Nikki Williams is the director of Milk Bottle Projects, a Melbourne-based public relations, and digital marketing agency.
Williams is extremely passionate about letting people know about the latest cafe, restaurant or bar openings in her hometown of Melbourne. And she loves being at the forefront of hospitality trends. Her claim to fame is having personally photographed George Calombaris, Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn and being Snoop Dogg’s PR girl for a day.
Prior to working with Milk Bottle Projects, she has worked as a bartender, barista, waitress, events manager, PR manager and photographer for various hospitality companies and businesses.
Meet Nikki Williams in our interview below!
Tell us about your professional journey. How has your career led you to be the Director of Milk Bottle Projects?
I had an interesting lead into starting Milk Bottle Projects – I actually started out doing PR for record labels and artists in the music industry. I worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg when he changed his name from Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion (whose idea was that!) and then worked on The XX’s album, Coexist in New York.
Coming back to Melbourne made me realize that the music industry just wasn’t big enough in Australia for me, but I was determined to still work in PR. During this whole time, I was slinging cocktails, working in events and marketing roles, and three-plate carrying all over Melbourne. Soon I realized that my other love, obsession, and industry passion was hospitality, so it made sense to start Milk Bottle Projects.
I’ve always been an avid photographer as well, so it was a natural progression to add social media management to our offering and services and progressively more “statistical” based marketing services too.
What does your day-to-day look like – and what you love most about what you do?
Ooft, I tell you what, every day is different!
I now only work 2-3 days in the office per week and on varied hours. However, the one thing that is consistent every day is making a coffee first thing and looking at my calendar to see what I have on during the day. If I’m going into the office, we may do a quick briefing on a new client or project. Otherwise, we’re getting through our emails, and I’m hopping off to meetings as they’ve been scheduled.
General activities in the office include client meetings, speaking with WeWork staff about our many deliveries, meeting with existing clients, speaking with contractors, briefing in the team about new clients or campaigns, answering emails and writing briefs, contracts and maintaining our backend accounting system, Xero.
What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?
To be malleable and agile in business. That is, anything can happen at any time. Life and business are both unpredictable, so be prepared to make reasonable and level-headed decisions when required. For example, we know that coronavirus will probably impact our business on some scale, I’ve needed to pre-plan what to do if we are in lockdown for days, weeks, or months. This is a difficult skill to learn on the spot, but I think it’s a vital business skill to have when deciding to start a new business.
What does success mean to you?
Success, to me, means freedom to work from anywhere in the world and to work the hours that I choose! It hasn’t been a short road to achieve this kind of success, but boy oh boy, when you get there, it’s a massive achievement, and it feels amazing!
What’s the biggest piece of advice that you could offer to a young woman looking to pursue a career in PR?
If you have any trouble with grammatical sensibility, spelling, or sentence structure, download Grammarly NOW! More specific to the PR process, start making contacts now! What kind of publications do you want to be servicing? Who is the Editor of the publication? Do you know their contact details?
I started preparing databases of radio stations and music publications all around the world from a very young age. This ended up being invaluable for future job opportunities. Also, do your research to find businesses like SocialDiary who update you on the world of PR, celebrities that may be in town in the coming months, and the movements of other agencies. It is super useful information, and it’s a pleasure to read their eDMs!
Do you have a specific person that’s inspired you or mentored you, that a particular person that’s really influenced you?
I think it was more a “team” (a small team, but a team nonetheless) of people who inspired me. In particular, the team at XL Recordings who came up with the wildest PR concept I’ve ever worked on for The XX’s Coexist release.
They sent one file of the new album to one randomly selected fan in the world and then watched on a screen showing a picture of the world where the file was then shared as a result. This was when file sharing and torrenting was massive, and although this process didn’t necessarily make them a ton of profit, it was a really interesting way to launch an album.
The team I worked with made me realize what larger-scale PR, combined with interesting uses of technology, could achieve.
How do you practice self-care?
In the early years of MBP, I really struggled with self-care because, well, the hustle was real!
These days I practice yoga three times a week and go to the gym two to three times a week, and this tends to keep my head level, body healthy, and mind active. Eating properly can get hard sometimes too if you don’t have time to cook, so I’ve been using MarleySpoon, which delivers ingredients to your door. This way, I’m still cooking but don’t need to go to the store to buy goods all the time, and there’s very little wastage of ingredients!
Lastly, I limit my TV/Netflix/Stan time and have my TV turned away from my couches on purpose. Such a silly little trick, but I tell you, it works! I listen to music while editing, reading, cooking, or hanging with friends instead.
What do young women, who want to start a technology-based company, need to know.
Research how to do everything yourself! From accounting software to what kind of marketing services you need to utilize, to how to create content to scheduling content on social to eDMs and automated emails. You can literally do it all yourself. You just need to find the right tools that suit the way you learn and operate.
If you could go back and give yourself three pieces of advice when you first started your career – what would you tell yourself?
Research accounting platforms, subscriptions, and services. I started with paper invoices, ha!
Use Calendly which is a complete-time (and life) saver! It allows anyone wanting a meeting with you to schedule it themselves, depending on what’s already in your calendar. No more back and forth emails!
Co-working spaces are your best friends!
What quote or saying do you live by?
The hustle is real! – Because it is!
The early days were tough and challenging, but I promise that if you’ve thought through your initial concept, done your due diligence to analyze your point of difference and other business in your same field, the rewards will be amazing. Look after yourself and have a little bit of a backup slush fund, just in case it takes longer than anticipated. But I promise, if you keep at it, you’ll reach your goals!
What’s next for you and for Milk Bottle Projects?
We have gradually opened up to some other industries or subsections of the “lifestyle” industries, and I feel as though we will continue to do this moving forward.
The hospitality industry has seen some challenges recently due to tax and wage scandals, extensive fires, and therefore produce prices rising and now coronavirus. So it’s important to diversify so that we aren’t too affected by these external factors.