Kim Kaupe is the co-founder of ZinePak, a custom publication company that creates engaging fan packages for entertainers, brands, and celebrities. Since starting the company in January 2011 with co-founder Brittany Hodak, ZinePak has grown into a team of 10 powerhouse ladies churning out packages for A-list entertainers such as Taylor Swift, KISS, Katy Perry, Mumford & Sons and The Beach Boys. To date consumers have spent more than $25 million on ZinePak products in 16 countries.
Kim has been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in Music, Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40, and Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list while ZinePak was hailed as a Top 30 Startup to Watch by Entrepreneur, and dubbed an “overnight success” by Inc. Magazine. She was most recently seen on ABC’s hit primetime show, Shark Tank, securing offers from 4 out of 5 sharks. Kim’s articles have also appeared in numerous media outlets including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Woman.
In this interview, Kim shares what initially motivated her to start Zinepak, her Shark Tank experience and some inspiring thoughts about how to leverage your rolodex.
Her advice to entrepreneurs starting a business in New York:
I would tell them to find as many resources as possible. From entrepreneur groups to tech meet ups, there are a ton of ways to meet like-minded individuals and gather resources in this city. So the best first step is Google these meet ups and get ready to leave the house!
What motivated you to start Zinepak? How did the idea come about?
Brittany, my co-founder, and I were motivated by the belief that we could add value to a space in the music industry that needed innovation and fresh ideas. Our initial idea, packaging physical music product with merchandise and content to sell at retail, is what we honed in on and perfected in the first two years of our business. Since then, we have expanded into many different products, arenas, and categories that all have one common link – superfans!
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?
I enjoy being able to create a working environment that is creative, full of energy and is a flourishing space for women. There are not many female entrepreneurs or leaders within the entertainment industry and I’m happy to say we have an all female team who push boundaries and create amazing products each and every day.
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?
The toughest decision we had to make when starting the business was what to spend money on and what not to. Brittany and I did not take any funding or seed capital so each and every dollar we spent was coming out of our own pockets.
We had to think long and hard about what we wanted to spend money on and what we did not. Ultimately, we learned that getting others on board who can do the things that you are not good at is essential.
My best advice to new entrepreneurs is know what you know and know what you don’t know, find people to help out with that last part no matter the cost.
How did you find the time and money to get Zinepak off the ground? Any advice for entrepreneurs with minimal time or resources?
We bootstrapped ZinePak and lucky for us because we are run on an agency model the only things we needed to get started were a computer, our brains, and a telephone. The best way to start with minimal resources is to look around you to see who can help.
Do you have friends or family that are good at a certain skill that can help you for free for a little while? Or perhaps a local college where you can submit Hackathon challenges or assignments for their engineering classes.
Find outside resources to help you accomplish goals in the beginning as the superman attitude of ‘I’ll do it all myself’ never does anyone any good!
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?
I try to start off each morning with a routine so that no matter what I face that morning there is a ritualistic start to it. I have hot water with lemon each morning while I catch up on the news via outlets like CNN and TheSkimm.
I also love supporting other women-owned businesses, so reading TheSkimm each morning holds a special place in my heart! I also try to listen to a podcast on my walk to the office that way, I am not tempted to start reading my emails or calling my team. It might seem simple but these daily routines provide a fresh start, like a reset button, every day.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape Zinepak?
I have had many influences over the years both personal and professional so it is hard to choose just one! I always take a piece of advice that my first boss and mentor Carolyn Chauncey once gave me which is ‘You are your rolodex.’
In our business, people not only hire you because you are smart but they hire you with the relationships and connections you can bring to the table. Guarding and leveraging your rolodex is key in developing your brand and yourself as a successful entrepreneur.
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Zinepak? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
Our single best piece of marketing to this day has been Shark Tank. Appearing on the show in 2015 exposed us to 8 million viewers who had no idea who we were. It was an amazing experience and has added a calling card to our name from a consumer standpoint that we never had before.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
You have to make time, just like you would at work, for your personal life. Whether that means scheduling a call with your mother or booking a date night 3 weeks in advance with your significant other.
You have to prioritize your personal life just like you do to your business. I am a slave to my calendar in the best way possible – if you took it away from me I would have no idea where to show up or who I was meeting!
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as a business owner? Do you have any advice for how future entrepreneurs can overcome it?
The biggest struggle will always be that little voice inside your head that tells you your not good enough, that the idea is stupid, that you will fail, or that you will be laughed out of the room. The voice in our head can be so darn mean!
Quieting that voice, believing in yourself, and truly knowing your power is a constant journey that every entrepreneur is on. Recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to self-confidence but rather something you have to work on each day.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in New York today? Where should they start?
I would tell them to find as many resources as possible. From entrepreneur groups to tech meet ups, there are a ton of ways to meet like-minded individuals and gather resources in this city. So the best first step is google these meet ups and get ready to leave the house!