Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe took what every fan obsesses over and created a limited-edition keepsake to remind us why we love these artists so. These young ladies went from a half million revenue to a 2.6 million revenue in a year, featured on Advertising Age’s annual 40 Under 40 and have the sickest workspace I’ve ever seen with margarita carts and nap areas. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with them and chatted about how ‘ZinePak got its start, how they’ve worked with KISS and The Beach Boys and what exactly is a ‘ZinePak… because we’re all dying to know.
Tell us about ‘ZinePak and how it got started and why? Actually tell us what ‘ZinePak is. I thought it was an album cover and seeing it now, it’s not.
Brittany: So, ‘ZinePak is a super fun fan magazine for people who are obsessed with music, pop culture and entertainment. And we create magazines that showcase everything you love about your favorite star.
Kim: And now we’re expanding into other verticals – movies, films, athletes, and obviously in fashion. So, instead of Taylor Swift it might be one that’s all about Keds. It’ll have every Kedscollection shoes, the history of Keds and coupons to Keds. Just a lot of fun stuff like that.
Brittany: We try to make them all immersive and interactive so, we’re not doing one for Keds right now, but if we were, we might put collectible shoelaces inside of it. Or something really fun as to where you can design your own sneakers. We like every one of them to have a custom merchandise component to it.
And so now, how did you all get started?
Brittany: We met at an ad agency a couple of years ago. I come from a music background and Kim comes from a publishing background. And we had this idea of creating a product since there’s so much talk of doom and gloom of the music and publishing industry being dead. And we said, clearly people are still consuming entertainment. People still love music. People still love to read about things that they care about. And if there was a smart way to combine those things, there’s definitely likes for a cool, physical product. Everything is not going to be digital in two years, no matter how many times bloggers tell you that it is. So we wanted to create a really fun, physical product that people can get excited about and give them a connection to things that they love. That’s where the idea for ‘ZinePak came from.
So how has ‘ZinePak been received?
Kim: It’s been great. We did six projects in 2011, when we first started the company. Which we thought was amazing that we had done six. And then we had this explosive growth in 2012 and did 24 projects. So really kind of trip over four times the amount we had done. Which was exciting and scary and a ton of work, but basically went from a half million in revenue to 2.6 million. So it’s a huge jump and we get to work with artists like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber,Phillip Phillips and American Idol. Selfishly for Brittany and I, we got to work with our two favorite bands. Mine being The Beach Boys, Brittanys’ being KISS last year. Selfishly we like doing ones we really like, not that we don’t like all of them, but our own personal interests as well.
Brittany: I think that’s what we started the company for to cater to superfans. So everybody that’s on our staff and everyone that we get to work with is really passionate on pop culture; whether is music or movies or things that they love. We try and bring that excitement and passion to every project that we make and we hope that it shows through.
There are lots of people who are trying to pull away from the corporate world and create their own start-ups. What advice do you have for them?
Kim: For me I think the biggest thing is you’ll never be ready. It’s kind of like having a kid. When is right to have a kid? Do you wait 5 years? Do you wait until your 30? I feel like people are like when is the right time for me to start a business. Do I wait until the recession is over? Do I wait until I have a bunch of my 401(k)? And I think the answer is the same as having a kid – you’re never going to be ready. Ever. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to be like holy shit, I have no health insurance. I think you just have to do it. And that for me and I think Brittany as well was the biggest hurdles to get over; knowing that we were going to walk away from these jobs with great salaries, benefits and 401(k)s and really start something from the ground up.
Brittany: I’ve told people it’s a little like being in a relationship. Like you hear people say, “I hate my job. I hate everything about my job. I’m so miserable. They take advantage of me.” But yet they feel like they need it. And when I hear people talk about how miserable they are and I think back to how much I hated one of the positions I had; it reminds me of people talking about being in these really terrible relationships. If your friend was saying to you that “I’m in this really horrible relationship. They treat me so badly. They don’t respect me.” Obviously you would say to your friend, “leave!” I think it’s the same thing with a job and people don’t really correlate it. You spend way more time with your boss or at your job than with whomever you’re dating. So for starting ‘ZinePak was an opportunity to create this amazing place that we have a great relationship with and we love it. And we founded the company on the idea having a really fun, cool place to work, where people would be excited to work and hangout. So my best advice for someone who feels like their trapped – Don’t put up with it. You’re better than that. You deserve to be somewhere that you’re happy and feel like you’re being fulfilled.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of amazing people. Who are you looking to collaborate with in the very near future?
Brittany: I personally am a huge fan of Garth Brooks and my dream has always been to do a Garth Brooks ‘ZinePak.
Kim: I think music wise; I’d love to do something with Jimmy Buffet. He has Margaritaville, he has books, he has a cookbook line, he has stuff at Macy’s. He’s just such…a brand. I’d a love to do something with movies like with Spider-Man or any of those Marvel Comics.
Brittany: I’m really excited about doing our first sports release of going into a stadium and the first 25,000 or 30,000 people get a ‘ZinePak free. That’s what I’m really excited about for 2013 – expanding into other verticals.
Other than Walmart, where is ‘ZinePak available?
Kim: They’re on tour with the artist. We did a Selena Gomez one that went out on tour with her. That’s something we’ve gotten more involved in, which has been fun. Working on the gifting sort of things, like going to a sporting event or gift with purchase in retail. Mainly it’s been in retail so far. But it’s available online as well.
Brittany: Every project is different. So in the onset of every project, we say we’re going to make this many ‘ZinePaks. It’s always a limited edition. We’re not making them in perpetuity. So we’ll make 5,000, or 50,000 or 150,000, decide where it’s going to go, and that’s where the ‘ZinePak will be available for the lifespan of that project. We did a really small run for a fashion line called Smart and Sexy, for a fashion show they were having. And they wanted us to make a cool ‘ZinePak to giveaway at the fashion show.
Kim: It was like their lookbook. So all their new looks, things to do with their product, and places to get it. And expanding above just lingerie into how to set the mood, how does it make you feel and recipes to get you in the romantic feeling. That one was actually really fun so hopefully more fashion ones in the future. Even if it’s not at a fashion show but a sports thing sponsored by UnderArmour. So the first 25,000 people at the Jets stadium get anUnderArmour ‘ZinePak about the athletes, UnderArmour, and training.