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The Accidental Entrepreneur, A Founder’s Story with Michelle Symonds

After graduating with a B.Sc. in Geophysics from the University of Southampton, Michelle Symonds worked in the oil industry and investment banking in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, designing and building software and websites. She then spent several years managing complex global IT projects for an international Fortune 500 investment bank. In 2009 she founded the digital marketing agency Ditto Digital, which provides a range of digital marketing services but specializes in technical search engine optimization. Ditto Digital implements pro-active digital marketing campaigns based on in-depth data analysis backed up by best-practice processes and solid IT and web expertise.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born and grew up in London, UK, the youngest of 2 daughters born to Irish parents and part of a large extended Catholic family, all of whom had moved from Ireland to London. At the age of 11, I was accepted into a selective girl’s grammar school run by the Sisters of La Retraite, an order of Catholic nuns founded in Brittany, France, in 1675. It was while there that I developed a lifelong love of science.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
In many ways, I became an entrepreneur by accident because I was looking for a role that would provide a better work-life balance than commuting to the city each day with a 3-hour round trip. I initially started an online art gallery but very quickly realized my skills lay not in discovering the next new contemporary artist but in the analysis and logical thinking that had originally attracted me to a scientific and computing career. So, instead, I started learning the “science” of search engine optimization (SEO), and a fledgling SEO consultancy was born. Over the years the company expanded to provide a full range of digital marketing services to enable SMEs to compete with much larger companies in the digital space. I now have a loyal, dedicated team who have all contributed to the success of Ditto Digital.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
From my perspective, there is an easy answer to this: Just Get Started! Successful startups are dynamic and ever-changing so part of the process is making mistakes and learning from them. No business will ever be perfect and, of course, you need to have a business plan, but by getting started a founder can begin to learn those lessons that will contribute to growing a successful business.
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