Member Profile | Sam & Tom

Member Profile | Sam & Tom

Sam and Tom, along with their adorable dog Lola, work out of our sunny little cottage at 1/70 Albert Street Berry. Located in a suite, their rapidly growing businesses mean we get the pleasure of seeing them on a daily basis here at WorkLife. Reading this profile, you may realise just how jam packed their work lives are but one thing’s for sure – they’re always up for a friendly chat! Below is a wonderful example of how well this dynamic duo work as business and life partners. We hope you enjoy reading this profile as much as we enjoyed this Spring morning chat.

 

Tom and Sam, as partners in life and work, can you please give us the run down of the Empire you are building together here at WorkLife in Berry?

Sam  

Our main business is Digital Habitus, it is a digital marketing agency, focusing on small to medium sized businesses, across a variety of industries. We focus on five key services, being Social Media Management, Social Media Advertising, Email Marketing, Google Advertising and SEO. We also have a content creation and creative agency, VUE Studio, which creates videos, photography, website design, and graphic design to support our digital marketing campaigns. More recently, we have also launched two product based businesses.

You guys are incredible. What are the side hustles?

Sam  

Seed + Stow was launched late last year and sells Dried Citrus Slices for cocktails, garnishes and grazing boards. A few months ago, Tom launched a mens clothing and outdoor lifestyle brand called Soil + Bone. 

Have you always worked together?

Sam  

Technically, yes as we met through work, but at the time we were working for different businesses, I was client side and Tom worked for a digital marketing agency in Sydney. 

So tell me the local life story – when did you make the South Coast your home and why?

Tom  

When we started Digital Habitus in Sydney, we very quickly realised that the overaseas travel that we loved wasn’t possible anymore – as a small business, we just didn’t have the resourcing to be able to step away for that amount of time. So we thought, how can we have an adventure in a different way, without needing to stop working with our retainer clients. At the time our office was based in Sydney, but we had a number of clients in QLD and VIC who we already communicated with digitally, so we thought we would test using those same processes with our Sydney clients. Being close enough to Sydney that we can still drive up and have face-to-face meetings was important, so Berry was a perfect location to be able to have the best of both worlds.

Sam  

Originally the plan was just to do a gap year, because Tom’s parents live down this way we’d spent a lot of time in the area and thought it would be a fun sea-change for us to spend some time in the countryside. Six months after we arrived, our rental property was sold by the owner, so we had a choice of whether to try and find a new rental for which there were virtually no options, or buy a house for which there was also only a few on the market. By that time we knew we had fallen in love with the town and wanted to stay much longer, so we took the plunge and put some roots down. 

Tom  

We knew it was a sure thing, we love the lifestyle here, and all of this happened before COVID. The community here was so incredibly inviting as well, we were very lucky to make some great friends straight away. So we were convinced there was no going back! 

That’s awesome. And what does the work life balance look like? Especially compared to looking back at life in the city?

Sam  

It’s honestly gone through and peaks and troughs. I think when we first moved here, we really wanted to embrace the lifestyle and we used to play tennis in the middle of the day and we had a new puppy so we had a very flexible work day. As the business has matured and grown, we have added more staff and we’ve created a lot more structure.

Tom  

We definitely don’t work the late nights we did in the city. And I think the stress level is typically not as high. But in our industry, there’s a lot of peaks and troughs with growth. Right now we are hiring and growing the team locally, so its a crazy stage at the moment. 

Working for yourself is a bit of a journey. So when did each of you take the plunge?

Tom  

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always hated the idea of working for the big man. My parents have always owned their own companies, so I’ve been brought up in that entrepreneurial mindset of, if you put your mind to it, you work hard, then you can do whatever you want. I started with an ecommerce business before ecommerce was even really a thing, just because I couldn’t afford a retail space. I was selling camping gear and rock climbing gear and that did quite well. I’ve had a bunch of businesses that have done well that we’ve sold or we’ve closed up, then I went and rejoined the workforce, went into marketing and then went into agency land and started thinking how do I get out and do it on my own? I helped grow an agency in the city and then when that sold I decided to started Digital Habitus. 

What about you Sam?

Sam  

We always had the intention that Tom was going to break away, and I was going to stay in my stable job while Tom got things set up. We thought that it was going to take a lot longer for him to get it all going, and we were never going to bring me on until both of our salaries could be covered. At the time, we thought that that was going to take a year or so and it took three months! It took 12 months before I could finish in my existing role and join the business, so I helped work on Tom’s clients on the weekends and he had to hire other people to help, so that that was a bit full on, but in a really positive way. 

I know there must be heaps of challenges of working with your life partner, instead i’d like to ask what’s the upside?

Sam  

From the beginning we’ve been ying and yang. We’ve always been on the same path, we’ve always had the same goals, the same philosophies, the same values. In the workplace, that mirrors as well because we have the same aspirations and values for the business.

Tom  

We have quite complementary skill sets, so we’ve always balanced each other in work and in life. Without Sam, we wouldn’t have half the business and without me, we wouldn’t have the other half. So it’s like we’re stuck together or two halves of a whole. 

I think attitude to risk is always one of the most kind of essential ingredients. Do you think you both have a similar attitude to risk?

Sam  

I think Tom’s more of a risk taker.

Tom  

If it wasn’t for Sam, we would either be in a ditch somewhere, or a mansion. It’s great to have a tap on the shoulder and someone to go, that’s a crazy idea, or how about you think about X, Y or Z.

Sam  

I always think about ‘what’s the worst case scenario’? But also, ‘what’s the best case scenario’ and level things out a little bit. With both of our extremes combined we’ve been lucky to have stable growth without being stagnant.  

And what about the year ahead, what’s on the goal list at the moment?

Tom  

It’s actually something we’ve been speaking about a lot recently, and we have a number of scenarios that we’re looking at. Speaking for Digital Habitus, which is our primary business, it’s more about growing locally, providing more value for existing clients and for the community. Doing things like joining the Committee at the Berry Chamber of Commerce and Tourism was part of that.

Sam  

Our goal is to expand and employ more people locally. We were really taken aback moving down here to the sheer calibre of the local businesses that operate here. We’ve been very lucky to work with clients like Few & Far, The Berry Tea Shop, Bangalay Villas, The Heads Hotel, Hungry Monkey and Long Weekend Store, just to name a few. There’s a lot more people moving down here after COVID, there’s a lot of opportunity and we are excited to be a part of that. For the other businesses, our goal is to just grow them in a sustainable way. 

Some of those local businesses are very, very much my favourite businesses!

Tom  

Ours too! As well as that, we’re really keen to expand VUE Studio and create more content, because more than ever businesses are reliant on social media and social media is reliant on content. We have a holistic approach to that, there’s a lot of really great brands, businesses and people that we’ve got to work with and I think there’s a lot more that we can help. 

Fantastic. Now we switch to the personal things. Thinking of your bookshelf at home, what’s on there that everybody should borrow?

Sam  

Well, mine is more personal, not at all work related, I’ve been reading a crime series by JK Rowling, but she writes under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I love crime books and I’ve recommended this series to a lot of people recently.

Tom  

I was given Elon Musk’s book – I didn’t go out and seek it but it has actually been quite an interesting book. I would recommend everyone to read that too. His philosophy and sheer determination is quite admirable, even though he can be a bit of an asshole. My love and hate for the guy has really fluctuated reading it. I think anyone who owns a business would find it interesting, while he’s making millions, it is so comparable to if you’re making $100. It’s exactly the same process. It’s that consistency and sheer self belief that what you’re doing is the right thing. As long as you believe that, success should be around the corner.

What piece of furniture in your house that makes you the happiest?

Tom  

The barbecue – it’s the only piece of furniture I’m allowed! No, actually, Sam has a hobby, she loves taking old furniture that someone’s selling and she’ll paint it, restore it, put new knobs on it. Recently, against my advice, she painted a timber sideboard white with black hardware, and it looks brilliant, it is probably one of my favourite pieces now.

Sam  

I brought it and Tom’s said leave it as it is! For someone who likes change, he really gets attached… Luckily once it is done he can see the vision!

Now when people come to visit you on the south coast what’s the one thing that you think they should eat locally?

Sam  

I love Queen Street Eatery. It’s my favourite place for date night. I also always recommend Bangalay Dining, as their their menu is so unique.

Tom  

The first time we ate at Bangalay it just knocked our socks off. I took my parents before Bangalay became a client and we had the tasting menu. They primarily use local Indigenous ingredients, and it is just so unique. It was like nothing else we’d really experienced in all of our other dining adventures. 

Now what is your best productivity hack to get the most out of your day at WorkLife?

Tom  

Start early.

Sam  

Yes, we love starting early. We’ve also put in a few procedural things which have helped the whole team. Asana for task management, just having a really clear plan of your day and your allocating time, I’m very big on organisation. I think having a really clear outline of what we want to achieve and breaking that down day by day into hour blocks. My other hack is making it achievable, because meetings, phone calls, just responding to emails, all that pops up and takes time too.

And what’s been the best thing about being a member of WorkLife?

Tom  

The space. Having our own space is really important for us and also, to be able to simultaneously be part of a wider community of small business owners has been just a huge value add. But most importantly than all of that is the incredible coffee machine.

Sam  

We knew we were in a stage of scaling, where we were going to start hiring locally, and create a team. Within Berry there weren’t any other places where we could rent an office space, so being able to easily set ourselves up in WorkLife has been amazing.

It’s also given us the work life balance that we didn’t previously have. We made the decision that stepping in the door here, we get our work done, we be as productive as we can be and then we go home and we just relax. Whereas previously, it was all a big blend and I never really switched off. 

Okay, tomorrow’s your dream day. Give me a snapshot of your best life. What are you doing?

Tom  

I would be camping, out in my swag in the country, surrounded by endless horizons and not a single sign of anyone else. 

Sam  

It could be just about anywhere, anywhere in the sunshine to be honest. Probably island hopping in the Greek Islands or road tripping down the Amalfi Coast – can you tell it’s been a while since I had an overseas holiday…  

All right, legends. Thanks very much for sharing your WorkLife story with us as this months member profile. It’s been great diving into the details of how the hell you make it all work. We can’t wait to see the empire continue to grow.