Shaun Chavis was one of the first entrepreneurs we connected with after launching FRESH Communications. Shaun, a relatively new entrepreneur herself, is the founder and principal of Saltshaker Marketing & Media. We are fascinated by Shaun’s unique service and share her intentional and methodical approach to growing her business. We asked Shaun to share some key insights and life experiences that have helped mold her as a person and as a business owner.
1.) Why did you decide to create Saltshaker Marketing & Media?
I’m a career journalist with a couple of food degrees, and so Saltshaker gives me a way to use all those skills to do what I love… help people tell their stories about food. I hope to grow Saltshaker into a resource for businesses and organizations in the Southeast who want support with culinary content marketing and strategies.
I also love connecting people, I love coming up with creative ideas, and I love working with creative people. I really enjoyed doing that as a development editor at Time Inc. Books. I worked as content marketing director for an ice cream company in Atlanta for a while, which was also fun–I got to help that company launch a new line in Whole Foods Market stores nationwide. Starting Saltshaker was next!
2.) What has been your most challenging moment to date as principal of Saltshaker Marketing and what did you learn from it?
Making the decision to bootstrap! I pretty much put all my chips on the table. It was really scary… I held those signed bank documents for a while before I finally turned them over. But I love owning my own business. I tell people it’s 80 percent thrilling, 20 percent terrifying, 100 percent mine. I think I’ve learned the value of investing in yourself. There’s two sides to investing in yourself: there’s the “believe in yourself!” side, and then there’s the flip side of rising to your own challenge — of being the person that’s worth investing in. It makes you be a better person.
3.) Describe a time when you pleasantly surprised yourself as a business owner.
I honestly think it’s been my capacity to learn and stretch myself. My dad was an entrepreneur, too. A little over 20 years ago, after I finished journalism school, my dad wanted me to work with him in his business — he wanted me to get an MBA, JD, and CPA. (No pressure!) So I started with some undergrad business courses in accounting and economics. And, I really sucked. I felt so bad because he was a CPA and had an MBA from Boston University. But I did so poorly in accounting, I thought, “nah, I’m definitely a journalist.” I just didn’t think I had the brain for business. Now, all these years later, to try again, and get it… wow. I’ve learned not to write off my capability to learn or do something.
4.) Tell us about a personal habit or trait of yours that has contributed to your success.
A couple things. One is the ability to be vulnerable with someone. Early on, I felt that to set myself up for success, I had to find someone that I wouldn’t be embarrassed admitting all my mistakes to. So I have a mentor who is a retired business exec—he started two successful tech companies—and I see him once a week, every week, like clockwork, and I make myself tell him the things I am most concerned about, the mistakes I’ve made or the things I feel are about to be mistakes. The goal is to catch any problems early on and address them. And we work it out. He’s a kind man who’s easy to talk to, and he’s clever.
I think planning and tenacity are also big. On the 30th of every month I take two giant post-it note sheets and a box of Crayola markers, and I write out one sheet of goals for the next month, and on the other sheet I list my current clients and my top prospects. Those sheets are right where I can see them every morning when I wake up. I also write notes to myself on them, like, “no matter what happens, do not ever give up!”
5.) What are you most excited about right now?
I am really excited about the people who have connected with Saltshaker. I love the clients I’m working with. I’m also excited about the people who have joined the team. I have a whole new perspective on what “people are your most valuable asset” means.
One thing that’s really important to me, even at this early stage, is Saltshaker’s culture. I’m working on that with careful intention. I’d like to show that American work culture can be way different than what a lot of people experience today. I want to create a place where I enjoy working and where others do, too. I’m really fascinated with what Amy C. Edmondson has been writing about, and with some things I’m reading about in Canada, particularly the Guarding Minds at Work initiative and psychologically safe workplaces.