Kiki Von Glinow is the Co-Founder of the digital marketing agency Toast Media Group and connoisseur of all things food and wellness. She had the entrepreneurship and DIY bug long before they were popular Instagram hashtags.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been a builder. At 13, my sister and I had a handmade jewelry business – making our rounds at Chicago's art fairs and often raking in more than our fellow (adult) vendors in just a weekend. At NYU, I sometimes had three jobs at a time but I still needed that outlet to build, so I applied for a New York City street vendor license.
Yep. I started selling handmade headbands I had stayed up way too late making – time I should have probably spent studying – so that I could hock my goods alongside hot dog vendors and artists on SoHo sidewalks.
This need to build followed me to The Huffington Post. I started there as a journalist after college and that desire to create – even within a larger company – never subsided. During the course of my six years at HuffPost, I went from intern to senior leadership, founding what would be the company's inaugural audience development team (digital media speak for getting people to read/watch our stuff) as well as an experimental team tasked with solving the challenges that would face digital media tomorrow, today. I had no labels for any of it. In my mind I was just doing my job, pushing our newsroom forward, learning to be a leader.
This was around the same time that "entrepreneurs" as a cultural motif started to seep into social media channels and, more than ever, make me feel like less of one.
I would tap through Instagram stories of a young entrepreneur documenting her 4:30 AM email answering sprints. I would study 30-second videos that detailed the regimented lifestyle of an entrepreneur who was up and in the gym with a personal trainer at 6:00 am. I was along for the ride as they all went from lunch meetings (if they had time for lunch at all) to dinner functions, all in the name of sharing their mission with potential investors or partners. They were always "on." They lived and breathed their ideas. They didn’t see their friends. They missed family functions. That's what it took.
These were “entrepreneurs.” I finally had the word to use, but it didn't apply to me. It couldn't. Because I wasn't.
Although the culture around entrepreneurship has become much more inclusive of women in the past decade, it seems to refer to a very specific type of woman. A fearless extrovert whose voice is strong, who likes to be front and center, who espouses confidence at all times. I don't identify with this type of entrepreneur – at least not in the capital "E" sense.
Despite my self-doubt, after 6+ years at HuffPost, I had saved enough money to see if I could find my capital E. I left HuffPost to found a growth marketing collective, Toast Media Group, helping clients from small scale startups to legacy media publishers create the mechanisms to find and connect an audience to their brand. I approached it the way I approached anything. Excited to learn, build and repeat.
About a year in, we have a client wait list and an actual team. And even more fulfilling than taking our clients’ businesses to the next level, is our internal mission – helping women transitioning from corporate life to working for themselves find clients and make more money in the first month of their #solopreneur efforts than their previous salary. In all of this building and with each of the women we’ve onboarded to our collective, I have learned that entrepreneurship has no "type."
I still listen to entrepreneurial podcasts in which hosts talk about ‘eating, drinking and sleeping your startup – it’s the only way!’ Young women who are intrigued by entrepreneurship but have yet to make the leap listen to those same podcasts. And those are the same women that come up to me after panels I speak on or slide into my Instagram DMs and tell me that they wish they could do what I’m doing but "could never” because they’re “just not that type of person.”
I’m not that type of person either. I’m doing it. There’s strength in that! Hey, if the businesses that entrepreneurs created were as one-dimensional as the tropes you see on Instagram, this world would be a pretty boring place.
As far as I’m concerned, entrepreneurs are loud and soft spoken. Extroverts and introverts. Get 4 hours and 8 hours of sleep. Have found their voice and are finding their voice. Are great public speakers and thrive with an audience of one.
If you’re an entrepreneur after all, you’ll be ABLE to create your own definition.