Collaborate, Even When You’re Small

Insider tips from Collabosaurus' Jessica Ruhfus

Above: Jessica Ruhfus from Collabosaurus (right) and Ash Macedo from Electric Eyes Photo: Alex Carlyle

Coca-Cola and Heinz hatched sustainable packaging, Uber escorted shelter kittens, and you can find Wally on a Havaianas thong. Everyone’s collaborating, so how can we do it? We posed the question to expert collaborator, and one of our Aspire To Inspire speakers, Jessica Ruhfus, whose online platform helps start-ups connect and leverage brand partnerships.

“It’s pretty much like Tinder,” laughs Jessica of her business, Collabosaurus. With a background in PR and small-business marketing, this is what she knows about making strategic collaborations simple and budget friendly.

In the simple sense, exposure to a targeted, interested audience. You can spend AU$10,000 on an advertising campaign that’s a bit of a stab in the dark, or you can partner with someone who has the same target market – an ideal market for your product or service who would be interested, and are likely to take up your brand.

You want to almost piggy-back onto a brand that can offer you valuable exposure. Think about your target market and where it is reflected in different industries. Your best customers are your loyal ones, so have a look at them – why they use your product or service – then match with someone with that exact same target market. [Be] specific around interests, age, gender and location.

Food and fashion – they definitely go together more than you’d think. Venues and pretty much anything go together. Perhaps [a venue owner has] a café and it’s not used at night. What a great opportunity to host an event. Maybe a B2B company could host a seminar event within a café, because that would be awesomely weird… and whacky. Often the wackiest partnerships get the most engagement because people go, ‘I barely get it, but it’s awesome’, and they’ll [share it on] social media.

Social media [reach], excess product… sometimes people have a bit of budget. [But] often business owners don’t stand back and go… what do I have in terms of my own skills that I could offer in a partnership? Maybe I’m really good at PR, networking or getting people to an event. The partnership you secure might be with someone who’s time poor but has a budget. You put in the [man hours], they fund it, and you both get exposure out of it.

You’ve got to have a mutually beneficial partnership. If [a partner] comes in and goes, ‘I want this, I want this, I want this’, and they’re not even considering the other party, that’s a huge, huge red flag. Lay the foundation early and say, ‘this is what I’m looking for, can this partnership give me that?’

Bigger brands, ones like Coca-Cola for example, want to get into communities and get back down to the grassroots, because they don’t want to be identified as this huge global conglomerate. A TV campaign isn’t going to give you the contact or the engagement that say, a partnership with a small business, would.

I think it’s really important to be on the ‘making change’ path. Do something cool with a charity. Don’t just donate five per cent [of your profits], do a campaign together – something interesting – and then push it to the press. Not-for-profits have an audience too and a big following, especially on social media, so it’s good to get in front of those people as well.

Location is definitely something to consider, especially for bricks and mortar businesses. For example, Mexicano restaurant in Sydney partnered with One Teaspoon. At the end of a meal, the bill came with a card that said ‘10 per cent off at One Teaspoon’ on one side, and on the other side it said if you buy something at One Teaspoon you get a percentage off at Mexicano. That’s a really clever location campaign, because One Teaspoon had just opened a store nearby.

If an Australian brand thinks, ‘I’ve got an awesome product and I think the UK market will really like it’, then the UK market are probably thinking, ‘we really want to get into Australia’, so it would be a clever cross-promotion, especially if it’s an online product or service or something that can be bought overseas.


Love this! I have a background in partnership and am so passionate about how partnerships can really amplify your business. Money isn’t the only currency – sometimes, it’s not even the best one!!


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