Episode 120: Kristen Wiley, CEO and Founder of Statusphere

While our guest, Kristen Wiley, was working full-time at an SEO and content marketing agency, she was pursuing her influencer interest on the side, blogging on food and crafts. As the agency started getting requests for influencer marketing from clients, they turned to Kristen who was the only one within the relatively small firm with influencer experience—or really any professional social media experience. So they gave her a budget and told her to run with it.

As she did, she noticed a pattern that turned into an opportunity—while the platforms were mostly catering to the larger influencers, it was actually the smaller influencers who were having the biggest impact. But how to reach them effectively was a challenge. This disconnect between brands and bloggers planted the seed for Statusphere, the micro influencer agency Kristen started to get the right brand to the right influencer.

Join us to hear her full story on how she filled this essential marketing need.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey, everyone. It's Jodi Katz, your host at WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. This week's episode features Kristen Wiley. She's the CEO and Founder of Statusphere, which is a micro influencer agency, and she has a very interesting story. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Jane Larkworthy, she's a beauty writer.

I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be sitting across from Kristen Wiley. She's the CEO and Founder of Statusphere. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Kristen WileyThanks so much for having me.
Jodi KatzIt's really great to see your face because we have talked to each other often on the phone.
Kristen WileyMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzSo full disclosure, we work with Statusphere as our partner for micro influencer agency. We do a lot of work together for a lot of our brands, and we got to know each other because... Tell us the story.
Kristen WileyI think so Aleni, who works with you and is great, her sister was my roommate in college and graduated. And I saw Aleni was working up here, and we started talking. And that's how we connected. So it's kind of funny.
Jodi KatzYeah. It's awesome because there's so much shadiness in the influencer world. So it's so wonderful to have like... You feel like a family friend.
Kristen WileyYeah, no. And we love working with you all. You have so many cool clients that you work with, and it's just such a great like partnership to be able to have that moving forward. And it's just so funny how it's always comes back to, "Oh, you know this person and know this person." It always comes back to like your network.
Jodi KatzYeah, and realizing that people want to help each other, which is-
Kristen WileyExactly.
Jodi KatzSo I want to talk about your journey because it's so interesting. So you founded and run an influencer agency now, but you are/were an influencer. So take us all the way back to I guess this starts in college.
Kristen WileyYeah. So in college... Yeah, so back in college my professor actually... I was an advertising, public relations major at University of Central Florida. And actually my very first class, he pulls us all in there, and he's like, "Okay. Intro to advertising," he's like, "I recommend that if you want to make your age a benefit moving forward," because when you're young it's going to be hard to get a job, "learn everything you can about social media." And he's like, "One of the best ways to do that is by starting a blog." He's like, "Just start one and just like... It doesn't matter what you write about, just do it. You're going to learn way more." And this was in 2010. That night I actually went home and started a blog. I blogged about the only thing I knew to blog about, which I love doing like crafting and recipes. Like Pinterest was like my favorite. So I created a blog called Calling Shenanigans. I've now learned you should pick a domain name that's easy to spell because that one's very hard to spell. No one can ever spell it.

But that's one of the many things I learned when creating the blog. And I actually would create, test out Pinterest projects, and call shenanigans on them. Like call BS if they work or not because some of them even look really good but they then you test them and then they don't. So I started growing that. Overtime I would just post for fun. Started kind of gaining this audience, and then before I knew it, I had some brands reaching out to me to do collaborations. And I was like, "This is amazing. I can make side money doing this." So I started-
Jodi KatzI want to back up because creating content is actually really hard, right? Good content creators make it look easy, but it takes a lot of time. So you're in school, and this is a side gig because your professor recommended it. How much time were you dedicating to busting the myths on these crafts?
Kristen WileyI was trying to do at least two a month in the beginning. I think originally I was like once a week, but it ended up averaging out probably two to three a month. And I would do them on weekends or depending on how my school schedules was. And I would find a recipe, pin it. Sometimes my roommates would help me in college too, take photos. I mean, if you look at my first post, they're horrific. They're so bad. It's almost embarrassing. But it also shows how far you've come. So I leave them there for that reason. But it is really funny to look back at them.
Jodi KatzSo was the focus crafts or food in the beginning?
Kristen WileyIt was really both, probably more food though, baking. A lot of baking stuff. That's what I enjoy. I'm not a great cook by any means. Baking is very different to me. It's much more like scientific. So I like that side of things, but yeah, it was more on the baking side. And it was doing like hacks to do quick baking. So I used a box for almost everything and adapted it. So I had a lot of moms that followed me. That was my biggest audience was like moms and little girls.
Jodi KatzSo how do you think they found you in the beginning because this is 2010. So it's like a thousand years ago.
Kristen WileyYeah. It really is. It's funny because there wasn't really Instagram. It had just come out in 2011 is when I joined it or something. Yeah, 2010 it was Facebook and Pinterest were my two top sources of traffic. So I started the Facebook and it kind of... The Facebook business page for it, and it just kind of grew. I can't remember how many thousand I ended up with, but that was one of the better ones because people would share. And then Pinterest is like because I think I was testing Pinterest projects, it just lent itself to Pinterest. I really optimized for Pinterest. So I learned a ton about like the right photo dimensions for Pinterest, and the right like SEO. And then I got internships and it was at an SEO agency. So I really got into my blog and optimized it. So I learnt... My professor was so right. I learned so much, and honestly every job offer I've gotten since college is because of that blog. He was completely right.
Jodi KatzAnd do you think you would've learned that stuff in the classroom?
Kristen WileyThere's no way I would've learned that in the classroom. I mean, I learned how to put together a website. I learned how to change the theme. I learned how to edit the meta, edit the tags, edit... I don't think there's an amount of teaching you can do unless you actually have a project that you're really passionate about. It just pushes you I think to learn way more than you would otherwise through a book.
Jodi KatzAnd were people like direct messaging... Did we even have direct message back then?
Kristen WileyPeople Facebook messaged. It was really cute. Sometimes on Twitter... I wasn't big on Twitter, but they would find me. I had like teachers that'd be, "My whole class made this recipe," and they tweeted at me. That was the coolest thing. And then I started YouTube off of it, which YouTube, oh my god, that's a whole nother animal. And I have so much respect for YouTubers because it's so much work. But I did start that and kind of dappled in it. So it was really great because I got to learn all this, and I didn't realize I'd be using it down the road the way that I have. But it allowed me to understand these content creators and how much time they put into it and just have so much respect for them because it's not easy.
Jodi KatzRight. I mean, I love watching the baking one where they're decorating ones and the daughter on Instagram. I consume it in six seconds, 12 seconds, and I know it's half a day just to get that icing to pour the way they wanted it for the shot. I think people who don't create content for a living really underestimate the amount of work it takes.
Kristen WileyNo, for sure. And it's funny my friends would always laugh at me because in our dorm and then eventually in my apartment, it's like there'd just be stuff everywhere. And I have all these weird backgrounds, like marble slabs and like wooden backgrounds because you have to get the right backgrounds for the photos. It's like those photos don't just happen. Like you take them for granted in the beginning, but when you want to recreate them, it's a lot of work.
Jodi KatzSo what was your engagement like when brands started to reach out to you?
Kristen WileyI think from a traffic perspective I was around 10,000 views a month, and then at it's peak, I was around 40,000-50,000 during peak months of the year, which holidays were always peak for me because I love holiday recipes. So it started around the 10,000 mark, and I got accepted into first I think some organically reached out. And then I started researching these platforms that I could join as an influencer. And I got so excited when I got approved to the first one. I was just like floored. And actually my very first collaboration though was a brand that reached out to me through my internship. It was a flat iron brand, a hair flat iron, and they gave me just the product for free in exchange for doing a post. And that ended up being my post popular post. It's how to curl your hair with a flat iron, and it had like 500,000 re-pins. Like something insane.
Jodi KatzThat's amazing.
Kristen WileyYeah. So it was just... Yeah, but I was so floored just to get a free product. It made my whole like year.
Jodi KatzI bet, and were you really nervous to create that content knowing there was a... It had more weight than just doing it for yourself?
Kristen WileyYeah. I spent a lot more time on that content. I wanted to optimize it like to its full potential because I wanted to like show them. I think that's why there are like smaller influencers try so hard because they want to show how valuable they are, and they know how important it is. But yeah, I spent so much time on that content.
Jodi KatzAnd why do you think that one was like the one of the best?
Kristen WileyI think it was partly because I tried so hard. Like I really did a lot of optimization on the keywords. I learned how to do keyword research so that I would come up when people did search it in Pinterest and YouTube. I did a lot of optimizing the content itself. So I created a different photo for every single social. I definitely went all out on that one. So I think it was that combination with just right timing. I think it's always a combo of those two things. You have to put the effort in, but there's also a little bit of timing to go with it.
Jodi KatzRight. So okay, let's talk about the networks that you applied for. What was that like?
Kristen WileyYeah. So back then there were-
Jodi KatzWhat year is this?
Kristen WileyThis is probably 2012-2013, and I started applying to the different networks. I would talk to other influencers and crafters either on the recipe side or on the beauty side, and just like see what they liked and disliked. There was a conference in Orlando called like Florida Blog Con where you could connect with other bloggers. So I got to go there, and I'd learn about more and how to apply for them. And then you have to kind of just sit and wait and see if you get in. So I think that is like the hardest part because there's different levels. There's the ones that are for the big influencers with 100,000 plus. You're never going to get those. But they started having these smaller ones pop up, and I found one of my favorite ones was like a smaller agency. Those very like... Pretty much they focus a lot on food. I think it's called Pollinate, and then I think it was a woman who was a blogger who created hers, which I think was really cool. And I think she just understood the process. So she worked with a lot of moms and people who wanted to reach moms. So that's why I think I got into that one, and that was the first network that approved me.
Jodi KatzAnd what type of content did they ask you to create?
Kristen WileyBlog content mainly. So they were very much at that time just focused just on blog content.
Jodi KatzSo recipes.
Kristen WileyRecipes, yeah. Recipe creation was a big portion of it. So like Hershey's chocolate or Coca Cola or Edwards Pies. Yeah, those were all some of the collaborations that I worked on.
Jodi KatzAnd as you're doing this in the 2013 realm, and I only as for dates because things move like so fast.
Kristen WileyNo, it's a great point of reference because it'd be so different now for sure.
Jodi KatzSo was this your full time focus or did you have a day job?
Kristen WileyYeah. I always had day jobs. So it was always my side hustle that everyone kind of knew I had. So I still had internships. I had started my very first internship was at a PR agency, and oddly enough this is in like... That was 2010-2011, and my job there was to reach out to mommy bloggers. Once again, I was thinking back at this relatively recently. I'm like, "That's pretty crazy that that was my job there." It was trade show research and reaching out to mommy bloggers. To be honest, it wasn't a great experience because the agency just didn't have the kind of culture. They weren't very friendly. But it's so funny how far I've come from that. That was my first internship, and then I started working at the SEO and content marketing agency. So it was like a perfect like transition, and that's where I learned the SEO, content marketing pieces. I fell in love with content marketing. I think that that's also why it showed through my blog because that's where I could like apply with what I learned, and I ended up working there out of college. So they hired me. So that was my first like I guess full time, real agency job.
Jodi KatzAnd how long did you stay there?
Kristen WileyActually, four and a half years. So I stayed there until I left to start Statusphere. And that was yeah, I loved my time there. It was actually very hard for me to leave because I loved the team there so much. We actually still work with them, and they actually help me with my content. So it's like a full circle.
Jodi KatzSo what inspired you to create Statusphere?
Kristen WileySo actually while I was at this agency, which I got thrown into kind of very quickly. The time I was at the agency, the two founders had kind of split up. It was like mutual and it wasn't anything like bad. But it kind of allowed me to move up kind of quicker than I would have otherwise, and it allowed me to learn a lot about the business. So I got kind of thrown into proposals and actual new business development, and kind of just touched everything because we were a small agency. So I am so thankful that happened because I learned so much about business itself. And at the same time, we started getting requests for influencer marketing from our clients. And of course my boss at the time was like, "Well, you're the only one that has remote experience in this, so here's a budget, and go find a platform and do it." So I was like, "How hard can this be? I already am on platforms as an influencer." Small influencer by any means, but like I can go on the other side.

So I started reaching out to all these influencers, and I was like, "These platforms are just so tedious and time consuming. You're shipping products, and then you're like waiting for them to post. And then they never respond." On the flip side, all the problems that I was having as an influencer on these platforms, I felt like they didn't care about me. And I felt like, especially the smaller influencers, we were seeing the biggest impact on the agency side with our small influencers. But the platforms were all catering to the big influencers and to the brands more than they were the influencers. So I just felt like there was a hole there, and that's where the idea originally came from. Our platform's a little different because we have kind of a subscription box melded into it where we actually once a month, we ship products to our influencers. So it makes it very timely, and they know exactly when they're going to get their box. And then they know when they need to post by. So that was very important to us. So it's kind of a combination of influencer marketing meets Birch Box meets Match.com is how we describe it.
Jodi KatzAnd how long did you sit on this idea of starting Statusphere before you actually did it?
Kristen WileyLong time. It was probably marinating for two years. I bought the domain name like a year before I did anything. So I even had the name like a year before.
Jodi KatzAnd how did you pick that name?
Kristen WileyOh my gosh. I like drove everyone crazy because I was like I knew I wanted to do it, and I would write like all sorts of words like all the time. All different words I liked. And I really liked the layers of the atmosphere. So like stratosphere, troposphere, and I kept writing those. And I was telling my boss at the agency I was at one day at work, and he's super smart and I love his creativeness. And he was the one that... I had status written on the paper, and I had stratosphere. And he's like, "Statusphere." So I give him credit for actually melding the two.
Jodi KatzSo you sat on this idea for two years. What did it take to make this happen? Did you need to build some sort of tech to make it happen? How did this come about? So I wanted to test before I built anything to see like if it was even a viable solution. So my very first step was I threw up a landing page, just a little small website that pretended I was real. So it said Statusphere. I even like mocked up a box, and I was like, "First subscription box for influencers. You just pick what products you want, and you post about it." And then I messaged it to a bunch of influencers I followed that didn't know me. And I was just like, "Hey, this is a new thing. Click here to apply." And all of them applied, and then even some of their friends applied the next day.
Kristen WileyOh my gosh.
Jodi KatzI was like, "Oh my gosh. This is a sign. I should totally..." I could not believe it. The next day I went in, I had 12 applications, and I only sent it to 10 girls. I was like, "This is awesome."
Kristen WileySo you didn't even have a box though.
Jodi KatzI literally had nothing. But I was like, "Okay. I think I have something here." And then I applied to a local startup incubator accelerator in Orlando called Starter Studio, and what they do is they take idea stage like business ideas, and they help you vet them. It's a nonprofit. So I did that while still working at the agency. I'm so lucky that he was so supportive of me doing this, but I would work the agency at day, and I'd drive back and forth. I'd go to these kind of like classes and stuff at night. And that's where I like vetted my idea. They kind of put you through almost like a business school bootcamp for it, and then I launched it about four months later.
Kristen WileyAnd what learnings came out of the incubator that you weren't expecting?
Jodi KatzSo they made us do customer interviews was like the biggest thing, and I think it's something that a lot of people overlook or think they can't do it until you have a product. And I really liked their view is like you just pretend it exists, which is kind of how I started. So I was very on board with that. And I started just reaching out to people on LinkedIn, and I think my biggest takeaway was I was so surprised at how people actually responded like from big companies on LinkedIn. And I'd get phone calls with them and just talk to them about my idea, and they were actually like took time out of their day to talk to me. And some of them even ended up becoming customers later.
Kristen WileySo you LinkedIn them and said, "I'm working on incubating this idea. It's influencer marketing. Can I spend a few minutes talking to you about whether this would be right for a company like yours."
Jodi KatzExactly.
Kristen WileyWow. That's awesome.
Jodi KatzAnd I think I was really afraid to do that before the accelerator. But they really push you to do it and kind of go outside your comfort zone, and that was one of the biggest things I learned was don't be afraid to ask. And I think before I was a little bit more hesitant to ask for help or feedback on stuff that wasn't perfect.
Kristen WileyRight. Okay. So you found yourself influencers. You have no box for them. How do you get customers?
Jodi KatzSo actually the very first month I went and bought all the products myself, pretended I was working with these brands that I wasn't working with. I never said I worked with them. I never claimed that I do, but I went to like... I used to go to Marshalls because I could get higher end stuff at lower prices, and I'd have to find sets of them because I wanted to get them to the influencers. So I look like a crazy person. I go to like four Marshalls and TJ Maxx buying the same hand cream, and then I'd come home, take the stickers off, take photos of them, and then I'd say, "Pick what you want in your box." And I'd send it out. So I started with that because I wanted to know what price point would they be willing to claim in exchange for posting and would they actually post. So I sent out 10 boxes.
Kristen WileyI love this.
Jodi KatzActually it was like eight boxes the first month, and what I'm really proud of is those eight influencers, they're like still with us. They don't even know that they were just like getting-
Kristen WileyWell, now they know.
Jodi KatzNow they know. They probably like it. They're great. Yeah. I feel like I know all of them even though I don't. But yeah, so I sent out those eight boxes. They all posted, and I was like, "Oh my gosh." Because I wanted to make sure that that happened before I went to brands and actually sold it. So that's where I started on that side.

And then on the brand side, once I had that, I had something to show them, and be like, "Look, see, these influencers posted product." And then the brands were like, "Okay." And I remember when I sold my very first package to a brand that I didn't know. It was just like the best feeling in the world. Like when someone buys something that you came up with. I think there's nothing that compares to it.
Kristen WileyAnd did that feel like a hard sell? Did they hem and ha for six months?
Jodi KatzNo, actually it was a cold email. The founder of the company was a phone case company. The founder of the company directed me to their marketing guy, and he was like, "Okay." He just sent me money and their cases. I was like, "Oh my gosh." So yeah, that was the first client like paid one that wasn't a previous relationship because I did have some through the agency.
Kristen WileyMm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. This is awesome. I love the... Is the word gumption? I don't even know of just saying, "Okay. I have a box. Do you want to apply?" And people apply and then say, "Okay. I'm putting stuff in the box even though I just bought it at Marshalls. Will you post?" And then they post it. It's pretty awesome.
Jodi KatzYeah. Looking back, it's just so funny, but yeah, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Kristen WileyIf an entrepreneur approached you, would you give them the same advice? Just do it. Figure your way through it.
Jodi KatzExactly. That's always my advice. Like don't wait. You can have nothing. That's what I always tell them because they're like, "I need funding. I need money. I need a full platform." I'm like, "No, you don't. They don't need to know it's not there." When people see the first version of our platform, and I showed it to our tech team, they were like blown away. I was like, "I know. I know it's bad." But it got me to where I am today. So like if you start here, I think someone said like, "If they're buying it and it's really rough, just imagine what they'll buy when you have something better."
Kristen WileyOh, that's a good note.
Jodi KatzAnd it's like that's so true. At worst, they don't buy it.
Kristen WileyLet's talk about this idea of claiming because it's really interesting. Can you walk us through the process?
Jodi KatzYeah. So influencers apply to be in the platform. We put them through three steps of vetting. So we have first it goes through all the numerical data. We have a little algorithm that runs through and looks for any irregularities. And we're always having to update it with Instagram and how it changes.
Kristen WileyRight. So like that would flush out if they have bots and fake followers.
Jodi KatzYeah, fake followers. There's a lot of very interesting trends you can see that look fishy, and then you can weed them out from there. Once they make it through that phase, we actually have a human look over them, and we rate them on a bunch of different factors. Even like if they have warm photography, if they're professional photographer, if they're more of an iPhone photographer. So then we vet them on those pieces, and then finally once we improve them into the network, which at the end of the day, we only approve less than 10% who apply. Then they fill out a profile about themselves. So then we another layer of data where it's like, "Okay. We know if they have a dog. We know if they have curly hair, sensitive skin." And we use that data to actually batch them with the products that makes the most sense for them.

So once a month, they see typically four to five items that they can pick for their box. They typically don't choose all of them, and we actually don't really want them to choose all of them because we want them to only pick the ones that make sense for them. But we do our best to match them with the ones that we think will fit their feed and their personality. And they ultimately pick. So they normally pick around three items for their box, which we find that this process leads to a lot more authenticity versus like just reaching to an influencer and being like, "I'll pay you $400." Then they're going to be like, "Great. I don't care what the product is. I'll take the $400." This is much more curated, and they're actually picking it. Like we want them to pick it because they actually will use the product. So it just kind of looks at influencer marketing a little differently.
Kristen WileyRight. It's almost like they're shopping in a shelf themselves. Like, "What do I really want in my life?"
Jodi KatzExactly.
Kristen WileyNot just, "Give me a bunch of free stuff."
Jodi KatzExactly. So and that's exactly the mindset that we want them to have when doing it because... And it is a little bit of a hard line to tow because coming from that space, I know how hard it is to do all those things. So I don't want to discredit them or feel like we're devaluing them by like not giving them a bunch of money with the product. But that's why we try to position in it a way that's like we don't want to annoy you. We want to make this process as seamless as possible so that we don't have to pay a bunch of money and take out the authenticity factor.
Kristen WileyRight. So what is your process solving that you were really frustrated with when you were working with platforms as an influencer?
Jodi KatzSo the process was so time consuming. So as an influencer, you pretty much have to write like an entire essay to apply to get an opportunity. But these opportunities you're applying for, you typically trying to get $200-$500. So the reason they're paying you this much money is because you do have to do so much work up front that you'd have to do 10 applications to get one product. So when you really figure that out, I was just filling out all of these sheets, and all of my friends were doing the same thing, all the bloggers. They're like, "It just takes so long." And it's really funny, especially fashion influencers. They go sometimes buy products, take photos with them, and return them. It's like if I'm doing that, why won't they just like... I'll do it in exchange for products sometimes. But they weren't really opportunities for that, especially at the time, and most of them, they just wanted you to do so much work up front.

I mean, it was like doing it, apply to college every time you wanted to work with one brand. So we were trying to take out that process. It's like they were doing it all for the brand side but not for the influencer side.
Kristen WileyRight. And also what about the matching? Were you ever matched with things that were completely inappropriate for you?
Jodi KatzSo inappropriate. I mean, I was a food, baking, crafting. Mattress companies, gosh if another mattress company reached out to me. I was like, "What am I going to do? Did you even look at my blog?" They never did it. I stole a screenshot and actually put this in my deck because we did end up raising investor money later. But I put it in my deck. They pitched me a binge eating disorder, promoting it right next to Sara Lee Pound Cakes, this company, in the same email pitch to me.
Kristen WileyWait, so they wanted you to talk about your personal experience as a binge eater-
Jodi KatzPossibly.
Kristen WileyAnd then-
Jodi KatzThe best thing is the top of the email said, "These opportunities are picked just for you: talk about binge eating disorder and Sara Lee Pound Cakes." Real email.
Kristen WileyTone deaf.
Jodi KatzYeah. Like who wrote that? Who sent that out?
Kristen WileyRight. Well, I feel like in your line of work unfortunately there are few humans involved in this, right? And that's what I love about you. It's like there's a lot of human components to the matching and the supporting your influencers. Where it's just not an algorithm pushing things out randomly.
Jodi KatzExactly, and we want to... We know we can get even better and better at that with supporting data, but we never want to take out... I always tell people I don't want to take out the human factor, especially even in the approval process. Everyone wants to take out the human factor. I'm like you can't. I don't care how great your algorithm is, there needs to be a human factor too.
Kristen WileyYeah. It actually surprised me because we've been working with you for so long now and people were coming to me, and they were talking about these platforms. And I wasn't understanding what they were talking about. I'm like, "Oh. I get it. It's a computer." You're actually... There's no human to talk to. There's no human to give you feedback. Like people are paying money basically like an ATM machine. Put the money in and...
Jodi KatzExactly.
Kristen WileyThings happen.
Jodi KatzMost of the platforms I worked with at the agency, they cost around $2000 a month. They were really like the Yellow Pages of influencer marketing. They just scroll through Instagram or YouTube or whatever, and just index everyone. And then they make you sift through it. They make you reach out to them. They make you correspond. So it's more like a CRM/Yellow Pages versus like an actual... We like to say we're like a cross between more the agency model and a platform because we have a scalable process, but we also have the human touch piece.
Kristen WileySo you're building a business. What do you do in your free time?
Jodi KatzYeah. So there's not a lot of free time, as you probably know. You have a business. And we also did the whole fundraising piece. So last year was just really chaotic because we did decide to go the fundraising route, which honestly I would tell people if you cannot raise funding, don't for sure, which everyone told me as well. But when you are competing against platforms that all have millions of dollars in funding, like you're just going to get squashed. So that's why we made the strategic decision to kind of go that route.

So luckily I feel like my free time ends up being traveling a lot, and then I try to take like little trips of like, "Okay. I'll tack on a couple extra days." I spend a lot of time in San Francisco because that is where investors are. So I had a lot of fun time, and I try to do little side trips here and there. And then my other outlet is working out. I go to Orange Theory. I think it's like the most effective efficient workout, and you can tell it was founded by a woman because it's very efficient. But if I don't workout for a while, I go a little crazy.
Kristen WileyAnd do you have a very set schedule for yourself?
Jodi KatzNot too set schedule. Sometimes I go through weeks where you just like work a lot. And since we do work on a monthly cycle, there's certain... Like the first week of the month and the last week of the month are just like crazy. And then we kind of chill for the middle two weeks. So that's kind of our cycle or more of my schedule. More overall, I think that... I mean, we work little later hours because we are on the East Coast and we do have a lot of West Coast clients. So we do the whole 10:00am-7:00pm. So that's normally our work hours. We're pretty flexible kind of startup life. But then I do workout at night. I'm a night person.
Kristen WileyI wonder if as you grow, you're going to have two cycles. You're going to have your first of the month cycle, and then a mid month cycle so that two weeks of chilling just sort of disappears, right?
Jodi KatzYeah. It possibly could happen. I can see it for sure. We've grown a lot in the last year. So definitely open to it, and we're just like... Right now we're working on updating our platform side just for like the brand experience too. I'm so excited about that. So that's what the middle two weeks have been focused on right now is like, "Okay. Now I go into like tech/platform mode."
Kristen WileyAnd what is your dream and goal for the business let's say for the next five years?
Jodi KatzYeah. I mean, we'd love to be like the go-to micro influencer marketing platform. But honestly on a bigger level, I think just even starting the company, I think the coolest part about influencer marketing is that consumers are picking what they want to promote. And it kind of brings the best products to the top. So there's a study out there that's like 90% of women feel like advertisers don't understand them. It's kind of cool because I feel like we're making the women, the advertiser themselves. So they can pick and choose what should be said about them. So I think from a bigger perspective, that's always been the goal is kind of like allowing people to be the advertiser, the consumer to be the advertiser, which allows the best products to float to the top.
Kristen WileyRight. So as the brand, you can tell me, "Oh, actually, your product was picked in milliseconds," and then compare that to maybe a competitive, I don't know, a conditioner six months ago, which took a long time to get claimed.
Jodi KatzExactly. And not only is it when they I guess the picking, how quickly the pick has a lot to do with the packaging and how nice it looks. But then once they get the product, a lot of the influencers, we actually tell them we don't require them to post if they don't like the product. They can fill out a product feedback form in exchange for their post, which is still very in depth because we want the brands to have something. But I almost feel like it's even more valuable sometimes than the post. First of all, it kind of keeps negative posts from happening, which is valuable to the brand. But also like we want them to know what was wrong. We want them to know. I mean, if a girl uses a cream and her face breaks out, I don't want her to... Like that's so fake. Don't post about it or post your honest opinion. But we don't want people just posting about it just because.
Kristen WileyRight.
Jodi KatzSo that's one of the other ones that we try to mitigate that. But it allows us to find out. If we send out 30 products and 10 of them are defective or 10 people breakout, they probably should re-look at their whole strategy here.
Kristen WileyYeah. That would be really valuable feedback. Like many focus groups.
Jodi KatzExactly, which we like to almost get into more of that as well. But yeah, I mean, in terms of big vision too is just having a big enough network where you can almost just turn on thousands of people posting about a product where it's almost like instant virality in a way.
Kristen WileyRight.
Jodi KatzThat's like I guess always been my big picture with it.
Kristen WileyWell, thank you so much for your wisdom today.
Jodi KatzThanks so much for having me.
Kristen WileyI love hearing your story, and if you liked this interview, please subscribe to us on iTunes. And for more information about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

Want to sponsor the pod?

Available On:

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts