Name: Brittany Hodak
Job Title and Description: Co-Founder, ZinePak
College Name/Major: Undergrad: University of Central Arkansas/BA in Communications; Baruch Zicklin School of Business/MS in Marketing
Name: Kim Kaupe
Job Title and Description: Co-Founder, ZinePak
College Name/Major: University of Florida/Business Administration, Marketing
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Brittany Hodak: Most entrepreneurs will tell you that the “typical” day is a myth! My tasks have evolved greatly over the past four and a half years. When ZinePak started, I was handling most day-to-day tasks, including writing, project management, production, logistics, marketing and client services. Now that we have an amazing team of 11 women, it’s much more of a CEO role: working on high-level partnerships, strategizing what’s next for our future and looking for opportunities to help ZinePak grow. But, it’s still very atypical from day to day!
Kim Kaupe: There is no such thing as a typical day at a start up, but that is the best part! My day can be everything from client meetings and phone calls to approving creative and brainstorming ideas for the content for our packages. I always say ZinePak is the best place to work if you have ADD because one day we are working on a Fall Out Boy piece and the next we are working on Disney’s Frozen. All ages, all genres and all subjects that have superfans are covered at ZinePak!
What is the best part of your job?
BH: There are so many best parts, but it’s always rewarding when a new product is released and we get to see the reaction from fans. We’ll release between 35 and 40 products this year, but the fan reaction to each one is something that never gets old.
KK: The best part of my job is working with a team of smart, creative and talented women. They say if you enjoy the people you work with that you will never actually work a day in your life, and I truly believe that. Strive to find a workplace where you can hone your abilities, enjoy the people around you and learn from leaders in upper management.
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
BH: My very first job was as a radio station mascot. I dressed in a bumblebee costume and went to rodeos, car lot promotions and parades. I got the job when I was 17; I visited the station for a “job shadowing” day during high school and asked if they needed any part-time employees. Luckily, I “fit the suit.” I parlayed that gig into a gig writing concert reviews and artist interviews for the radio station’s website, which is how I discovered my love for helping artists tell their stories.
KK: My first job was at Condé Nast Publications, specifically as the Promotions Coordinator at BRIDES magazine. I would never have been able to secure my job at BRIDES without interning previously in New York in the publishing industry. I spent my sophomore and junior year summers in the city interning first at Teen People and then later at People. The key to securing my entry-level job was actively keeping up my connections with people I had met during internships. I saved every business card that I received over those two summers and made sure to email each of those individuals every few months even if just to say hello or compliment them on an accomplishment.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
BH: “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” This is something my dad told me when I was a teenager. Although it sounds like counterintuitive advice coming from an authority figure, it’s actually a great rule to abide by in your professional life. As a rule of thumb, you should always assume your boss is busier than you.
KK: Make sure the image you are portraying is for the position you want, not the position you have. Whether that means taking time to iron your shirt or perfecting your email etiquette, it helps to continue to strive to think, act and portray yourself as the person you want to be.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
BH: I twice made the mistake of staying in jobs I didn’t like for too long. I stayed at my first job after college, running retail marketing for a record company, for three and a half years. Although I learned a ton and met a lot of great people, I should have left long before I did, because I was unhappy and knew that my goals for myself were not aligned with management’s goals for me. It’s important to have honest conversations with your bosses about where your job is headed and how you’re growing so you can evaluate whether or not your career is heading in the right direction.
KK: One mistake I made early in my career was not speaking up when I felt I had a good idea. Eventually I learned to speak my mind and when I did my ideas were always welcome (not always used but at least welcomed!). I regret not speaking up sooner and wonder how many good ideas slipped away because I was too intimidated to raise my hand in a meeting with senior management. When I look back I often gave a unique perspective, as I was arguably always the youngest person in the room and chances at your first job your outlook will be just as unique!
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
BH: The most surreal moment of my career was meeting Garth Brooks and having conversations with him about his career, because he’s someone who greatly inspired me growing up.
KK: I feel blessed to say I have too many to count! From interviewing Katy Perry on her porch to having The Beach Boys write my dad a note for his birthday, our clients have provided some of my most cherished memories. However, I think the most surreal was Brittany and I hitting a million dollars in business within a year. A million seemed like such a far away dream (and a TON of money to me at age 25!) that I wasn’t able to pinch myself hard enough.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
BH: There are SO many things that go in to someone making the perfect candidate, but a boss of mine told me once that the two most important traits are that someone be smart and eager to learn. If someone has those two qualities, he/she can be taught pretty much anything else and will grow into a great employee.
KK: When considering a new candidate I always try to figure out how much research they’ve done on ZinePak, on myself and on how we operate. Coming to an interview prepared and with an opinion on our business shows me your diligence, research skills and comprehension. My favorite type of interview starts with, “This is how I see myself being an asset to you.”
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
BH: Make as many connections and meet as many people as you can. You never know where a college classmate or sorority sister will be working in five, 10, or even 20 years. Make a conscious effort to meet a lot of people, and then stay connected with them via social media, email, and in-person meetings when possible. As their networks expand, yours will, too.
KK: Follow business leaders and companies you like on all forms of social media. Engage with them, make suggestions to them, question them and most importantly, ask for their time. More often than not people are happy to answer a few questions via email, jump on a quick call or even meet for coffee. I was amazed at the willingness of people to talk to me especially at the start of my career. I once asked the publisher at my magazine to sit with me lunch and while we ate she said, “I’m so glad you asked. No one asks me to sit with them at lunch!” The irony was not lost on me, and I learned my lesson right then and there, ask and the worst people can say is no!