As a child, all Sonia Majkic knew was poverty. Years later, she built a $25 million business.

When Sonia Majkic was a baby, her parents made the life-changing decision to come to Australia.

Life had been tough for her family in Serbia, where tensions were high at the time, leading to Sonia's mum and dad taking their two kids to start a new life in Australia. But the reality of their big decision hit them soon when they arrived in Melbourne.

"I don't have any recollection of my life back in Serbia," Sonia said to Mamamia.

"My parents really struggled to integrate into the community here, and they had left all their family behind. This was back in the '80s, and there was a lot more stigma shown towards immigrants. By the time I got to primary school, my English wasn't great at all. I would go to school with my salami sandwiches and desperate to fit in. My birth name is actually Sanja, but the teachers changed it to Sonia because it was apparently easier to pronounce."

Although Sonia's parents were able to make strong connections to the Serbian community down under, they still felt isolated from the rest of society. And that was something that trickled down to Sonia and her brother as well.

From a financial perspective, things were difficult, leading the family to experience serious poverty for many years.

"They had no skills, no qualifications, no education. So they were working on factory floors, taking jobs anywhere they could, which meant that financially there were a lot of inconsistencies. And the work hours were terrible, like night shifts. We moved around a lot. We started off in a little one-bedroom flat basically all sharing a room," Sonia said. 


"It was sad to watch them fight over money."

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But they worked hard and persevered. And after many years of hard work and sacrifice, they were able to purchase their first property. 

"I think about taking my children and relocating to a different country where we don't know the language, with no family and no friends, no support network. And I take my hat off to them."

It was experiences like these that made Sonia hopeful to have greater financial security for her future when she became an adult. By the age of 12, Sonia had launched her first business 

Sonia's childhood curiosity about sales and marketing motivated her to launch her first business at the tender age of 12 where she sold pot pourri products to her neighbours, designing the packaging, drawing the logo and making price tags.


Business was her world. School - not so much.

"I wasn't very academic, and struggled at school. When I was 17, I'd had enough and left at the beginning of year 12. I then went and worked for an appliance importer which was a brand new startup - and it was the perfect catalyst for me to learn on the job," Sonia said. 

She was hired as a junior staff member and within months was redesigning the business' marketing strategy, improving their logos and updating their online presence. And she made them a lot of money. In one weekend alone, they made $3 million worth of sales, thanks to Sonia's efforts. She was only 19.

But after making so much money for other people - often men - Sonia had a small voice in the back of her mind that was growing larger by the day. And it was telling her to go out on her own. So seven years ago, she created 3 Phase Marketing alongside her business partner Tamara Alaveras. 

"It was very scary at the beginning because it's so much easier when you have the security of a job. When you don't have that regular, consistent income, suddenly you're battling with insecurity and this fear. Every single night I would go to bed and think to myself, 'Oh my god, I really hope this works out'."

Sonia and Tamara. Image: Supplied.


At this point in time, Sonia was married and she had a five-year-old and a two-year-old. She had her family's full support. It was more just about ironing out the logistics and working hard to bring her business to fruition.

"We had $20,000 in savings and when I told my partner I was going to start my own business he was right behind me. The money we had isn't really a lot to build a business on but I was determined to make it happen. I started pounding the pavement, cold calling, door knocking you name it. And with the contacts came more clients and then more success," Sonia said.


Today, Sonia has achieved a lot in such a small amount of time. At age 41, her digital marketing company has generated more than $25 million in sales and won many prestigious awards, including three awards from the Australian Financial Review.

It's been a journey filled with change, growth and plenty of curveballs. And it's also been tough juggling all the facets of life along with a business, Sonia said. 

"You're always divided and you feel guilty all the time, particularly when it comes to your kids. I've become far better at switching off and being present with my kids - when I'm home, I'm home. Not everything can be perfect and you learn to let go of some things. It's crazy to think we can constantly be the perfect mother, the perfect partner and have the perfect career," Sonia said.

In the early stages of the business, Sonia was obsessed with the vision. Obsessed with the hours. Obsessed with making everything perfect. Now, she's learned to not only outsource but to step back and reassess things.

Plus, it's the idea of 'the perfect balance' between parenthood and career that Sonia finds frustrating. Because it pushes unrealistic expectations onto parents working outside the home. And no one wants that. 

"I really steer away from perfection, and instead look at what success means to me. It's about the way I show up every day. So when I'm with my kids, I'm happy and playful. When I'm at work, I'm inspiring and solution orientated."


Sonia and her family. Image; Supplied.

"It truly takes a village to do what I do. The only way that I've managed is with the amazing partner I have and the support I have from my friends, my family, my parents and my in-laws. I never want to create this illusion of 'you can have it all' and 'look at me, I've built a business and I've got three children - anyone can do it'. Because I've succeeded because of the support I've had."


Life has been go-go-go for Sonia and her business team. And for good reason, considering the success they've had. But looking back on it all, Sonia hopes she can learn to pause and "smell the roses" more. 

"I've been on autopilot for so long. Growing up in poverty, I've never been complacent because I realise this all can be over in a flash - everything taken away. Success isn't necessarily defined by just our material acquisitions, although money brings comfort. But so many millionaires you meet are never satisfied, and constantly chasing something. I don't want to be that," Sonia explained to Mamamia

What's for sure is that Sonia's parents are incredibly proud of her. And for Sonia, that's success.

"It's nice to be able to look after them, pay for their holidays and do things together. They made the right choice in the end to migrate to this country.

"I would tell my younger self that it's all going to work out. Yes, my childhood wasn't perfect. But all the things that made me different are the things that have ended up becoming my greatest qualities. I love my parents for what they gave me - a sense of self above all else."

Feature Image: Supplied.

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