July 11, 2011

Happy Anniversary... Social Media Mack!

Well... It's that time again. Holy Cow.... 2 years. It's so funny look back on how these shenanigans started and how much has been accomplished in such a short time! Not many people know the whole story so here it is!

The Beginning

It all started in May of 2008, still the happiest day of my life... College Graduation. With a Journalism degree in hand, the world was my oyster and I was ready to get a great job as a magazine editor with a six figure salary. There was a slight problem with that scenario: 1. You have to have a portfolio to even be considered for an editor position. 2. It would help to have a reference from a previous publishing company to help you get your foot in the door. Since I fraternized in my internship, quit and got a D in the class, I was pretty sure that would not be a reference that would speak highly of me.

Unable to find a position in my field, I took the best paying job I could find. Phone Operator at a local hospital. Decent benefits and $11 per hour was not ideal but I took it.

In June of 2008, I began my professional career.

Big Girl Job

My cubicle was in the basement of the hospital with no windows and no contact with other humans. It was like caging an animal or solitary confinement for eight hours Monday - Friday. The Internet was blocked from social networking or any other site that would allow you to interact with others per company policy.

So I did the next best thing.... Blogged.

I figured out a way to email blogs to my RSS feed from my work email and began writing. Every single day there was a new entry on the
O list, a blog all about Oklahoma night life and MY life. I would email my co-workers the link and they would respond back telling me what a good writer I was. I read books by the dozens in a week to just keep my creative mind occupied.

In January 2009, I received an email from my church pastor giving information about a mission trip in California. I had no idea what a mission trip was... all I saw was the word California and my eyes got big.

I applied and got accepted to be a summer missionary in Lake Tahoe, CA as a camp counselor at a Bible Camp. Ready to get out of this god forsaken state, I put my 2 weeks notice in May at the hospital. Shortly after doing so, I had to have emergency gall bladder surgery. But that was not going to stop me from boarding a plane to get the heck outta dodge.

May 2009... My life changed in a BIG way!!!

Life on Another Level

Life in Lake Tahoe was different to say the least. I lived with 13 other girls all younger than me. I was 24. I slept in a twin bunk bed and worked 6 days a week for NO money. I had no car and there was not a mall or Target for miles. Our food and housing were paid for, but no other expenses would be paid. This presented itself to be a problem. I had student loans, car payment back home, insurance and cell phone payments that were to be paid monthly. I had a heart- to-heart with the man upstairs before I boarded the plane to CA and told him:" If this is what you want me to do, I need you to make a way!"

And of course he did! I came back with more money than I left with and all bills were paid.

My summer in CA taught me alot about myself. It taught me that ANYTHING is possible. You can live without all the things we take for granite everyday and still be sane. I had planned to move to San Francisco to get an awesome job in print but ran out of money fast. In August 2009, I was back on a plane to Oklahoma for a "visit".

I had lunch with my mother who insisted I move back to Oklahoma and live with her until I found a job. I knew that was a drama situation waiting to happen after we almost killed each other living in the same house before I moved to CA. I made arrangements to stay with a friend and told her I would keep her updated on my employment progress.

What do I REALLY want to do?

My dear friend, Taylor was so understanding of my situation and let me stay with him rent free until I could find a job. This time, I could really concentrate on what I wanted to do and could take my time.

I had a Facebook account that was connected to just friends and family, A Twitter account that I created July 2009 and didn't know how to use, and LinkedIn account that was more foreign to me than the Chinese language itself. I posted in a LinkedIn forum: "Where can I meet new business people in OKC?" A user named Heather told me about something called
Freedom Networkers; A group of business professionals that meet every week and network for free.

It took me two weeks to get the courage to go. With business cards in hand that said:
Business card made Free by Vistaprint, I walked into the Cafe Bella coffee shop unaware that my life was about to change again in a huge way.

While networking, we went around the table saying our names and where we worked. I had never networked in my life and didn't have a job so needless to say I was nervous. When it was my turn I said: “Hi I am Tess Mack and ... I don't have a job." The response was not at all what I expected. Everyone wanted to help me find a company I could work for and gave me alot of good advice I could use.

By the time the meeting was over, I had four networking meetings scheduled for the rest of the day.

I got in my car thinking: “What in the world just happened?” Anxious and excited I drove to my lunch meeting.

The third meeting began at 3pm. I sat at the ladies table, all of which were older than me. I didn't say a word. Just soaked everything up like a sponge. One lady was talking about her wine tastings she organized and invited me to one.

The waiter was walking around taking drink orders. I was going to splurge and have a soda, but when the woman beside me ordered a glass of Cabernet and told me to get what I wanted because it was already paid for, I went with the infamous: "I'll have what she is having." At that moment, I decided this networking thing was fun.

The final meeting of the day was a happy hour event. The place was packed and to my comfort there were alot of other young professionals there. I was chatting everyone up and having a good time. As I was walking to sit down, I saw the lady from earlier that invited me to her wine tasting. I asked her if she was following me? She replied: "I think you are following me!" We both giggled and started talking.

She began telling me she wanted to advertise her wine tastings virtually and didn't really know how to go about doing that. She asked me if I knew anything about Facebook and Twitter. I told her I knew some. After talking some more, she invited me to have lunch with her and a sports manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Team the following day at Junior's restaurant at 11am.

Speechless, I told her I would see her tomorrow.

I went home that night and put together a PowerPoint. Looking back, the material really had very little relevance to what we were supposed to be discussing.

Where do I sign?

I got to lunch and the waiter came by to take our drink order. She ordered a glass of Pino Noir and of course I did the same. We talk about some advertising strategies she wanted to implement and 30 minutes later she asks: “Where are the contracts for me to sign so we can get started?!?” My mind began to race frantically. I didn’t even have a business….
Calmly, I told her it would take a few days to get everything prepared but I would email her when things were ready to sign.

That day I walked out of Junior’s restaurant unsure of what I had just done.

I couldn't even spell entrepreneur and surly had no idea how to be one.

Now and the Future

But... I made it work. Two years later, Social Media has offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The company has managed over 95 social media campaigns and creates campaigns for the American Diabetes Association. I have recently been named Oklahoma Magazine's 40 under 40 class of 2011, and created a non-profit organization that focuses on Economic Development in Northeast Oklahoma City.
I wake up every morning thinking: "Is this really what happens when you put your mind to something?"

The answer is YES.

I made something out of nothing, took a risk and jumped in head first.

Entrepreneurship is an acquired skill. I took one business class in college and probably should have been listening to what the teacher was saying. Maybe I could have avoided getting 1,000 business printed with the wrong phone number on them or made sure all my business documents were backed up on an external hard drive BEFORE the computer crashed... or even how to file business taxes.

But, you live and learn right?!

Those folks I met on my first day of networking are some of my closest and dearest friends to date. I owe my start to them. Anyone can do anything when they have a great team of people behind them.

So to all the entrepreneurs out there... congrats for making it work!


Shannon McCulloch said...

Thats a great story Tess, you are a great writer. I agree the networking groups develope life long friendships. Thanks for helping me :)