Nur-Irdah Halik, Director of (f)empowered communications based Port Hedland in very remote Western Australia started her social media consultancy business during parental leave, originally to help out a friend in need. From there, (f)empowered communications continued to grow, with a focus on empowering and inspiring other female-led small businesses to take their socials to the next level, and two years later has clients Australia wide.
With tertiary qualifications in communications and media studies, Nur has deployed over ten years of industry experience to help regionally based small business owners connect with and engage their target audience.
Why did you start (f)empowered communications?
I’ve worked in Port Hedland for the majority of my career so far, and in this time I’ve been lucky to meet so many people, especially female small business owners. A common theme I found in conversing with these women was the lack of access to small business support, and that their only option was to reach out to city-based businesses. This was often costly, and because of the unique small business environment in the Pilbara, there was often a gap in the knowledge and experience required to provide support to these small businesses.
Finding myself unemployed after maternity leave, I was chatting to a friend who remarked she wanted someone to help her with her digital communications. I told her that was area of specialty, and did some work for her while I looked for a ‘real’ job (haha). Another friend heard of what I was doing, and contracted me as well… and it just grew from there!
I think I didn’t realise that MY set of skills would be needed, or that anyone would want to hire me. However, it reminded me of this gap in services, and I realised that helping female small business owners was something I was something I could actually do. Since starting my business 2 years ago, I’ve helped numerous small business owners gain confidence and a better understanding of how to use social media to grow their business, and to step into their ‘boss energy’, and step out of their comfort zone.
What are some of the common themes for businesses and how does connection help businesses overcome challenges?
In the past two years I’ve been so lucky to connect with small business owners across WA, and Australia, and it’s fascinating to see the consistency in the themes of challenges female small biz owners face. From time management, self-doubt, to fear, all these women are having the exact same problem. But why aren’t we sharing our problems with each other and coming up with solutions together?!
I’ve found that when business owners do come to me with their problems, they’re often surprised that I face the same problem too, as does the other business owner down the street. Living regionally, there is this sense of protection over your business – that fear that you can’t tell people what you’re doing in case someone else copies you, so you just keep everything, including your problems, to yourself.
This is why I love group coaching, or small business social clubs. It encourages women to get together and SHARE information! Including sharing problems and solutions! I understand being regional, and isolated in Port Hedland, poses some logistical issues for female small biz owners to join a coaching program, or social club, that is based in the city, as it sometimes emphasises the isolation.
That’s why one of my passion projects is to create a regional social club for small business owners, that is focused on getting together and talking to each other about our challenges, because I can guarantee every woman in that room will go ‘aahhhh I’m not alone!’. I want these women to stop being fearful, and to start collaborating more to create solutions that will help everyone grow.
How has social media impacted how business is done in regional towns?
I can’t speak for other regional towns, however I know in the Pilbara, social media is the main form of communication – kind of like the digital town crier! I’d say 99% of the community hang out, and engage in social media, so it’s logical that you’d focus the majority of your business marketing on social media. If you’re young and used to social media – that’s great.
However, there are a lot of business owners who aren’t Millennials or Gen Z, who are completely baffled by social media, and try their hardest to navigate this dynamic environment. You’ll see that a lot of the ‘older’ business owners (who aren’t that old really! which goes to show how quickly social media has changed the small biz landscape) will avoid social media, and claim they don’t need it for their business. Which would be true if you lived in a metro area. However, in a regional town, where people are so dependent on it for all their news and updates, you have to adapt.
So I think you’ll see that a lot of newer businesses in regional towns, who do succeed, are run by the younger generation who are so much more social media savvy, and know exactly how to use it to grow their business. This is quite sad, as those other businesses who don’t use social media, are just as good in what they offer, and deserve just as much success, but because of this knowledge gap, they struggle to keep up.
What are some of the workplace changes you have seen over the last 10 years?
I’m 34, and entered the corporate workplace at 21. As a young woman entering the corporate world at that time, it was still very old-fashioned, in that workplace flexibility was non-existent, and don’t even dare ask for job-sharing when you come back from maternity leave. In my first few years of work, a lot of women I knew were knocked back when they asked to work part-time, and part-time was considered 4 days a week (and even that was given grudgingly).
So I went through my career thinking ‘oh well once I have a baby, that’s it, no more career for me’. The progress we’ve seen in the past 3 to 5 years (job-sharing being the norm; more school hours jobs available; paternity leave in addition to maternity leave; women’s ability to negotiate flexible arrangements etc.) has been incredible, and changed how I see my career growing.
I’m one of those weird small biz owners that don’t see themselves running a small biz forever, and I recently started a new job with a previous employer. I was so surprised when they accepted my request of part-time work, because it was never a thing I saw in my 20s. Seeing other women being able to work remotely to fit in with their family lifestyle, or being able to work their own hours to accommodate those extracurricular activities, that is so incredible, and I hope the younger generations don’t take it for granted, and make use of it to create a work-life balance that brings happiness and fulfilment in their lives.
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