01. Summarize your life in a few sentences.
Former non-profit idealist, current data-loving communications do-gooder still trying to change the world.
02. Tell us about your education background.
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004 with a BA in English Literature and immediately went on to graduate school at Valparaiso University, graduating in 2006 with an MA concentrating on International Human Rights.
03. How did you start your business?
After I was fired from a job at a non-profit where I had great success motivating volunteers and raising funds on social media, I had a number of friends and colleagues ask me for advice on how to improve their business, personal or organizational presence online. I resisted the idea of starting my own business for about a year, as I was terrified of failure, but eventually it became obvious that was the right path and I dove in headfirst.
04. What inspired you as a creative woman?
I’m inspired by all the people in our world who continue to use their voice to advocate for causes, issues and rights online despite being threatened and even though it poses great security risks to them or their families. I’m also very inspired by nature – I love to garden and being out on a lake resets my soul in times of stress.
05. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on your job or on your business, and how did you get through it?
While working for others, I believed if I did my job well that would be enough – it wasn’t, and that was a really hard lesson to learn. In my business, I’ve made tons of mistakes, from big financial ones (like significantly underbilling clients due to an Invoice typo) and hiring people who couldn’t perform (and thus almost losing clients) to small ones (like sending emails for conference calls that say 8PM instead of 8AM – whoops). When mistakes happen, I’m honest with the client, apologize, explain what steps I’m taking internally or externally to fix the problem, try to forgive myself (that’s the hardest part!), and move on to the next day knowing just a little bit more than I did the day before.
06. If you won a lottery today, will you still continue to build your business?
Yes. Without a doubt. I would continue to work, but be more selective in what kind of work I take on, and I would donate most of the lottery money to charity.
07. Walk us through your day as CEO/Founder of Arka Pana Consulting
I wake up between 5-6am and go straight to my computer to check if any urgent emails have come in overnight. After doing a once-over of my inbox, flagging anything that needs attention but not immediately, I take my dog for a walk along the lake. Maintaining that routine is incredibly important for my physical and mental health, as well as taking a break from the computer screen. I try to schedule most conference calls on Mondays and most in-person meetings on Thursdays, which cuts down on travel time and sets the expectation for my staff (and clients) about my availability. Other than when I’m on calls, or in meetings, I’m answering emails, researching, scheduling, and designing social media content, and – perhaps most importantly – analyzing data.
08. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
There have been a few big moments since I’ve started my business, but those that stand out include the first time I turned down a potential client (I needed the money early on, but it wasn’t a good fit – and that was incredibly empowering), the first time I had a client renew after a 12-month contract (I pride myself on maintaining an 80%+ client retention rate), when my business hit six figures in income, and the many times people who weren’t believers in social media – or me – came back to explain their conversion.
09. Where or what do you think you will be/do in the next 5 years?
I think I will be doing exactly what I’m doing now, leading a growing business! The business may offer more services, our client base may evolve, our staff may change, but I will be the same.
10. Share a quote/advice that you’d like to tell the 25-year-old you
I’d remind myself to allow my expectations to evolve to incorporate change. Not everything will turn out exactly they want you want it to, even if you work really hard, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s even better.