As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Kaupe, CEO of The Superfan Company.
Kim is the founder and CEO of The Superfan Company a fan-engagement agency based in New York City. Her clients include A list entertainers and properities such as Katy Perry, The NY Mets, Paul McCartney, Ace Comic Con, and Shawn Mendes. She has been named to Forbes 30 Under 30, Inc.’s 35 Under 35, Ad Age’s 40 Under 40, was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank receiving offers from 4 out of 5 sharks and most was most recently seen live on NBC’s 2019 Miss USA competition where she served as judge.
Thank you so much for joining us Kim! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am an accidental entrepreneur. I never dreamed of owning my own company and it was truly something I fell into. I was at a corporate job that I knew wasn’t a fit and when my co-founder approached me with the idea to start the company I thought, “Well I might as well give this a go before I get another corporate job!” I had every expectation that they company would fail, as 90% of them do, but thought I would regret it if I didn’t at least give it a shot. Nine years later I am happy to say it wasn’t a failure!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
How much time to do you have? I made (and continue to make!) countless mistakes in business. One of the funniest things we did when we first started the company was having fake assistants. We noticed that whenever we were emailing people trying to set up in person meetings or conference calls our contact would say, “Looping in Ben to help us set up a time.” Because we wanted to seem like we were on the same level and equals we would reply, “Thanks. Looping in Jennifer to coordinate with Ben to find us a time.” Only there was no Jennifer! We created a separate gmail account with a fake person! We had to log into the account to then set up the meeting. We did a lot of creative and funny hacks like that when we first started.
SuperFan gets to hang out at events that fans would sell their left foot to get into. And, you get behind the stage, meeting faces you see on the cover of People magazine. Be honest. Didn’t you start this business because it’s pure fun, heck with the dollars? :-)
You caught me! :-)I still feel those pinch me moments each and every time we work with clients. Not to long ago I was looking at my schedule for the day and I realized I had conference calls with arguably three of the top entertainment companies in the world. I did a double take and said to myself, “Holy cow I cannot believe this is my Wednesday!” I have a lot of those moments and I’d be lying if I said they wear off or become normal. They don’t!
As great as your idea for an event may be, there are numerous decision makers. How do you deal with superstar egos? Perhaps even more tricky, how do you deal with their managers who want to protect their clients image? How do you deal with conflicts of opinion?
In this business you deal with a lot of cooks in the kitchen. To combat this I try to get everyone on the same page when it comes to goals and intentions. If we can all focus on one goal, say it’s “Let’s have as many people most about this on social media as possible!” we can all come back to that goal when issues or conflicts arise and say is this focusing us back on our original goal? I would also say it’s important to learn how a client communicates best. I have some that love the phone, they will talk to you for hours but over email you can’t get a hold of them. I have others that you can’t get them on the phone ever but they will text you back within 10 minutes. Never communicate in a style that works well for you, communicate in the style that works best for who you are serving. You will get faster answers and make everything easier!
Fans can be as finicky as super stars. Poor reviews about a person’s work can ripple out through social media. Did Superfan ever have such an experience, and if so how did you deal with it?
At The Superfan Company we are always part of a larger team and larger production to make things happen. So while we have never gotten individual complaints about what we personally did there are always people who complain about the overall event, the show, the weather, whatever! There are some fans that are just impossible to please. Bashing a show on social media because it rained outside!? Come on! The day I learn to control the weather is the day I stop doing this – that’s for sure! Weather control would be way more lucrative!
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our purpose continues to rest with the end consumer or fan. We are constantly asking, “What will this fan feel? What will they experience? How will they react?” When we continue to come back to a fan’s feelings is when we win. People get distracted by the “latest” whether that’s the latest VR experience, latest app or latest location beacon. We continue to question the “latest” by constantly coming back to “How will this improve the consumer experience?” instead of just “We want this because it’s cool and new!”
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
The best way we demonstrate our values to our customers is by living them. When we say we care about fan engagement and the consumer experience it means we also care about the client experience. Client’s know if they need us we are answering that 10pm text message, that we will be on that conference call that is out of our scope of work but that we know will help them, and that when they call our office line they are getting us and not a recording. Those small touches and details matter. I’m less about telling people what my values are. I’d rather show them.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My number one principle is more of a question, “Did I do my best?”. I think it comes from so many years of playing sports in school. I never beat myself up when we lost, as long as I played my best. I might be disappointed, sure, but if I left it all on the field then I could rest easy. I approach my business the same way. Did I do my best? Did I serve and show up the best way I knew how? Was I open to ideas and learning? If so, and something goes wrong or there’s a bump in the road I’m ok with it. That’s life!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I feel like giving up probably once a week! That feeling of “Am I good enough?” never goes away no matter how successful you are. What drives me forward is my team who provides unwavering support even during my most frustrated days. I also get a lot of support from my social media community who I try to let in on the up’s and the down’s of having a company.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things at The Superfan Company are going well. We are excited to be branching into new areas of business and working with new clients along the way. I can speak for my whole team when I say that we love learning. A new challenge? A new client? A new set of requests? We are not only up for the challenge but love a good puzzle!
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
The five most important things a founder of a service based business should know is:
1.) Listen – You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You are here to service your clients and customers the best you can. If they are offering you advice or feedback take it and thank them. It will only make you better!
2.) Get Friends That Will Root You On – Whether they are fellow entrepreneurs or friends from high school get a solid pack around you that will pick you up on your lowest days. You need that inner circle you can all after a hard day and say “I need you to tell me I’m not a loser.”
3.) Get Friends That Will Bring You Back – When you ultimately become successful (because you will!) have a group of friend’s that will remind you of your intentions or values. Sometimes when success comes so many opportunities are at your feet that you want to jump on all of them. Have a group of friends that will question and say “While this opportunity sounds amazing how is that helping you achieve your goals?”
4.) Ask For Help – My biggest regret is not asking for help sooner when I started my business. You will go faster the minute you start asking for help!
5.) Sleep and Eat Well – Think of yourself as an athlete. If Tom Brady ate McDonalds and got little sleep do you think he’d be playing in the Super Bowl? Definitely not. Think of yourself that same way. You want to show up as your best self to make sure the business and your team have a strong leader in place .
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful for my entire team at The Superfan Company. We could not be where we are today, and thus I couldn’t be where I am today without them. They are smart, clever, fast, and inspire me every single day. It’s important to surround yourself with people who light you on fire and push you to be your best self. I happen to work with them every single day!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would start a movement around mentorship. Whether you have an informal mentor, like someone you follow on social media that inspires you, or a formal mentor that you meet with once a month it’s important to have someone you can look to. I wouldn’t be where I am today with the help of many mentors that have pushed me along in my journey.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m at @kimkaupe on all social channels including LinkedIn. I post weekly tips and tricks to help you get further ahead in life and business!