Uber Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur: Marketing Sells
A Thought Leader is an individual with an unparalleled knack for creativity and someone who thinks outside the box when others would let fear get the better of them. They are able to build brands like a builder builds houses, and they have an unapologetic self-belief that allows to them make the best of difficult situations.
Kay Snels is a Los Angeles based brand strategist, marketing campaign manager and social media expert. Born and raised in Belgium, Kay left home and travelled the world at the age of 21, finding herself in Silicon Valley and quickly bagged a job at Uber after writing her resume on a white board while on a tour of HQ. Kay has one of the most creative minds in the world, and most recently helped propel international brand BossBabe to levels the company has not seen before.
Liv: You grew up in Belgium and moved over to the US. Tell me a little about that experience.
Kay: Growing up, I found that I was kind of the only person who thought the way I did. I had these crazy ideas, and I felt like none of the people around me really shared that thinking. It was unclear to me whether there were ever going to be people in my life who would think the same as I do. I decided to study marketing because I was always really passionate about that and, when I graduated, I started thinking about moving home. I started thinking about all these cities in Belgium, and even though these places looked cool, I didn't feel like I belonged there. I felt like there was something different for me, and I didn't know quite what it was. That’s when I started ‘Can You Teach Me Whatever?’ which was me asking random people on the street to literally teach me whatever they wanted and I made YouTube videos about that.
Liv: How have you dealt with the experience of people questioning your capabilities and your ethos?
Kay: I decided to move away and to move to California where a lot more people think like I do. I feel like people in California are very, very supportive of people with entrepreneurial ideas. On the daily, I don't receive as much negative feedback but that doesn't mean that I won’t receive it online. I do see it in my family occasionally, which can be sometimes more hurtful but that is part of Belgian culture.
Liv: Have you always wanted to pursue marketing as a career?
Kay: I love brands and I love the way that brands make people feel and how they really resonate with them. I love how they tie not only their identity to them, but really are able to express their identity better to the world and so that's why we allow certain brands into our life. People are able to express themselves better through the brands that they choose to have in their life. Marketing is the vehicle that communicates brands externally and that's something that I feel very passionate about.
One of the earliest examples of why I started liking marketing was guerilla marketing. When Pinterest came out, I had this huge board of guerilla marketing and started pinning all these examples. That was one thing that I really wanted to do in my career, I wanted to know how to get better at these creative marketing things that people just love and are memorable. So that's something that really, really stuck with me.
Liv: Tell me about how you got the role with Uber?
Kay: That happened super organically and it was very spur of the moment. I had applied for a job as Social Media Manager at Uber and my application was rejected. So, I applied again with a different email address, and then I got rejected again. I knew this job was the right one for me, so I needed to figure out another way to get it. I asked someone to give me a tour of headquarters, and as I was walking through there saw the whiteboard, and thought to myself, what would a guerrilla marketer do? I grabbed the marker, I wrote my resume, which was very short as I didn’t have a lot of experience. I put my twitter handle down and asked them to message me. They tweeted me and that's how it all got started.
Liv: How important is it to think outside the box?
Kay: That’s one of those things that, to me, feels super normal. In that moment, my goal is not to sell a product, my goal is to sell myself. There's about 1000 other people who are going through that same process in that moment, while the people who are sifting through the applications will be dealing with thousands of different impressions in the space of a few days. It’s about how you break through that noise; how do I stand out? That’s how I got the job.
Liv: How can people stand out? What would you recommend to entrepreneurs?
Kay: I like to start with brand identity. Who are you at your core? What are the things that matter to you? What are the things that you want to express to your audience that make you unique? What is my brand identity and then who aligns with that who can carry that message forward? Starting from that piece of strategy makes it far easier to then go out and find those people you need. Then, of course, it's a matter of standing out. There's always something that you can offer but you have to get super creative, I think that's very important to remember.
Liv: What does it take to be a great leader in the marketing space?
Kay: I think you break it up into two parts. Part one is that your solopreneur. You want to scale to a team and you want to know where to start. Who do I hire? Can I just do it all myself? Part two comes once you have a team. How do you manage that team so they're their most productive?
When you're a solopreneur, you're starting to make money and you want to maximise on money that's coming in, and it's hard to make that switch to outsourcing work. The biggest balance that you want to make for yourself is time versus money.
For me, my most valuable currency is time, because the more time I can create for myself, the more money actually is going to come in. Think about how you can save time by outsourcing something you don’t need to do yourself to someone else. The best thing to do is play book everything. Figure out the systems behind everything so that you can delegate the work to someone who will be able to carry out the task to the level you carry it out.
Then it’s a case of how you find the right people that can do the job.
One of the things that I consider myself good at is finding those people. Something that helps me find the right people is again, putting myself into the shoes of who that ideal person is. Where are they right now? Where is this person right now that has that skill set that I'm looking for? I think that really helps you find the right person. You can then really create your job posting to be exactly which requirements you're looking for.
Liv: What’s the differences between the corporate world and business world? What skills have you taken from each to go forward with your new venture?
Kay: Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the corporate world and vice versa. What startups or entrepreneurs or solopreneurs do very well is starting before they’re ready. We’re really good at that side of just getting going.
On the corporate side, what they do really well is the playbooks, the systems and the structures, and there is something quite comforting about that feeling that everything is taken care of and everything is well organised. However, that's also what bores people in the end.
It's finding that balance between the both. Make sure you're agile, you're taking massive action and you keep moving forward but, in the backend, make sure you have your systems, your playbooks and all of these things from the corporate world in place. I think the balance between the both is going to make you the most successful.
Liv: What would you suggest to someone that is really looking to grow their market?
Kay: There's so many perspectives. First of all, look at who the people are that you want to model. Who are your role models? Once you figure that out, you'll discover what they’re doing right. What you'll notice is that everyone gives the same advice just in a different way. If you think the market is saturated, that's not true. Different people have different stories that resonate with different people. All successful people will say the same thing, which is, figure out your niche and get super clear on that. Figure out who that ideal customer is. What do they do? Figure out where they hang out and show up for them. Have consistency in your content. That's what everyone says, because it's true.
Liv: What would your advice be for someone that is looking to share their story? What is the best way to get it out their audience?
Kay: First you have to build an audience. For example, maybe you only have 10 followers right now and that's fine. I've heard a lot of people in this space say post the post, even when no one's engaging. I think it's great advice, but it's also really hard when you're met with silence. If there continues to be silence, also look into why that is because maybe you are just sharing a lot of content, but you're not attracting people to see this content. Start engaging on other people's accounts that you find relevant or where you think that audience would be or, you know, make sure that you're also showing up and not just posting a tonne to your account. It’s that balance of making sure that you're showing up and you keep posting because that's very important, but making sure you’re posting the right content.
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