International Women's Day: Q&A with Laura Hall

To celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March, we're shining a spotlight on some of our exceptional women founders and the innovative ways they're making a big difference in their respective fields.

We recently spoke with Laura Hall, Co-Founder and Director of Helio, about how she came to start her company, the biggest challenges she's faced launching a company, and advice she'd pass along to women considering a career in the industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Originally from Wales, I arrived in Australia in 2005 and very quickly knew Sydney was to become home.

I started my career selling out-of-home advertising across cultural and sporting events over 17 years ago. After working my way through the ranks, I took the leap with Peter (Helio co-founder) to set up our first media business, MediaSeed in 2011, a sales representation agency assisting media owners across the country. MediaSeed went on to be acquired in 2017 and the Helio journey began!

Can you tell us a bit about the company you founded, Helio, and what made you decide to launch it?

Helio is an advertising marketplace that connects buyers and sellers, making the complex process of booking ad space easy.

Ways for businesses to advertise have advanced massively over the last two decades, yet the way we book and buy advertising has largely stood still. We knew that on any given day there were thousands of available advertising opportunities, but with no easy way to find them, buyers were missing out on great opportunities and sellers left with idle inventory to fill.

Consumers have moved online and expect information on-demand and with personalised digital journeys. Yet advertising remains inconvenient, difficult to access and complex to buy. Even transparent pricing is hard to come by!

And so we built Helio to remove the inefficiencies experienced on both sides of the marketplace, and make it simple and easy for any business of any size to find options to promote their business in minutes.

What three words would you use to describe working at a startup, and why?

  1. Rewarding. There's no better feeling than building something new, and witnessing the growth and traction a new business delivers.
  2. Fast-paced. Working in a startup environment means there are a lot of areas requiring attention and focus and many hats to wear. Sales one day, marketing the next, customer service, design, capital raising, and more. We all work hard together to ensure we keep the business moving forward.
  3. Educational. The learning never stops!

What does your typical day look like?

Typically, I’ll have 1-2 meetings daily working with our marketplace partners, team, and clients, crafting sales pitches for new business opportunities, and working on marketing to drive engagement and awareness.

Having structure during the week to allocate time to specific areas of the business is really important for me. The start of the week will see team meetings, goal planning, and objectives set allowing everyone to focus on critical outputs to support growth. Then the rest of the week is split across different parts of the business.

Planning is super important, but often days can change quickly so being ready to jump between tasks and re-organising focus is a regular thing in the life of a startup!

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced launching your company?

The first would be fundraising and balancing this important part of our growth whilst continuing to drive the business forward. Having bootstrapped our previous agency, navigating the investment landscape was new ground for us and came with a period of learning as we understood the process and how best to approach potential investors.

And managing the chicken-and-egg problem, growing buyers and sellers at the same time to ensure we are adding value to both sides of the marketplace. This is a constant balancing act and requires careful attention on a consistent basis.

What advice would you give to women considering a career in the emerging technology industry? What do you wish you had known?

Look for opportunities to learn and grow as much as you can and connect with other founders and employees in this space to get a feel for what life in the industry is really like.

What do I wish I had known? Just how much support there really is when you put yourself out there. Whether it’s an incubator or accelerator, a government grant, or throwing yourself into the startup community by attending events and accessing networking opportunities, connecting with others on the journey opens doors and relationships every day!

At Stone & Chalk, we believe in supporting innovative women who are making a difference. That's why we've launched the Stone & Chalk IWD Scholarship, aimed at supporting a Melbourne-based startup whose founder identifies as a woman.

The 6-month scholarship will be geared towards helping take a woman-led startup to the next level, offering curated services to drive impact, growth, recognition, and investment, as well as 24/7 access to our start-of-the-art facilities in Melbourne.

For more information, visit here.