The storyteller: Q&A with Vanessa Stoykov August 2018


Vanessa Stoykov has built a highly successful career around her passion for storytelling - from her early days as a finance journo through to launching Evolution Media Group, from founding financial education hub, No More Practice Education, through to writing her first novel. We ask Vanessa about some of the people and challenges she's met along the way, as well as her best advice and biggest treat, because "life without a few treats is not worth living."

You founded your first business, evolution media, at age 26. What challenges did you face in the early stages, and how did you overcome them?

Managing cashflow, learning to say no, and balancing overheads versus cashflow were definitely the three biggest challenges I faced in the early stages of my career. When I started I only had $14,000, and I spent $10,000 of that on an blow out launch party with lasers and purple cocktails, so managing my money wisely was an important task that I had to learn quickly. Learning to say no was also something that was crucial to overcoming in my early days, because accepting any job was exciting so I would say yes to everything that came my way. However, I quickly learned to be strategic in what jobs I took on, so I could service those jobs to the standard that I wanted to. Lastly, I was so passionate about hiring staff and growing the business, but I didn’t properly understand that to successfully scale a business I had to balance overheads and cashflow. I realized that the hard way, but it was a pivotal lesson in growing the business into the company it is today.

What was the impetus for writing your recent book: 'The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings'?

I’ve always loved storytelling, and I wanted to use this passion and my experience in the finance industry to write a fiction novel that offered a new and entertaining way to change people’s long-term financial behaviours. Many people have the perception that money is sexy, but finance is boring, so I wanted to portray how the financial choices you make today will mould the quality of life you have in the future.

Read more about 'The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings'.

If you were a financial planner, what first three questions would you ask a prospective client?
  1. How do you view your current financial situation and why?
  2. What are you hoping to achieve through working with me?
  3. Do you have a clear idea of your financial goals?
Looking through your blog you have interviewed some impressive people. Who were you most excited to meet?

I have been fortunate enough to interview a range of incredible people, but my favourite was Bryce Courtenay. He was such a master storyteller and was a total inspiration to me. He showed me the kind of person that I wanted to be in the future, engaged and inquisitive, even when he was old and sick. That interview, and his passion, has truly influenced my life since then.

Read Vanessa's blog.

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald you said that "life without a few treats is not worth living.” What is the biggest treat you give yourself?

Experiences! My family and I love travelling and making memories together. Ultimately, treating yourself to experiences is investing in memories that are treasured for a lifetime.

Have you had an industry mentor, or have there been key people who have inspired you in your career?

I’ve been so fortunate to have so many key people inspire me throughout my career. Just to name a few, Greg Bright (my first boss and brilliant finance journalist and entrepreneur) and Ouma Sananikone (the first female CEO I ever worked with who took me under her wing from the get go and has inspired me ever since).

Also, Jenny Josling (the managing director of Orbis Australia who believed in my ability to story tell), Connie Mckeage (who taught me how to do a deal, and believed in my passion and ability), and Annick Donat (who inspires me through her ability to take calculated risks even in tough situations).

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in the country town of Gunnedah in NSW. I have an amazing family who have always believed in me and I really have such fond memories of growing up in the country.

What was your very first job?

My very first job was serving customers in a chemist when I was 13 years old. I worked five afternoons after school, and Saturday mornings for a grand total of $20 each week. I did this for over 3 years, and I loved it, because not only did I get to speak to people but I also knew it was the only way I would get paid - I was motivated!

With the benefit of hindsight, what advice would you give to your 21-year old self?

Put more money aside! Looking back, even if I had only invested 10% of my earnings outside of super I would have been sitting on a nice money nest by now. Luckily I did invest in my business, which has paid off. Many people are not so lucky. Which is why I’m so passionate about using my storytelling skills and 24 year tenure in the industry to help as many people start making better financial choices today, to improve their life tomorrow. Getting financial advice is a huge part of that.

View Vanessa Stoykov's profile