Getting down to business with Luke Whelan of Perth is OK
May 17, 2020
Photo by @saltywings
Even if you're not located in WA, you've likely come across the Instagram page @perthisok in your scrolling travels. Often on the 'popular' page of the app thanks to its jaw-droppingly beautiful photography, Perth is OK is nature porn if we've ever seen it, acting as a free guide to some of best not-so-secret hot spots of WA.
Luke Whelan is the Co-Founder of Perth is OK and despite its name, the Instagram page (which also has its own Facebook page and website) covers regional WA, as well as the occasional mind-blowing location or two in other states around Australia. He's also created sister page @perthwillbeok, which focusses on the innovative practices businesses are putting in place as a way of surviving the COVID-19 measures.
From working in music and the arts to becoming an entrepreneur with multiple businesses, creating content is Luke's bread and butter and he's not afraid to reveal the secrets to his success. You'll want to crack a beer and get comfortable for this one, folks...
Photo by @jaxonfoale
You're the founder of WA's largest digital community Perth is OK. How was Perth is OK born, and what was your motivation behind creating it?
Perth Is OK was the brainchild of myself and co-founder Blake Kelleway in late 2014. We were running a club night called “Mondo” in Northbridge together at the time (think tropical lei feel-good vibes meets the weird and obscure) and watching the advent of “Influencers” who were taking over the digital landscape with the rise of Instagram.
Neither of us looked very good in a bikini and we wanted to see what we could do with the platform, so we came up with a purely user-generated content idea that we thought people would connect with. Blake and I are like-minded in a lot of ways but also have our strengths and weaknesses. Blake has a great creative taste and a sense of what is on-trend, locally and internationally.
Photo by @craigtphoto
I think my strengths lie in the commercial aspects of the business and the long-term direction of the platform. Together we tend to find solutions that make sense both creatively and from a business perspective. We were pretty sick of the ‘sleepy country town’ reputation often afforded to us by the eastern states and are Perth-proud, so we wanted to make a statement by showcasing just how good Perth actually is. Sometimes people don’t get the ‘is ok’ thing but we think it’s a very WA-centric way of understating the obvious.
Anyway, the mantra obviously resonated and the hashtag took off! It continues to grow with people submitting thousands of photos every day with a total of around 3.4 million now. We’re so thankful for the army of people out there hashtagging #perthisok every day showing us what’s good. Also, apologies that we can’t repost all of your amazing pictures!
This is probably a good time to thank all of our amazing blog contributors and businesses like Beerfarm that support us. We used our Instagram following to launch the Facebook page, and most recently the blog which we’re really excited about. It finally gives us our own voice to talk about all the best things in Perth and WA.
Photo by @emu_escape
Perth youth in their late '20s and early '30s may remember the days of Metric Events, with Pilerats currently across everyone's eyeballs. Tell us about how your time with both of these businesses and the impact they've had on the youth culture here in Perth.
Feels like a lifetime ago now! I was studying engineering at the time when a few friends and I decided to try and bring the uni style of party to the general public. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but what started as a 100 person boat party soon became several weekly club nights, national touring events, and large-scale music festivals.
We spent a lot of time Googling what terms meant when dealing with agents, venues and councils to give a thin veil of knowing what we were doing, but really we were teenagers pretending to be professionals avoiding ‘getting a real job’ at all costs. Looking back, it’s pretty cool to think we launched artists such as Skrillex, Flume and Alison Wonderland in WA, but at the time we were just having fun with our friends without too many illusions of grandeur.
Needless to say, uni was soon put on hold (never to be picked up again, sorry Mum). There was a six-month period that about 10 of us lived in a warehouse in the city, fondly referred to as ‘The Pile’, which definitely took a few years off my life expectancy. We brought out breaking artists that we liked and wanted to hang out with and treated them like family while they were here.
Photo by @overlandinaus
I think this was pretty refreshing for them and helped develop long-lasting relationships, which would ultimately lead to the creation of Pilerats. We had built a really strong relationship with Sonny Moore (Skrillex) from promoting his first shows in WA, the first of which was at a 300 person male strip club called Republic. The club was run by a guy called ‘The Cowboy’ who is basically Perth’s version of Joe Exotic from The Tiger King. After that we tagged along with Skrillex on his US tour and got the opportunity to make a video clip for one of his tracks.
That then launched the Pilerats iPad magazine and the rest, as they say, is history. About four years ago Metric came to the end of its a journey and I left to follow my own endeavours, and it’s great to see them still doing well. As for what impact these things had on youth culture in Perth? I guess we changed what nightlife culture looked like for the better (in my very biased opinion).
At the time we strongly pushed no dress code and “no douchebag” entry policy. The norm back then was that you required cheap leather shoes, a button-up Ed Hardy shirt and a Jersey Shore attitude to get into nightclubs which fuelled a real ‘bro culture’, which we wanted to avoid. We also launched the careers of hundreds of local, national, and international artists, which is a great legacy to leave behind.
Asides from all that we hopefully brought a lot of people together that might never have met. For me, one of the highlights is the relationships I formed over this period. I love that nearly all of my friends’ long-term relationships flourished on the dancefloor at a Metric event (including my own to my beautiful fiancé Rachel, who spent many a night working the door at our most infamous night, Cheek).
Photo by @lilly.jane
What was the journey like transitioning from high school to being an entrepreneur of not one, but four businesses?
In a word – tumultuous. There was no real master plan from going to high school to university to where it all ended up. Everything seemed to progress organically, for better or worse, and each step made sense at the time. The events business was taking off and I was focusing less on my studies which was hurting my grades. I had nearly reached my last year of engineering studies and could see my life laid out in front of me.
What I saw wasn’t where I envisioned my life going at the time, so ditching the degree to do my own thing was an easy choice. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on this choice across the last ten years over a few vino's, especially when business isn’t going well. Thankfully at the time, there wasn’t such a culture about being a #boss, hustler or entrepreneur that seems to bombard social media channels now, so my decisions weren’t fuelled by some incorrect notion of what working for yourself actually means.
Photo by @livmcdonald
I don’t want to be the guy that sells people the false pretense that running your own business means you’ll end up ‘living the dream’. If someone’s cracked the code and has managed to create a business that means they work four hours a week, make heaps of money and while away the hours sipping beers on a beach somewhere – please let me know! My journey has been filled with equal amount of downs and ups. I’ve had festivals canceled for rain, fire, and now a pandemic.
I’ve been bankrupt, flat broke, and have spent many a late hour wondering where it all went wrong. But it’s these failures that ultimately teach you how to be better. Conversely, I’ve had to opportunity to travel the world, work with amazing people, and design a custom lifestyle of my own choosing. I guess if I had advice for anyone looking at taking the plunge and doing their own thing it would be this: 1) Don’t Do It! Get a cushy job, clock off at 5, and go on plenty of holidays.
2) Alright if you’re still here – Prepare to fail. I’m sure you’ve read biographies from Jobs, Musk and Branson and it all seems to be easy and that you’ll be the next unicorn CEO. Realistically though, these guys are in the 0.01% and it’s unlikely that your path is going to be the same as theirs – but that’s OK! For everyone else just prepare to grind. Every high comes with an equal low, but if you’re willing to work through it eventually you’ll get the balance right.
Photo by @aquaflyte
What do you do in your spare time, when you're not being a boss man and digital marketing wizard?
Avoiding those titles as much as possible haha! My spare time is mostly spent with my wife-to-be and fluffy dog – Sushi. You’ll often find me frequently the watering holes in South Freo, or occasionally hacking it up on the golf course.
What are your top 3 tips for someone who runs their own business on how they can capture their audience with engaging social media content?
I think the main thing for business owners to wrap their heads around is that your social media channels are a digital representation of your business, much like a shopfront or office is in the real world. What are the core values you want you want to impress on customers when they first step into your boutique, office, warehouse or retail space?
Unfortunately, when people land on your social channels for the first time, you’re not standing at the front door to greet them and sell them the dream, so you need to get the message across digitally. All facets of your digital presence should uphold and reinforce these values. My top 3 tips would be:
1. Create – I think most small businesses would have ‘professional’ and ‘authentic’ in their core business values, so this means that your design, imagery, videos and written content should be a) professional and b) authentic. I have a pet hate for stock photos and videos because they lack any authenticity, which immediately disengages a lot of potential customers.
Photo by @unexploredfootsteps
2. Engage – The beauty and curse of social media is that it’s a two-way conversation and if you’re not there to respond to questions, comments and potential complaints, your target audience will turn off. Create meaningful relationships with people and they’ll keep coming back, much like you would with potential clients and customers in the real world.
3. Pay – Social media platforms are a (very large) business too, and while they will often gift you with some free organic reach this is a hook to get users onto their platform. Long term success for businesses of all sizes when marketing themselves on social media require a paid strategy, just like any traditional media outlet. Thankfully, unlike traditional media outlets, these advertising budgets are completely scalable and trackable.
So find a budget you’re happy with, implement a targeted campaign, track your success metrics, scale and repeat.
Photo by @celina.stenau
Talk us through your creative process. How do you find inspiration for your own content, as well as content for your clients through Social Meteor?
Thankfully, I have a creative wizard sitting next to me to bounce ideas off all-day – Creative Director at Social Meteor and friend of 10+ years Ben Hardy. We always bring creative ideas back to the “core values of the brand” principle touched on above. How does this idea reinforce brand values? How do we make it fit aesthetically and in the right tone of voice? From there we throw a heap of ideas down and refine until there’s a handful of fleshed out executions for the client to choose from.
All of this is best done over a few beers at the pub. With all of our client work, we have a strong ‘let’s give it a crack’ ethic even if it’s something we haven’t necessarily done before. We should all be grateful that we live in a time when you can teach yourself literally anything online for next to nothing. The digital space and platforms move so fast that I think this attitude is necessary to keep ahead of the curve and it’s something we strive for.
Photo by Visit Ningaloo