Sam Jockel shares her story and why it is so important to trust yourself
Sam Jockel is the founder of ParentTV, which offers hundreds of on-demand videos and courses to support the parenting and care of children from birth to teens. Sam is also the Entrepreneur In Residence at The University of Queensland. Before entering the startup world, Sam was a serial entrepreneur, starting several businesses including Biddy Bags, a profit-for-purpose company producing handcrafted, ethical designer products.
Biddy Bags: https://www.facebook.com/biddybagsonline/
Sam on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samjockel/details/experience/
Adam Spencer: Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to Day One, the podcast that spotlights Australian startups, founders and the organizations that empower Australian entrepreneurship.
Adam Spencer: We go back to the beginning to tell a story of Australia’s most inspiring founders and how they built their companies. You’re listening to a special interview series as part of a documentary W2D1 is producing about the history of the Australian Startup Ecosystem. On the episode today we have…
Sam Jockel: Hey, I’m Sam, I’m the founder of ParentTV, also the recent founder of another company called Qualify and entrepreneur and residence at the University of Queensland. I’ve been running my own businesses now for probably about 15 years or so, and really in that startup world for three to four years now. Pre that, I actually have three children that are now 14, 11 and seven, so my life is a hoot.
Sam Jockel: Being a mum to a couple of kids. Well, three and a couple of businesses as well that often feel like my children. I love business and I love the freedom that I feel like it gives me to decide what I do when I wake up every day. It feels like a privilege to be in a position where I get to do that.
Sam Jockel: I started out as a social worker. I have a double degree in theology and human services, which feels very far away from believing or thinking that I would end up in technology startups but somehow I feel like I’ve maintained that part of my life and that vision I had for what I wanted to do with my life and somehow merged that with tech. I don’t know, I feel like it’s a beautiful thing, it’s a challenging thing but it’s great to wake up every day and do what I do.
Sam Jockel: In terms of what that looks like, think about ParentTV, a little bit like Netflix or YouTube for parenting resources. We brought together some of the world’s leading parenting educators all in the one place, and we filmed over now 1300 videos just answering the questions that parents and educators are asking.
Sam Jockel: In terms of, I guess where the market was for our product and what we are doing, these days even though parents are essentially who we reach, our business actually mostly supports people who support parents, so working with early learning centers, schools, organizations, corporates who have parents as a part of their community.
Sam Jockel: They use our online resource, I guess as tools to support parents in the moments they need it. I guess during COVID, there’s been a lot of support needed in terms of our social and emotional wellbeing. Yeah, we slot into that place and Qualify, which I spoke about a little bit earlier has been a brand that we’ve created and emerged out of ParentTV specifically looking at professional learning and development often within that social and emotional space for corporates, for childcare supporting their staff to be able to support themselves and also their teammates and often the parents and the children in their care.
Sam Jockel: Yeah, it’s fun and games, lots happening all the time.
Adam Spencer: How many businesses or companies would you say you’ve started?
Sam Jockel: Yeah, that’s a good question. Maybe five, if we don’t include childhood businesses like washing cars and collecting trolleys for money and painting shells that we’re selling at the caravan park.
Sam Jockel: My first ever proper business was a business called Bitty Banks and then I had School Mum, ALDI Mum. Good Funny Smart was an influencer agency. Those things all fit together and then it merged into startup land which was ParentTV. I guess that was that startup piece for me really. Most of the businesses that I did in my early days, I guess they weren’t really set up for scale or I didn’t know what that meant. I was at the center of them, so most of them couldn’t operate without me. They needed me and ParentTV was my first evolution into thinking about business where it could exist outside of me and scale outside of me. Yeah, that was about four years ago.
Adam Spencer: Yeah, around 2017?
Sam Jockel: Mm.
Adam Spencer: That is when you would say you were first exposed to the startup world?
Sam Jockel: Yeah, I didn’t even really know what that meant back there. It’s been a big three years, so it feels like it’s been a part of my life forever but as I look back on it, business I knew, but startup and what that actually meant and scaling and systems and processes and tech and raising capital, yeah that I knew nothing of.
Sam Jockel: It was about three, four years ago, I was actually friends with a guy, Adrian Brown who actually is the founder of Mr. Yum, which has taken off along with Kim and a few other people and is one of Brisbane/ Melbourne’s massively growing startups. They’re overseas at the moment, that’s scaling and doing really well. I bumped into him at an airport and at the time I was massively involved in social media, scaling, marketing, branding that kind of stuff and he actually asked me if I could consult with them and help them come up with their strategy for a company they had at the time called Pitch Black.
Sam Jockel: I started working for them, helping them with their social media strategy and that Pitch Black company supported people who had startup ideas to take them from idea to, I guess raising some capital. I was just exposed to what they did through helping them with their social media strategy, and then a couple of months later, as I thought about what I wanted to do with my life and realized it wasn’t what I was doing. I was like, “I think something along the lines of what Adrian does is where my head is at.” I called him and was like, “I think I need to come and do this course that you guys are running.”
Sam Jockel: Anyway, I paid five grand, enrolled in their course at the time. This is years ago, it was a 13 week startup accelerated course, but you paid for it, so no one took any equity in your company and it was their job to make sure that you learnt something, which was really good. I’m the kind of person that if I pay for something I’m committed to it.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: Yeah, I showed up for six weeks, did a startup course, no idea what I was doing, three hours at night on a Wednesday night, left my kids with my husband. Three months later, ParentTV was a bit clearer in my head about what I wanted to do. The story’s hilarious. I called the wrong Alex. I called someone, it was the wrong Alex and then I was like, “Oh sorry, Alex I meant to call someone else.” He was an old boss. He was like, “What are you up to these days, Sam?” I literally was like, “Oh, I’ve got this idea about ParentTV.”
Sam Jockel: I was telling him about it and he’s like, “Do you need some capital for this?” I was like, “Actually, I think I do.”
Adam Spencer: Wow.
Sam Jockel: Then he said, “Oh look, I’m in Melbourne next week with Graham” who has ended up being my key investor, who owned the body shop Australia and he’d sold it a couple of years earlier. “Why don’t you come down, have a meeting with us, pitch us the idea. I think he’d like it.”
Sam Jockel: A week later I’m on a plane to Melbourne, walk into a meeting, pitched for the first time with a pitch deck and walked out with $200,000.
Adam Spencer: Wow.
Sam Jockel: Craziest story ever, I know. [inaudible]
Adam Spencer: That’s awesome.
Sam Jockel: Sole female founder, never done startup, did a course for three months. I had paid another 10 grand to have a mock up done of my idea, so I did have this working mock up prototype that I could show them. I’d had a history, I’d built a couple online communities that had 650,000 people. I’d done business, so I didn’t walk into that meeting with no history, and that’s what I say to people when they do hear that story. They often go, “Wow, it’s that easy?” I’m like, “It’s not.”
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: I’ve worked for 15 years and proven that I could execute. When I come in and say, “This is my idea and this is what I can do,” there’s a story there that shows that I have capacity and that is a lot.
Adam Spencer: Two follow up questions. What was the biggest lesson that you took away from that 13 week course? What was the biggest thing that you got out of that?
Sam Jockel: What was the biggest thing that I got out of that?
Adam Spencer: Was it a change in mindset or?
Sam Jockel: Yeah, I think probably that I knew more than I thought. I’m learning a lot at the moment in my journey, so the stage I’m at now, I’ve literally just got a co-founder in to everything that I’m doing, three years after I did it but he is exceptional and a very successful tech entrepreneur in a number of different businesses in the past.
Sam Jockel: Watching and learning from him, I’ve realized that I’m more capable and better than I’ve ever given myself credit for which has actually been something that I think has held me back.
Adam Spencer: Mm.
Sam Jockel: I remember doing that 13 week course and sometimes going, “I feel like I don’t want to say this because it sounds arrogant” but going, “I know this stuff and this isn’t rocket science.” There were bits that I learned that was new but really for most of it, I was like, “Oh, actually I already know this.” I still, at that point didn’t allow that to sink in and feel confident that you know what you’re doing rather than just doubting yourself all the time.
Sam Jockel: Then, I lived with still a lot of doubt and it’s like, I knew back then but, yeah I just didn’t give myself permission to go… The experience you have had in the last 15 years in business actually does count a lot, even in this startup space, even though it sounds new and it sounds different, there’s all these different bits and pieces.
Sam Jockel: From the actual experience I’ve had now having done that and now done this the last three to four years, I think the biggest learning and the difference and the thing you have to get your head around in terms of what truly makes startup different, in my opinion and what is the thing that enables it to scale, is actually fully understanding systems and processes.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: I’m very entrepreneurial.
Adam Spencer: Oh, really? I can tell.
Sam Jockel: My brain and everything’s just firing off all the time and I actually am incredibly amazing at systems and processes in my own mind for my own ability to be high performing, but that is not enough when you’re building that in a business and extracting that out of myself and putting that into something that sits outside of me, that other people can pick up and that can be scaled, that’s the thing that is the work of the last three years of my life and I’m still not even there because I’m still only just fully understanding the parts that I figure out sometimes in my head and that’s actually important to get down on paper and not just assume that they know or that, that isn’t a piece of information that somebody needs.
Sam Jockel: I feel like I just spend my days not understanding what needs to be documented. Yeah, I’m getting better and there’s a lot more of that, but it’s been three years of getting stuff on paper for other people.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: For me, that’s what this is, but I think that entrepreneurs are interesting and we all have a story and there’s something that happens to us that pushes us into this as a choice, because it’s an insane choice to make with your life because it’s full on.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: Part of it is I think a little bit about control. Control when you think about it, is about maintaining your position and so when the knowledge is you, then there’s safety in that. You have to actually work against yourself to get it out because you are a relinquishing control.
Adam Spencer: I’m starting to realize that I should have scheduled more time with you. I’d love to interview you again. My other follow up question was around, how did you prepare for that pitch?
Sam Jockel: Oh, the first one that I ever did?
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: Yeah, I put a pitch deck together. I had a week, so fortunately being part of a 13 week course, part of that was about learning how to put a pitch deck together, so I used the resources that I had around me and was like, “Ah.” I put that together and I had the prototype, but to be honest, I go and talk at things a lot and pitch a bit.
Sam Jockel: I think in terms of my process for preparation, I manically just think about things all the time and I realize that it’s all there in my mind and I’ve already had the conversation 77 times before I walk into anything without even realizing that, that’s what’s been percolating. I’ve learned to trust myself, even just coming here on this podcast with you. I thought about it a minute before I jumped on because I already think about all the things all the time.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: I’ve just learned to trust that I know what I think the opportunity is. I really believe in it. I’ve thought about it for a significant amount of time and I just need to trust that I can show up and know what to say and I’ve done it enough now that I can just do it because I believe it, so the preparation is, do you believe yourself?
Sam Jockel: If you don’t believe yourself, don’t go in and talk to anybody because they’re never going to believe you, so the prep is really sitting with yourself and what it is that you are trying to create and trying to tell the world is really important and be honest with yourself about whether you actually truly believe it and if you do, it will come.
Adam Spencer: What one piece of advice would you give your 2017 self?
Sam Jockel: Oh, what’s one piece of advice?
Adam Spencer: Even before 2017, even before you started your first business, what one piece of advice would you give yourself?
Sam Jockel: You’re better than you think you are? That’s hard for me to even say now, but I spent many years not believing that or just thinking everyone else knew or I didn’t know or just needing to check and needing to do this and that. It got in the way of some things, but our need to prove our value from our work, which is what I have been doing for a long time, which is misplaced but it is the thing that drives people to be high performers. At some point there is a ceiling to what you are able to carry and produce on your own, and it all starts to unravel at that point, which was for me about a year ago and where I really needed to ask for help and support and relinquish the control and realize it would still be okay because I’m needed and better than I think.
Sam Jockel: I don’t know if that makes sense, but anyone who’s been on this journey might understand that a little bit.
Adam Spencer: Yeah.
Sam Jockel: Yeah, I think business is a really personal journey for founders and if you’re willing to put everything on the line and put yourself out there, it’s very, very personal and sometimes you have to stop and ask what’s going on there because at some point, yeah you just have to face yourself all the time as you grow, when the next thing comes and having to push through the barriers of your own limitations requires you to have to do a lot of work, personally.
Adam Spencer: The last question I have with the last couple of minutes, we have, isn’t really a question, we’re trying to create a documentary here that will tell the whole story of the Australian Startup Ecosystem. We want founders, investors, policy makers, academics, everyone from all corners of the ecosystem to listen to this documentary. What do you think they need to hear?
Sam Jockel: In my specific lane of business that I do, it’s really, really unique. The work that we do has historically sat with non-for-profits. I’ve come from a social work community development background. For me, I felt the frustration of seeing opportunities and things that needed to happen, but there being so much red tape that I didn’t have any capacity to be able to do those things.
Sam Jockel: The only way for me to give that a shot was to step into the land of business because that’s where I don’t have to ask permission. I’ve been trying to forge with the work that we’re doing, solutions for mental health, community wellbeing and a whole bunch of different bits and pieces using a business framework. We are doing some amazingly innovative things, but it’s really challenging because sometimes we have to interact with some of these historical government systems.
Sam Jockel: Those processes, I understand why they exist, but there absolutely needs to be more value and understanding put on the work that we’re doing and how critically important it is from an innovative point of view because the world is moving so fast and those big legacy systems and organizations, they just actually can’t keep up with what’s needed, and they have to learn to trust business and trust innovators more because we do actually bring to the table solutions, and our intent is actually really good and a lot more listening needs to happen.
Sam Jockel: A lot more belief that intent is good as well. I think sometimes those two things get missed and business has historically been seen as maybe something where someone just wins and they don’t really care about the bigger picture, but I think business is changing and the leaders of those businesses are changing and yeah, there is that element there but I don’t know, there needs to be more listening and more trust, that I know.
Adam Spencer: I hope you enjoyed that interview. More interviews are on the way. Follow the podcast wherever you’re listening right now. Stay tuned for more interviews with many, many more amazing people from the Australian Startup Ecosystem. Thanks for listening and see you next time.