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How She Did It: Kim Kaupe, Founder of ZinePak, Lands Deal on Shark Tank and Continues Entrepreneurial Success

Kim Kaupe is one savvy, impressive and gorgeous entrepreneur who recently made waves on ABC's Shark Tank by landing a $725,000 deal with Sharks Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner for 17.5 percent of their business. She is the co-founder of ZinePak, a custom publication company that creates engaging fan packages for entertainers, brands, and celebrities.

Upon launching ZinePak in January 2011 with co-founder Brittany Hodak, the company has evolved into a team of ten phenomenal women who are creating packages for top entertainers including Taylor Swift, KISS, Katy Perry, Mumford & Sons and The Beach Boys. Incredibly popular since launch, consumers have spent more than $25 million on ZinePak products in 16 countries. 

Widely recognized for her success, Kim has been on Forbes 30 Under 30 in Music, Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40, and Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list. Additionally, ZinePak was hailed as a Top 30 Startup to Watch by Entrepreneur, and named an “overnight success” by Inc. Magazine. 

As a writer, Kim’s articles have appeared in numerous media outlets including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Woman. She also runs an incredibly entertaining blog which tracks her life and adventures in entrepreneurship called Start Up & The City.

MOGUL had the opportunity to sit down with Kim Kaupe and we were blown away by how she is paving the way for female entrepreneurs. 

MOGUL: What inspired you to launch ZinePak and had you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

Kim Kaupe: When Brittany and I met it was a match made in heaven. With her background in music and mine in publishing, it was a no brainer to combine music and magazines! We saw a need in the marketplace and we were young enough, and crazy enough, to have the confidence to try to go out and solve it. It was scary to leave a well paying job with benefits and perks to embark on the unknown, but in the end not trying at all just wasn’t an option. The scariest part was definitely the first step, after that we’ve just rolled with the punches!

MOGUL: What are the opportunities and challenges you have faced in the process of developing the company?

Kaupe: Like most successful companies some of our success can be contributed to luck and good timing. When we started the company, the physical music landscape couldn’t survive with its ‘business as usual’ attitude. By coming into the field with a fresh idea people were open enough to think, ‘We may as well give this a shot!’ There are always endless challenges as an entrepreneur and the truth is they never really stop. No matter how successful you are, or large your company grows, you are never problem-free; you simply have different obstacles and battles to overcome. The best part of an entrepreneurial journey is knowing that you are going to conquer whatever mountain you face, whether you have to climb over it, find a way around it, or when needed, blast a hole right through it!

MOGUL: How do you envision ZinePak evolving over the next five years?

Kaupe: Brittany and I hope to see ZinePak expand into new verticals. Over the past four years we have been heavily focused in the music and entertainment space but we would love to see growth in other arenas that contain SuperFans like sports, film, or live events. There are plenty of SuperFans out there (I myself am a huge Florida Gator football fan!) that all want to feel closer and more connected to the people, brands and teams they love.

MOGUL: What was the experience like of being on Shark Tank, and how would you recommend other entrepreneurs prepare for their pitch if selected to be on the show?

Kaupe: Shark Tank is unlike anything we’ve ever been through. The hardest part was keeping everything a secret! The time between taping our episode in September and being able to reveal we had an episode airing in April was beyond difficult! Not only did we have no idea if our episode would get chosen to air but we couldn’t even tell anyone about our anticipation! All of the products we brought on the show were actual projects we had done with the likes of Katy Perry, R5, Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert, just to name a few. When an artist is asking when the episode is going to air, it is really hard to keep saying, “I have no idea!”

The advice I would give other entrepreneurs who want to be present in front of the sharks is to know your facts and your numbers. You have a very short window to get the data out in front of them so whether it is sale numbers, subscribers, or downloads of your app, know the numbers backwards and forwards and broken down in different ways, such as monthly versus quarterly. Once you are confident in your numbers the rest is just showcasing your personality and passion!

MOGUL: As an inspiration to women worldwide who are looking to start their own venture, what advice would you give, overall, when it comes to entrepreneurship?

Kaupe: When starting your own venture the number one piece of advice I would have is to find and follow mentors, as sometimes entrepreneurship can be an intimidating and lonely road. The struggles and hardships of entrepreneurs are never new. There have been thousands before you that have felt and faced the exact sample issues and struggles you are facing! The great news is I can guarantee you are never alone! I started my blog, Start Up & The City, for that very reason – I’ve made a ton of mistakes (good, bad, ugly, and downright terrible!) so that hopefully others entrepreneurs won’t have to. So, before you dream up great logos or look into LLC’s, find a mentor, share your vision, and see if there are some potholes or speed bumps you can avoid along the way.  

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