Today we’d like to introduce you to Shantel Khleif.
Shantel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Well, it’s really quite simple, and truth be told, it all started with a delicious piece of chocolate ganache pie… let’s dive in and I’ll paint a picture.
MINI ME – A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
If you can imagine a little girl in the neighborhood marching around with her to-do list and group activities this was me – Little Miss Bossy Pants. I vividly remember building a fort with my buddies in the lot across the street and then delegating to my friends where we would play games, where the rug should go and who would be responsible for the weekly sweeping. I kid you not – I was a little bossy then (I hate to admit) but very early on gravitated towards the leadership role.
Fast forward, a year or two and I was tall, lanky and couldn’t quite fit into any of the Limited Too clothes (shame) and my first business TTBT – Tough To Be Tall clothing line was formed, a modern day attempt at graphic design. The large shirts I purchased from Michaels with my ironed on logo were so stylish (not) and I made zero sales.
I learned quickly that fashion was not the future for me and filtered that energy into my second company and first marketing outreach, Twelve Lakes News at age 12. I brought in a team of friends as editors and we published a monthly neighborhood newsletter, full of family birthdays, block parties, safety updates, and advertising. Just some good old fashioned print marketing.
Let’s jump ahead a few years…
COLLEGE & SHORTLY AFTER
I studied Entrepreneurship at Florida State University and loved the major. After graduation, I immediately relocated to Chicago to start my first company and to pursue my final project and business plan that I created during my Senior semester. Weddings By Shan – later known as Peacock + Papaya – my first true jump into entrepreneurship and adulthood. It was great! I already knew my target market, my competitors, and had determined a niche before the big move. I cracked out that to-do list notebook (again) and I was off to the Windy City.
I loved Chicago (read: deep dish pizza) and I loved being a part of such happy memories. BUT after two blizzards and too many cold walks around town, I made a shift and decided to move down South to Atlanta in hopes of opening a second brand of the company.
Ironically enough, pie tables were a really big trend in the wedding space up North and became the dessert of choice for my brides. Couple that with a huge sweet tooth, naturally my first inkling, when I moved, was to hunt for the best piece of the pie. As a consumer, I stumbled across a place called The Pie Shop. From their Facebook page, it was hard to tell if they were open that day, what flavors they served and their location. Needless to say, they lost a customer that day solely because I relied on social media and didn’t want to pick up the phone to call.
A couple too many bridezillas in and still craving for pie, I stopped by a few weeks later. I fell in love with their chocolate ganache pie at first bite and started talking to the owner about my experience and the importance of building strong relationships with your target audience online. In my wedding planning career, social media had worked extremely well in attracting new clients, creating brand awareness and creating loyal customers. In between her next batch of chicken pot pies, she asked if I could help, she feared she didn’t have the bandwidth, expertise or budget to work with some of the larger agencies in town and didn’t want to be just another business in their portfolio.
Imagine Media was born that day and within the first month, we had two other companies approach us with similar struggles. After more research, I quickly learned there was an under-served market, who craved a personable partnership, a young, scrappy team and just weren’t quite ready to bring in someone full time -and – that’s how the (cookie) crust crumbled…
Now, we’re 5 years old – we work with a team of creative masterminds, at the coolest place in town (humble brag) and we have a portfolio of clients we love working with, are proud to represent and who we learn from every day.
Cheers to chocolate ganache pie and a cold glass of milk!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been the biggest adventure I’ve had to date and I wouldn’t change anything (mistakes and all) but by no means would I say smooth sailing. I don’t think dreaming big comes easy and I also believe that every mistake/struggle is ultimately a lesson and an opportunity to get better. That said, I’ve listed two struggles that are top of mind:
Hiring – our best asset is truly our people. At the start, we had no formal hiring/training/firing process and we made a few mistakes hiring too quickly to fill a project need and firing too slowly. We learned very quickly the importance of our culture and finding people that would elevate the culture instead of sucking the life out of it.
Saying no – it’s not easy at the start of any business to say no to your clients but as we continue to grow it’s extremely important to know your strengths and be comfortable saying no. Sometimes, that is turning away business and giving them a few other resources or even just setting boundaries and explaining the importance of our process.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Imagine Media Consulting – what should we know?
Imagine Media is a boutique Social Media firm that specializes in building strong relationships online for lifestyle consumer brands and professional services through content creation, photography, videography, community management, paid social and reporting. In essence, we help other companies, brands, etc. build an online presence and share their stories in a way that authentically connects them to their audiences. We focus on building relationships, not profiles, because we believe that is what sets a company apart on social media. It’s what allows them to bust through all the noise and get noticed in this busy, fast-paced social media environment.
What sets us apart? Our team. The culture we create at Imagine Media is unlike any other. Our Imagineers are excited to come to work, constantly creating and innovating on behalf of our partners with enthusiasm and so much TALENT! We make our partners part of our team and extend that culture and vibe to them. We pride ourselves on our ability to communicate and nurture relationships with our partners, making them feel valued, appreciated, heard and understood. As a result, over 75% of our business has been word of mouth and referrals and I think that’s a true testament to how hard the team works and how much they care about who and how they serve!
In addition to having the absolute best and most hardworking team, we are also unique in that we curate and produce all of the content we’re pushing out on our partners’ social media accounts. We have an in-house creative team and do monthly photoshoots for the majority of our partners. We’re able to tell their story in an authentic way with photography/video/graphics and copy that is specific to their business and their brand. Original content is always best and we make that easy!
Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
As I shared in my story about getting started – as a child, I always had the entrepreneurial itch, so to speak, and I was a leader very early on. Often seen as ‘Little Miss Bossy Pants’ among my friends, I was always creating, planning, delegating and bringing big ideas to life. Not every idea was a big success, but they all taught me lessons that have shaped my future. I’m proud of my journey and believe that every idea got me one step closer to where I am today.
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