reason or another, publications didn’t want to write about it locally or nationally. We had a couple of smaller editorial pieces that came out as a result of the campaign but it was disappointing to let the client know that their expectations may not be met. We reached an agreement and parted ways.
What do you love most about your business?
Getting to know the people behind the businesses! We’re all from such different cultures and backgrounds and I’m fascinated by the connection that people have to their backgrounds through their food traditions.
What do you find most challenging?
Staying super enthusiastic constantly! I’m quite a creative person and it’s only recently that I can work from home and change my environment as I need to. I find doing this keeps me feeling enthusiastic and being my best self and leader at work.
How do you promote your business (please include as many details as you can)?
We do organic + paid social media management, primarily on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.
We do eDMs bi-monthly
We maintain our databases of potential and existing clients and then send them reminders about what’s happening for MBP and outreach emails about our services
We go to conferences and events and let potential clients and stakeholders know about our services
What business skills do you have (eg. graphic design, customer service)?
The name Milk Bottle Projects was derived from the reliable and friendly service of the milk man, so customer service is something that we take very seriously. Face to face meetings, maintaining contact on an ongoing basis and being completely transparent are things that we uphold with a lot of care. I believe our team are also excellent communicators both in person and through written communications. We’re all creatively minded and appreciate high quality photography, video and graphic design as well.
What software did you/your designer use to create your website (eg. WordPress, Wix)?
Squarespace! Easy to use and to edit at any time from our end, rather than going through an external web development team. I know WordPress is more customisable, but our website has really helped us win over new clients and we more or less use it as a portfolio of our work.
What are some of your favourite business tools and apps?
Xero for accounting – it’s amazing and so easy to use. Adobe for anything and everything creative, G Suite for team emails, calendar and GDrive, Upwork for any one off contractors we might need, Trello for organising our teams, but Monday is also excellent. We use MyGuestlist for eDMs, PR campaigns and text reminders for events (they’re Melbourne based and super helpful if you ever need assistance, but the back end is slightly clunky), WhatsApp for group chats, including for clients given a number of them prefer to communicate this way, Falcon and Later for our social scheduling and reporting + listening tool, SocialDiary for PR alerts!
What do you like about your website and what’s not working for you?
I think our imagery and content is excellent however I feel like there could be more personality put into the brand and therefore communicated across the site. I do sometimes wonder if a chatbot would be a useful tool for us on the website and if there’s anything else we could utilise to get more eyes onto the website and making enquiries.
What lessons have you learnt during your time as an entrepreneur?
Ooft, so many! I’ve learnt a lot about the various tools and platforms out there that can help small businesses dramatically and that automation is a huge asset. I’ve learnt to try and do as much of the business side of MBP myself which allows us to keep costs low and to slowly get trusted contractors or business collaborators to look after the bits we need more expertise for – specifically legal and long term accounting. Once the business was profitable and steady, I also learnt to delegate where necessary which opened up time for me to consider the next stage in the company (how else could we market ourselves, do we need a slight re-brand, do we need to enter into another market?)
What key tips for success in business would you like to share with others?
Everything is a step-by-step process. Start small and develop the business slowly and surely. I’m not one to make huge risks in business and this is my personal methodology – I’d recommend it to anyone, even if that means things take more time to get to where you want them to be. Also to have a “point of difference” for your business –What makes your process, service or product different? One you can define this, it gives you a huge leg up on other businesses and competitors in your space.
What is the one thing that you want everyone to take away from this post?
Having your own business may seem daunting but I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. The benefits if you do your due diligence to begin with far outweigh the negatives but in my eyes, I’d never make a risk so big that I couldn’t come back from it.