Zontee Hou named her digital marketing agency Media Volery after a word used to describe birds in flight. She says all of your channels should work together, in synchronicity, towards the same destination.
Photo courtesy of Zontee Hou.
If marketing isn’t about the product you make but the story you tell, then Zontee Hou is a master storyteller. Hou is owner and founder of Media Volery LLC, a company that helps small- to medium-sized businesses develop, manage, and execute marketing strategies that work. Her clients span industries, including professional services companies, high-end retailers, nonprofits, and yes, a few crafting companies (although most craft businesses are not large or established enough to warrant the Media Volery treatment).
What sets Media Volery apart from other branding and digital marketing companies is its emphasis on deliberate and goal-centered strategies.
“Every brand needs a strong marketing strategy,” Hou explains, “but oftentimes, brands fall into their marketing approaches, rather than building a thoughtful plan on purpose. Hiring a marketing consultant is about codifying and professionalizing your approach to marketing so you can get serious and focus on specific, targeted results.”
Hou likens her firm to a personal trainer: you may have played sports in high school, but as an adult, you realize you’ll need help to identify and achieve your current fitness goals. Like a personal trainer, Media Volery helps clients formulate goals, then creates a regime designed to help them achieve those goals.
This focus on a cohesive marketing strategy inspired the company’s unusual name. Hou is fascinated with collective nouns—words that describe groups of creatures, like “a herd of cows” or a “murder of crows.” She chose the word “volery,” which refers to a flock of birds in flight, for its strong imagery. “To me, the word evokes the synchronicity of birds flying together. All your media channels should do that: adjust to each other seamlessly, so they fly toward the same destination.”
Zontee Hou spent several years as a marketer for a yarn company which helped her to understand how creative small business owners operate.
Photo courtesy of Zontee Hou.
The path to digital marketing
Hou didn’t grow up resolving to be an entrepreneur; she acknowledges, though, that watching her parents run their own law firm made a strong impact. “My mother always says that you have job security when you’re your own boss, so it’s something I’ve thought about over the years,” she admits. Hou laid the groundwork for her career by earning degrees in marketing, business, and strategic business communications. Next, she gained hands-on experience doing marketing for a yarn company.
After several years there, Hou left to consider her next steps. A gig contracting for an established consulting firm gave her even more experience while she built up a client base. Hou’s experience showed her that clients needed help both in building a brand strategy and in executing it – that’s what inspired the concept of a full-service digital marketing agency like Media Volery.
Running her own business does present challenges. Hou wryly notes that being a business owner isn’t about perks like creating a four-day workweek or taking vacation whenever you want. “If you’re going to be successful,” she advises, “you also have to recognize that there is no one but you to take responsibility for everything, so you also have to show up more often than anyone else. I am the ultimate holder of the responsibilities. If a project needs to get done, I get up at 5 am or stay at the office until 11 pm to finish the work. If something goes wrong, I have to help [clients] figure it out.” That being said, Hou finds special satisfaction in her clients’ successes. She also loves working with her small team of employees and contractors, mentoring them, and watching them progress.
Tips for entrepreneurship
There’s no one right way to prepare for owning your own business so Hou suggests future entrepreneurs speak to multiple business owners within their desired industry. “Speak with them about their challenges; do informational interviews to learn about a day in the life. Don’t focus on the glamour or the freedom or the fun. Focus on what it takes to get the work done, to find customers, to make a profit.” Hou also suggests finding a business mentor through SCORE, a nonprofit small business organization.
Above all, Hou urges potential business owners to dig deep inside themselves, exploring why they want to own a business and considering the advantages versus disadvantages. She describes being a business owner as a hire-wire act, warning “you have to maintain balance with no safety net and keep your feet moving, or else you won’t survive.” If that kind of pressure doesn’t appeal, she advises, then maybe owning your own business isn’t for you.
What does Hou do in her (rare) time off? She worked at a yarn company for over six years so no surprise that she still is a big yarn-crafter and enjoys knitting, crocheting, and weaving. She also enjoys papercrafts and embossing.
Hou’s final words of advice to business owners: “Just because you use social media personally or do a lot of online shopping doesn’t mean that you have the ability to be a good social media marketer or ecommerce specialist. Having an experienced marketing consultant work with you allows you to be more confident in the marketing tactics you take on day-to-day as a business owner, whether you manage your accounts yourself or you outsource it to an agency.”
Carol J. Sulcoski is an attorney by day and a knitting author, designer and dyer by night. Her latest book is “Yarn Substitution Made Easy” (Lark Crafts 2019). She lives outside Philadelphia with her three nearly grown-up children and a fluffy orange cat.