StartupStories: How Mavens & Moguls Became an Accidental Success

Alexa Schmitz

For our second edition of StartupStories we caught up with Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder of Mavens & Moguls. Now an international company, Mavens & Moguls provides creative and virtual marketing, PR, and advertising services for businesses. Paige gave us the inside scoop on her earliest triumphs and tribulations, the company’s character and future goals, and the story behind that catchy name.

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Why were you inspired to start Mavens & Moguls?

I did not plan on starting a company.  I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO.  When I was a student I looked at Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as  my role models.  I started my career at Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola.  Then I left the corporate world in 1997 to join the first of 3 startups and have never looked back.  15 years ago I started a global marketing firm and love running my own company.  I had just lost my job and saw a business opportunity so just jumped on it because I had time.  It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur.  

 

How did your business get started?  From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?  

I had clients right from the start so scrambled to get my web site up so people knew we were real.  When I started the firm I jokingly referred to the women as the Marketing Mavens & the guys as the Marketing Moguls & for short I called them Mavens & Moguls as a working name but never expected it would stick.  I did research over e-mail with prospective clients, referrers, media, etc & tested ~100 names.  Mavens & Moguls was one choice on the list &  to my great delight & surprise it came out as a clear winner.  It has helped us be memorable and stand out from the pack.  

Because I have a hyphenated last name half the battle is for clients to be able to find you when they need your help.  I have had clients tell me they could not remember anything other than my first name & one word of my company so they googled Paige & Mavens and we popped right up.  I was at an event one day and a venture capitalist started waving in my direction and shouted “hi Maven!” across the crowd, everyone looked my way and we ended up getting introduced to a portfolio company that hired us!  Names contribute to your brand and in our case I think it has been a major plus.  

mavens & moguls

Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power or distinction in a specified area.  I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other consulting firms.  It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously.    Would you rather hire “Strategic Marketing Solutions” or Mavens & Moguls?  We are the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” of marketing firms.  If nothing else our name is a great conversations starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.  

For the first 5 years I worked all the time.  I was scared to go on vacation for fear all my hard work would unravel.  Then my in-laws, father, mom and stepdad all started to get sick and I wanted to be there for them.  They all lived thousands of miles away so I started to work less.  After years of decline 7 family members each died about 6 months apart and I became executrix of many of the estates which is like having another job at times.  So I had to take very good care of myself or I would not have been helpful to anyone else.  I started working out every day.  I started planning me time on my calendar.  I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over-scheduling myself.  And guess what?  My business did not suffer, in fact it has become stronger.  

We moved up the food chain and have better clients.  I enjoy my work more now than ever before.  I am having more fun.  It has truly been a case of something good coming out of something bad.  Working for yourself and building a business you started is incredibly rewarding and gratifying.  I do not think I could ever go back.  I am so much happier and more productive as an entrepreneur than I ever was working for others.  It is all about controlling your calendar.  I no longer try to squeeze in more meetings or hit multiple events at night.   As an entrepreneur, I can be selective.  Less really is more.  I’ve chosen quality over quantity.  It sounds trivial but it is true.  I created a platform to do work I enjoy and feel energized by.  I feel I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life was passing me by.  I got raises and promotions but I was all work and no play and I did not feel fulfilled.  

Since starting my business I have joined boards and volunteered at several organizations.  I am a mentor to the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program  that >40,000 middle school aged kids have gone through.  I am happier and healthier than I have been in more than a decade.  As a marketing consultant I am able to write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.

 

What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Mavens & Moguls?

We do anything a marketing department, ad agency, PR agency or market research shop does on an as needed/outsourced basis. We are basically a virtual marketing team that is an extension of your staff.  

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How much has your business changed from day one until now?

The tools change as things like social media become popular (Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. did not exist when we started) but solving marketing problems in creative ways has always been our mission.  We have always worked on both a project an retainer basis.  

 

What are your biggest challenges in marketing Mavens & Moguls?  

I am like the cobbler’s kids with no shoes, I really do not do marketing.  Our work comes by referral and word of mouth mostly.  I guess more hours in the day would help 😉

 

What types of marketing are most effective for your business?  

I do a lot of networking, writing and public speaking to generate leads for my business.  I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur and for Forbes for years, I also contribute articles to other company’s newsletters and blogs when I have an opinion or experience to share.  I enjoy being on panels or keynoting at conferences.  I have even gone on a  Listening Tour, politicians do it all the time and it is great for business too.  

Prospective customers can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behavior & make a great lasting impression.  Be nice to everyone & make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help!  It is true you should never burn a bridge, that really is great advice and I can tell you dozens of stories over the years where that has served me well.  You just never know when your paths will cross again with old colleagues, former bosses, etc. Kill them with kindness and don’t ever burn that bridge, trust me it pays off!  Also, be the best prepared at every meeting, work your butt off & smile.  It has worked for me at least!   

 

What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Mavens & Moguls?

The people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you.  The biggest mistake and hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business.  I spent more time managing them than finding new customers.  I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have.  It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there.  They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team.  

As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher.  “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars.  It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly.  I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time.  I wish I had known it even earlier though, but lesson learned!  

 

If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?  

I could be more proactive and do for my company what we help our clients do through public relations like sponsor events and conferences to increase our visibility and awareness.

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?  

My advice is to go on a Listening Tour! Politicians do it all the time and it is great for business.  Make a list the movers & shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open ended questions then sit back and take notice.  They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind.  If you listen to what they share with you there will be plenty of opportunities to help them.  I did it when business slowed and picked up several new clients but you can do it any time.  It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun too.  

Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed what you find.  It does not cost much, for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful.  I had no idea what to expect and got a lot of new work as a result.  I run a global marketing firm and I did my listening tour the old fashioned way by sending out e-mails & picking up the phone then brought a pad & pen, asked a few open ended questions then shut up and started taking notes.  

 

What can we expect from Mavens & Moguls in the next year?  

Great question, probably more of the same.  I feel very fortunate that we have built the business with great client partners who value our experience and we want to help grow.  I do not work with or for jerks, and I just want to keep the bar high and keep having fun!

 

To learn more about Mavens & Moguls, please visit mavensandmoguls.com.

 

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