Nicky Felton

Nicky Felton

Co-Founder / Play Creative + Community Connector / The Owners Collective,


Nicky Felton is a multitasking force to be reckoned with. Girls, be prepared for the most insightful and exciting #careerstory of the year – there… I’ve said it. Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the life of a digital community manager? Of course, you have, it’s one of the hottest (and in demand) digital jobs of 2017.

For those living under a rock a social media manager is responsible for being the brand on social media –  a community manager is responsible for advocating the brand on social networks. They create their own social persona and actively go out within the online community to connect with potential customers and advocate the brand. Nicky nails community – she is encouraging, polite, flipping funny and always goes over and above in her role over at the Owners Collective, but of course, this multi-passionate entrepreneur doesn’t stop there. Nicky is also the Co-Founder of Play Creative.

So how does she juggle the ever elusive balance of maintaining a successful business, while working for someone else? What did Nicky study at University? What are her top tips for all female students and who is her mentor? Today’s interview gives all of the above and so much more.

Every time I engage with this babe, I want to fly over to the land of the long white cloud and hang. She just gets it.

Please meet the courageous Nicky Felton…

Hey Nicky, welcome to The Cool Career. Can you tell us where you grew up, and how that experience shaped the person that you are today?

I had a really interesting upbringing so buckle in and hold on for the ride! I grew up on an Island in Sydney (Scotland Island), but then at about 5 years old my parents packed up our lives and we went sailing around the South Pacific Ocean on a boat for three years. We lived a super wholesome, adventurous life and it’s safe to say my parents really were about doing things a bit differently. When we returned from our tropical adventures, the family decided to move to New Zealand where Mum and Dad threw themselves in the deep end yet again (noticing a theme??) and started an avocado farm despite not knowing anything about avocados…

We moved around a LOT because of how adventurous my parents were, which was pretty amazing really – I think this has been both the best and the worst thing for me in my upbringing and my career. The worst because I found it really hard to fit in and do the ‘normal’ thing. I get bored thinking about ‘traditional’ career progression, I can stand the thought of working 9-5 for the rest of my life… and for a long time, I struggled with that because at school that’s what they preach. So I wound up thinking I was ‘not committed’ or ‘had a short attention span’. This is exactly why it’s also been the BEST thing for me because once I realised that it was in fact ambition, and when I started running my own businesses – had the ability to grow and progress how I wanted to, I found my ‘thing’!

When I grew up, I wanted to be two things:

  • 1) an Inventor,
  • 2) the person who made ads on TV.

Last week we produced our first Television Commercial, and I feel like an ‘Inventor’ is pretty close to an Entrepreneur! I think I’m on track!

Congratulations on making your first ad, that is MASSIVE! So where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

I went to two different high schools in New Zealand – one was a large all-girls public school, Whangarei Girls High School (where I did year 9 and 10), and then I went to a very small, country private school for my last three years, Springbank School. The two were super different experiences and I gained a lot from both. In the public school I felt you really were a number and there was no individualised teaching, which was then the opposite at the private school where we only had one class per year level. I was never academically gifted but I tried really hard at school and ended up doing well. I REALLY struggled with anything to do with numbers – we’re talking *crying in almost every Statistics class*, kinda struggle – but my parents made me do statistics right through to my last year, which I hated them for at the time, but now I love them for as it taught me to persevere.

I enjoyed the last year of school particularly when I was able to step up into a leadership role, run events, and actually make a difference in school.

Pic Credit: Play Creative

Oh Nicky, I totally understand what you mean about numbers, I hated them. Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

Let me just start this off by saying I had NO idea what I wanted to do when I left school – like NO idea! SO if you’re reading this and this is you, don’t stress, you’re going to be totally fine because guess what, despite everyone always asking you, you don’t have to know.

My high school, being so small, only really taught the core subjects so we didn’t have any of the fun options like photography etc, so I felt a bit restricted to just the basics. They did, however, stress the importance of subjects like ‘enterprise’ which I really enjoyed. I knew I strongly disliked numbers, and really enjoyed subjects like English – so I knew I was thinking something along those lines. I found it really frustrating that school and University weren’t really on the same page, because teachers have gone through university a good 20-30 years prior to when we go through school, their awareness of what University is actually like is vastly different to what it is now and it really frustrated me that they were ‘behind the times’ in that sense. This was also very true for my feelings about how Uni is quite out of touch with the real world – especially in an industry like social media and communications.


Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.

I’m going to alter this question slightly because that’s how I roll, and tell you instead about what I did straight after school.

I was offered a job as a ‘working pupil’ at an Eventing (horses) yard at the start of my last year – the job was working for New Zealand’s best eventer at the time who personally offered me the job so needless o say, I was very excited. I looked forward to it for the whole year and decided I’d do a year working at the stable and then see ‘what next’ from there. I lasted 4 months and hated pretty much 3 of those months. This was THE BEST THING that could happen to me because I worked out really quickly that it wasn’t what I wanted to pursue as a career – so I went to uni straight after this.

Through university, I did a MILLION internships and work experience placements in different industries and companies to find out what I did and didn’t want to do. I credit those for getting me to where I am now, and so quickly. Don’t be afraid of finding out what you don’t want to do!

Pic Credit: Play Creative

Wow, what a trajectory, thank you for diving deep and telling us all of the details. So, you obviously went to Uni, what did you study and why?

I went to Waikato University and studied a Bachelor of Communications Studies with a double major in Public Relations and Management Communications. I chose this degree by literally scrolling through the University website and thinking “that looks like a bit of me!”. Everyone always said I was a ‘people person’ and I really enjoyed public speaking and just general talking (!!) so I chose Communications. It was a very broad degree that opened more doors rather than closing them which made it tricky to decide what I wanted to do, but meant that I had a lot of options when I completed the degree. I could choose what kind of communications I wanted to do, what specific industry I wanted to work in, and even how I wanted to work – for example, Public Relations within the Sporting industry working ‘in-house’ (within one large organisation).

So many girls are interested in Communications degrees. Loved that your experience was positive. Let’s jump to life after Uni. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?

Okay buckle yourselves in again team, it’s been an interesting journey! I’ve always had a pull to ‘do my own thing’, so while I was at University I started freelancing communications in my second year, much to the shock of my friends. I found a market (athletes and sportspeople) who needed my services and I started my own ‘company’ to fill that need. This was the best thing I could have done as it gave me so much hands on experience actually doing what I’d been taught at University, and dealing with clients. I really enjoyed working with athletes because they were super passionate about what they do, so I found my niece in sports. This meant I came out of University with 2 years of industry experience already.
That meant that when I finished uni, I got the first job I applied for and had the confidence to turn it down because it didn’t feel quite right and I knew I could get the ‘grad level’ roles, so I thought “let’s go a bit bigger”.

I then started applying for jobs that were a step higher – after MANY interviews and phone calls saying “you were our second choice”, I finally landed my dream role as the Communications and Marketing Manager at the Avantidrome, New Zealand’s National Cycling Center of Excellence. I was so chuffed and the first few months were great! However, 10 months later I was the last person employed at the 30 million-dollar facility and the staff turnover rate was at 200%… It was during this experience where I learned the following:
a. Companies aren’t always like they tell you companies should be like at University
b. Sometimes turbulent environments teach you the most BUT…
c. At some point, you stop learning and your confidence starts taking a hit – that’s when you should leave

I then moved onto my role as the Eventing Sports Manager for Equestrian Sports New Zealand – a management role within Sport. I did this contract for 6 months but wasn’t growing and developing how I wanted to so I decided not to renew and to instead take the plunge and start our own company with my partner.

Then the Owners Collective role came along which just complimented everything super nicely (read more about that below)!

Nicky with her Play Creative Co-Founder Dan.

So tell us… How did you get the job that you are in now?

Owners Collective Community Connector – I had been following the Owners Collective and the amazing Pru Chapman for quite some time and had always stalked their blogs and FB page. I had JUST started to think that I might need another income stream when the Community Connector role popped up in my newsfeed so I was pretty amazed/creeped out/impressed with the universe! I applied via email and Pru responded the next day with the most heartwarming and exciting email ever – long story short, I got the role and LOVE every day!

Co-Founder of Play Creative – my partner has the ‘practical’ side of skills that fit my communications theory, so in late 2016 we both decided to take a bit of a leap and purchase a camera to start making video’s and building a business, and we haven’t looked back yet! I never thought I’d be running a video production company but it also seems like such an obvious move now because it allows me to be creative which is my JAM and use my communications, branding and relationship-building skills all at once, and paired with my partners killer creative eye and tech skills – we’re growing a very healthy business doing what we love.

What is the hardest part of your current job?

With Play Creative, we’re still learning a lot so we’re operating outside of our comfort zone pretty regularly which is amazing for our personal growth and development but is sometimes a little nerve-wracking! Other than that it’s probably just about us managing to keep up with the workload we have. My partner is still technically at University (last semester YAY) so he’s working full-time and doing full-time Uni which means a lot of hours!

What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?

Everyday is different which I LOVE! But here’s an idea. On a shoot day, we will usually be up early to catch the best of the light, traveling to wherever we might be shooting that day. Then for the rest of the day we’re capturing the footage we’re after which involves managing clients, running interviews, and lots of organising. After our shoots we ALWAYS go and get food of some sorts – it’s a little tradition that has just evolved over time and is a great way to debrief and celebrate!

On a non-shoot day, I get up and am on my computer pretty much straight away answering member questions in my Facebook groups that I run for the Owners Collective. Most people say you should get up and do something before you jump on your computer but because my groups have a global audience there’s a lot of action in the groups while I sleep, so clearing that is my first priority! After that I’m usually straight onto my emails and any urgent to-do’s on my computer. Then I like to have my meetings in the morning because I find them the most productive so I’ll generally go to a local café and meet with clients to talk about upcoming projects. I usually work through from early to 3pm and then I head off and ride my horses in the afternoon, and come back to work in the evening after dinner.

Nicky filming with Cycling New Zealand

Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

I’ve always looked up to Mum and Dad for being so adventurous and bold in their decisions. They go head-first into everything they put their mind to, whether they know anything about it or not, they’ll dive in and make it happen. They’re also incredibly hard workers so I’ve always admired that. My older Sister is another one of my biggest inspirations – she’s incredibly determined and focused on her goals, and is a massive over achiever in everything she does!

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?

It’s funny because I have to say I still don’t know what my ‘career’ really is! It’s hard to define what it is exactly that I do, and it’s not something nice and neat like a ‘doctor’ – and I think that’s one of the biggest learnings! You don’t have to know what you want to do, and it’s natural to feel like you don’t know what it is that you even do most of the time. Follow the things that interest you and TRY, TRY, TRY – go and chat with people in the industry, get experience, offer to work for free, make connections – and if after any of those you feel a bit ‘meh’ about something, then follow what excites you next!

Don’t be afraid of not liking something, just take that feedback on board and head off to find what it is you do like. You SHOULD LOVE your job and be passionate about what you do, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! You CAN earn money doing what you love! That’s probably the biggest thing I’d love girls to take away from this.

With the Founder of Owners Collective and boss Pru Chapman

List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?

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