[quote style=”boxed”]Analyze everything. Look at your site metrics to see what people are clicking on, read and respond to user feedback, see what’s popular and what’s not. The goal isn’t to carbon-copy your greatest hits, but to build on what you know is working and move away from what isn’t.[/quote]
Since 2007, Kathryn Hawkins has been curating and reporting inspiring news and advice as editor—and, since 2009, owner—of Gimundo.com. The site and daily newsletter feature good news stories, advice, interviews, reviews, videos, and other content focused on promoting the brighter side of life, and has received more than 4 million unique visitors since Hawkins acquired it in mid-2009.
An experienced journalist, Hawkins has also written for publications including GOOD Magazine, BNET, and E: The Environmental Magazine, and she has served as editorial director and content strategist for the philanthropy start-up, Razoo. With her husband Jeff, she runs a content marketing agency, Hawkins Multimedia, which specializes in content strategy and execution for brands, focusing on both written and video content.
Although Hawkins Multimedia works with clients all over the world, the company is based in a home office in semi-rural Maine. Hawkins appreciates the quality of life afforded by entrepreneurship; she loves the ability to wrap up a client project at 3:00 p.m. and take her toddler on an impromptu beach trip at 4:00. Despite the occasional frustrations of being her own boss, she wouldn’t trade it in for anything.
What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on a dozen things at once. I just wrapped up a client proposal, finished revisions to a couple of marketing white papers, and am managing an alumni magazine for a university client which I need to wrap up later this week. Next on the plate: writing a new feature story for Gimundo and a blog post for my content marketing blog.
Where did the idea for Gimundo come from?
Unfortunately, I can’t claim responsibility for the “good news” website concept itself—the site had just launched when I came on board. Back in 2007, I landed a job as editor of the site when it was funded by a Los Angeles start-up, and I was inspired by the thought of working on a venture that promoted the good that’s happening in the world. So much so, that when the start-up folded in 2009, my husband Jeff and I decided to buy the site from them and run it on our own, which we’ve done for the past three years. We’re currently focused on redesigning the site and developing new content models, including some original video segments and more visual pieces.
In the meantime, we’ve also launched Hawkins Multimedia, a content marketing agency that helps companies and media publications use compelling content to engage their audiences. We work with clients like the philanthropy platform Razoo, Intuit, State Farm Insurance, and many other start-ups and large companies alike.
With both ventures, we’re focused on creating compelling, story-driven content designed to engage and inspire audiences.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m usually woken up by my two-year-old daughter yelling, “Up for breakfast!” After a long, messy meal complete with sing-alongs and lots of hugs, Jeff and I take her to daycare and go for a run most days. I settle in to work around 9:30, and usually start out by researching story ideas to use for Gimundo or any of my clients’ projects and spending a few minutes on emails before launching into my writing and editing work for the rest of the day. I wrap things up around 4:30 or 5:00; we spend some fun time hanging out with our toddler until she goes to bed, and then there’s usually a couple more hours of work to do at night.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas aren’t created in a vacuum—being aware of your community is key. That means both the people in your local community, such as friends, neighbors, and fellow business owners, and your industry as a whole. Read the news, follow blogs, and talk to friends. Often, a hazy idea will pop up during a conversation—follow that thread wherever it leads. It may be brilliant or it may have been done a million times before, but it’s worth exploring for a few hours at the least.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Working virtually. With the rise of high-speed Wi-Fi, Skype, and sophisticated project management tools, entrepreneurs can now collaborate with clients and contractors almost anywhere on Earth. For me, this means that I have the chance to work from a beautiful home office in semi-rural Maine; it also means that, when I’m staffing writers and other creatives for projects, I can seek out the overall best people for the job, even if they don’t live close enough to meet for coffee. It seems as though more and more employers are letting their employees telecommute, too, which gives people the ability to live somewhere they love, rather than simply where the jobs are. I think that in the coming years, we’ll see rural areas revitalized with the help of creative, work-from-anywhere people.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In the summer after high school, I worked at Panera Bread. It wasn’t so much the work I hated—though I didn’t love it—but how I was perceived. One day, while wiping down tables, two women sitting near where I was working glanced at my nametag, and one of them said, “I wish I had a Kathryn to clean my tables.” That job taught me how awful it is to objectify other people. Everyone is worthy of respect, and everyone has dignity, no matter what their job.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Bring on help early on. For years, my husband and I tried to manage all of our work projects on our own. Since having our daughter, though, there are just not enough hours in the day, so we’ve begun bringing on trusted consultants to handle certain tasks. It’s always important to make sure that you’ve found someone who’s up for the job, but it’s also important to step back and trust them to perform. As long as you’ve got good people on board, you can build a great company.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Analyze everything. Look at your site metrics to see what people are clicking on, read and respond to user feedback, see what’s popular and what’s not. The goal isn’t to carbon-copy your greatest hits, but to build on what you know is working and move away from what isn’t.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s always tempting to try to be everything to everyone. With the consulting side of our business, we initially offered a huge variety of services, from photography to web development to copywriting. Eventually, we realized that we needed to focus on streamlining a few core offerings that we could be known for. We’ve since focused our business exclusively on content strategy and development, and are working on a rebranding initiative over the next few months.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but as a self-employed professional with an ultra-high deductible plan, one business model I see a lot of potential in is an online service where you can get competing quotes for services such as labor/delivery and scheduled surgery from healthcare providers. More transparency in our healthcare system would help us all and cut premium rates even for those without deductibles.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’d love to see more media coverage of the good in the world. It’s not always as exciting as the latest political scandal or kidnapping, but by spotlighting role models and innovative technologies, we can inspire people to think in a proactive way about how they can help the world. That’s what we’re trying to do with Gimundo.
Tell us a secret.
When my husband and I moved to Maine six years ago, we weren’t sure what kind of business we wanted to start. We were initially considering a catering company, a bed and breakfast, or a web agency. We went with the last one, and we’re glad we did—though it’s a shame that Jeff’s homemade brunches haven’t gotten a wider audience.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Amazon because we can have just about anything delivered to our door within two days, adding a ton of convenience to our cabin-in-the-woods lifestyle.
- FreshBooks for billing clients and keeping track of expenses so there’s little prep work needed when we meet with our accountant.
- Evernote for helping me collect and curate notes and ideas from all over the web.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m currently re-reading Po Bronson’s What Should I Do with My Life? and think it’s wonderful inspiration for helping potential entrepreneurs determine what their true values are and turn that inspiration into action.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @bittman for thoughtful links and commentary on food policy.
- @countingcrows for music recs and randomness.
- @brainpicker for a beautifully curated collection of art, history, and culture links.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
This morning, while playing “tickle monster” with my two-year-old. Toddlers are the perfect antidote for taking yourself too seriously.
Who is your hero?
My father, Welsh White, who died five years ago. He taught me a love of books and knowledge at an early age—I remember him “reading” me Peter Rabbit and other favorite children’s books from his bare hands; he knew them all by heart. When I was a little older, we’d read Shakespeare plays out loud together. He inspired me to dive deep into whatever I was passionate about, which has served me well as an entrepreneur.
What should entrepreneurs do to promote their companies?
As far as self-promotion goes, I think the old PR press release model is dying. Start promoting yourself as an expert, through posting on your own business blog and guest-posting on relevant sites within your industry. It will both boost your website’s page rank organically, and get industry leaders and reporters to take notice of you, which can lead to press coverage. It’s a less direct way to promote yourself, sure, but a more effective one in my view.
How do you balance entrepreneurship and family life?
It’s always a tough juggle, but since having our daughter, my husband and I have made a real effort to place limits on our work time. Typically, we don’t take business calls after 5:00 p.m., and even though we often work at night, we set aside any projects on weekends and evenings with her. We also delegate tasks to people we trust when we know we have too much on our plates. Working this way definitely means we’re not making as much income as we could otherwise, but time with our daughter is far more important than having a few more dollars in our bank account.
Kathryn Hawkins on Twitter: twitter.com/#!/kathrynhawkins
Gimundo on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Gimundo
Gimundo’s newsletter: gimundo.com/newsletter/
Hawkins Multimedia website: hawkinsmultimedia.com/