Young Gun Entrepreneur: Shama Kabani
Sep 16, 2011
Web TV Show Host. Bestselling author. International Speaker. Award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global digital marketing firm. Shama is the face of today’s digital world, and represents the best her generation has to offer. She has aptly been dubbed the “master millennial of the universe” and “an online marketing shaman” by FastCompany.com. Shama holds a Masters degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Texas at Austin, and prides herself in being a constant learner. Through her web marketing company, Shama works with businesses and organizations around the world. In 2009, Business Week honored Shama as one of the Top 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in North America. In 2010, Shama won the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. Her first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing (BenBella Books) was released in April, 2010 and was an instant hit. When not working directly with her clients or shooting her show, Shama travels the world speaking on business, entrepreneurship, and technology. On the web, she can be found on Facebook at Facebook.com/ShamaKabani and on Twitter at Twitter.com/Shama.
This is part of a profile interview series of young entrepreneurs & their experiences launching & growing new startups.
About the Entrepreneur / Experience:
- What first attracted you to becoming an entrepreneur?
The ability to follow my passion! In 2008 when I graduated with a Masters degree, and a passion for social media, no one was interested in hiring me. They didn’t think social media had a future. It initiated me to start my own company.
- What was the first step you took?
I started a blog. I knew that if I took the time to educate people, that they would turn to me when they needed help with web marketing. And, that’s exactly what happened.
- When did you hire your first employee? How did you find them?
As soon as I started the business, we needed designers and developers. Our first employee was a web designer. I’d worked with her previously on another project, and when the chance arose, I hired her immediately.
- What was the hardest thing that you have had to do as an entrepreneur?
Keeping up with demand was very tough initially. We didn’t expect to grow as fast as we did, but people were really eager to have someone take over their web marketing. Eventually, we grew to meet their needs. Today, we have 27 people who call Marketing Zen home. But, it wasn’t easy to get here!
- What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Don’t be a perfectionist. Be an editor at heart! Being an entrepreneur is always about rolling with the punches.
- What type of support is available in your community?
The online and offline communities have both been extremely supportive. Last year, I won the Technology Titan Best Emerging Company CEO award. At 25, I was the youngest to be nominated, and the youngest to win. The community has been amazingly supportive.
- Is there a true entrepreneurial environment in your community?
There is, but it is fragmented. You have to reach out, but they are there, and willing to support each other!
- What was the best piece of advice you received?
Don’t take life or work too seriously. Whatever do, have fun!
- What was the biggest mistake you made starting out?
Not listening to our clients sooner! They wanted a full service company that could handle all their web marketing needs. Once we gave them that, the company really took off.
About the Company / Product
- Why did you decide to start that particular company?
I had a passion for all things web! And, marketing came naturally. Hence, a business offering web marketing services was a natural fit.
- How big do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?
Well, just this past year, we’ve grown 400%. In 5 years, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were up to 100 employees. We already serve clients from NY to France.
- How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
We don’t just tell our clients what they should do, we offer to do it for them. Serving as their “web marketing department” has been a huge differentiator from other companies that offer only a few services or just consult.
- What do you do better than anyone else in the industry?
We are the best at integrating all the pieces when it comes to online marketing. It isn’t about just social media or just SEO or just email marketing. True ROI comes when you are able to integrate all the elements.
- What is the biggest challenge your company is facing right now?
We face the same challenges as any fast growing company – keeping up with demand, continuing to innovate, and making sure we keep our clients happy!
- What is the biggest success you have had, and how did it come about?
Just in this past year alone, we’ve been grateful to have been featured in over 20 top media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and MSNBC.
- Was there one thing that you did when starting the company that turned out to be a waste of time?
Everything we did was a lesson learned or opportunity earned, so I wouldn’t say that anything was a waste of time.