Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens + Moguls
Mavens & Moguls, launched in 2002 in Cambridge, Mass., is a global network of problem solvers who help companies with their branding, PR, market research, social media and communications challenges.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: After 9/11, I started getting a lot of calls and e-mails from people who needed marketing help. I had been the head of marketing at three successful startups and had positive exits from each so knew a lot of people on both coasts in venture capitol, private equity and business owners who all cut their marketing teams post 9/11 but still needed help — so they called me first. All of the best people I had worked with had recently become available since companies were downsizing post 9/11 – so I had great people and more projects than I knew I could service myself. I called the women the marketing mavens & the guys the marketing moguls and for short referred to them at Mavens & Moguls and it stuck. Every one of those first projects led to more work and we’re now almost 10 years old.
Ideal customer: The majority of our clients are mid market/emerging market firms, but we’ve worked with startups and Fortune 500 firms like Virgin, Microsoft, Colgate, too. Any organization with a marketing problem that values world class expertise is a good fit for us.
First customer: I gave a speech and a woman in the audience came up to me after and referred me some business.
Measuring success: I wrote a column on that topic in Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/worklife/worklifebalanceadvice/theentrepreneurslifecolumnistpa%20igearnoffenn/article79450.html but the short answer is I was not sure my company was successful until three years later when I took a month off with my husband. I had no idea if I would even have a business to come back to after a month away. What a wonderful feeling to return to a thriving business and realize that we really had a great concept here and it had caught on. I knew we were successful then.
Biggest struggle: One of my former colleagues tried to steal business away from my company for her personal benefit even though she signed a contract that clearly prohibits that unethical and unprofessional behavior. I called her on it immediately and fortunately the client was even more disappointed by her behavior than I was and stuck with my firm. I learned an important lesson, contracts are only as good as the people who sign them so if you start seeing behavior that looks fishy you should trust your gut. I still believe people are generally good and want to do the right thing and I do not want to become jaded by a rotten apple. I believe in karma and know it has been working its magic.
Surprise!: I was always known for working hard but running your own business pushes even the toughest work ethic, I have never worked harder and had more fun.
What you wish you would have known: Even if you are a good judge of character you can get burned. I had hired, trained, developed and mentored great people over the years in my corporate jobs but when it is your company you really are the brand and everyone you bring in is a reflection of your business — so make sure everyone represents the brand well. If your core values are authentic and you live them everyday your customers will stick with you even when rough patches occur.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: Not so far. I love running my company and watching how our clients benefit from working together, it is incredibly fulfilling to see our advice and ideas get traction and move the needle so that marketing is truly an investment for them.
Biggest goal: I’ve been asked to write a book several times, so I am finally taking it seriously enough to start writing it.
Pricing: Do your homework and then say it with confidence. If you believe you are worth it, they will, too. I once had a client tell me at the end of the project that he would have paid three to four times more for the work if he knew we would do such a great job. (I charged him more for the next one.)
Funding: I self-funded my company and have grown organically. My business is not too capital intensive and I was fortunate to have had three positive exits from my previous startups. If you need to raise money to launch and grow then get as far along as you can by bootstrapping and with friends/family/angel support. You will get better terms if you can validate your business model before borrowing.
A few good tips: It is much easier to scale if you have third parties helping you get the word out. I know many of my clients originally hired me because if I were good enough to write a monthly column for Entrepreneur or speak at a conference along side people like Malcolm Gladwell, Christiane Amanpour or Erin Brokovich, then I could certainly help them be more successful, too.
The absolute best part of owning my business is: my DNA is in every big decision that is made, I created this brand from scratch and have helped some fabulous businesses become more successful than they were before they met me.
If I had to start over again, I would: have to embrace things like Facebook and Twitter. I am grateful we took off before that was established so we could build our brand slowly over time without the world following our every move.
I never imagined: the people who benefited the most from my business would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Make sure you really love what you are doing because if you don’t why should anyone else care or buy from you?”