Kirsten McKinney of Digital Growth Mastery: “Take the pressure off. Seriously”

Take the pressure off. Seriously. Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of pressure — whether you fail or succeed (that last one surprised me!). Business is full of highs and lows, and probably one of the hardest things in business is learning to get off that emotional roller coaster and embracing contentment.Do your best, work hard, […]

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Take the pressure off. Seriously. Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of pressure — whether you fail or succeed (that last one surprised me!). Business is full of highs and lows, and probably one of the hardest things in business is learning to get off that emotional roller coaster and embracing contentment.
Do your best, work hard, and learn to accept that alone is enough. It’s easier said than done, and I’m not sure if we ever truly master this skill, but I’m going to keep working on it. I genuinely believe gratitude is the secret ingredient to joy in business — it keeps us humble in the highs and optimistic in the lows.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirsten McKinney.

Kirsten McKinney is the founder and CEO of Digital Growth Mastery, a social media and digital marketing agency. She has 8+ years of experience helping multi-million dollar brands increase their exposure and create dynamic content that their clients love.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I have always had a fascination with business. My parents own multiple successful companies, and they used to run one of them out of our house when I was growing up. When I woke up, I could hear employees on the phone down the hallway. My dad’s assistant would give me stacks of junk mail and papers they were going to throw away, and I would play with them as a little girl, scribbling on them like I was taking notes. I also remember my dad paying me for counting brochures when I wanted to make some extra money to buy something special.

As I got a little older (not much), I started business after business. I sold handmade jewelry at church, sold candy to my friends, started a little girl’s magazine, started a cookie company, and the list goes on. I basically had a new business every week, and I made dozens of dollars, which for a kid felt like I was doing pretty good. Ha!

I always loved to learn growing up and was very driven, so thanks to encouragement from my mom, I went to college at a little community college at the young age of fifteen and graduated with my bachelor’s as valedictorian of my class. That experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I did it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I started my marketing journey as a writer, so I always have quotes posted everywhere that have special meaning. The more cliche, the better. Ha! Fear was something I battled a lot growing up, so a lot of my favorites are about courage. One of my favorites is a poem by Erin Hansen that I usually keep by my desk:

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky,

And you ask,

‘What if I fall?’

Oh, but my darling,

What if you fly?”

I think that’s a beautiful reminder to step out and try new things, even when they’re scary.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am a massive fan of the podcast, How I Built This, by Guy Raz. He interviews business founders about their startup story, and it’s eye-opening! Every business owner hits this same point in their business where things look hopeless, and then on the other side of that obstacle, their business explodes. I think it’s a powerful reminder that we all must pass that test and choose to persevere when things are difficult.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Before I started my company, I worked as the Communications Director for an incredible non-profit organization.They produce two daily television shows, have two large campuses for live events, publish books, and more, so it was a very fast-paced environment.I loved being able to make a difference in people’s lives through my work — that’s always been important to me. However, my long-term goal since the time I was young was to start a business to support those types of causes in a more significant way financially.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

Before the pandemic, I started to feel an urgency to transition from my job. I loved the organization (still do) and had worked there for years, so the idea was crazy, especially since I had no idea what I was going to do. I fought myself over it for weeks, but finally, I felt so convicted about ignoring that gut feeling, I put in a four-month notice. That’s right, four months — I wanted to make sure I had time to train my replacement and make it a smooth transition for my team.

About two months later, COVID hit.

Even with no plan and the world going crazy, I still felt at peace about the transition. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would make sense when the time came.

I stayed on for a few extra months to make sure the organization was taken care of with the changes COVID brought, so all in all, it ended up being an eight-month transition period. Despite all of that time, it wasn’t until two weeks before my final day at work that I knew I would start Digital Growth Mastery.

From that moment on, everything is a blur. Ha! It’s been a fantastic experience so far. The best part is, I am still very actively involved with that non-profit organization, and financially able to help the causes they support now more than ever. It really has been the best of both worlds for me!

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

My “aha moment” sounded a lot like my husband — because it was!I love marketing, and sometimes I get a little hyper about a new marketing initiative I’m excited about. I was getting ready to transition from my current job at the time, and I knew I wanted to start working from home. During one of my routine marketing rants, my husband looked at me with a smile and said, “You love talking to different businesses about their marketing. Instead of getting a remote job, why aren’t you starting your own business so you can help more companies?”

After a lot of encouragement from my family, Digital Growth Mastery was launched and taking on clients within about a week and a half!

How are things going with this new initiative?

I am having a blast!It’s so fulfilling to help small businesses nationwide and help provide jobs for people during this crazy year. I only work with people and visions I genuinely connect with, and so each business I work with almost feels like an extension of my own. All of these great companies bring joy to people, and it’s an honor to be a part of that!

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?

My family is the reason I am where I am today! I’m so thankful to my parents, who taught me to do things afraid and persevere even when things are hard, and to my siblings, who have always been my support system.

I can’t say enough about the role my husband has played in this business. Since day one, he has encouraged me and supported me, not to mention cooked every meal and cleaned our house while I worked overtime. I’ve dragged him along on photoshoots and talked his ear off about different marketing campaigns. He’s an inspiration to me every single day!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I have to keep a lot of information about campaigns confidential for my clients, but I will say thatI love doing product photoshoots because I get to learn about so many cool products. Recently, my husband and I did a photoshoot for a restaurant… which meant they made every item on their menu, and we got to taste way too much food! I’m a foodie, so that was a dream day of work for me!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. The stuff you think matters in business doesn’t. I used to put a lot of pressure on having the perfect business name and website… It turns out that’s not what makes a business successful. If your business name is impossible to pronounce or spell, that might be a challenge to your business success. Still, companies like Rakuten have even found ways to turn that into a competitive advantage.
    Think about all of the businesses you come into contact with every day — do you choose them because their business name is creative? I highly doubt it.
    When I started my business, I had a hard deadline, and I am so thankful I did. I ended up setting a timer on my phone for 30 minutes and making myself research and pick a business name three days before I launched. Do you know what I discovered? It didn’t define my businesses success. I’m so glad I didn’t delay for months to find that “perfect” name.
  2. Don’t overlook the less glamorous aspects of the business when planning. Your business name and website are great, but some of the most critical aspects of a business are those you don’t think about. What software are you going to use? What are your business processes?
    Instead of worrying about the business name, I wish I would have spent more time researching the software and programs I wanted to manage payroll, projects, and more. It’s a lot harder to create processes and set up new programs when you’re in the thick of it. Plus, when you start hiring, you’ll wish you had documented everything along the way!
  3. Hire before you’re desperate. Knowing when it’s time to hire or bring on more help can be a challenge as a business owner. You’re carrying the company’s financial responsibility on your shoulders, and you don’t want to expand too quickly and not be able to sustain it. I get it! I have had those same inner-debates, and I have made this mistake time and time again…
    In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to wait until you’re desperate for the help to hire.
    The busier you get, the harder it becomes to start the hiring process and properly vet candidates. I have made this mistake while running Communications teams in the past, and I have made it in my business. Start the hiring process before you’re desperate. Build your team a little wider with contractors, so you aren’t in a bind if one of your team members quit.
    Ask yourself: If one person on my team were to put their notice in, would it throw my company into chaos?
    If the answer is yes, you need to look at hiring, even if it’s an affordable contractor who isn’t putting in many hours.
  4. There are people in your life who want to help you. Ask them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow business owners and friends in similar industries and ask them for advice. They’re usually more than happy to share, and it will save you a lot of headaches and lessons learned the hard way!
    I hesitated to do this at first because I felt like I was inconveniencing people, but I discovered that it made those friendships stronger. It’s human nature — we all enjoy helping people. The book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi makes the case that asking for favors is critical to building strong connections.
    I have been blessed with mentors and friends who are happy to recommend new tools and solutions for my business, and I love being able to do the same for others!
  5. Take the pressure off. Seriously. Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of pressure — whether you fail or succeed (that last one surprised me!). Business is full of highs and lows, and probably one of the hardest things in business is learning to get off that emotional roller coaster and embracing contentment.
    Do your best, work hard, and learn to accept that alone is enough. It’s easier said than done, and I’m not sure if we ever truly master this skill, but I’m going to keep working on it. I genuinely believe gratitude is the secret ingredient to joy in business — it keeps us humble in the highs and optimistic in the lows.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

As important as it is to stay current on what’s going on, it’s also essential to know when you need a mental break. This summer, I knew I was starting to get emotionally bogged down from the constant negative updates and strife on social media. My husband and I did a two-week detox — no news, no social media, NO negativity. Wow, I’m so glad we did! As a social media marketer, I know how important it is to stay connected. Still, I never underestimate the power of taking some time away from the noise to reflect and refocus.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I have always been passionate about helping people step out of their comfort zone and learn to chase what they want. Adventure and kindness — that’s my motto. I used to be a pretty timid child, and I let fear define my life. I finally got tired of going to bed anxious and letting fear call the shots.

If you’ve ever heard that the way to conquer fear is to face it, it’s true! I started running directly at my fears whenever I could — I went bungee jumping, skydiving, parasailing, swimming with sharks, and the list goes on. I have a bucket list of over three hundred items now, and over the last ten years, I’ve been able to cross off 133 of them. I started saying YES to the things that scared me, and it radically changed my life.

Courage is learned, even in small things. When you conquer little fears, it’s not as hard to face bigger ones. Always keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and say yes to new things every week — you’ll be amazed at the incredible experiences you have and the beautiful places you’ll go!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would have to say Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She is an incredible inspiration, and I love her positive approach to life and business! I would show up with a notebook full of questions.

How can our readers follow you online?

I post social media and marketing tips on my Instagram, @mrskirstenmckinney. You can also connect with my business for digital marketing solutions at I would love to connect!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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