Shana Haynie, is a the mother of a teenager, and she co-founded a marketing agency with her husband the same year she had her son. She is a creative at heart and loves to sing, cook, paint, and draw, but she also possess strong strategic thinking skills, which is why marketing is her jam!!
Her company is called Vulpine Interactive and we've been in business since 2014. They are a social media marketing agency located in downtown San Diego, and work primarily with small to medium-sized businesses. Their vision is to help these companies build contagious brands and passionate fans on social media through the creation and implementation of cunning, creative, and considered marketing strategy.
I asked her why did she become an entrepreneur and she told her story as to why she began her journey.
" While I've had an entrepreneurial spirit my whole adult life, I never really thought I would be managing a company like Vulpine Interactive.
It all really started in 2014, right after my son was born. I had been employed as a low-level manager at a local restaurant, but after I had my son, I decided that I did not want to go back. I was getting my degree in graphic design at the time and was hoping to build a career as a designer. However, I had a newborn child and as a first-time mom, I was overwhelmed. I realized pretty quickly that being a stay at home was NOT for me. But I had no real-life work experience, so what could I do?
I scoured craigslist every day while my son was napping, trying to find some sort of employment that would allow me the luxury of childcare so that I didn't have to stay home. Unfortunately, the only jobs I could even get an interview at were minimum wage, irrelevant positions. I couldn't take a minimum wage job because it would pay me less than what childcare was going to cost. I had a BA in fine art and some hospitality experience, but I still couldn't find anything worthwhile. Stuck in a rut, I became depressed.
But then, one day, my husband had this idea that we should start a digital marketing agency. You see, he was playing poker professionally, but wanted to do something different with his life. He had worked for a year and a half to develop a poker training app, but after it launched, he realized that he needed to market it, so he had been doing a lot of research into digital marketing. One thing led to another, and eventually, the people at the poker table began asking my husband for help with digital marketing for their businesses. And when he saw how miserable I was looking for jobs every day, it dawned on him that this was going to be our next big thing.
We had a little pow-wow and decided that he would be the CEO and I, the Creative Director, and our little 2-person agency (then known as Splash - Online Presence Management) was born. We moved out of our large, suburban rental home to a tiny downtown apartment, sold one of our cars, and went "all in" on digital marketing.
Since then, we have pivoted our company and rebranded 2 times. We've made lots of mistakes and barely lived to tell about it.
Apparently, running a business with little to no experience is no easy feat. We struggled in our first year to find the right audience and to prove value to our clients. Inevitably, all of them eventually left. We knew that this was partially due to our inexperience, but also due to the fact that we were targeting the wrong type of businesses.
We had been focused on small, local businesses as they seemed to be the ones who needed help with digital marketing the most. However, while this may seem straightforward, there is a reason that these companies are failing at digital marketing and even though we knew better than them, they ultimately could not be persuaded to invest enough in digital marketing, and so we changed our brand messaging around and began targeting startups, another subset of companies who are not equipped to invest in digital marketing.
That was mistake number two.
By now, we were way ahead of the game in terms of industry knowledge since we basically spent a year and a half attending conferences, reading blogs, hosting events and doing whatever it took to make a name for ourselves in our community and soak up as much information as possible. So, again, we shifted our focus and decided that producing and selling educational courses to entrepreneurs and freelancers was our calling. This turned out to be a lot more work than expected, so we went back to the drawing board after 2 failed attempts.
At this point, June of 2016, our company had a handful of monthly services clients, but it wasn't enough to keep us afloat. We were borrowing money from our families and were hitting close to the end of our runway. Then, low and behold, someone offered my husband a job as the head of growth for a startup based in Dublin, but with a headquarters in San Francisco. We needed the money, so I urged him to take the role. I knew that I would be managing the entire agency all by myself (for the most part), but his extra income on top of what our current clients were paying would be extremely helpful. We still had a very small team back then: just me, my husband, a contractor, and 2 virtual assistants. While I was a bit nervous, I knew it would be a good thing.
Since I had been in charge of the social media wing of our agency, we decided to narrow down our service offerings to just social media. All of our current clients were paying for social media and nothing else, so it seemed like the best thing to do. And sure enough, the second my husband left, all of the hard work we had done in the past months finally started to pay off. I began to scale the agency by producing processes, and we had so much demand coming in, that I hired my first social media assistant a month or two later.
My husband was able to bring in agency business even while he was working at the other company, which happened to be a marketing tech tool. As the head of growth for that company, he was able to build out his personal brand through content creation and speaking gigs, and this led to more people coming through our agency doors. After a few months, my husband decided to leave his job and come back to the agency so that we could rebrand and relaunch as Vulpine Interactive: Social Media Marketing for Exciting Brands.
We now have a team of 8 people and are thriving (for the most part ;), and I have assumed the role of COO since operations basically became a "thing" while I was the one in charge. "
Advice she has for mothers: "My advice for mothers who want to become entrepreneurs is to do it for the right reasons. Because I own a business with my husband, we are both gone 40-50 hours per week, and all we talk about at home is work strategy. I know my son gets frustrated when he can't be a part of these conversations, and I know that my husband and I have made a decision that would be tough for a lot of parents to make.
We do feel guilty sometimes that we aren't around more often, or that we aren't always hyperfocused on our son's upbringing. We are both often riddled with stress or thinking about ways to improve our business. This is the lifestyle of someone who owns a real company.
If that sounds like too much anguish or too much sacrifice to be missing out on so much of your kid's life, I wouldn't recommend entrepreneurship. It is a tough road and success doesn't happen overnight for most people.
While I can't speak for the moms who have side hustles or freelance gigs, I can speak as a mom who has made a career for themselves. I, for one, have made a pact with myself that I will not feel bad for going after what I want, for having fun, or for living my life. I will keep my son healthy, provide him an education, and teach him the best that I can not to be an asshole.
What you choose to do is up to you, but don't ever forget that you deserve to be happy."
Advice she has for young women: "As a young woman, I was an entitled millennial with a college degree and fleeting aspirations. I chose to study fine art in college literally because I didn't want to take another math class...because math is hard.
I've regretted that reasoning ever since.
What I've come to learn at my ripe old age of 31 is that life is about doing the hard things. Just because it seems daunting, doesn't mean you shouldn't attempt to do it. The hard times are what make you appreciate the not so hard times, so wherever you are at in your life: embrace it, and don't be afraid. "
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