Sally Victoria Benson & Katya Maia, Co-Founders of Macaulifestyle.com

Hello dear! This week on FEW Members' Corner, we would like to introduce you to Sally Victoria Benson and Katya Maia, Co-Founders of MacauLifestyle.com, an online lifestyle and city guide. The website uncovers hidden hotspots, locates essential service providers, covers upcoming events, and offers reviews on dining and entertainment.

Hello ladies, can you tell us more about yourself?

Sally: My name is Sally Victoria Benson; I’m an international entrepreneur, editorial director, and creative marketer. I’m the co-founder of successful start-up Macau Lifestyle Media and a social media influencer. I was born in Sydney, grew up in Macau, spent my 20’s in Beijing and now call Hong Kong home. Fluent in Mandarin and English I spent over a decade acting in TV and movies in Mainland China speaking Mandarin, before moving back and launching Macau Lifestyle Media. I’m now based in Hong Kong working on business development, digital media and communications and managing our editorial calendar. 

Katya: I was born in Moscow and moved to Macau 10 years ago. After a short working experience in one of the integrated resorts, I recognized the entrepreneurial opportunities in the city and moved my focus in that direction. I’ve pursued my passion for wellness and opened Macau’s first cold-press juice shop, Greens Kitchen & Juicery. As a millenial with a multi-passionate personality my ambitions quickly expanded past the business and I’ve moved to digital media, marketing and communications and together with Sally we launched Macau Lifestyle Media which gives us access to industries that includes culture, arts, dining, travel and style with no limits.

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What inspired you to start your company?

K&S: We met through Instagram five years ago and connected immediately. Sally had just moved back to Macau where she grew up and where Katya had been living for a few years already. At that time, Katya was assembling the idea of a city website which she had shared about with Sally. We both discussed the lack of information about the city we both loved and thus, macaulifestyle.com was born.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned whilst building Macau Lifestyle?

Sally: There have been many lessons over the last three years, which have been great to help us both grow personally and professionally. However, the hardest lesson for me was to accept that you never really switch off. It's impossible to not be thinking about your business. I thought I’d be able to have 'me' time, but even when you have 'me' time you still have the business on your mind!

Katya: I’ve been continuously learning the importance of human connection, which is somewhat ironic considering we are running a digital-web business. I couldn't imagine to be where we are without my business partner and dear friend, Sally, as well as all the support we’ve had from our readers, clients and partners. I’ve been meeting so many interesting people through this work as well. I often say I have no social life but in reality my social life is my professional life. When you are passionate about your business it shows in everything you do.

What are your long term goals with the company?

Katya: To continuously grow bigger, better and more relevant to our local and global audience. And definitely grow to make millions, we are a business after all :)

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A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE

On growing teams…

Sally: Running a business isn't a solo job. You have to grow your team if you want to flourish. Take time to hire the right people. Invest time and money in helping them grow and develop within your business. Listen to their ideas, respect their opinions and make them feel valued as a member of the team and business. Gifts are good too. Everyone loves gifts! 

On favourite tools, websites and apps for productivity…

Katya: I live for apps! Between our team we use Google Drive to store and share files, Asana to manage endless to-do lists, Facebook, Instagram, Google Analytics and of course, WordPress - the cozy home to our website. I personally couldn’t live a day without BusyCal (on my desktop) and Fantastical (on my mobile). iPhone Notes app to save notes, Evernote to save more notes, VSCO to edit photos and Feedly to follow content of other media websites. Sweat and Waking Up apps to keep me sane too! And, my favourite, Overcast - I am obsessed with podcasts.

On mistakes to avoid and best practices for fundraising journey… 

Sally: Macau Lifestyle Media had an initial loan from the government of Macau as part of their Young Entrepreneurs Aid Scheme. It was helpful but nowhere near enough to fund our business, which we didn't completely realize back then. We’ve paid the money back and haven't taken on any funding since but if I had to do it over, I’d have raised more initially. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it?

On building credibility and trust… 

Sally: Time, consistency and a good attitude. Keep doing good work, knocking on those doors, asking for favours and then just give it time. You will gain the credibility and trust the correct way which will also help your business to thrive.

Katya: It’s all about value - what value can you bring? It’s important to first think of how you can be helpful and, you’ll see that in time, whatever help or value you’ve given will come back to you, sort of like karma.


On the top three things to consider before starting your own business…

Sally:

 1-  Is this life for you? Instability, low pay, long hours? Can you do it? You need to be self-motivated as you are your own boss, if you don’t have this personality, it can be a hard few years.

2- Is your idea for a business actually a good idea or do you just think it’s good? Make sure you do some research, evaluate your idea and the market you want to launch it in. How does your business make money? 

3- Do you have a decent savings account or some initial investment to start things off? If not, how will you fund your lifestyle or pay your bills while your business grows?

Katya: I’ll add one more to three above, as I think it is very important. Did your idea come from a hobby you are passionate about? If so, think well before you turn it into a business and there is a risk that your business won’t work out, leading to you losing your passion. Some hobbies or interests are better to keep to yourself as they give you energy to keep going with your business(es).