This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Laurence Nussbaumer, the owner of MonfiaConnect and a co-founder of Vivid Minds Vivid Futures. MonfiaConnect is a web design business that customises websites to suit individual clients’ needs.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Hornsby and spent the first few years of my life in that area before we moved to Cardiff (Newcastle) when I was three. For school, I went to St Kevin’s (where one of the nuns made me eat soap because of my potty mouth!). I transitioned to a Rudolf Steiner School before going to Cardiff High School. I wasn’t very interested in school – I was good at maths and music, but not at behaviour. I left school in Year 11 and eventually went to TAFE to study IT. After I finished the TAFE course, I moved around a bit and worked as a pizza delivery driver for a while. I moved to Armidale, which is where I met my wife, Ruth – well, she wasn’t my wife then, but she is now! I got a job with Graham East at EdAlive – it’s the best place I’ve ever worked in and I learned so much about running your own business. I’ve been in Armidale for about 10 years. It’s a great place to call home.
How did you get involved in Vivid Minds Vivid Futures?
Well, as everyone else has said: Ingrid! Ingrid approached me with the concept and asked me if I was interested in assisting with the website side of things. I’ve always been passionate about supporting local businesses, so this seemed like a good fit for me. In the past, I’ve been involved in organisations like Locals4Locals and Armidale–Guyra Business Alliance. We’re all in this together, so I realised that the concept was a fantastic idea and would help some of the lesser-known businesses to build their profile.
What do you enjoy most about writing for Vivid Minds Vivid Futures?
Originally, I was looking after the technology side of things, but I decided to challenge myself to write a few stories – and also do some of the photography. It’s something I enjoy, particularly sitting down with a business person or a community leader and learning about them. You learn some really interesting back stories about people.
What does MonfiaConnect do?
Essentially, we build websites for people. But we don’t just slap a bunch of content together – we try to use existing web technologies to deliver low-cost solutions so a business can achieve what they want to achieve out of their website. That could be getting people to book online, getting people to buy a product, getting people to contact them. Everyone has different markers for what they want from their website, and we help them achieve that. We also do photography – but only specifically for a client’s website, not as a business venture. We work off the ‘know, like, trust’ framework – if you know someone, you like them, and you trust them, then you want to do business with them. So, we develop a website to build that visibility and credibility so that the outcome is profitability.
When did you start your business?
I started a separate tech business about 7 years ago with David Levingston. We had been working together at EdAlive. I started doing tech and David started doing web development and SEO and marketing. I was also interested in websites, so we often collaborated on projects. About 2 years ago, David was offered a job as global marketer for an Australian health care company and I took on MonfiaConnect and I’ve been running it ever since. So, I’ve been involved with it since its inception.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
When I took MonfiaConnect on, there was heaps of stuff to sort out – like information transfer, reaching out to clients, making sure everyone was looked after. I think one of the main things has always been time. The burden for every business is finding the time to develop the business. We’ve used the last two years to plan and set up measures so that we can deliver a better service to our clients.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I think 80% of business is building relationships and maintaining relationships. When you run your own business, you can take time out to do something extra for clients – like buy a bunch of flowers to brighten up a client’s day if they are having a tough time. So, I really enjoy building relationships – it’s not all about the profitability.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Obviously, build relationships! Join a networking group like BNI. It’s important to meet other business owners. And also, be generous to other businesses. No-one’s asking you to sell your products at cost price, but find a way to give to other businesses. It sounds obvious, but do what you say you are going to do. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the obligations that you’ve set with other people – you have to keep on top of those things. Another thing is to be open to learning – no-one knows everything about running a business, so get yourself in a situation where you can learn to manage your business better, how to communicate with clients better. That sort of education only comes from networking with other business people.
What inspires you?
Perhaps I’m not necessarily inspired, but I want to provide really well for my family and I want our community to do well. The thought of other businesses doing better motivates me to do well myself and also help other businesses – which is something that Vivid Minds Vivid Futures does. If I can build someone a website that gets them customers – gets them to sell stuff – that’s really cool. One time, I delivered a website and the owner of the company started crying and gave me a hug because they thought it was really, really nice and they were just so happy and proud of it. That was a moment when I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do this forever!’
What is your secret for success?
I’ve already said it: build relationships. Be trustworthy and give to others – be generous. Also, if you can get in a situation where you have other businesses referring you work, that is a prime position to be in. For example, being a member of BNI All Seasons has been a great boost for my business.
What’s next for MonfiaConnect?
In the coming year, there’s going to be some really big changes that will be a positive for work–life balance and also a positive for our clients. It involves getting better results and a faster turnaround.
In the not-too-distant future, we’ll most likely do a re-brand of some sort so that the brand reflects my business focus. Eventually, we’ll bring more people into the business and really systematise what we do so that we can get better results.
We’ve already onboarded an employee for MonfiaConnect who is helping us with our development.
Watch this space!