Sally Murphy of Welltold is on a mission to help leaders tell their unique story in a way that improves engagement both inside and outside their organisations.
Why did you set up Welltold?
I set up my business in 2016, initially it was called Murphy Communications. For about 20 years before that I worked in the cultural sector and loved it, but I had a feeling that there was something else that I could do. I was a single parent at the time so finding the balance was tough so going out on my own and create something for myself made sense. I didn’t have any business training, savings, or a plan, but I had a good idea. I had a gut instinct to give it a go and nearly eight years on, I’m glad I did.
“I was a single parent at the time so finding the balance was tough so going out on my own and create something for myself made sense”
What makes Welltold stand out?
I have a strong value proposition in the marketplace. I focus on narrative as a tool for cultural change. I help organisations make their story come alive in a way that can’t be experienced by reading or watching a video about it. I connect with businesses to empower and support leaders to connect with their wider organisations.
I’m good at leveraging community. While I am a solo business owner, I have people that I partner with at different times. I have always been good at connecting people and I’m keen to work with good people because that makes my client offering stronger. I show up as myself; I am genuine about the way I communicate and the engage with people and they appreciate and connect with that vulnerability. There’s strength in being open and honest, and I like to have fun.
“I help organisations make their story come alive in a way that can’t be experienced by reading or watching a video about it”
What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Running a business alone means I’m responsible for everything from client engagement to sales and marketing and accounting. The way people communicate online has also been hugely challenging at times. Social media gives the impression that everybody else is doing things better and faster and has led me to become totally overwhelmed, as well as having imposter syndrome.
At these times, bring yourself into the moment and focus on serving one client at a time, keeping tasks bite sized. Have systems in place and boundaries on your time and lean on your community. I’ve learned from people further along their journey about what to do and not do and how to stay well. I know that I must look after my mental, physical, and emotional health to be able to run this business. That means doing yoga, meditating, getting out into the community, going to events, and meeting other people. Help people coming up behind you and get mentors to help you to move forward.
“More could be done for early-stage funding and increased access to angel funding or venture capitalists, especially for females”
What is the support for entrepreneurs in Ireland like and how could it be improved?
I got involved in the local Donegal Women in Business Network early on and I’m proud to be Vice President of the Committee. As a woman in business in a rural part of Ireland, it’s important to tap into a network. I also got support from the Local Enterprise Office with mentorship and trading online vouchers.
The LEO has two accelerator programmes, Ambition and SCALE-X, but more help is needed for businesses like mine that are service based. My business is about communications, but the available funding streams are very tech and export focused. While support for entrepreneurs has really increased, we could do more to help scale businesses that don’t have export or manufacturing at their core. More could be done for early-stage funding and increased access to angel funding or venture capitalists, especially for females.
There should be more support for small business owners who build sustainable, indigenous businesses. They don’t get the same support as those identified as high potential start-ups, but they do so much for the economy. They employ so many people and they are the heartbeat of local communities.
“There should be more support for small business owners who build sustainable, indigenous businesses”
In terms of lessons learned? What would you pass on to other people?
Having systems in place is important in business. I was taught that by a great mentor. Whether it’s onboarding, offboarding, communicating online or getting customer feedback, figure out what you’re saying at every step of that process and keep them as templates so you don’t have to create everything from scratch with new clients.
The second lesson I learned is to lean on your community. Whether that’s peer to peer, getting a mentor or meeting people for a coffee, don’t be afraid to connect with people who work in a similar area to you. There’s a huge amount of competition out there so if there’s somebody doing something like you and you like the way they do it, tell them. Create unity, build your network, don’t work in isolation. Be generous with your time and you’ll get a lot back.
Get comfortable with your finances, get a good accountant, and build up a cushion so that no matter what happens you are starting to build a safety net. I wasn’t taught enough about finances – I’ve had to teach myself. Ask for guidance from other people and listen to it, take on what works and leave the rest. There’s a saying – new level new devil – and it’s apt for business because no matter what stage you’re at, there are new challenges. Thinking you’ll get to a place where things are easy doesn’t happen. What happens is you build more community, get more experience, and become more resilient and confident in your capacity to deliver your offering.
“That’s what storytelling is about – being able to express your voice and honour the people who’ve come before you and shaped you”
What is your proudest moment?
Giving the Nollaig na mBan TEDx talk in 2019 where I was able to pay homage to my grandmother, who had a great story. Telling her story on the TEDx stage and honouring her memory was absolutely core for me. That’s what storytelling is about – being able to express your voice and honour the people who’ve come before you and shaped you.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m writing a book due to be published in early 2024, and I have a strong feeling it could become a series of books. It’s about why storytelling matters for leaders. I want to grow my team so that I can scale the business and reach more people; to offer a combination of in-person and digital services for my clients in Ireland and globally.