Whether it be for a pop star or a sports team, everyone can call themselves a superfan of someone or something. To celebrate that passion in all of us, Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe, who met while working together at a New York City ad agency, created ZinePak.
Located in a WeWork office space on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the company began by transforming the way consumers buy music by offering a fun and tangible alternative. Their first products, sold at Walmart, were CDs paired with a magazine and merchandise. In just a short time, they were working with names like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, KISS and the Beach Boys, as well as expanding their client base to include movies, television shows and even brands like American Express.
In the spring of 2015, the duo appeared on “Shark Tank,” where they pitched their company to celebrity investors. Although the deal made on the show was not ultimately finalized, their exposure contributed to even more growth. One venture that came as a direct result of the reality show is a partnership with the New York Mets, who asked the women to make a package for their Mr. Met’s Kids Club. “It’s really exciting to circle back and see something right here where we live,” Kaupe said.
How did the idea for the company come about?Brittany: Originally, when we launched the company, we were creating deluxe music packages for artists. That was an idea from when I worked at a record label and was hoping to come up with a configuration that could help combat the decline of physical sales. Over the past five years, we’ve transitioned into a very robust, dynamic creative agency doing all kinds of packages for superfans. Some of which are retailed, some of which are used during live performances, some of which are sold directly to fans on artists’ or sports teams’ websites. So it’s been really fascinating to see how much we’ve grown pretty much all based on existing customers asking us to do more. So from people who are saying, “I loved working with you on my album, but I don’t have another album for two years, so in the meantime, let’s work on my fan club or tour.”
What are the pros and cons to starting a business in the New York City?Brittany: I would say that one of the pros is the amazing access to talent. There are just so many wonderfully talented people in New York City that you could get anyone you could ever hope for. And one of the cons is the city tax on top of the state and federal tax. And the high rent.
Kim: Another pro is that with all of the local colleges like Baruch and NYU, we’ve had really top-tier interns which I think is really unique compared to some other locations that might not have such amazing colleges right in their vicinity.
All of ZinePak’s full-time employees are female. What are the positives to having an all-women staff? Do you ever feel discriminated against?Brittany: I definitely felt an inequity at some of the jobs I had in the past by being female and also being young. And sometimes it was kind of like a double whammy. So I would say one of the pros for us is that we’re able the give our employees exactly the kind of work environment we wished we had had when we started out and weren’t always lucky enough to get. And the kind of bosses that we had always hoped to have that sometimes we got and sometimes we didn’t. It certainly wasn’t intentional to have an all-female staff, but we feel very fortunate that we have the ability to shape the work experience for the employees we have.
Kim: I think it’s also really nice because most of the entrepreneurial world is male. Statistically, there just aren’t a lot of female entrepreneurs, unfortunately. It’s definitely getting better in the five years that Brittany and I have had ZinePak; we’ve definitely seen more female entrepreneurs come into the scene. But it’s also nice to surround yourself with women, because at so many of these entrepreneurial events that Brittany and I go to, more times than not, we are the only females there or there are 40 men in the room and maybe four women.
How did “Shark Tank” affect the growth of your business? Kim: “Shark Tank” undoubtedly helped our business by exposing us to tons of people who had never heard of us before. We’ve had a lot of people contact us, saying, “Hey, I was watching the show with my wife,” or “My kids were watching the show and I started listening to your pitch and I think there’s stuff we can do together.” And with a couple of those people, the projects have come to fruition. And one that relates right here in New York is we started working with the Mets, which is super exciting. Someone at the Mets’ organization saw us on the show and said, “The Mets have tons of superfans. We would love to talk to you guys.” So, in 2016, if you join the Mr. Met’s Kids Club, that package and that experience is something that we created.
Who have been your favorite celebrities to work with?Kim: We’ve had a lot of favorites. It’s kind of like picking your favorite child. But I think one we had a lot of fun with was Katy Perry. She is also a female entrepreneur in her own right and empowering and a big believer in Brittany and I, which is really nice. And from a fan’s standpoint, the Beach Boys. I really geeked out on that one.
Brittany: My all-time favorite is a band with New York roots, KISS. We loved working with KISS. It was just a blast from start to finish. KISS has some of the most loyal fans in the world. So to be able to create a package and get the feedback from the KISS Army that they gave it the seal of approval, it was a really special thing for us. And we actually have pages from our KISS ZinePak on display at the KISS Monster Mini Golf, which is in Las Vegas.