We are thrilled to announce our latest Career Over Coffee as the founder of the uber successful social media marketing agency, Hello Society. Kyla Brennan is the epitome of a career girl who doesn’t waste any time seizing an opportunity. From Executive Assistant to Executive powerhouse, Kyla can teach us all a thing or two about creating a job, negotiating, and finding the right people to work with.
Briefly describe how HelloSociety started.
I was working as an Executive Assistant in an incubator in Santa Monica. Not like the baby kind, the business kind. I had this idea that you could use people that were popular on Pinterest to drive sales for businesses. I asked my boss if I could start reaching out to companies to ask if they wanted to utilize these influencers. He said, “Go ahead but we’re not going to pay you.” So I just started cold calling people. When it actually worked they got on board.
I honestly did not mean to start a business but it just kind of happened.
I started by myself for the first few months. I didn’t hire anybody and finally, my boss suggested I hire somebody and I thought, “I don’t know how to do that!”, I really didn’t know how to do that.
I had accounting and billing and customer service for HelloSociety, but it was all just me so it looked like I was a bigger company. I would just reach out to companies for these services and I didn’t know how to price myself because no one was doing it yet, so I had literally zero prices. Anytime somebody would say yes, I would say something higher until they wouldn’t pay it anymore.
What are the deciding factors when deciding to work with an influencer?
Number one is their audience size, so they have to have a certain number of followers and also their ability to create really good content. Professional quality photos, videos, things like that.
Describe your typical day as the CEO of HelloSociety.
Every day is different but ever since I sold the company it has changed a lot. I used to be a lot more hands-on and now 70% percent of my day is dealing with the new accounts and figuring out how to integrate that.
Has the vibe or start-up feel of the company changed at all since you were acquired by the New York Times?
No not at all, luckily. They’re in New York and we’re in Santa Monica. I don’t think it feels different within the office; we are still totally autonomous so it still feels like a start-up. They are making the transition to digital so I think they look at us and their other acquisitions as experts in the space.
What do you base the majority of your hiring on? Personality, cover letter, experience?
Well there are a bunch of stages. I require a cover letter from everybody because I think that no matter what you are doing you should be able to write. You should be able to articulate why you want the job. You can tell a lot from somebody’s cover letter, so that is really important to me.
But it really depends on the job. For sales, I need sellers that know people. For most of the jobs I would say it’s about attitude and excitement about the position and the person’s willingness to work really hard. The fact that they’re excited about a start-up knowing it can be difficult and stressful but they’re ready to dive in and do anything. It’s those people that are always successful.
For someone new to the industry or changing careers, what would you suggest they do to get their foot in the door at a company like Hello Society.
I think it depends again, on the position. First apply for an appropriate position. If you don’t have necessarily the relevant background but you’re applying for more of an entry level position then that’s smart.
If it’s in a totally different field and you express a lot of enthusiasm for it and you accomplished a lot in something totally different, it demonstrates your work ethic, which is also something we look for.
If you don’t have any experience in a certain field and you go straight for a Senior role just because you were Senior in another industry, that’s not the smartest approach because generally somebody needs more experience in that specific industry. You have to be able to tough it out and come in at a lower level and if you are really a Senior level person, then you’ll be able to move up relatively quickly.
What advice would you tell your younger self regarding finding a career?
I think it’s great to have a path in place but sometimes I think that people become too attached to their paths. I had no path so at least that’s what I would tell somebody else. It’s okay to let go of your path and explore opportunities.
For me I would say I wish that I had been little more serious at the beginning which I never thought I would say, but to have read business books. The minute that you find something you like, educate yourself on it because not knowing stuff, being ignorant about things, is the easiest way to mess them up.
Also, work on your public speaking skills. Everybody needs public speaking skills! It’s still not my favorite thing but once you do it, just like anything else, you get used to it.
l remember thinking about math in college like, “I’m never going to have to use this”. But something that I’ve learned is that no matter what you do for a living, if you want to keep moving up the ladder, public speaking is something you have to be able to do. You can only reach a certain point without being a good public speaker.
Was there one moment where you felt you had “made it”?
The first time I got a check in the mail. The check was for $350 for a 4-day campaign. It was the equivalent for what we would now charge $50,000 for. It was hilarious. But I had no idea about pricing myself so that seemed like a lot at the time. I remember being scared to even ask for it on the phone. When you don’t have any money, you have no concept of what a lot of money is, so they sent me a $350 check and that was my moment. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh people are going to pay me for this’.
What questions do you have for Kyla? You ask, she’ll answer!
Interview by: Chanel DeVetter, Written by: Brittany Johnston