The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team. "I think it is important for people to hear stories from entrepreneurs of different backgrounds because there could be something in that story that resonates with a person and shows them that they can achieve their goals as well." Morgan Johnston is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Morgan Johnston and I own a content marketing company called Oak Arbor Media. Oak Arbor Media has evolved from initially being a video production company to offering video and photo content creation, social media services, and brand strategy. I love what I do because I can combine creativity with strategy to help businesses get more visibility online. One reason why I started my business is because I love the art of storytelling. I have the unique opportunity to work with business owners in a variety of industries to learn more about their passions and help them tell their stories. I grew up in the small town of Wendell, North Carolina. My passion for content creation started back when I was in high school and I received my first digital camera. I later studied Communication at NC State, where I took a variety of courses on editing and multimedia. After working in marketing for a few years, I pursued my MBA at NC State where I was able to combine my marketing skills with a more formal business education. Fast forward to now, where I live with my husband in Washington State. I'm growing my business and working with clients in multiple parts of the country while exploring the beautiful scenery of the Pacific North West.
What did it take/how did you get started?
I initially started my business because I was interested in interviewing business owners and learning more about their stories. I have a lot of respect for small businesses because these companies provide so many job opportunities and really support the local economy. I have also had a lifelong fascination with video content creation, so this led to the perfect opportunity and I started my business. I think it is important for people to hear stories from entrepreneurs of different backgrounds because there could be something in that story that resonates with a person and shows them that they can achieve their goals as well. Outside of this, I have a passion for helping businesses with their marketing and I really want to make a positive impact. I later realized that many business owners struggle with their brand messaging. It is one thing to post content on social media, but if people don’t understand what your business does and how they specifically can benefit from your services, then they won’t buy. This is what led me to develop other services within my business. It has taken years of hard work and a lot of lessons to get to where I am today. From learning sales to developing my confidence as a business owner, it is challenging but also very rewarding at the same time.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
I am very excited about the future! I am working on scaling my business and building a small team. Outside of providing services in my business, I’m planning to launch some digital products this year. This has been a goal of mine for a while so I’m excited to finally make it happen. I’ll also be participating in a business incubator this year in Seattle. I’m so excited!
What drives / motivates you on a daily basis?
Entrepreneurship can be very challenging at times, so it is important to understand your "why." A few things that motivate me are:
Being my best self
for my family, friends, and my business
Considering the positive impact that my services could have on a business
Connecting with the community
Visualizing the big picture for my business and where I want to be in the future
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
If someone is interested in starting a marketing company, I would focus on the following:
Get comfortable with change. Marketing is a field that is constantly changing and entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs.
Master sales. I think that anyone starting a business should get comfortable with sales. Even if you plan to hire a salesperson in the future, I think it is important for the CEO to have this skill since it is the lifeblood of every business.
Consistency and persistence are key. When you start to think that things aren’t working in your business, but continue to stick with your plan, you will likely be rewarded. It takes longer for some than others, but continuing on and sticking with your strategy is important.
Master time management. As your business grows, you will get very, very busy. It is important to understand how much you can do in one day and what you should delegate.
What has been the hardest part of your business journey?
The hardest part of starting my business has been understanding how to network and build relationships. I think a lot of people struggle with this because it requires you to move outside of your comfort zone and constantly meet new people. I consider myself to be somewhat introverted, so this is definitely something that I had to overcome. The NC State Jenkins MBA Program helped to improve my networking skills because you are constantly working with new people and meeting with potential employers. It is so important to build a strong network and to also give back to your network. Moving across the country has also taught me a lot about networking. I’ve tried to maintain my network back in North Carolina while also investing a significant amount of time in building a network in Washington. When you don’t know anyone in your state and own a business, this really forces you outside of your comfort zone because you have to network.
How have you managed burnout thus far?
Burnout is so real! I really struggled with burnout when I was a full-time grad student and also trying to grow my business. Outside of managing my grad school workload, I would work on my business at night throughout the week as well as on weekends. I was pretty much working all of the time! I think the reason why I thought I needed to work so much is because I was in a rush to build my business. Now I understand that it is better to work a little less and create balance in your life if it means avoiding burnout. Burning out will set you back much further in the long run (with your health and business) and it really isn’t worth it. These days I really try to create boundaries when it comes to work-life balance. I do find myself working some evenings and occasionally on the weekend, but I don't work nearly as much as I did in the past. I am also intentional about finding hobbies outside of work. I really like spending time outdoors and try to do something outside at least once every weekend. I now know that if I work my weekend away, I will start my week exhausted.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
Below are some of my favorite resources:
Podcast: Business Wars
Books: Shoe Dog - Phil Knight Influence - Robert Cialdini
List the founders
Morgan Johnston, MBA
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
I work on my business about 50 hours each week
# of Employees?
I am currently the only full-time employee.
When did you start?
I started my business part time in 2017 and went full time at the beginning of 2022.
How much did it cost to launch?
About $1,500 initially.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
My business is self funded.
What's the #1 thing you need right now?
I'd like to connect with other business owners within my industry. I'm also looking for introductions to small and medium-sized businesses that need help with content marketing.