leadership

Diary of an entrepreneur: How Alison Michalk took Quiip from launch to success in just 10 days

Kirsten Robb /

Name: Alison Michalk

Company: Quiip

Based: Sydney

On June 10, 2010, Alison Michalk sent a tweet out about her new social media and online community management business, Quiip.

“I’m launching my business!”

She was pregnant with her second child and had been working at Fairfax as a digital and community manager and editor of parenting website Essential Baby. With her experience managing online communities, Michalk had followed the rising popularity of Facebook and Twitter and made a calculated guess.

“I predicted brands would have a lot of trouble, not only finding skilled people to do it, but managing the 24/7 nature of social media,” says Michalk.

“So I thought maybe I’ll try this business out, give it ago. I sort of envisioned freelancing for a while, while I built it up.”

By June 20, Quiip was operating 24/7.

Two days after her tweet Michalk picked up two major private sector clients. A week after that, she picked up a federal government contract through an agency.

“They rang and they said, do you offer 24/7 moderation? And I said yes,” says Michalk. “They rang back on Thursday and said, the client is the Australian federal government and the contract starts Sunday.”

With just two days to hire a team of 12 people, Michalk hit the ground running.

Four years later – she’s still running, having doubled Quiip’s turnover in the last financial year to over $1 million and turned the company into one of Australia’s biggest social media management businesses.

She tells SmartCompany about her love of to-do lists, ‘distributed teams’ and living near the beach.

Mornings

With two small children, Michalk doesn’t get much choice about when she wakes up.

“I haven’t used an alarm clock for nearly seven years,” she laughs.

Cleverly, Michalk has trained her eldest to turn on the coffee machine first thing.

The mornings are filled with getting the kids ready, spending time with them and the “general chaos that comes with having small children”.

Michalk also gets through some emails and tucks into her routine breakfast – some vegemite on Turkish toast and coffee.

“I read once that successful people have the same breakfast every morning, because it’s just one less thing you have to think of everyday, it’s great,” she says.  

Daily life

Michalk gets to the office around 9am and has a wide-ranging day ahead of her.

“I guess, like many small business owners, I’m wearing a lot of hats. My day covers everything from operations to new business development,” she says.

She is a big fan of to-do lists. “I’m ruthless,” she says, ordering her varied tasks from most to least important before she gets started for the day.

Michalk tries to get out of the office for lunch, heading down to a local Thai restaurant or any other vegetarian-friendly establishment close by.

She’ll also try to go for a walk along the beach (her office, like her home, is right on the ocean) if she has to field any long phone calls.

Michalk is also a big fan of what she calls ‘distributed teams’, the idea that an office doesn’t have to be in one location to function productively and successfully.

Quiip offers its staff the flexibility to work all over the globe. Michalk believes allowing staff flexibility enables her to find the best people, regardless of what other commitments they might have.

“The talent we have here is awesome, and you miss out on that talent without flexibility.”

Leisure time

Michalk admits she’s very lucky to have a husband who stays home with the kids – and is also a killer cook.

It’s something that makes her work/life balance a little easier to handle, allowing her to focus on work when she’s at work, and on her family when she’s at home. Although she does admit it takes work.

“It’s definitely an ongoing struggle. I definitely go through weeks where I’m doing 10-hour days,” she says.

“But I do really value lifestyle, that’s important to me and that’s why I’ve chosen to live where I live. It means we can spend a lot of time outdoors.”

While Michalk says she doesn’t have as much spare time as she’d like, any moment she does have she likes to spend it with her kids, skateboarding or hanging out down at the beach.

If she does steal a moment for herself, you might find her snuggled up with her kindle reading a good business or media book. She’s currently devouring Arianna Huffington’s new tome, Thrive.

The future

Quiip is growing rapidly and Michalk’s focus is as much on nurturing the company’s culture as it is expanding its client list.

As the company grows, she would like to look at further expanding the company’s distributed team strategy.

And while selling Quiip isn’t on her current to-do list, Michalk says she would look at a strategic partnership if the right partner came along further down the track.

“I do think it’s interesting how many new entrepreneurs have sell strategies before they’ve even built anything,” says Michalk.

“We’re likely to have busier times ahead but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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