For Shantel Khleif, becoming an entrepreneur was not a piece of cake. In fact, it was actually a piece of pie - chocolate ganache to be exact. Like many great business owners, Shantel saw a void in the market and a problem that needed to be solved and completely shifted careers and forged a new path, which led to Imagine Media Consulting. Shantel shares her journey with us along with some great pieces of advice for both entrepreneurs and those looking to be more social media savvy.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Founder, Imagine Media Consulting
University: Florida State University
Secretly Obsessed With: The Office (TV Show)
On My Nightstand: My kindle, Success Magazines and a bottle of water
Last Thing You Read: Hug Your Customers, Jack Mitchell
Tell us about your journey to Imagine Media.
It all started with a delicious piece of chocolate ganache pie, quite literally.
I studied entrepreneurship at Florida State University and once graduating moved immediately to Chicago to start my first company and to pursue my final project and business plan that I created in my Senior semester. I loved Chicago, but two blizzards in and too many cold walks to work, I made a shift to move back down South to Atlanta.
Ironically enough, pie tables were a really big trend in the wedding space up North and became the dessert of choice for my brides. Couple that with a huge sweet tooth, naturally my first inkling when I moved was to hunt for the best piece of pie. As a consumer I stumbled across a place called The Pie Shop. From their Facebook page it was hard to tell if they were open that day, what flavors they served and their location. Needless to say, they lost a customer that day solely because I relied on social media and didn’t want to call or drive across town to find out. Fast forward a couple too many bridezillas and still a craving for pie, I stopped in.
I fell in love with their pie at first bite and started talking to the owner about my experience and the importance of building strong relationships with your target audience online. In my wedding planning career social media had worked extremely well in attracting new clients, creating brand awareness and creating loyal customers. In between her next batch of Chicken Pot Pies she asked if I could help, she feared she didn’t have the bandwidth, expertise or budget to work with some of the larger agencies in town and didn’t want to be just another business in their portfolio.
Imagine Media was born that day and within the first month we had two other companies approach us with similar struggles. After more research, I quickly learned there was an under-served market, who craved a personable partnership, a young team and just weren’t quite ready to bring in someone full time -and- that’s how it all started!
What key elements played into your success?
I'd say family being number one. I remember very early on my parents telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. There were no limitations and no boundaries, only endless support and encouragement. Couple that with a portfolio entrepreneur as a Dad and it was engrained pretty early on- I knew from age 6 that I wanted to ‘by my own boss’, ‘control my own destiny’, ‘make my own hours’, etc.
What your favorite part of your day?
During the traditional (and I say traditional lightly as I'm writing this at 11:15pm) work hours I love love love to hear any client feedback and success stories. It's a true testament to the teams work when we hear such great news and the ROI that we're providing. It's extremely rewarding being a part of someone else’s dream and growing together. The second favorite part of my day is coming home to my fluffy Golden Retriever and snuggling on the couch with a glass of wine and Shark Tank. Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavek are pretty bad a**.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Specifically your transition from wedding planning to media. I was a solo-entrepreneur as a wedding planner and now I have a team of 9 other extremely creative colleagues. I am learning every day how to inspire and motivate the team and in addition to all of the great things that come along with having a team I also have to toughen up and learn to have the not-so-fun conversations and make difficult decisions when needed. I'm also now responsible of 9 other people and their livelihood which I don't take lightly. The pressure of creating a fun and inviting culture, putting out the daily fires and learning to manage the responsibilities of being a leader is a struggle or more so a challenge- but I wouldn't trade any of it.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My Dad, hands down. He is a modern day Dale Carnegie and I learn something new every day from him. I love his team approach, his negotiating skills and his way with words. He can articulate such a powerful story and has a calming way of delivering the worst of news with so much poise and candor.
When do you feel most successful?
When we win and partner with a new exciting company and when I walk into the office and see the team laughing. It's really neat to take a step back and see the team having fun and the company ticking, churning and working without me there.
What's the best advice you received when starting Imagine Media?
Don't let fear dictate your emotions. It's completely normal to not know everything when you're starting a company. If you take too much time trying to learn everything you will never take the first step, you may also miss an opportunity. Don't be afraid to fail. The pitfalls, tough conversations and the fires are some of the best learning experiences.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Our culture 100%. We have attracted a group of the most hard working, creative, intelligent, passionate and genuine individuals, all of which are constantly improving and strengthening our company culture. It's a work in progress and will ever change but being intentional about our team, our future hires and the environment we are trying to create makes me extremely proud.
What advice would you give to women looking to enter the communication/marketing industry?
Be engaged online, update your social accounts, follow media platforms (Techcrunch, Mashable, Social Media Today, etc). Be a sponge of information and soak up as much as you can. Continue to think big picture and stay ahead of the curve. It changes every day so be prepared to shift before or with the market and always be on the lookout for the new cool apps and platforms. You never know which one may be the next big Instagram.
Any quick social media tips for our business ladies out there? :)
- Be intentional about your strategy, please please please don't wait until the last minute every day to post just so that you can cross it off your to-do list
- Invest in a nice camera or great editing apps - strong visual content is key
- Engage with the community and have fun!