Kim Gauthier is a brand strategist with over 20 years of experience in the areas of B2B, B2C and affiliate marketing and is the owner of Red Shoes Marketing Group. She’s worked for major companies such as E! Entertainment Television, TV Guide and Lionsgate.
Kim’s marketing career began when she was assigned to E! Entertainment Television as a temporary receptionist. She stayed with the company for over 8 years and learned marketing from the “ground up.” The experience gave her insight into the needs and expectations of stakeholders at all levels of her organization and the client’s.
In this entrepreneur interview, Kim Gauthier shares her entrepreneurial journey when running Red Shoes Marketing. She explains her secret sauce as a business owner being to narrow down her focus and define her target audience. To know exactly who you serve.
Learn more from Kim's insights in this interview with Startup Savant and be sure to take advantage of all the fantastic free resources she recommends whens starting a business!
What do you typically tell people when they ask you what you do?
I respond that I’m self-employed and own a marketing agency, specializing in brand development, marketing strategy and planning. I think marketing is such a broad term that most people aren’t exactly sure what you’re talking about so I add that I help businesses communicate their benefits and value to customers.
Have you encountered troubles or mishaps when starting Red Shoes Marketing Group? How did you fix them?
Absolutely. I think every small business goes through start-up pain and that there’s a steeper learning curve than they anticipated.
One of my struggles was narrowing the focus of my marketing services. I have over 20 years of experience and tried to communicate too much. It’s overwhelming to clients and they don’t have a clear picture of how you can help them.
To change that, I thought about the aspects of marketing that I enjoy the most and focused on that as our specialty.
As I narrowed my business focus, I also revised my target market to coincide with the change in strategy.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?
I really love the freedom to focus on what I enjoy the most and that I have a more flexible schedule. I spent my entire career working for large corporations so this is an entirely different experience. Being responsible for so much stretches me and I continue to learn every day.
I’ve had time to include community service and leadership opportunities into my life that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was still in the corporate world.
I think up to this point I’m most proud of getting my first contract with a major promotional company in Los Angeles. They worked for me as a vendor when I was in corporate marketing. To have them value my work and hire my company to work for them was a great compliment.
What is the most exciting moment of your entrepreneurial journey?
I think it was moving into my own office. I started my business from a home office and moving was a milestone in my company’s growth.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
It was downright scary leaving a six-figure salary to start my own business. When you’re used to having a steady paycheck and all that goes with that, the reality of how vulnerable you are in the beginning seems daunting.
Thankfully, I have a very supportive family and friends who encouraged me. I’m also fortunate to have great mentors who helped me through some of the tough days and refused to let me give up.
When I look back over the past 3 years, I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished and how much more I know. Of course, there’s still a long way to go. I do look back on my “rookie mistakes” and try to share some of my experiences with others.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?
One of the things I love about marketing is that no two days, or two projects, are the same. While my first concern is my client’s needs, I do have staple tasks every day.
Learning about what businesses need, looking for ways to fill their needs, staying abreast of the latest changes in marketing and technology and continually reviewing my business to keep it relevant in the marketplace. And of course sales, sales and more sales.
I spend a large part of each day reaching out to people via social media, email, phone and meetings. I enjoy hear about the successes and challenges other people have, not just in the business arena, but in all aspects of their lives. It’s taught me to listen.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape starting Red Shoes Marketing Group?
My SCORE mentors have played a major role in building my knowledge and confidence. They give me constant feedback and are direct and honest about what works and what doesn’t. I also have a few mentors who are former co-workers and experienced entrepreneurs who liberally share their knowledge, experience and offer great suggestions. Since we’ve known each other for years and they’re familiar with my work, they have insights that I can’t get anywhere else.
Working with them has helped me keep a big picture perspective along with the day-to-day activities. They also encourage me to dream bigger dreams.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
Always a good question. I have family members that live all across the country and that forces me to stay connected. We use social media and Skype a lot and I try to supplement that with actual phone calls regularly. One of the beauties of my business is that I can work from almost anywhere. Of course one of the challenges of my business is that I can work from almost anywhere. I try to plan work time around family activities.
There are a few things that I find very important to having balance. First is to unplug every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I try to use that as quiet time – no phone calls, texts, emails, even no television or radio. Getting rid of all the noise is beneficial emotionally, physically and intellectually.
I’m still working on the “no technology in the bedroom” rule which I think is a crucial one. I put on a sleep mask most nights to block out all the little technology lights and it actually makes me feel more ready for rest.
Do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person? If so, how?
I’m not sure about better, although I hope so. It has forced me to face my fears, recognize my weaknesses, which no one likes to do, and hold myself accountable for the failures as well as the successes. The reality check is sometimes painful but it’s always worth the effort.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Arizona today? Where should they start?
Before you order those business cards, write out what you want to do and how you envision your business. Use a one page business plan as a guide. Then, sit down with someone who’s objective and talk about your business.
I guarantee they’ll ask you questions you don’t have answers for and that may make you uncomfortable. Finding the answers will make your business better and clarify your own thinking.
I highly recommend using the free resources for small businesses like your local chamber of commerce, SCORE (Senior Core of Retired Executives) and the Small Business Administration. I’ve found them invaluable. Find a good mentor who will be brutally honest, but also incredibly supportive.