An Interview with Krista Whitley

Award-winning Entrepreneur & CEO of Social Media Unicorn


Krista Whitley has been an award-winning fast growth entrepreneur for over a decade. Today, she is the CEO of Social Media Unicorn, working with luxury, restaurant, and cannabis brands. A passionate cannabis activist, Krista uses her digital marketing expertise and decade of fast growth entrepreneurial leadership to guide fast growth brands through the ever evolving social media landscape.

In this interview, Krista speaks about how her business becomes the solution to almost all social media issues, customer service and lead generation concerns of every business owner. She also shares how she handles clients and how she appreciates her hard-working business partners.

Find out more about Krista’s insights on social media in the following paragraphs. Reach out to her directly on her Twitter any time!


What motivated you to start Social Media Unicorn? How did the idea come about?

I was working as the Chief Social Media Strategist at an ad agency and I realized we spent a massive amount of time doing everything except for actually DOING anything. I spent hours logging hours, meetings upon meetings, all with a small percentage of my day spent DOING what I loved.

I finally decided enough was enough and created Social Media Unicorn from my couch as one lady with a laptop to spend my days getting social done for clients who valued action and results.

Historically in literature, unicorns appear to people who are in need of help and guidance and all too often my clients come to me because they are in need of social media help and guidance. They’re sick and tired of Twitter and a hug. They want Twitter and bottom line growth.


What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?

My mission on day one that continues today is to be driven by data and fueled by passion to get results for brands using social media and influence marketing.

I spent a decade as an award-winning fast growth entrepreneur, so I know that most leaders need marketing that delivers bottom line growth while communicating the brand’s vision and providing excellent customer service.

Our social media and influence marketing strategies accomplish this better than any other form of consumer marketing.


What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?

After a decade as an entrepreneur, I have had so many amazing mentors in various industries from venture capitalists to record label executives to business leaders, but I have to give the most credit to my ability to out fail anyone else. I grew up in a really small town in Central Washington, where I was always different.

I walked fast, talked fast, just idled at a different vibration than anyone around me. Rather than trying to fit in, I just kept failing forward determined to find a community that would appreciate my attributes. The fast growth entrepreneurial community understands me. They’re my village and my people.

They are constantly failing forward, growing explosively, and stepping out on faith. All things that are ingrained in who I am.


When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.

Momentum. Every no is closer to the yes that will change your life. Every fall flat on your face failure is closer to the next breakthrough. Every bad day gets you closer to the good days that you can’t even believe are actually happening to you. The fast growth entrepreneurial start up journey is a roller coaster.

It has its’ high highs and its’ low lows. You will have helpless times when you don’t have any answers and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Reach out to other fast growth entrepreneurs during these times. We’ve all been there. Then, you’ll have the rush of growth so fast you’ll swear you are soaring like a jet.

Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?

I don’t have employees. I know it sounds like mumbo jumbo, but I think the label employee is cringe worthy. In my head, I just pictured a cubicle and a time card punching in and out. I have unicorns. They’re these magical creatures from all walks of life with a passion for helping others and a social media addiction.

To be one is a privilege because they’re rare creatures. I look for talented people who share our core values of getting things done, helping people, and providing excellent customer service. We have grown from one lady on a couch with her laptop to a team of 13 unicorns in LA, Las Vegas, and Arizona in less than a year. Our team of unicorns are my valued partners in Social Media Unicorn.


What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?

Social Media Unicorn is unique in the social media industry because we offer 24/7, 365 monitoring and engagement. Our competitive advantage is that we offer big agency analytics, tools, and strategy with a small business owner mindset.

One of our clients called us the “un-agency agency” and I agree that that’s true. We’re racehorses ready to execute, so we don’t do well kept in a stable mired in bureaucracy. For clients that are sick of talking about action and need action, we’re a phenomenal fit.


Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?

Ten plus years of fast growth start up experience has served me well, so the biggest lesson that I put into action daily is setting realistic expectations. Often clients can become distracted by metrics that aren’t applicable to their goals, so suddenly they’re upset that their Facebook audience is growing dramatically when the goal is lead generation and our team is exceeding the lead generation goal.

It has been my experience that having an ongoing dialogue with my clients keeps everyone on the same page and makes sure that any misunderstandings are addressed before they get out of hand. When I was a new startup entrepreneur I was always too afraid to ask questions, but I realize now that asking questions is a key component to success.


Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Social Media Unicorn? If so, how did you stumble upon it?

The foundation for effective marketing hasn’t changed since the dawn of commerce. If you offer a great product or service for one person they will tell everyone they know. I am proud of the fact that Social Media Unicorn has grown entirely by word of mouth.

Every client we have today started with a relationship that began months and years before the company ever existed. The most effective marketing has been, and in my opinion, will always be word of mouth.

There are strategies to create more opportunities and encourage clients to share their experiences with their sphere of influence, but I believe it is the brands that foster a culture of valuing client feedback and referrals while offering an excellent product or service that grow explosively.


Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?

The best resource that transformed my entrepreneurial experience was Conscious Capitalism. Whole Foods founder John Mackey wrote the best selling book about Conscious Capitalism and now there is an entire movement within the global entrepreneurial community.

The Las Vegas chapter of Conscious Capitalism has helped shape me as a business leader. Conscious Capitalism is the concept that business doesn’t have to be win/lose and that win/win businesses actually retain more share value. This concept is a driving force in our business and has helped me as a business leader to know when a brand isn’t going to be a fit.

If an opportunity is a win/lose and my team won’t wake up excited about it, it isn’t going to be the opportunity for us no matter how many dollars are involved.


What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business in Nevada? What do they need to know from the very beginning?

The first piece of advice that I would give anyone starting a business in Nevada would be to focus on customer service. We are a hospitality focused community, so excellent customer service is a requirement.

Customer service should happen at every level. It is the CEO replying to an email within 24 hours and the janitor smiling as your client walks back. There is no department for customer service- it is your people.

The second piece of advice would be to embrace the emerging markets in Nevada. We are on the cutting edge of tech, cannabis, and so many other industries that connecting to what is happening here with other industries is a great way to discover win/win opportunities.

Which brings me to the third: capitalism does not have to be win/lose. A rising tide floats all boats and there is so much business for everyone that focusing on creating win/win opportunities for your brand, your team, your community, and your shareholders is the only way to endear yourself to our business community.


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About Ryan James

Half hardworking hermit, half avid adventurer, Ryan founded Startup Savant to simplify entrepreneurship and pay it forward by donating a portion of all revenue to support children's education via