ChatGPT destroyed my business – and I’m OK with that. Here’s why.

Owner and digital strategist of Ninki Content Marketing, Chanelle Le Roux, launched her business in 2017 with great success. However, by early 2023 the rise of ChatGPT had hurt that very success. Here she explains why in the long run, it's actually turned out for the best.

Ninki is Japanese for popularity. When I started the business in 2017, the aim was simple: make brands more popular.

Over the years Ninki found success doing just that. Our client base, team and reputation grew, and by late-2022 we had already outgrown a couple of offices and were working with brands across the globe.

Then ‘it’ happened. And without even reading the title, I think everyone in marketing will know exactly what ‘it’ means.

But this isn’t another ‘ChatGPT took my job’ sob story. Well, only a little. But it’s one with a *spoiler alert* happy ending.

Here’s how ChatGPT destroyed my business, and then, in a weird way, made it even better.

A shock to the system

It was November 2022, and my husband, who had built a successful eight-year career in copywriting, said something that caught me off-guard: “I might be out of a job soon.”

As the owner of a marketing agency that also relied on copywriting work, I was equal parts confused and concerned.

A mysterious tool called ChatGPT had just been released. I soon learnt that it could write hilarious(ly bad) poems about my friends, which was fun and interesting, but didn’t exactly seem like a robot apocalypse set to destroy businesses and careers.

Things soon went from zero to one hundred. One moment ChatGPT was a fun little sideshow attraction, the next it was everywhere.

In the first few months of 2023 there was a precipitous drop in enquiries for our bread and butter service, copywriting, which to that point constituted 80% of our work. I soon began to hear retainer clients explicitly saying “I don’t need your help any more – ChatGPT does it for free!”


The first stage of grief is denial

Initially I tried to keep ChatGPT at arm’s length. The thought that there was a robot that could replace large parts of my business, something that I’d worked so hard to grow, was a watermelon-sized pill to swallow.

It also felt ethically questionable to replace humans with an algorithm that just dropped in whichever word it felt most likely or most relevant next. I didn’t embrace or adopt it, because it directly contradicted the value I had always placed on human experiences and insights.

So I pushed back. I spent months creating content that explained why humans are better – irreplaceable, in fact. I was a cheerleader for Team People; the side that I assumed everyone would support.

But for the most part it fell on deaf ears. As it turned out, there were plenty of copywriting tasks that just didn’t demand a super deep level of human insight. Sometimes people just need to put words on a page, and as long as those words are grammatically correct and say what they need to, they’ll do.

Ninki was drowning. I needed to start kicking.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

“AI won’t replace humans – but humans with AI will replace humans without AI.”

I can’t remember where I saw that quote, but it was a lightbulb moment. It made me realise that AI is here to stay, and that a lot of people are embracing it. I needed to be one.

I switched gears. I learnt all I could about AI. I began with baby steps, initially exploring how different tools could help me work more efficiently, without replacing my team. And to my horror, I was pleasantly surprised.

I enjoy educating small business owners about marketing – I moonlight as a marketing coach – so I worked to become the go-to gal for people who want to learn how to use AI effectively and responsibly within their businesses. I’ve developed a mountain of educational material which I offer through Ninki Academy, a marketing knowledge database built for small businesses.

As my understanding of AI grew, I began to reconsider Ninki’s reason for being.

Ninki 2.0: working with (and around) AI

With the copywriting side of the business dying a slow death, I began asking myself: what distinctly human services could Ninki offer? What am I really passionate about? Which of my skills are currently collecting dust?

With a little help from my friends, I uncovered an AI-resistant gap in the market: developing video content for Meta and TikTok campaigns.

The aim: to assist big brands and agencies in developing and delivering creative strategies. We’d offer content that was different to and more creative than the rest, 90% of which rode on the coattails of the latest TikTok trend. (Attn brands: there’s a hard limit to the amount of moisturiser you can sell doing The Griddy.)

Ninki 2.0 would see me return to my roots, as my marketing journey began in advertising 15 years ago. As a part-time performer and award-winning short film director, Ninki’s new direction also spoke to my personal skills and passions, and made use of my healthy network in the performing arts.

Our new tagline captures the vibe: marketing by creatives, creative by marketers.

Between understanding branding and sales psychology, developing the strategy and the creative to fuel it, finding and working with talent, capturing and editing content, and monitoring and optimising campaigns, almost every facet of our new work would lay beyond AI’s (current) capabilities.

Could AI help? You betcha. ChatGPT is incredibly useful for a myriad of uses. AI-powered CapCut is our go-to editing tool. The difference is that AI is now enhancing our offering, not replacing it.

Tear it down to build it better

ChatGPT destroyed my business as I knew it, in the best possible way. While it served up 12 months of pure stress, the necessary pivot uncovered a sweet spot, injected new life into Ninki, and combined my passion with my profession in a way I didn’t know was possible.

The experience made me realise that there’s no escaping tech, particularly in my business. If you ignore or deny, you’ll cease to exist.

As a business owner you need to be pragmatic and adaptable. You need to scan a forever changing landscape and identify the needs you can fill and the value you can add. You need to be open to using even the scariest tech to fill those needs and add that value, because if you don’t, someone else will.

And if you get lucky, you might end up like me, stumbling across a better, more meaningful business along the way.


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