Where it began
Hello, I am Chris Hambly, Founder and CEO of the Social Media Mafia, established in 2008.
I was born and raised in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK, a small town of about 28,000 residents, steeped in maritime trade, it’s about 5 hours by car south west of London.
Dad was a marine engineer by trade and at some point he decided to take a leap of faith and buy a shipping stores boat. During the winter months he delivered stores to large ocean going fishery vessels.
I was fortune to see dad hustling every day and how he went on to travel with his work and meet people from all over the world from widely differing cultures.
It became very obvious there was a far larger world, outside of my small town, waiting for me to explore.
I also started working on boats from age eleven and it was the beginning of my love affair with entrepreneurship and opportunity seeking.
Military to teacher
I wasn’t at all academic at school, the school environment really did not suit me. I’ve come to realise this is due to me being a “musical kinesthetic” learner (being in motion and listening).
It’s really good to know what sort of learner you are.
After a brief spell in the military and learning how to fix helicopter electronics I moved into teaching! It makes me giggle hearing this today. If any of my school teachers were asked what they thought I might do for a career I’m sure upon hearing “teacher”, they would have laughed out loud.
I became a Lecturer in a local college around 1994, and was teaching students audio engineering. What started out as a part-time few hours a week gig soon escalated in a full-time career.
I went on to author degrees for Universities with an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
It turns out I have a skill for taking what can be perceived as complex subjects and breaking them down into simple language and helping other people to understand them.
First successful business: online school
During the 90s I was fascinated with educational technology, and I put a great deal of course material online, so my students could access this from anywhere they chose.
At this point I had no formal teaching qualifications so I decided I better actually get one to sort of validate myself. I enrolled straight into a Master Of Open & Distance Education.
In 2001, for my thesis I invented an online school which became my first business success, and the first in the world of its kind. The school filled a niche and really took off.
Over the next 8 years up until 2008 I ran the online school and graduated thousands of students from literally every corner of the world. I learnt how to sell by crafting offers and services that people wanted to buy, over the internet.
Running an online business from 2001 for 8 years really enabled me to become skilled at online technologies, and community, and how to obtain traffic and sell.
After working hard for 8 years on my school, a large provider of global education “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse” and I sold it. The timing was perfect as my wife and I had just had our first child and we needed to put down some some roots and buy a fabulous family property – we had been somewhat nomadic to that point, working off a laptop.
First business failure: the fall from paradise
Having sold my first successful business and with a decade of online experience, I then set up a the Social Media Mafia as a consultancy in 2008. The “social media” badge was a catch-all term for online business.
I was generating six figures a year through consultancy contracts providing services such as eLearning, events, websites, SEO, social media, email marketing and strategic consultation. I was working on projects for big brands like Coca-Cola, BP, Capital One, Direct Line. I was based in London and very much at the forefront of the social media landscape.
This really gave me a taste of real wealth, not in a “look at my car” sort of way but more in a freedom to move and do what I wanted sort of way. The spoils of high paying consultancy clients really gave my wife and I a super lifestyle.
BUT I got complacent, I foolishly felt invincible… Jo and myself had two children (now we have three), with our youngest just over a year old when we decided to move back to Cornwall. We’d just secured a massive mortgage on our new enormous dream house and things were fabulous.
Then devastating news came to the front door. I had made the oldest mistake in the book.
80% of my income was coming from 20% of my clients. The “big” client’s business got acquired and my services would no longer be needed for the following year. I was brought to my knees in an instant. The crushing pain I felt, the intense financial pressure that would soon be looming was almost too much to bear. I would not wish a shock like that on anyone, it hurt bad – from eveything to nothing!
What could I do? We had moved back from London because we wanted the dream life back in our home town, with the spoils of handsome income generated from the city. Would I have to move back, work during the weeks in London and come home for the weekends? The thought of that was too painful, I’d not see my kids grow up. I felt somewhat powerless and weak.
It was during this period of self-questioning, that I dusted myself off and started looking around me with my eyes wide open.
Second successful business: I went hyper-local
I decided I wanted to see my kids grow up and be close to them so the work I started to do was creating websites and marketing, for local businesses. I was dead set on not getting into the 80/20 problem again, so went after multiple clients. I developed a business model that enabled me to obtain lots of clients on small monthly retainers, which after a while really started adding up.
It became very obvious that everyone needed a website, an online presence to obtain new customers, and well, this seemed to be rocket science to these business owners, and it really is to most of them. I built the websites and kept the client on a monthly retainers and ensuring they were top in Google, by consulting on what content they should create and publish.
I soon discovered that I was the person that consulted for them on what was needed for their business, what tools they needed, how they could generate leads and clients through online channels. It was an easy sale, I could just tell my story, outline my background and show people the way, and it worked, like clockwork and still does.
Once I had a decent amount of small clients to cover the company expenses and had a safe trading model, I then starting going after larger clients again. In just 6 months I got my business back up to 5 figures a month! And this time with all vulnerability removed.
I started to get requests to speak on the radio, during drive time phone-ins and to write social media articles for magazines and blogs and run masterclasses, workshops and deliver speeches at social media conferences.
The Social Media Mafia Today
Before too long it was obvious that in order to serve more people I had to either clone myself, not very realistic, or devise a system so I could scale that enabled others to benefit from my experience.
So it was an obvious choice to go full circle, back to my roots and build an e-Learning school that teaches my business model to students wordwide, that want to create an online business, selling social media and digital consultancy and services.
And that is what the Social Media Mafia is: an online school with courses detailing my systems and processes that enable, empower and assist you to become successful in your online endeavors, and to become a social media consultant yourself.
Perhaps you will be the next family member? I sincerely hope so, we pride ourselves on excellence, putting our students first, and cutting through a lot of the bullshit you will find from “gurus” in this space.
Thanks so much for reading this letter.