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Payge Kerman of Wink Digital: “Develop your own wealth!”

The media can support the mission of empowering female founders by representation. If women in the media are shown in positions of power, the idea of a female founder may become more normalized and more well-respected. The closest thing I had growing up to a female founder was Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, and that’s […]

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The media can support the mission of empowering female founders by representation. If women in the media are shown in positions of power, the idea of a female founder may become more normalized and more well-respected. The closest thing I had growing up to a female founder was Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, and that’s not quite the example that should be set for women in positions of power and competency — ha!


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Payge H. Kerman.

Every company needs a creative leader — Payge H. Kerman, President, boldly steps into that role for Wink Digital. With a background in interactive art, UX design, and web design, Payge has translated her skillset into creating a company focused on a holistic approach to marketing. Her strengths lie in implementing multi-faceted plans to connect your goals and ideas with action. Wink Digital is a top Portland Marketing Agency that offers a full suite of creative services that include website + application design and development.


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?

I, quite literally, stumbled into my profession. An overachiever throughout my entire life, I went to college with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon. I was determined, eager, but horrible at chemistry. When I needed to take an arts course and a history course to satisfy the credit hours, I decided to take “Introduction to Color Theory” and “History of Informational Technology,” respectively. The classes were both extremely challenging and intellectually stimulating. From there, I decided to change my major, obtain an engineering degree, and leverage technology as my source of inspiration.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I began my career, I dreamed of working in large agencies. When I finally landed the job of my dreams, it was short-lived. After 9 months in the role, the CEO of the company called me to say she was shutting down her company, but that she would give me her clients as long as I agreed to start my own agency and not be a freelancer. Being young and naive, I rejected her offer politely and continued my job search. However, after a month of being offered jobs that didn’t feel like the “right fit”, I re-approached my ex-employer and decided to take her up on her offer of obtaining her clients. However, at that point, she had already reestablished the majority with new agencies, so she gave me the remainder, and Wink Digital was born. 4 years later, we are a full-scale marketing agency with a team for 14, bi-coastal branches, and over 2000 clients under our belts.

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?

There are so many people I owe a bit “thank you” to, but the most important one is to my partner, Matt Cain. Throughout our journey growing Wink Digital together, he has been the one person who truly and deeply understands the emotional turmoil that owning a business can cause, as well as how rich and fulfilling the triumphs are. Matt is also the one person in the world who has supported me unconditionally. My success is largely due to his ideas, his demeanor, his approach to challenges, and more.

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?

The book “Scale” by Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel was instrumental to my understanding of business growth. Looking for low-hanging fruit is a concept that we so often avoid as business owners so that we can proceed with the biggest, best ideas we have. However, leveraging the low-hanging fruit in our business is what has given us the flexibility and stability to pursue the biggest, best ideas we have.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite quote is, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This quote is especially meaningful to me because it highlights the importance of excellence in everything you do: in relationships, in your home, in your business, and more. The effort you put into one aspect of your life communicates messages about the way you function in all aspects of your life.

The major example I have of this quote playing out in my life relates to my friendships. Friends are notoriously more gracious than other people you may meet on any given day, so when you flake on a friend for dinner or drinks, it doesn’t feel as important as something like flaking on a client. However, because of my belief in the importance of “How you do anything is how you do everything,” I make a specific point to hold myself accountable to the commitments I make and the way I show up for people, both in business and my personal life.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I utilize our business social accounts and my personal social accounts to promote feminism, anti-racism, and equity in the workplace. Additionally, I have worked hard to foster an environment where inclusivity is over the highest priority and fair + equitable hiring practices are a priority.

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?

I believe that there are a few reasons why women tend not to venture out into starting their own businesses: the first one is the blatant sexism experienced every day. From interacting with banks to obtain funding, to commercial real estate hunting, women are treated dramatically differently than men. Men are given empowerment and the benefit of the doubt, where women are often scrutinized.

The second reason is the lack of community. Women don’t have as many opportunities to meet successful business owner mentors because of the lack of representation in the population, so women often don’t have the same connections and resources to leverage as men. Personally, connecting with other female multi-million dollar business owners has been nearly impossible, largely because there are just not that many in my area.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I always do my best to share my truth– being a business owner is HARD. Being a woman business owner is harder. I frequently collaborate with other women and share resources that have helped me. Oftentimes, this means sharing tech tips, marketing ideas, or just stories from my own experience. When we learn from each other and support one another, we all win.

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?

  1. Develop your own wealth! Generational wealth often comes from the patriarch of families, and women very rarely control that wealth. When you establish your own assets and resources, you have control over the usage, the allocation, and what you leave behind for your family/friends.
  2. Community. There are a lot of amazing high-achieving women out there, and not enough of them have a platform. When you start your own business, you create a platform for your ideas and your voice. You can inspire so many people and empower yourself in the process.

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.

  1. Provide more opportunities for girls in school to innovate, build, and share. Invention and innovation contests are a great way to foster creativity and confidence in girls so they grow up knowing that their ideas have value. As a 7th and 8th grader, I was involved in the Gates Invention and Innovation Competition, which allowed me to explore the pain-points in my life and think critically about how to fix them. To this day, I believe Gates had a tremendous impact on my ability to think creatively and critically.
  2. Community. There are a lot of amazing high-achieving women out there, and not enough of them have a platform. When you start your own business, you create a platform for your ideas and your voice. You can inspire so many people and empower yourself in the process.
  3. Provide more funding to women founders. Obtaining a line of credit as a young woman business owner was extremely difficult — in fact, it took almost 3 years to get approved even though we have been a profitable business since we began. Access to capital will lead to scaling women-run businesses faster.
  4. On a national level, I think supporting women entrepreneurs who are also mothers would be impactful. One of the most clear ways (in my mind) to do this would be to provide access to free preschool education.
  5. The media can support the mission of empowering female founders by representation. If women in the media are shown in positions of power, the idea of a female founder may become more normalized and more well-respected. The closest thing I had growing up to a female founder was Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, and that’s not quite the example that should be set for women in positions of power and competency — ha!

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.

I would love to start a movement of young girls in STEAM to focus on interdisciplinary engineering — concentrating on integrating elements of art and media with science and technology. My hope is that one day I can create a camp that focuses specifically on this.

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.

I would LOVE to have lunch with Ursula Burns. As a leader aspiring to listen to and trust in my team, she is one of the world’s most prolific examples of excellence in leadership. She is also someone I admire greatly for her poise during trying times. Ursula Burns is a woman whose name I would love to see mine listed next to someday.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Wink Digital’s website is https://madebywink.com. Our Instagram handle is @madexwink, and our Behance profile can be found at https://behance.com/wink_digital

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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