Toni-Marie Aston

City: Melbourne

Business: 2aT Startup

What: 2aT Startup is a creative agency offering innovative and affordable digital and design solutions for startups and small businesses



What was the catalyst for you launching your business?

I didn’t have a “light-bulb” moment as such, nor did I know exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to start something.

I had always toyed with the idea of creating a platform for startups and small businesses for a long time. I even purchased my business name over 3 years ago! My problem was I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted that platform to offer.

I guess things got a little more serious for me when I quit my job in 2015 to do a quick travel venture. It was when I returned home that the thought of returning to a 9-5 made my stomach churn.

I soon started planning how I could turn my passion of digital marketing together with my love of helping and encouraging others to start to their own thing, into a business.I knew how to launch businesses into cyber space like the back of my hand, but I had no idea about the fundamentals of starting a business, and I had very little budget to make it happen.

So I enrolled in a full-time small business course and I lived off what little savings I had. I worked out exactly what $1000 capital would get me – not a lot. But I worked my arse off to make it happen and on December 3rd 2015 2aT Startup was born, website and all.

What do you love most about what you do now?

It might sound cliche, but I love the freedom.

2aT is only 7 months old and it has already grown so much in ways that weren’t on my business plan (we have totally gone off route), but it’s nice to know that I can grow and adjust with it.

At the end of the day, it is really scary working for yourself sometimes, but the freedom of setting your own rules and doing what you love every day compensates for most of the fears

Describe the biggest setback you faced when establishing your business? How did it affect you and how did you push through?

Just one?!

I’ve had more setbacks than I care to remember, but if I had to pick one, self doubt would be up there. Every obstacle I had to face when starting my business (and even now) ultimately leads to whether or not I believe in my vision.

Whether I was starting with next to no budget or the struggles of isolation when working from home, I had to tell myself I could do it. If I didn’t believe in 2aT how could I possibly ask others to?

To push through any self-doubt, I turned to the old expression “fake it, till you make it” and by that I mean I faked being confident. When I attended networking events, when I had my first client meeting or when I launched my website, I was shitting myself.

But the people I met or the clients I spoke to didn’t need to know that, they just saw a bubbly person with big dreams and they believed in me just as much as I believe in myself now.

Everyone has days where they feel flat or uninspired - do you have any tricks or tactics for overcoming these feelings?

I surround myself with like minded people.

Whether it’s in the digital world on forums and Facebook pages, in person at co-sharing spaces or catching up with others over coffee, getting amongst people who understand you and most importantly support you is going to be a far greater help than any motivational book you read.

What has been your most effective marketing tactic or strategy?

Meeting people face to face and word of mouth.

I learnt very quickly that I am my brand and people respond most to seeing that I am a real person who genuinely wants to help them.

What is the most courageous thing you've done in business?

I think starting a business in general is pretty courageous.

Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote

I love this quote by Joseph Campbell

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us”.

We so often get caught up with how we think our lives should be, sometimes it’s better to go with it and live in the moment. I think that is what entrepreneurship is all about.