FOUNDING PIVOT SIX: A CONVERSATION WITH DIGITAL NOMAD AND CEO, ALICE KO





I connected with Alice Ko to learn her story. From working in finance in New York City, returning home to Canada, to founding her remote marketing agency, Pivot Six. Now living in Medellín, Colombia, as a digital nomad, she runs her business from the city of eternal spring. This is how she stays on top of her mission and life, plus all the rewards and challenges in between...


Alice, thanks for getting in touch to talk about Pivot Six, a remote marketing agency with teams across different cities and countries. To begin, tell me about yourself, where you’re from, where you live, and how you found yourself in Medellín after founding Pivot Six?

I was born and raised in B.C., Canada. I worked in finance, and lived in New York City for a few years before moving back to Vancouver to launch Pivot Six six years ago.


How I ended up in Medellín was a bit of kismet. It had always been a dream of mind to spend winters away from Canada (I’m not exactly a cold-weather lover!). Pivot Six had organically become remote (our clients and our creative team is located all over the world), and it one day dawned on me that I did not need to be fixed in one place. I had heard amazing things about Medellín in terms of climate, culture, lifestyle -- and I always wanted to learn Spanish -- so Medellín it was!


You mentioned that you went from a career in finance to the world of marketing, what led to that transition? Run me through how Pivot Six went from concept to company:

I am actually still a professionally designated accountant (I am a Canadian CA, CPA). The story starts off back in 2005, when I ran my own blog (back when Blogspot.com was THE blogging platform of choice). You could say I’ve been working ‘marketing’ since the early days when running your own blog required you to learn and execute all things marketing related. During this time, I was working in accounting and finance in the fashion industry and I transitioned into working on the eCommerce side. I loved this field so much that I started helping different startups run their marketing as a side hustle. This made me realize how much I wanted to work in marketing full-time and that was the beginning of Pivot Six.


In today’s world where focus is so heavily on digital, social media, where do you find that brands need the most guidance in? What seems to be most challenging for brands?

I work with a lot of emerging companies and I’ve noticed two things:

It’s very difficult for decision makers to keep up with marketing trends, since they change all the time, and they need to focus on the operational side of the business. They don’t have time (and oftentimes interest) to understand what is going on with the Facebook/Instagram algorithm, or keep up with trends in email marketing.

This leads decisions makers to be confused at what to spend their marketing budgets on. Should they invest in SEO or paid social media ads? It is better for them to spend efforts on blogging, Instagram, or email marketing?


We love guiding brands in the right direction with understanding the strategic side of marketing, and helping them make the best investment which aligns with their goals.





Alice Ko in Cafe Velvet, Medellín, Colombia



The core of Pivot Six happens to be around the world, so you’re not only running a business but also a team of remote workers, how is that? What are the challenges, perks? Have you met any/most in person?

I am incredible lucky that everybody on the team is reliable and loves communicating online! There are definitely challenges when it comes to time zones but we’ve established a consistent routine when it comes to staying in contact. We wrote a recent blog about it here.


Yes, I’ve personally met everybody in person -- but most team members have not met each other. I hope one day we can do an annual meetup if we are in the same region.


And I’m assuming most of the brands are also across the globe, how do you find doing that work? Are you traveling a lot to kick off teaming up with a brand in person?

Surprisingly - no. Most of our client contacts are also the main decision makers of the business so they also lead extremely busy lives running their business. In fact, I’d say 50% of the time, most of our clients prefer to do calls vs in-person meetings.


I’ve taken a peek at Love Your Mornings, a resource dedicated to making the best of your mornings, whether at home or on the road. What can you share with us about that?

Love Your Mornings started off as a personal passion project for me which evolved into an eCommerce and motivational space. As a morning lover, friends were always asking me for advice on how to become morning birds themselves - so I thought I’d start documenting everything online to easily share my tips and tricks. A close friend introduced me one day by saying: “Meet Alice. She eats hustle for breakfast.” I loved the saying so much - I had a shirt made. People started asking me where I bought the shirt - and the rest is history.


What do you love about living in Medellín? What’s the expat community like there? Is the plan to be there for a while, and if not, where to?

I love everything about Medellín. The expat community is incredible here. In fact, it exceeded my expectations! There is an abundance of Medellín specific expat/digital nomad/support groups on Facebook which really helped me settle into the city.


What’s been most challenging about starting Pivot Six?

The biggest challenge was finding the perfect mix of collaborators at the very beginning of the launch. I’ve worked with a ton of people and although it took some time - we now have the perfect team and are always adding on more creatives to our collective who fit our values of respect, reliability and trust.


And what’s been most rewarding?

There is nothing more rewarding than helping our clients reach their goals. As a finance professional, budgets, numbers and ROI is very important to me. When I analyze a campaign for my clients, I report back to them with quantitative and qualitative metrics to directly showcase how we met their goals, it’s a great feeling to hear how happy they are





Photo by: Philip Jama. Alice in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico



What are your goals going forward?

My personal goals are to always keep learning and growing. Whether that’s learning Spanish or another language, learning a new skill I can use at Pivot Six, or diving into a new passion (currently it is blockchain technology) -- I believe that constant evolution of oneself is key.


Any advice to those thinking about starting their own business or with an idea but unsure how to go forward?

Yes! I’d say start small before you dive in. For instance, I started helping startups with marketing projects as a side hustle before I formally launched my own company. I made sure I was absolutely committed and I definitely tell others to make sure they are confident in their idea before going forward. If you’re unsure, do more research. Talk to more people. Do something small related to your business idea. Any small step you can take in that direction will help you make a clear and confident decision.


And finally, any advice to those who are considering moving/working abroad, as well as working remotely? What would you say are a few best practices to staying on top of work and a deadline?

My advice for moving/working abroad is:
-Research everything! Research visas, the cost of living, safety concerns, etc. This is a good resource: https://nomadlist.com/search
-Overbudget. The more you can plan and the more money you can save up, the less stressful it will be.


To stay on top of work and deadlines:
-Schedule everything! I schedule everything (even my workouts) in my Google Calendar.

Understand what type of to-do list works best for you. For some people, writing a to-do list every morning helps them meet deadlines. For others, it’s using an online app like “To Do” or having a whiteboard in their room.





Scenes from Medellín, Colombia



What are some of your favorite resources, inspirations, authors?

Books that have changed the direction of my life (for the better):

-The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Whenever I lose a bit of hope, I swear I can open to any page of that book and immediately feel at ease, peace, and motivated again.

-The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod kicked off my morning love routine.

-By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (founders of Gilt) made me truly understand the importance of relationships, which is how I've built my business.

-Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza taught me how powerful the mind is.
-You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, an amazing book that everybody needs to read at sometime in their life about forgiveness, healing and true self acceptance.


Podcasts:

-Being Boss by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon is full of tips for creative entrepreneurs

-Spark by CBC Radio will keep you up-to-date on all the latest technologies

-Ted Talks Health - because health before anything else.

-The Mind Body Green Podcast - great interview series by the founders of the popular website.

-The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes - there are some golden podcasts I've just listened to on repeat for motivation (like Lisa Nichols!)

-Gary Vee Audio Experience if you need hard core real talk. This man will give it to you.

-The Lively Show by Jess Lively - teaches you why it's more important to get into 'flow' versus execution

-I also just discovered Tandem Nomads which I quite like


Other

-Get on Alexandra Franzen's email list NOW. I swear I drop everything and click open when I see a new email from Alexandra in my inbox.

Follow Alice Ko on Instagram @thisisaliceko, and learn more about Pivot Six.





El Peñon de Guatape, Colombia