Women should uplift and help other women
Provide them with tools and resources
Give access to capital to get their business ideas funded
Allow more flexible childcare options
Provide a community of founders to go to for advice
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer.
Stepanie and Courtney are the Co-Founders of Socialfly, the #1 women-owned and operated social media agency in the world. Within eight years, Socialfly has been named to Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies two years in a row and has worked with over 300 brands including the Girl Scouts, WE tv, Conair, Slimfast, 20th Century Fox and Univision.
In 2020, they took the company remote and quickly developed solutions to keep the company culture strong. As a result of the challenges they faced while working from home, Stephanie and Courtney created DigiCards, a fun and innovative tool to improve virtual meetings.
Stephanie and Courtney also co-founded Entreprenista Media, through which they Co-Host the Entreprenista Podcast, and co-authored the book, “Like, Love, Follow: The Entreprenista’s Guide to Using Social Media To Grow Your Business.”
The duo has been recognized with some of the top awards in the industry, including the SmartCEO Brava Awards, Drum’s 50 under 30 in Digital Marketing and the Stevie Awards for Women Run Workplace of the Year.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Courtney: I developed a passion for social media when I attended New York University for my undergraduate degree. Facebook became available to all college students, and I found myself spending hours on the platform. At the time, I did not realize that social media could be its own career path. Years later, when I joined the finance team at American Express, Amex was investing in social media marketing and deploying very innovative campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. After seeing what Amex was doing, I knew I wanted to work in social media marketing.
Stephanie: For as far back as I can remember, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a child, I can remember recognizing things that were gaining popularity, and trying to figure out ways I could make a business from it. While I was at Cornell, I was introduced to something called TheFacebook.com, which was only available to Ivy League students at the time. I became obsessed with it and quickly realized that it was going to change the future of marketing. I worked in the hospitality industry for a few years in sales and marketing after graduation, but I always stayed on the forefront of what was happening with social media. I had friends that were starting their own businesses and looking to me for advice on sales and marketing strategies. I advised them to use social media as a way to directly communicate with their customer, and remember stressing the role that this would play in the success of their business. I put together social media strategies on the side of my full-time job and quickly saw that these strategies were working! It was then that I realized social media could be a real business and not just an after work activity. I knew that businesses were going to need our services and an expert in social media to guide them.
Courtney: I met Stephanie through a mutual friend in 2010 and we immediately hit it off. We started working on Socialfly in 2011 on the side of our full-time jobs, when I was at Amex and Stephanie was at SpaFinder. After working nights and weekends for 10 months, we realized that in order for Socialfly to be successful, we needed to focus and make a choice to go all-in. We made a plan and quit our jobs on the same day — May 4, 2012.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Stephanie: Early on, we received a cease and desist letter from a company with a similar name. This roadblock at the start of our entrepreneurial journey was intense, but it forced us to rethink our brand, and led us to change our company name to Socialfly. One of the most important lessons we have learned is not to put so much pressure on ourselves. We always say all you can do is the best you can do, each day! This mantra keeps us motivated and dedicated to giving our all every day, never letting minor setbacks get in the way of our success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Courtney: When we were first getting started, we met a number of entrepreneurs through our networking groups who needed social and digital media help. We were able to exchange that for things like office space, legal consultation, and even public relations help. We cut overhead as much as possible and hired interns in exchange for college credit. We’re so proud of bootstrapping the business, but there were definitely some instances where we should’ve looked before we leapt. When it came time to upgrade our office, we decided to share space. In most situations, this is a great move for any business that doesn’t require much space. What wasn’t a great move, however, was failing to learn more about our future neighbor. We ended up working next to a group of matchmakers. It was a ton of fun… until we had clients come in. We would be pitching new clients and discussing strategies, while our neighbors gushed about dating and sex. You could hear everything through the thin walls. While it was entertaining, it was difficult to conduct serious business meetings while listening to someone recap their dating history. Looking back, we can’t say that we would’ve done anything differently, but we still laugh about our days next to the matchmakers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Stephanie: Hiring a business coach to be a sounding board for us has been so instrumental to our success. Leslie Grossman has been a cheerleader and supporter since we joined her Vistage Group in 2015. We always turn to Leslie when we need help thinking through a business strategy and how to divide up responsibilities. We always joke that a business partnership is a lot like marriage and we call Leslie our marriage counselor.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Courtney: Being an entrepreneur is a continuous journey with lots of learnings along the way. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the importance of hiring people who are culture fits and truly understand the mission of the company. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni is all about creating a great team, and is full of insight on how to be a team player and how to collaborate. We spend most of our time working and it’s important that everyone at Socialfly is kind, respectful, and has no ego. Additionally in 2014, we decided to invest in writing and self-publishing our book, “Like, Love, Follow: The Entreprenista’s Guide to Using Social Media To Grow Your Business.” This project was a massive undertaking for us in terms of woman-power hours as well as capital, but it had a huge impact on us almost immediately. Not only were we able to say that we literally wrote the book on social media and business, but it gave us immediate credibility and a news hook for business and technology reporters to grasp onto. Even today, we still give that book out to every potential client we meet with.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Stephanie: Both of us follow the mantra that you can’t get what you don’t ask for. The worst thing that can happen is someone says “no.” When we were finally able to focus on running our business full-time, we first worked out of our apartments as well as the Reebok Sports Club on the Upper West Side for a few weeks. When it came time to find our next space, we took a leap of faith. We called Courtney’s family friend who owns a printing company in Midtown and convinced him to give us office space in exchange for us advising him on his social media strategy. We successfully bartered for space and moved into our first office: a small space in the back of that printing company. We like to joke that our first employees were the printing house mice.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Courtney: Women account for more than 100% of jobs lost in December in 2020. Through our work at Socialfly and Entprenista, we are proud to employ women and provide them with the tools they need to progress their careers and start their own businesses.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Stephanie: We built our now multi-million dollar social and digital marketing business entirely from scratch using our own money, strategic networking, and a handful of scrappy techniques that helped us fill in the gaps that we had in experience, resources, and know-how. We felt it was in our best interest to keep control and see how far we could take our business without seeking funding. As we saw the results, we knew we had made the right decision. Socialfly’s rapid growth is something we are extremely proud of. People are in disbelief when they hear what we have been able to accomplish without financial backing. We want young women just like us to understand that you don’t need to have a ton of money or give away a portion of your business to an investor in order to succeed. When you get creative and stretch your resources as far as they’ll go, you can do it on your own.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
Stephanie: We relied on the guidance and mentorship of other female entrepreneurs when we started our company and we wanted to find a medium that allowed us to share the same wisdom with a larger audience and inspire women to take the leap of faith and follow their dreams. Our mission at Entreprenista is to celebrate the stories of women business leaders and learn from the lessons of the women that are paving the way forward. At Entreprenista Media, we provide practical solutions and the tools we love and trust to women business leaders. We also host the Entreprenista Podcast, which celebrates female founders and business leaders as they share stories and best practices across different industries. Looking ahead, we are launching The Entreprenista League in May, a membership community of trailblazing women who will receive direct access to mentors, funding connections, exclusive content, personal brand exposure, and virtual networking events guaranteed to lead to meaningful business connections.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Courtney: The world needs more female founders. Starting your own company is extremely challenging, but allows you to:
- Create the life you want
- Balance the many responsibilities and roles that women tend to take on
- Go after your dreams; there are few things more rewarding than that
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
Stephanie: Both of our business models are designed to uplift and empower women in their own way, but Entreprenista is specifically focused on providing women with the tools and resources they need to launch their own business and follow their dreams. Whether it’s having an in-depth conversation with a leader about the process of bootstrapping a business, to recommending trusted solutions to help our audience make the most of their ecommerce site, Entreprenista is the number 1 resource for female business owners across the country. Here are five things that should be done to enable more women to become founders:
- Women should uplift and help other women
- Provide them with tools and resources
- Give access to capital to get their business ideas funded
- Allow more flexible childcare options
- Provide a community of founders to go to for advice
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Courtney: Lead with kindness. It’s so important to be nice to one another and do random acts of kindness every day. We’re also huge believers in buying women-owned products and supporting women-owned businesses as often as possible.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Courtney: Oprah has been an inspiration to the both of us. I grew up watching Oprah every day with my mom. Her work ethic, values, and poise have always been character traits that I admire.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.