We chat to Sally about the reality of starting her own company, meaningful milestones and the benefits of work-life balance.
Combining a love 0f culture with an entrepreneurial spirit, our latest That Girl is Sally Victoria Benson, co-founder of Macau Lifestyle. From running her own company to moving from city to city, Sally is all about making the most of her day, wherever in the world she may be. We take a sneak peek into what an ideal week would look like for this travelling business owner and hear all about what hopes she has for her company. From Sydney to Macau to Beijing to Hong Kong, we chat to Sally about hidden talents, her top 2019 goals and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you lived in Hong Kong?
I’m an entrepreneur, editorial director, and creative marketer. I’m the co-founder of the successful start-up Macau Lifestyle Media. I was born in Sydney, Australia but moved to Macau when I was 9 years old. I spent most of my childhood growing up there and returned to Sydney for University to study performing arts. When I was 23 I moved to Beijing to study Mandarin and work on TV and films. I moved back to Macau in 2014 and started my business. I found myself in Hong Kong because I met a guy in Hong Kong (original, I know!). I’m now a proud Hong Konger and can’t wait to keep exploring this city I call home.
You’re the co-founder of Macau Lifestyle, can you tell us a little more about the company?
Macau Lifestyle Media Ltd. is a media company dedicated to promoting Macau. Our main project is Macau’s leading online lifestyle magazine, www.MacauLifestyle.com. Macau Lifestyle is more than just a website about a city – it goes further, reaching out to both local communities and visiting guests. We’re passionate about the city we live in and excited to share the best it has to offer. We also take care of digital communications for businesses and offer a range of other services from content creation, social management, marketing etc.
What encouraged you to start Macau Lifestyle? What keeps you inspired?
I remember moving back to Macau as an adult and struggling to find any information about the city. Where do I get good coffee? Which cool rooftop bars had opened? How can I find out about events being held in the city? I met my now business partner Katya Maia (through instagram), who had had the same struggles, and was already working on an idea for a city-guide type website for the city. I loved the idea and starting working with her on it, and after a solid year of hard work we finally launched in April 2016. We have a small but very hard-working team and some fantastic and loyal clients. I oversee Editorial, while Katya focuses on Sales and Partnerships but we work together on almost everything. What keeps us working so hard is the growing numbers of visitors to our site and the clients who continue to work with us. There are millions of tourists who visit Macau every year who don’t speak or read Chinese, and they want to know how to enjoy their time in Macau. They are finding our platform and it’s the best feeling. Our goal has always been to showcase all the fantastic things there are to do in Macau and encourage everyone to see the best sides to the city.
There’s so much that comes with starting a new company. Can you share your most meaningful milestone?
There have been quite a few, but landing our first client was huge and a moment I won’t forget. We were so happy, we always knew our business was a good idea, but having our first client was the validation that it was true. All that hard work, all those long hours were starting to pay off.
What does an ideal week look like for you?
Any business owner will tell you that there are no “normal” work hours, but I work from home, since we don’t have an office in Hong Kong. I try to keep Mondays free so I can focus on replying to emails, arranging content for the following week, reaching out to writers (or just generally chasing people). Tuesday to Friday is when I schedule a mix of meetings, media events, and writing blocks and I usually go to Macau once a week for client meetings, events or to meet with our team. Evenings are usually spent on social media, replying to messages, updating posts, boosting FB ads or attending food tastings. Then I try to have some time for myself. Either reading, watching Netflix or chatting to my husband. Weekends are for sleeping in, hiking and catching up with friends.
What are three things you do to maintain work-life balance in your day-to-day life?
- I try to start the day with some form of exercise, whether it be physical exercise or some morning meditation.
- I take a proper lunch break. It can be hard when you work from home, but I try to always step away from the computer or head outside for a quick lunch with a friend.
- I don’t work on weekends unless absolutely necessary. There is always something to do when it’s your own business but I have a rule of not working so that I can start the week fresh when Monday arrives.
We love that you speak fluent English and Mandarin! What’s another hidden talent?
I used to live in Beijing and was on TV and in films in China for more than 7 years (acting in Mandarin), and I actually still see reruns of some of my shows on TV channels in Hong Kong! I spent years filming shows with some of China’s biggest names in the film industry and it was an incredible part of my life – something I still can’t believe I actually did. Who knows, I might get back into it someday soon 🙂
What are 5 personal goals you have for 2019?
- To slow down. Running my own business and living in a fast-paced city like Hong Kong, I always feel like I’m on the go and it’s hard to switch off. I don’t have to say yes to everything and I’m learning to be ok with just doing as much as I can.
- To take up Yoga, not just say I’m going to do it, but actually do it!
- To join a workspace to work from and meet more entrepreneurs. Working from home on your own business can be isolating and lonely sometimes.
- To read more books. I really enjoy reading and don’t do it enough. I’d like to read one a month (if I can).
- To start French classes. I just got married and my husband is French. Some of his family and friends don’t speak English so it’s up to me to learn. It’s a beautiful language so I hope it comes easily to me. Plus, it’s a great excuse to live in Paris for a few months in the name of language learning!
What brands do you find inspiring in Hong Kong, and why?
I love the brands that are involved with food sustainability, such as Green Common and Impossible foods. I love what they are doing in Macau and Hong Kong. This is a global problem and it’s great to see some action being taken locally and welcomed by everyone. I also have a soft spot for other publications as I know first-hand how much work goes into it, and how hard it can be to make profit. But anyone in general who is brave enough to start their own business, I find inspiring.
How do you envision Macau Lifestyle growing in the next 1, 5, 10 years?
We have a few things in the works for this year and next year that we can’t yet share, but in general we want to just keep doing a good job. Creating interesting and unique content, working with great clients and sharing our Macau knowledge. We are moving into events this year so that should be interesting and lots of fun. We have millions of ideas for Macau Lifestyle and its future and what we could do for the city, but like all businesses a lot of it comes down to budgets and resources. We are doing as much as we can with what we have!
If you had one piece of advice to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
You will never work harder in your life than when you’re running your own business. Make sure you have a good idea, find a niche if you can, make sure you have some savings/investment and a bit of patience. It’s important to listen to advice but also go with your gut and do things your own way. That’s the best thing about owning your own business and being an entrepreneur – you are the boss and you can do things the way you want, at the speed you want, when you want. Be shameless and ask for help when you need it, most people are willing to help.
Follow Sally on Instagram. Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleProctorPhotography.