“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became the CEO of MilkMoney,” With Sam Keywanfar

In order not to burn out you must take time to enjoy your wins. Surrounding yourself with family, friends, and experiences will give you the energy, momentum and drive you need to accomplish new work goals. Sam Keywanfar is a serial entrepreneur, investor and marketing expert, responsible for solving the complex marketing challenges of global […]

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In order not to burn out you must take time to enjoy your wins. Surrounding yourself with family, friends, and experiences will give you the energy, momentum and drive you need to accomplish new work goals.

Sam Keywanfar is a serial entrepreneur, investor and marketing expert, responsible for solving the complex marketing challenges of global brand executives and celebrity marketers alike. Keywanfar is the Founder and CEO of MilkMoney, an on-demand media buying platform offering advertisers real-time access to out-of-home opportunities. MilkMoney’s proprietary technology addresses the limitations entrepreneurs, start-ups and Fortune 500 companies experience using the traditional agency model. Since 2016, MilkMoney has saved its brand partners over $100M to date. Clients include Universal Music Group, Tinder, Spotify, Fenty Beauty, and Puma. Prior to founding MilkMoney, Keywanfar was the founder and CEO of House of Hype, a full-service corporate entertainment marketing, PR and special events company. The agency was responsible for launching culturally relevant campaigns for T-Mobile, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Daimler-Chrysler, Diageo, Lionsgate, Red Bull, Starbucks, adidas, more. Keywanfar graduated from Boston University with a Degree in Communications and resides in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many entrepreneurs, my career path has been anything but linear. I built my first business right out of college in 2004 at age 24, called Hype Public Relations, where I help craft the public personas of several of today’s most notable musical acts. After years on the road touring with various artists, I created Hype Marketing, an entertainment marketing agency where we focused on bridging the gap between Madison Ave and Hollywood through well-crafted endorsement and product placement deals. In 2009, we merged the two businesses and rebranded the new entity House of Hype — a full-service corporate entertainment marketing, public relations and special events company. The business specialized in producing red carpet events, facilitating corporate sponsorships, coordinating celebrity appearances, product placement integrations, and celebrity endorsement deals. We worked with global brands like adidas, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Daimler-Chrysler, Diageo, Lionsgate, LVMH, Nike, Red Bull, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Universal Music Group, Warner Brothers.

In 2016, with over a decade of agency experience servicing global brands, I set out to address some of the limitations I had experienced first-hand under the traditional agency model. I wanted to create a platform that would complement the fast-paced environment being created by millennial-focused brands looking to leverage technology in order to provide value and efficiency. Enter MilkMoney — a proprietary online platform that has disrupted the traditional media buying/planning model by simplifying and democratizing the process, making OOH accessible to the masses regardless of budget, size, or experience.

Over the last three years, MilkMoney has launched noteworthy campaigns for innovative, culturally relevant brands and artists, including Uber, Postmates, Spotify, Tinder, Casper, Puma, Calvin Klein, Fenty Beauty, Saint Laurent, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Drake, Arianna Grande, and many more.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

The biggest challenge for me was that I had no prior experience, contacts or mentors in the advertising arena. I saw a clear problem, conceptualized a solution and went for it, not knowing if it would work or not. I had to teach myself all about the industry, build trust with potential clients and media providers, and create a sustainable business at the same time. All with no outside financing or team behind me.

The biggest lesson I learned was that it’s ok to venture into a new field with no experience, as long as you have done the research, understand the market landscape and have a viable game plan. Being an entrepreneur is VERY hard. You need to have thick skin to make it. You will experience failure. You will experience loneliness. You will run out of money. You will hear the word “no” (a lot). You will come across people that don’t want to see you succeed. You will encounter countless obstacles. The key is to stay positive, believe in yourself and never give-up.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

1. Being honest with my clients, my team, and myself

2. Building solid relationships based on trust, quality work and accountability

3. A willingness to work harder than other people (which translates to longer hours and making personal sacrifices)

4. Discipline

5. Patience

6. Vision. Not being afraid to think big. Also not being afraid to sound crazy.

7. Not taking “no” for an answer.

8. Believing in myself when others didn’t.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

1. How to develop a healthy work / life balance.

In order not to burn out you must take time to enjoy your wins. Surrounding yourself with family, friends, and experiences will give you the energy, momentum and drive you need to accomplish new work goals.

2. No matter how carefully you plan for the future, the unexpected will happen.

What’s important is learning how to accept what’s happening, taking a step back to reassess the situation and make critical decisions that will impact your long-term goals. There are many ways to achieve your end goal, don’t get held up by individual roadblocks.

3. The burden / responsibility you will need to carry.

As a CEO you are responsible for your staff. You hire them, they trust your visions, which means they come first. When the company is doing well the credit goes to everyone, but when the company is not performing well, the burden is on you not them.

4. Building culture is critical to success and happiness.

As an entrepreneur, you spend more time at work than anywhere else, so it is important that you love what you do and the people you work with. The same goes for your employees. Strong businesses are built on great culture. It’s essential to retain and enthuse talent, especially when your company is heading into uncharted territory and trust in leadership is critical.

5.Failure is not fatal.

Understand that you will fail, so when you do, do it fast, learn from it and make the necessary improvements to get stronger. The fear of failure will limit your willingness to take the risks necessary to grow.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

1. Find things outside of your work life that make you happy and be sure you make time for them. Gym, family, etc.

2. Take personal time off. Take vacations. Travel. It will not only relax you but seeing knew things will inspire and motivate you to do better.

3. Sleep. It’s beyond important. You must give your body time to heal.

4. Eat right. What you put in your body really affects your mood, and your energy levels.

5. Surround yourself with people that make you happy and motivate you.

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?

There are several people that helped me get where I am today, but the most notable would be Michael Cossota, the LA sales manager of Lamar Advertising Company. When I first conceived the notion of starting MilkMoney, I cold called Mike and asked if he would be willing to meet with me to answer some questions I had about the industry. Little did he know I would show up with nearly 100 questions. He not only answered them all, but he’s been a huge advocate of ours through the years. We probably wouldn’t be where we are today without his support.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

Personally, it would be to start a family. Professionally, to scale MilkMoney making OOH accessible advertisers on a global scale.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

There are two key principles that I adopted later in my professional life and have helped me immensely:

1. People don’t need to fail in order for you to succeed. The notion that your success is tied to someone else’s performance is crazy to me. There is plenty of room for multiple people to succeed in the same space.

2. Do away with expectations. You will experience less anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, depression, and other negative emotions. It’s fair to expect respect but anything beyond that is setting yourself up for disappointment.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@milkmoney on Instagram

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