When Milou Pietersz moved to the United States from the Netherlands 7 years ago, she was determined to break into the world of marketing and advertising. When she couldn’t get a foot in anyone’s door, she decided to start her own outfit: Simply Media & Advertising, a full-service, digital-focused agency that helps brands take their online platforms to the next level. After 4 years in business, Pietersz has built a team at her Austin, Texas company that helps clients with everything from brand positioning to content creation. The unexpected entrepreneur is leaning into her current leadership role,working to create a productive environment for her employees while offering tangible results to clients.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about why you started your business.
I was rejected or ghosted by every marketing agency I applied to after I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media and Advertising. I was still hungry, extremely ambitious, and ready to take on the marketing and advertising world. So I decided to take life into my own hands and start a business. Now, I run a six-figure marketing agency with the team of my dreams. I am the agency I always wanted to work for.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
We pay it forward. Once I had a solid foundation in my agency, I launched my passion project: the Inner Circle. Through that effort, we mentor aspiring social media professionals who are on the same journey I was. We share resources, experiences, failures and wins, in the hopes of bettering this very new industry and setting a high standard of excellence.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Definitely expanding and placing myself in a CEO mindset instead of a do-it-all-myself endless cycle. I hit a wall and decided to take a leap of faith and hired a woman that changed the game for me – Heather from the Clover Collective – as head of my business operations. She has helped me transform from “solopreneur” to the leader I always envisioned being.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I educated myself in all things sales and marketing. Advertising was my world. But when I took on a team, I realized I needed to develop leadership skills by delegating and building a team-based foundation that allowed each member to shine in their zone of genius. In short, I needed help. Not something every founder wants to put that out there openly. When I did seek guidance and made the right hires, everything else started working out. Work and life balance is coming as a result, too – I’ve learned more about the nitty-gritty of business and how to utilize my time intrinsically.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Relocating your life is life-changing. I moved to the U.S. from the Netherlands 7 years ago. Getting people to move past my accent and my age was difficult. This industry is very new, and we are adapting to the standards. Breaking social media management myths of “Oh, it is just posting!” to a data-driven and strategic mindset is a constant challenge. Building an agency from scratch and laying that foundation – while simultaneously working as a private tennis teacher and completing my college education – placed immense pressure on me. But challenges and difficult situations develop your character, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
My go-to mantra: “Rejection simply means you are meant for something more.” When you want something so intensely, and it doesn’t roll out the way you want, flexibility and determination move you forward. Pivot and learn from rejection in your journey. Being an entrepreneur is all about accepting that you don’t always have to know what you are doing – but surrounding yourself with the right people helps.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I reflect back to my competitive sports days. I learned five important lessons from those times that pull me through dark times now: Discipline makes today hard, but tomorrow easy. Work your hardest, not knowing when or if it will pay off. Have difficult conversations now to avoid stress later. Tweak your strategy and pivot if it is not working. Believe in yourself when no one else does.
What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days?
Honestly, in my job, I come across all types of music from REELS. Whatever is trending goes on repeat on my playlist.
Who is your most important role model?
As a former D1 Athlete and tennis player, I take a lot of inspiration from professional athletes – their drive, determination, and strategy for not only the game, but life in general. ◼
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