Running a business requires wicked smarts, skills, and a borderline crazy faith. For founder Meghan Polando, wielding a healthy amount of ego is more about displaying belief than braggadocio. And think twice before disagreeing with her – she’s an aspiring lawyer turned entrepreneur. Not only that, but she has a history of trumping her naysayers.
Polando’s Detroit-based startup is The Egotist, which specializes in PR and marketing solutions. Services offered include–but are not limited to (you might even receive a cupcake recipe)–media relations, graphic design, event planning, branding, advertising and social media. Polando is a natural when it comes to the arts of persuasion. Just ask former client Roger Elrod, turned fiancé. KillerStartups caught up with Polando to learn more about The Egotist. Unsurprisingly, she makes a strong case to follow her company.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
As a marketer (and being engaged to a psychology major), I don’t see egotism as conceit or narcissism. It’s believing in your brand; it’s promoting the thinking, feeling, distinguishing part of who you are as a company and reacting to the outside world as such. I wanted to pick a name that expressed an understanding of a company’s “id” so that I could then engage the “ego” and the “superego.”
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Google alerts. I swear by them. I sip my coffee and pour through what seems like a billion new alerts to stay on top of industry news, best practices, and what everyone else is doing. Often I’ll see something novel that a completely different industry is doing and it’ll give birth to a brainchild for one of my projects. So, technically, the very first thing I do is make coffee. But then, definitely Google alerts.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
It’s just me so far. Rog might say that’s because I’m a control freak (“Order! I must have order!”), but I’d like to grow my client base more before I start shelling out for someone’s dental plan.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes the struggle you went through?
I learned FAST that there is no such thing as “friends in the industry”. Two days after my website went live, several PR people whom I considered good friends became great bullies: “Take your site down; you’ll never make it in this industry; we’ll gobble you for breakfast.” Here’s what I’m not proud of: I listened to them. I took my website down for about a month until my fiancé Roger said to me, “You know what? You’re playing with the big boys now. It’s not about getting knocked down; it’s about getting back up again.” Develop a thick skin. Take risks. Be proud of what you’re doing.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
I make it a point to see difficulties as opportunities and find the positive in everything. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated, though.
Three weeks ago, I agreed to design a campaign pro bono for a woman who is holding a charity event for her Rotary Club. But then I’d receive 20 emails a day from her regarding the most miniscule of things. First she’d want this text to be tighter, but then it’d be too tight. We’d go back and forth about the cropping of an image, and then she’d change the image entirely. Capitalize this, but NOT that. In a moment of frustration, I wanted to yell, “Beggars can’t be choosy, lady!” Instead, I took a step back and took stock of what I was thankful for: She’s raising a LOT of money for scholarships to give to kids who really deserve to go to college, I appreciate that she liked my work enough to ask, and my designs will get exposure in front of a bunch of rich, drunk people. That small paradigm shift suddenly made working with her a breeze.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
House music, hands down. I feel more creative in flip flops and colors of the neon variety.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Huge, man. Like Google Campus big. Ok, not quite, but my business model is one that depends on time; specifically, in 5 years I’d like to be able to focus more on being on retainer for current clients rather than my current concentration, which is growing my customer base.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets!
You’ll roll your eyes. Roger. (I warned you.) Without his encouragement and support, I don’t know that I’d have had the courage to dive into the entrepreneurial waters.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded?
I have a rich uncle, of course! Kidding; but I am self-funded. I still work full time doing marketing for a software firm, and use that to pay the bills. I promised myself that I won’t quit until The Egotist makes more than my current salary as incentive to really work for and retain every single client I get.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Being an entrepreneur is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. Entrepreneurs are our own little subculture of motivated, eternally optimistic, and slightly irrational people. Do what makes you happy, stay inspired, make lists, take breaks, drink coffee (a lot of it) and quit beating yourself up. It will all be worth it.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
I’d like to say I’d travel and give to charity and rescue puppies, but honestly? I’d have a baby. Do the whole housewife thing. Throw the cash at some investment banker. And I’d still rescue puppies.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
Of course I consider myself successful. I think a day spent unhappy is a day wasted, so every day that I’m still in business and doing what makes me happy is a successful day. Would I like to be more successful? Sure. It’s gonna take long hours, hard work, more clients, and lots and lots of brownies.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Facebook. I’m such a sucker for it. It helps me stay in contact with a lot more people than I would without it, and I can’t help it – those some-ecards are super hilarious.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Pandora. Or Facebook again. I love checking in!
Dogs or cats?
Dogs! I have two: Gotham and Buenos. I can’t stand cats. They’re the angsty teenagers of the animal world.
iOS or Android?
I’m a droider.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
Greece! I’m a total history buff, and I love philosophy. I would like to go there for our honeymoon, but Roger wants to go back to Europe. Check back in May of next year to find out if our postcards are plastered with the Parthenon or the Eiffel Tower.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel; I’m simply making it better. I want people to have the best website, the best logo, the best branding and messaging they could possibly have without being weighted down by billable hours and hastily thrown together work. I want to put quality and character back into an industry that’s turned a bit sleazy and crooked.
Where can our readers get a hold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
I’m on all of the social networks, but my favorite project is my blog. It’s a fun work in progress. I write about the two things I love the most: marketing and my hubby-to-be. I doubt I’ll ever run out of material for either.
Why would you pursue law when you’re a natural at marketing?
My answer is always this: “They’re both persuasion.” Regardless of my audience – be it a consumer or a judge – I’m making an argument.