Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in marketing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sharon Cumberbatch, Owner of McFarlane Marketing, located in Davenport, IA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

McFarlane Marketing is a full-service boutique marketing company specializing in web design, email marketing, branding, marketing strategy, and graphic design services. We service small to medium-sized companies by helping them grow and establish their brands to increase sales.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve been in the technology field for most of my career. My longest stint was working as a Sr. Technical Account Manager at Microsoft. I always loved the creative side of technology; however, it always seemed to beckon me. I’ve known I had a very creative side all my life and expressed that through other forms of art such as theater, cooking, interior design, graphic design, decorating, etc., so it came as no surprise that I eventually veered into digital marketing as it gave me the opportunity to marry my technical skills with the creative outlet I needed. Prior to opening my agency, I was head of marketing at ECS Learning Systems for several years, but in 2021, I decided to launch McFarlane Marketing and run my own business. It has been the best decision, and I’m truly happy I did it.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment was landing the marketing contract for Zia Learning. They are a multi-million-dollar company and one of our largest clients. They needed to modernize and revamp their brand in all areas. We helped them transform their brand by building a comprehensive marketing strategy and executing the plan by building a new website, corporate logo, brand and style guide, and creating email and social media campaigns to help them grow market share.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner, particularly as it relates to marketing, is that what you do for your clients, you have to do for yourself as well. What I mean by that is I need to continue to do the things necessary to grow my business and market my company well to ensure I’m a good example of what I recommend to my clients. As a sole proprietor, you must carve that time out to complete those activities while also servicing your clients. Those things include staying on top of your social media, regular blogging, SEO, video, web development, email marketing, advertising, etc.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I love encouraging budding entrepreneurs. The desire to launch into something new and take the risk can be scary and daunting, but if mountains were smooth, you couldn’t climb them. My three recommendations are:

  1. Ensure you are well prepared before you get started, meaning understand how your business will run from start to finish. Understand how you’ll source, price, operate, market, grow and compete. In short, have a business plan so that you have a roadmap to use that outlines how to get started successfully.
  2. If you’re a perfectionist like me, get comfortable with the uncomfortable. What I mean by that is know you will not know everything, and you will make mistakes, even big ones, but all of it is a learning lesson that helps you the next time around. The important thing is to be sure to learn the lesson the first time so you never have to repeat it.
  3. Knowledge is key. Continue to learn your craft. Don’t neglect to spend time learning about your industry, your field, and your expertise. The more you know, the better the service you can provide to your clients.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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