Brittany Hodak doesn’t claim to be a medium in any shape or form, but somehow when she first met her ‘Zinepak co-founder in the early 2010s, her girl’s intuition told her that they would end up working together. As a matter of fact, when she reached home that day, Hodak immediately announced to her husband that she had met with business soul mate. Her rapport with Kaupe was that strong! In Kaupe, Hodak saw someone who had a big chunk of publishing experience and a visionary with whom she would could launch off a venture that would mix music and publishing.
So, in mid-2011, ‘ZinePak was officially launched. Two years later, the firm reached the $3 million dollar revenue mark. The company succeeded in an area where industry observers thought every marketing method and every business model had been played out: the music industry. Hodak and her business partner’s idea was simple: take a musical act’s product, and tie-in merchandise items and a magazine in interactive, custom packages for fans.
‘ZinePak worked with singer Taylor Swift in coming up with a booklet for her album Red, and the album sold 1.2 million copies the first week of its release.
Hodak and Kaupe’s New York-based baby is in the running for the prestigious The Wall Street Journal, “Start-Up of The Year” honor. Already, the two entrepreneurs are preparing their next moves. Music, the flagship niche, will no longer be their sole bread and butter. They are picturing two other arenas in their future: sports and fashion.
Before ‘ZinePak, you were working at an ad agency in New York. What’s the biggest lesson you learned while there?
The biggest lesson I learned while working at the agency is that too much structure and too many policies can be a really bad thing. I was a member of the account team, and I was constantly being told that it wasn’t my job to “have ideas,” because that’s what the creative team did. That led to a really deep divide between the account team and the creative team at the agency, and a culture that told the account team to be “doers” instead of “thinkers.” When Kim and I founded ‘ZinePak, it was very important for us to build a company where everyone’s voice can be heard, because we recognize that a good idea can come from anyone and anywhere, regardless of your job title or role.
Is it difficult being part of a partnership?
I think being part of a partnership is a lot less difficult than it would be to run a business alone. Kim and I are fortunate to have very complementary personalities. We very seldom disagree, and we each respect the ideas and experience the other brings to the table. I tell people all the time that having a business partner is about as close as you can come to cloning yourself. It’s so helpful to have two of us when we go to social events, want to divide and conquer on new business, or want to go on vacation for a few days. Having someone who you trust completely to watch the business while you’re away is an amazing feeling. I would recommend any aspiring entrepreneur to look for a partner—or partners—to go on the journey with.
When people are starting out with something new, sometimes one of the most difficult things is coming up with a name. How did you come up with the name ‘ZinePak?
The name ‘ZinePak was originally meant to encompass only the name of our original product. Because we were essentially creating a new configuration of entertainment release—to compete with traditional CD jewel cases, vinyl, digital albums, etc.—we wanted a name to reflect that. “‘ZinePak” came from the word “magazine” and the idea of assembling a lot of amazing content into one package. We planned to call the company by another name, but from the beginning people would say, “Oh, you’re the ones who make those ‘ZinePaks.” So, we decided to go with one name for both things.
You have a strong background in music. What do you listen to, to get yourself into the mood to create?
I love country music and rock music. My all-time favorite artists are Garth Brooks and the Goo Goo Dolls. Doing a ‘ZinePak for either band would be a dream come true…literally! I tend to listen to The Killers a lot on Spotify, along with most new country and rock albums when they’re released.
What were you doing when you learned that you had been shortlisted as an honoree for Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40?
Kim and I were actually touring our print partner’s facility in Chicago when we got the news. We were so excited that we didn’t talk about it for weeks. We didn’t want to jinx it. In fact, even after we did the interview with Tricia Despres, the awesome freelance writer who pitched us to Ad Age and wrote our feature, we didn’t tell anyone. Even our families didn’t know until the day the issue came out in print. We just kept thinking, “This is such a big honor. We can’t tell anyone incase it doesn’t happen for some reason!” The day the issue came out was one of the best days in ‘ZinePak’s history. We actually have a three inch-tall blowup of the issue hanging on our wall that the editors of Ad Age gave to us. It’s one of our favorite things in the office.
Hodak and Haupe pose with Taylor Swift with the ‘zine pak they conceptualized for her album Red.
In less than two years ‘ZinePak grew into a multi-million dollar company. Obviously there’s been a lot of hard work on the part of the both of you. What else, or rather what specifically, do you attribute your success to?
I think our determination and our belief in our product have played the largest roles in our success. Plenty of people told us the idea for ‘ZinePak would never catch on, and that physical product was dead. One guy even said our company was like “marrying the Hindenburg with the Titanic to start a travel agency.” But, we believed in our concept and didn’t give up until we found partners who believed in the idea, too.
What trends do you foresee in the world of advertising?
I think print advertising specifically is going to become much more interactive. We’re doing some really amazing things with augmented reality and digital watermarks to enhance the ‘ZinePak experience and make it really personal. As technology evolves, it’s going to be fascinating to see how advertisers pivot to include new tools into consumer advertising. Magazines are already one of the most personal forms of advertising because the consumer interaction is one-on-one and often in an intimate location, like at home, and augmented reality and other digital and mobile extensions are going to take those interactions to the next level.
When you look back at all of your accomplishments, do you sometimes think that if you had done this or that sooner, you might have been successful sooner? Do you ever say things to that effect to yourself?
No, because everything we’ve done up to this point has brought us to where we are now. Who knows what might be different if we tried starting the company sooner or made choices other than the ones we’ve made? Instead of looking back, we spend our time being excited about the future and all of the great things ahead!
Visit Brittany’s company HERE.