Imagination when harnessed produces magic. We have all experienced that moment, when we have an idea —a mental image— that we want to convey, but we find it difficult to match the product with the vision. This is where Shantel Khleif, founder of Imagine Media Consulting, comes in. While we may not have wizard wands or fairy godmothers, Shantel shows us that with some creative thinking, determination, exceptional marketing & a talented team, we have the ability to make some amazing things happen.
For our interview, I meet her at the Ponce City Market office, where the Imagine Media Team is headquartered. This trendy new area is the hub for some of Atlanta's newest and most innovative powerhouse companies. We walk together to the all glass conference room where we have the privacy of our own bubble, yet are surrounded by youthful busy bodies working around us. Shantel's energy is both welcoming and a bit guarded, but as our conversation begins I start to see the soft soul behind the polished & passionate businesswoman. Thank you to Shantel or sharing your experiences and your insights with Millennial Nomaad.
Occupation: Founder/Imagine Media Consulting
The key to happiness is: Gunnar (my Golden Retriever)
My kryptonite is: Wine & Dessert
In three words, I would describe myself as: Motivated, Sentimental & Adventurous
I dream of: Italy
Success to me means: Having a healthy and happy set of family and friends around me, setting my own hours and being passionate about the work I’m doing every day.
Define curiosity: To be curious, always seek more. More adventures, more challenges, more triumphs, more life lessons.
To be brilliant is to be: Open-minded
MN: The story of Imagine Media Consulting all begins with a search for some pie. What gave you the confidence to turn an experience into a business? What were the first steps when creating your boutique marketing company?
SK: There were so many micro-moments that helped structure Imagine Media and helped to build up the confidence, but one moment certainly comes to mind. I often call it our ‘light bulb moment’ and it occurred exactly 3 weeks after I started managing my first client and her accounts (which was at the time very much a side job). Two other small business owners reached out via Facebook to inquire about social media services and how they could sign up for my marketing services. I very quickly realized there was a niche for the type of work I was providing and that companies were craving a personalized approach that was missing in the marketplace. This online validation helped to build my confidence and in that moment I knew I was on to something. After jumping up and down with excitement (for probably far too long) I put my head down, designed a logo, chose a business name and put together my very first proposal.
MN: Before staring Imagine Media, you worked for a corporate company, while starting a wedding planning business on the side. What was one perk of working for a corporate company and what was a negative aspect of your experience?
SK: + Perk: One perk was certainly having guidance and a wonderful leader. My boss taught me many valuable lessons and organizational techniques that I still apply and use in my business today.
+ Negative: The office politics and the suits. Stuffy business suits and office politics rank pretty high on my do not tolerate list.
MN: You mentioned that you were raised in a family of entrepreneurs and that you studied entrepreneurship as your major in college. How did this shape your career aspirations? What was a valuable lesson you learned that helped you become a better businesswoman?
SK: My family has certainly played a major role in my aspirations to become an entrepreneur. I vividly remember at a very young hearing at every family gathering that I should aspire to be my own boss, make my own hours and dictate my own future. Bundle that with my extreme independence and the rest is history. My family always encouraged me to dream big and never settle for anything less. They reminded me frequently that I could be whatever I wanted to be if I put my mind to it and that support and encouragement went a long way. One valuable lesson I’ve learned from my Dad is to remember that at the end of the day family is the most important. Additionally, he taught me that the valleys of entrepreneurship are nothing more than an amazing learning experience. You need the bad days and the disgruntled clients and the challenges to grow and learn. It’s an important part of the process.
MN: Where do you think fear comes from? How does it affect you? How does learning to be fearless make someone a better entrepreneur?
SK: I think fear is primarily driven from societal pressures and norms. What will people think if I fail, what will I do if I have to work 3 jobs, what will my friends think. That fear is derived from over thinking about the negative things that could happen instead of all of the positive things that could occur if you try. Shameless Mom plug, she would probably remind everyone that it’s just False Evidence Appearing Real (how corny but I love her). I try not to head into any situation fearful. It's very limiting and clouds my judgment. Ninety percent of the things we worry about or fear never happen, so why let that worry or fear dictate your day. Truthfully, I don’t know many entrepreneurs who are fearful. It’s a huge risk to start a company, and if you let the fear hold you back, then quite frankly, you’ll never be an entrepreneur. I like to remind myself, what’s the worst that can happen? If failure is the answer… then I challenge you to think…is failing really that bad?
MN: People often say that the road to success may test one’s virtues. What are the values you will never sacrifice, even for success?
SK: I will never cheat, lie or sell a service/product that I don’t 100% believe in. If we partnered with every client solely because they had money we would be doing them and our reputation a huge disservice in the long run. I want our team to be excited every day when they head to work, and if we take on clients outside our moral compass, the culture & environment quickly can disintegrate.
MN:What does "awareness" mean to you? Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
SK: This year I am trying to focus on one key word and focus my actions and goals around this term. For 2016 I decided on the word ‘pause’. This word has certainly encouraged me to be more mindful of the people around me, my environment and my day-to-day decisions. I wouldn’t say I’m extremely spiritual (yet) but I am more cognizant and mindful of my health and wellness this year more so than in the past.
MN: Love. What do you think is the key to healthy relationships between family, friends, couples, etc?
SK: Communication and being present are two key elements for healthy relationships and two things I try to work on every day. With any business there are many moving parts and always something you could be doing, but it’s equally important to ‘pause’ and be truly present in the moment and have meaningful conversations with those you love. Being physically there isn’t enough.
MN: What do you enjoy most about your career? If you could share any piece of advice, what would it be?
SK: The synergy with my colleagues is something I’ve enjoyed the most. It’s truly exciting to come to work and see friendships forming and powerful collaboration. Additionally, we’re helping 35 other companies/entrepreneurs help bring their vision to life online and it’s very exciting and rewarding to be contributing to their growth and learning together.
My one piece of advice would be to build relationships with anyone and everyone. Don’t be fearful (see notes above) about stepping out of your comfort zone and introducing yourself to someone you admire.
MN: As the social media expert, you stress the importance of building an online presence and brand for companies. How important is the concept of “personal branding” when it comes to individuals on social media?
SK: Well for one, it could be a "make it or break it" type of scenario when applying for a position if you’re in the job market. I think it’s extremely important and not something to shy away from. Essentially, it’s your online portfolio and a glimpse into your personality. Use social media as a launching pad to show the world how bad-ass and clever you really are!
Enjoy this interview? Want to learn more about Shantel and her fabulous team? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and roam to her pages for more info!