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Brittany Hodak – Advices to help a company to grow

David: Your company is growing and your co-founder is Kim, and according to you, what advice can you give to help a company to grow? What are the most important things you have to do to grow a company?

Brittany: That's a really good question. I think one of the most important things you have to do to grow a company is to really believe in yourself and in your ideas. And that's something that's really easy to say, but it's a lot harder to do. And when we founded ZinePak, there were so many people who told us it wouldn't work. So many people who said, “You're taking the music industry, it's a dying industry and you're taking the publishing industry, it's a dying industry. Why would you want to combine them? Why would you want to put them together?”

And we just believed that there is a need for our product and a desire among super fans, to be able to have something physical and tangible for their favorite artist that they can get their hands on, and really interact with and engage with. So, it's that belief that drove us forward, and it's that belief that's led us to take chances and reach our goals.

David: And did you believe in you, or in the idea?

Brittany: Both, I think believing in yourself is also core to starting a business because if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you. Right, I mean, again, it's easy to say, but I think it's important to note that when you're an entrepreneur, every day you're asking other people to believe in you. Your employees, your clients, your vendors.

There's so much trust that goes into being a business owner, and especially when you first start out, people are taking a chance on you. And they're betting on you as much as they're betting on your business. So, being able to believe in yourself and know that you love what you do, and you're doing what you do the best you can, is really key to growing your business.

David: And did you believe in yourself 10 years ago?

Brittany: I think I did. Ten years ago, I was 19 years old, so I was a college freshman and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and where I would fit in the world. I never thought about being a business owner, it was never something that I said I want to do. And it wasn't until the frustration with my ideas not being heard built up to this crazy level that it became a critical mass, and I said, “I don't want to work for anybody ever again.”

David: And did you develop your self-confidence, or…

Brittany: Yes, and that's something that I think having a co-founder is really important for because Kim and I work great together, and we can always bounce something off the other one. So, sometimes if I'm being too hard on myself about a project, she's there to pick me up and say, “You know, you did great. This was really…you know, we did everything we could,” and vice-versa.

I'm always there to remind her that when you're a business owner, it's easy to overlook all the hard work you do, and not give yourself credit for how hard you're working, and how much effort you're putting in to build something. So, I think having a co-founder is really key to improving both your awareness and your level of support.

David: So your advice is to build a company with a co-founder?

Brittany: I think it's absolutely an asset, and I can only speak from my experience, so there could be companies where a co-founder isn't going to be an asset. But in terms of what we're doing in the entertainment space, it's almost like cloning yourself. You think about everything you do day to day, and how much easier it would be to accomplish if there were two of you instead of one of you, that's what it's like to have a co-founder.

David: Yes, and so, for example, if someone has an idea to build a company, and he has to find a co-founder, how can he do that?

Brittany: I know there's a website, cofounderslab.com, and I've never used it, but I've been on the site, and I've met the people who started the site. And the entire purpose of the site is to create an environment for collaboration to foster partnerships. So if you have the idea for a company, you can go onto this website and say, “I'm really good at XYZ and I'm looking for someone who does ABC,” and matchmake with other people.

I think what's really important when looking for a co-founder is finding someone, A, who you get along with because you're gonna be spending a lot of time with that person. B, who complements your weaknesses, so knowing what your strengths are and what areas that you aren't so strong, and looking for someone who can complement those areas. And C, someone who's going to really want to grow with you, someone who is aligned in their ideas and their goals for the company.

David: And did you check some things with Kim? How did you meet her? How did you decide to co-found with her?

Brittany: Kim and I met at an advertising agency where we both worked, and we were acquaintances, I would say. We weren't really…we weren't friends, we hadn't known each other for more than a couple of weeks, and I'd had the idea to start the company. And I approached her about it, and we went out for dinner and coffee. And I told her about the idea, and what I was thinking, and what strengths I thought that she could bring to the table, specifically, which was a background in publishing.

She came from the publishing industry and I was from the music industry, and I said, “I think we could be a really great team.” And she fell in love with the idea of the product and starting a company, and so, we made the decision a couple of days later to do it.

David: And how did you know if Kim will work [inaudible 00:06:03] for your standards, your…what you want because if you co-found, you will divide the benefits, divide everything, divide the time. How were you sure she was the right person?

Brittany: A lot of it was a leap of faith, it was just that gut feeling of knowing inside that I think this person could be a really great match. So, I don't know if you ever know for sure. I think it's a lot like dating, you know? How do you know for sure that this is the person that you want to marry? But if you feel like it's the right thing to do, you take a chance and you go for it.

Having a co-founder is a lot like having a spouse. It's a binding legal relationship and you're really in everything together, so I joke sometimes that I feel like I'm in two marriages. I'm married to my husband, but also to Kim. So, it's definitely not a decision to be made lightly.

David: And did you have some conflict with her sometimes? At the beginning, for example?

Brittany: No, not a great deal. We have collaborated very well together. The few times where we have had differing ideas, we've talked through the pros and cons of each of our areas of preference, and made the decision that we felt like was going to be the right thing for the company. We try to always put the company first.

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