As if living in Boulder, CO wasn’t badass enough – Kayleen Cohen and her fellow café working posse have turned a lame economy for recent grads into an opportunity for professional growth. She also gets to play in a backyard with her friends on the daily, so it looks like this is one entrepreneur who has found startup success by sticking it to adulthood.
Kayleen shared the story behind her digital marketing company, Mtn. Dog Media, with KillerStartups recently in an exclusive interview. Check it out…
What’s Mtn. Dog Media all about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
We are a digital marketing company based out of Boulder, Colorado. We develop optimized websites for small business owners, manage social media campaigns, and write badass blogs. Primarily we serve independent Boulderite businesses.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
We’re a digital company with humans behind it. We work side by side with our clients to make sure that they understand how to develop and maintain the sites that we build for them. We’re on call to meet up in coffee shops and get problems solved. I never said we were better than the competition, just a little more human – or canine.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Mtn. Dog Media is a tip of the hat to my big black mutt, Hazey. She is our company mascot, motivator, and provider of much needed brain breaks. It’s also homage to one of the biggest accomplishments of my tiny 23 year life – moving to Colorado and getting my mountain dog.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
I used to play math blasters on my dad’s ’94 pc, but I never imagined myself becoming an internet junkie. Until several months ago I was a die-hard print journalist, but eventually it became obvious that my skills would be more valuable on the web. Then, I met my business partner, a kick-ass web designer, and the rest is history.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
My business partners and I all work full-time in the same coffee shop. We open the coffee shop most days at 5:30am and work until 1pm, then the real work begins! We pile around a dinning room table or onto blankets in the yard and work until we can’t work anymore – sometimes the wee hours of the morning. I firmly believe that there are way more than 80 hours in a week – the dog has to get walked sometime!
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
Vacation or staycation? We live in Colorado, so we’re immersed in paradise. I steal away for trips into the mountains whenever possible and seek refuge in the serenity of a campfire.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Check my email, delete spam, and laugh at whatever crap my kid sisters send my way.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
All of the above. My mind is constantly bubbling with ideas. I would easily need an army to bring them all to fruition. That being said, it has definitely become a tradition that we crack open a few brews while we work through the evening. That’s when the white board really takes a beating.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
Mtn. Dog Media consists of myself and my primary business partner, a fiery blonde named Amy J. We also have another helper who is one of our coworkers at the coffee shop. He begs to be called an intern.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
Mtn. Dog Media is comprised of three recent graduates, and I’m sure you’re aware that the job market isn’t exactly awesome for people like us. We were all growing restless slinging caffeine full-time and decided it was high time to make our own opportunities. If we couldn’t get our dream jobs, then we were going to make them for ourselves.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
These are still the early days. We’re currently only 6 months in, but my great grandma once told me, “Life’s not meant to be easy, it’s meant to be lived.” We’re not struggling, we’re learning.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
The only thing that stresses us out is when our coffee shop job conflicts with our professional engagements. It’s a bitch to have to explain to clients that we aren’t available at certain times. It makes us look unprofessional, but we’re just doing what we have to do to get by.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
Our office is a backyard. There are a lot of trees, grass, and occasional mines of dog poop.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I can’t even imagine, but if I had to, we’d have a real office (dog friendly, of course), a few more people on board, and coffee would be a treat again.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Video games? Snack food?
The mountains and everyone in Boulder, Colorado. Every person here has a fire under their pants to change the world in their own way. It’s truly amazing.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, woman?
Luckily there was minimal overhead involved in getting this project started. As the business owner I pitched in coffee shop funds until we were established enough to start bringing in client checks. Now we’re coasting.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have. Avoid creating debt until you’re positive your idea will pay you back.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Love your idea, love your partners, and there should be no struggle. There will be stress and hardships, of course, but it’s all just a part of the learning process. Even failure is a success if you learned just a few good lessons.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
Travel all over the place (with my business partners). We’d explore the globe and see what other great places and people are out there to inspire us.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
Yes. We just printed stickers, if that’s not success, I’m not sure what is.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- Gmail – Because I’m an emailing fool.
- Facebook – Because I’m addicted to updating our company page and accumulating followers. NPR – For a reliable supply of ambiance.
- Pro Trails – For the next greatest adventure.
- Pet Finder – So I can get my fill of adorable puppies.
Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?
Sorry… I’ve got a dumb phone. This would be better answered by my iPhone savvy business partners.
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
Spotify. Right now I’m listening to Iron & Wine radio, because it’s still morning music time. If it was the afternoon I would probably be cranking Led Zeppelin on my record player.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
Northern Italy, because it was my grandfather’s muse. The majority of his prolific watercolor portfolio was created there. I know it in pictures, but I would give anything to see it in person. I want to smell the air, hear the bustle, close my eyes, and let his spirit see through me.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter?
- Donald Trump – To remind you that there are crazy people out there.
- Kristina Vragovic – Because she’s my friend and the best copy editor in the world. She’s always tweeting some useful shit.
- Dogster – For absolutely useless, but entertaining dog news.
Give us some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
In just six months we’ve obtained 4 clients, 1 national partnership, obtained 150+ Facebook likes, and grown from a network of $0 to $3,000. It’s small potatoes, but we’re proud!
Where can we find you?
(And of course on the Mtn. Dog Media website at MtnDogMedia.com)
Mtn. Dog Media | Courtesy of startup founder