“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
Growing up in Gilgai NSW, a small country town on a brown creek, the blue sky was enticing enough for Virginia Hyland to rally against the odds and believe that “anything is possible”.
With a love of media and doing work experience at the local newspaper, The Inverell Times, at 17 years-of-age Virginia decided to try her luck and moved to the city to pursue a career as a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, which she says looking back “I’d never let my kids do this at 17 years old these days”.
With only 2 cadet journalist roles available it didn’t work out as planned, but they had a lot of jobs in advertising so Virginia thought “I’ll just give it a go” and started doing a ‘cold-calling’ job selling classifieds.
Having the courage to pick up the phone with people you don’t know and engage them in doing business was a great training ground for my career and building my own business
12 years later, disappointed with the lack of ideas and service her clients were getting on either side of the business, Virginia decided to strike out on her own thinking “I’ll just give it a go” and at only 29 years-of-age (with no money and no plan) she started her very own media agency, Hyland.
“I was like that 17 yo kid travelling to Sydney to just give it a go”
Today, now married with 2 gorgeous children (who are now 8 and 10), Virginia is the founder & principal of Australia’s largest independent female owned comms & media agencies with 40 staff, a bucket-load of awards under her belt, pitching for tens of million dollar accounts with some of the largest international brands against some of the largest global agencies in the world.
In 2017 Hyland is a Finalist in the Media Agency of the Year; in 2016, 2015 & 2014 Virginia was in B&T’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Media, in 2014 she was a finalist in Telstra’s NSW Business Woman of the Year, and in 2013 she was a finalist in the Media Agency of the Year and the Winner of the Inaugural Women in Media Award.
Virginia admits none of it would be possible, at least this kind of growth or success, if it wasn’t for the support of her husband.
The agency was just starting to take off when I was pregnant, so my husband decided he’d help out and be a home dad and work in the business. He did a lot of the home duties, but it was hard while I was breastfeeding. I’d be called every 2 hours to feed – rushing to feed, a lack of concentration and sleepless nights and essentially trying to do two full time jobs.
It’s much easier now the kids are older, but it’s still continually fast paced. My wonderful husband is working part-time, but he’s home for 3pm to pick them up from school and take them to after school activities. By the time it comes to the weekend, he’s looking for his time out so I’ll take the kids to sports. It doesn’t stop there, I’m still doing 7 loads of washing a week and kids have unrelenting energy from the moment they wake up so it’s often 12-14 hours a day every day.
Even with the greater responsibility of children, Virginia has a firm belief to ‘not let fear stand in the way’ – something she considers more important with children as it propels her to challenge herself.
My family is my greatest source of inspiration. They challenge me and bring me down to earth if I get too far ahead of myself. I’m also really inspired by other entrepreneurs like Walt Disney, Kerry Stokes, Harold Mitchell and Richard Branson – incredible people who persisted in the face of adversity.
I’m proud of creating an inspiring new future for my family and colleagues. I’m proud of having built an agency without any financial backing; and pitching on a $20million global account (and winning) certainly taught me to never limit my own ability.
Despite the accolades and success, Virginia admits the journey isn’t always a walk in the park. Without having someone in business to turn to for support, I’ve come to be resourceful in finding other ways to climb the mountain and figure everything out, and that’s hard”.
There are many people who at every stage of my life told me “it’s not possible, you can’t do that”. I learnt that you can’t be restrained by another person limited opinion. If I had listened and believed any of the naysayers I would never have moved to Sydney at 17 and I would never have started a business on my own.
Virginia’s greatest lesson and message to other aspiring female leaders, is to appreciate that there are a lot of different ways to climb a mountain. While she originally wanted to be a Sales Director, she noticed they were all blokes so she decided to change her approach.
If you really want to achieve something, sometimes you need to change tact. Make sure you are resourceful, understand that the perfect road may not happen and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We often think we’re alone, but eventually we realise that we’re all having the same challenges so it’s important to have courage and ask “do you mind if we have a coffee”.
As for our next generation, Virginia believes in the importance of backing yourself and having the courage to speak up for what you want. We raise our boys to “get out there” but we condition our girls to be reserved, so when we get into the workplace, we’re already sensitive instead of being fearless.
As a speaker at this year’s years 3% percent conference – a global movement inspiring more women into senior leadership positions in media; Virginia is a role model for women having a voice and backing themselves to build their careers.
As for what Virginia wants to be remembered for, it’s for creating a new perception in the industry about what can be achieved by an independent agency run by a woman.
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