Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of global branding & marketing firm Mavens & Moguls, Advisor, Board Member, Mentor, Coach, Speaker, Writer & Sports Fan...AMA

Paige Arnof-Fenn
Feb 4, 2018

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 leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models.  I started a global marketing company in Cambridge, MA 16 years ago after starting my career on Wall Street in the 80s and having a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and working at three different startups as the head of marketing.  I leaped right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing.  I had nothing to lose.  Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect.  Working for yourself and building a business you started in incredibly rewarding and gratifying.  Since starting my business I have joined boards, become a mentor to the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program that>50,000 middle school aged kids have gone through.  As a marketing consultant, I can write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.  It has been a lot of fun; I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur.  

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HI Paige, I really hope I'm not too late to ask...and hope you will still see this :) 

I'm an entrepreneur myself, but right now I want to grow my online business so I can travel and be a digital nomad. I know it takes TIME (and I have no patience :))

but what are your recommendations to monetize an online business? 

To answer this you should know a bit more about me:

Been living abroad in different countries for 15years, speak 6 languages and always had a job abroad but don't want to do that now.

Currently, I lecture international business at the university. Part-time to have extra fixed income, and I did 2 TEDx talks and speak, and have 2 books and am creating more courses on skillshare and udemy. And I give trainings in cultural diversity and some career coaching (but my goal is not to be a coach)

My goal is to have more online courses (but that's very hard to make income unless you have a huge following), and do training on cultural awareness and business through webinars or clients online.

I am creating lots of freebies related to living abroad and cultural awareness (as that's my passion and expertise). but my email list is supersmall, that's why I am now making more freebies and need to find a way to attract more subscribers.

I am on YouTube as well, but lack time to create very regularly. Also, I post on   Linkedin and that works well for me.

So here I am....wanting to grow online....ANY advise is very very welcome!!!


~Rachel Smets

Feb 10, 10:42AM EST1

I think your best bet is to build your social media following, become a well known influencer & become "internet famous."  If you are getting the most traction on LinkedIn and You Tube then start there.  Make sure your TED talks, freebies, etc. are easy to access.  Build your personal brand online, become a go to source in your field, start publishing lots of content and get it out there.  This raises your profile & visibility, allows you to charge more and own space in your customers' minds.  Good luck!

Feb 10, 4:37PM EST0

What type of innovations have you managed/directed at other businesses that are most germane?

Feb 9, 6:04AM EST0

One of the things I love about my work is that each client is different and even though there are some common themes that can emerge each one has unique challenges they face too so no two engagements are the same.  What is innovative for one client may be typical in another category so I can share what I learn across industries to help them solve problems which is fulfilling.  We have helped clients come up with innovative campaigns to launch a new product or service, innovative names or language to describe it, and innovative ways to structure their organizations to be responsive and flexible to meet their demand.  I love getting to use both my left and right brain to solve problems in creative ways.  

Feb 10, 7:20AM EST0

Can you tell about some of the different environments you have worked in and which one was the best so far?

Feb 9, 3:47AM EST0

Over my career I have tried them all I think.  I started my carer on Wall Street in the 80s, I worked on the trading floor of the company so it was chaotic but I loved the energy of it.  Then I worked in coporate jobs for big Fortune 50 companes so it was more typical I started in a cublicle and got promoted to an office with a secretary and door.  When I worked for the 3 startups it was back to chaos again with lots of energy only this time I was running the department and we were growing fast so every day was different.  Now as an entreprener I work out of my house which is very peaceful and calm.  I enjoyed each environment I was in at the time.  In my 20s and 30s I loved being right in the middle of the action, I thrived among the various people, loved getting to know different parts of the organizations and working on multi functional teams.  At this stage in my career I am more effecive and productive working behind the scenes and leveraging my knowledge and contacts this way.  As your career progresses and your role evolves different environments work better for you.  As the situations change that will change too and each can be great for different reasons at different times.  

Feb 10, 7:10AM EST0

What would three tools (apps, books, podcasts, etc.) you recommend to anyone trying to start her own business?

Feb 6, 1:52PM EST0

I think you learn to do by doing so go get relevant experience, find a mentor who can share their experience and wisdom with you, work hard and network like crazy.  There are lots of great apps, books, podcasts, etc. but there are no silver bullets out there.  It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears and shoe leather to make it happen.  Good luck!

Feb 6, 4:35PM EST0

How do you cope with nerves before public speaking?

Feb 6, 1:49PM EST0

I get nervous too but I try to channel the butterflies productively and use that energy to be upbeat and high impact when I speak.  I practice a lot before so I remind myself I know this and can do this, I take deep breaths before going on stage and smile before I open my mouth which always calms me down.  I try to tell stories from my personal experience so there is no need to worry.  I think about the audience like I am talking to a bunch of friends and people I know so it comes off as warm and real.  Once I get started the energy kicks in and the nerves are gone.  It is ok to be scared but you have to work through it.  Start small and build up, it is like a muscle you do get better and stronger.  

Feb 6, 4:29PM EST0

If you could go back to the day one of your career and have 15min with your former self to communicate any lessons you've acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes, what would you tell yourself?

Feb 6, 10:44AM EST0

I have learned from every mistake I made so it is tough to think about it now since it was part of my learning process.  The truth is you learn so much more from the bad situations than the easy ones where everything goes well.  I think my main message to my younger self would be to relax and be patient.  I was in such a rush to be the first, the youngest, the best and that added unnecessary pressure and stress I did not need.  I would tell myself to enjoy each phase of my career, focus on myself (not to get distracted by others) and just learn as much as I can and it will all work out in the end.  

Feb 6, 4:16PM EST0

If you ever decide to write an autobiography, what would you like to name it and why?

Feb 6, 8:11AM EST0

I would write a book called “Falling Up” to show how I learned and got stronger & better in my entrepreneurial journey with each setback and problem.  I do not believe in failure if you learn from each mistake.  For example, I wish I had known that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you.  The 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 for sure!  

Feb 6, 9:18AM EST0

What type of entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered so far to keep yourself productive and focused on your day-to-day schedule?

Feb 5, 6:14PM EST0

I'm not sure I have any tricks.  I like to make lists and try to address the most important/high impact things first then once they are out of the way I try to get through as many things as I can knock off quickly.  I love the feeling of crossing things off the list once they get accomplished.  I am a morning person so try to do the hard things and creative activities first thing when my mind is clear and fresh.  By the end of the day I am much slower and  usually tired so I make a new list for the next day.  Hope that helps.  Find a system that works for you.  

Feb 6, 7:43AM EST0

Do you recall any incident when things didn’t go the way as per your expectation– like a promotion you wanted and didn’t get, or a project that didn’t turn out how you had hoped?

Feb 5, 1:54PM EST0

For better or worse I tend to speak my mind even with clients or prospective clients.  I believe being brutally honest helps build trust and relationships and I try to always be professional and diplomatic in every situation.  No one likes being told their web site/company name/tag line/materials are sub par but sometimes it needs to be said.  I have been in meetings even ones where we are pitching new business and made comments about confusing copy, double entendres, broken links, poor navigation, etc. and although sometimes it will backfire in many instances they see the point and appreciate the candid feedback.  Sometimes a person will come up after and actually thank you for "being so honest" or saying what others have felt but were afraid to express.  The best example for me was when we were invited to submit an RFP for a large client (all the other firms invited were large agencies) and in our pitch we highlighted the fact that the document was poorly written and not very clear so could be interpreted various ways so that in fact instead of being one large engagement it could easily be interpreted to be 2 very large projects (twice the budget they had) but we did not want to scare them off so assumed they meant the smaller scope.   The President of the company asked me to explain which I did.  He paused and said we were the only firm that mentioned it and he agreed and asked for a second proposal from us, we ended up winning the entire project and it is still the biggest engagement we have ever done in the  history of my firm.  He also apologized because a new junior employee wrote the RFP it was her first one and he asked us to serve as her brand coach in addition to the project so she could learn about marketing processes correctly from us.  We got 3 pieces of business out of it!  You hate to ask stupid questions but sometimes asking clarifying questions and having them explain what they mean can end up in your favor (and triple the work)!

 I have also been in situations where they did not take my comments and questions well and we lost the business so it does not always work out in your favor but for me at least I think we get better clients for us and have better communication and chemistry.  It is a good filter to screen for a cultural fit I think.  They do not have to take my advice but if they ask for it I will give it to them honestly.  

Feb 5, 4:52PM EST0

Do you feel there is a sure shot winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur or is it a lot about persistence, hard work and lots of patience? What's yours?

Feb 5, 6:34AM EST0

Success is very personal so your definition will be--and should be--different than mine.   The short answer is there is no one formula for success and it is about persistence, hard work, etc.  I started my company 16 years ago with the goal of working with people I respect and admire for people I want to help succeed. I wanted more autonomy, flexibility and control. The funny thing is, I'm working longer and harder than ever before, but it feels different when it's your firm that you're building. I didn't start this business with a specific revenue target in mind, but I know growth is critical both personally and professionally.  I went through a 6 year period recently where I lost 7 close family members and I've realized that the metrics that matter to me most are not the typical entrepreneurial concerns:

Staying true to my core beliefs. Loyalty is one of my core values—loyalty to self and to others whom I respect. It's important to me to gauge how many colleagues and customers come back and refer us to those who trust them. Being true to the mission of the organization and delivering superior experiences matter to me a lot. Having the confidence to walk away from a client or colleague who's diluting the equity in your brand is tough, but it's necessary sometimes. You must always be authentic to the essence of your brand and surround yourself with people who reinforce your brand and its values--not tarnish it.

So I've come to the conclusion that for me, relationships matter. Quality encounters matter. Honesty matters. Consistency matters. Authenticity and integrity matter. The experience and the journey matter. Focus on what matters to you and get rid of things that don't. Taking the clutter out of your mind and your life frees up space for more of what you value.

To me, growth for growth's sake is meaningless, but profitable growth with interesting clients solving important problems is what keeps me engaged and excited. The ability to spend time with people I love and care about is critical. My reputation really matters, and the positive word-of-mouth means a lot to me since almost all of our business comes by referral.

A great quote about success comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Feb 5, 11:44AM EST0

Could you please share a project or an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant and motivating in your career?

Feb 5, 6:25AM EST0

It is hard to just pick one!  In the first few years of my business I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business.  I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested.  You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women's businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company's marketing & PR!  Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good ;-)  

Another defining moment was when I fired a client in my first year of business and although it was horrifying it was absolutely the right decision!  The guy was a jerk who never paid on time and was rude to my team who was doing great work for him.  He hired us to do PR for his firm and I realized if we could get great press for a guy like him then people who knew him & knew how difficult he was might want to hire us too to help them thinking "hey these PR people must be really good and I'm not as nasty as this guy so imagine what they could do for me!"  I did not want to attract other bad clients so even though he signed a 1 year contract I ended it after 3 months.  It sent a signal to my team that the money was not worth an unappreciative client who was a jerk and treated us poorly.  We replaced the income and more within a month with a much better client.  I have never looked back.

Feb 5, 12:05PM EST0

What advice would you share with young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Feb 5, 3:36AM EST0

Be patient & do your homework -- it really is a marathon not a sprint so do not set arbitrary goals like being named 30 under 30 or 40 under 40 because it may take you longer than Mark Zuckerberg to hit your stride and that's ok. Most people take many detours on their career path before finding their true calling. Don't be disappointed if you get to 40 and are still exploring because the journey really is a great adventure so enjoy it! 

Have a strong work ethic  — be known as a hard worker who gets it done with a great attitude.  Raise your hand, focus on making impact with every assignment.

Be passionate  — if you are not excited about your work why should anyone else be?  Smile and be positive, everyone likes to work with upbeat high energy people.  

Be scrappy — you have to be incredibly creative and resilient because obstacles are constantly being thrown in your direction and you just have to keep going around/through them to find a path to success.

Be humble  —  it really helps to not take yourself too seriously and have a good sense of humor when things go nuts which they will.

Never burn a bridge -- always leave a positive lasting impression you never know when that person will pop up again in your life.  Your reputation will follow you thropughout your career  so always leave on a high note.

If you do great work in the short term the long term will take care of itself.  

Feb 5, 12:30PM EST0

Are you satisfied with your experience and contribution to the business world with various profiles?

Feb 5, 3:12AM EST0

I still believe my best work is ahead of me.  I have had great experience and hope I have made some lasting contributions so far but there is so much more I want to accomplish.  I hope I am able to leave the world much better than I found it and love helping people and fixing things.  

Feb 5, 12:36PM EST0

How do you go about marketing any business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Feb 5, 12:27AM EST0

There is no one solution that works for everything.  I try to start with who the customer is, what motivates them to buy your product or service, what alternatives are available to them now, how much time they have, what their budget is, etc.  I have been successful marketing brands using traditional media, direct marketing, e-mail, public relations, social media and online tools so it really depends.  Only big brands can afford to do Super Bowl advertising but you do not need to spend a lot of money to have a successful campaign.  Some of my most successful campaigns have been low budget, guerrilla marketing tactics that caught the media's attention or went viral.  

Feb 5, 7:26AM EST0

What's you take on failures? what have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Feb 4, 11:35PM EST0

I do not believe in failure, if you learn a lesson in the process and hit some bumps on the path to success it is not a failure at all.  It is just part of the learning journey.  I have made tons of mistakes along the way, but you learn so much more from those tough experiences than you do when everything goes just right.    If you read some of my articles on my website you can see many of them because I try to learn from every experience and setback.  Never be scared to fail, it is how you learn and grow.  I never regret trying even if I do not achieve what I set out to accomplish.  

Feb 5, 7:15AM EST0

Does your company Mavens and Mogul help the community where it is located?

Feb 4, 6:43PM EST0

I hope we do have impact through the local organizations I am involved with personally and professionally.  I sit on a number of non profit boards, I volunteer, mentor, guest lecture, give talks and sponsor events.  I think it is very important for leaders in the community to get involved and make a difference, it strengthens communities when everyone pitches in.  

Feb 5, 7:05AM EST0

How many employees work for Mavens & Moguls? What do you look for in an employee?

Feb 4, 3:24PM EST0

I do not have any employees, only contractors.  Everyone in the group is an expert at what they do so we are a very flat organization. Unlike traditional; agencies or consulting firms where senior people sell work and junior people execute it, at Mavens & Moguls clients always have senior talent doing the work.  There are 4 dozen seasoned marketing, communications, PR and market research professionals in the group so each project is staffed with the talent that is  the best match for the task at  hand.  I look for people who are the best at their craft and passionate about their work.  We are a virtual company so they can live anywhere in the world.  

Feb 4, 4:40PM EST0

So far in your journey, what have you learned about entrepreneurship, leadership, and mentoring others?

Feb 4, 3:20PM EST0

I learn things every day.  The main thing is to be comfortable in your skin because authenticity is what makes you special and why people want to work with you and why customers come to you vs. the competition.  It cannot be faked or copied.    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 and smile.  It has worked for me at least!   I love working for myself.  Being an entrepreneur allows me to do work with and for people I admire and respect.  I get to apply my expertise to help organizations grow and tell their story with the right words and pictures.  I feel very lucky that I have been able to build a career from work I enjoy and get energized by.  It is important to share what you learn with the next generation and give back to your community.  I have found that the more you give the more you get back.  

Feb 4, 5:03PM EST0

How do you spend a normal day when you feel like relaxing and just letting go off the work. What are your hobbies?

Feb 4, 6:39AM EST0

On a "day off" I am probably on vacation, I love unplugging when I take time off.  Ideally I get enough sleep and wake up energized, I find time to exercise, connect with friends and loved ones over a meal or talk, maybe go to a movie, read, knit, and spend some time outdoors even if just a short walk or sitting on my porch with a glass of wine and my husband.  I do not waste time on things that do not matter.  If there are great people, delicious food and beautiful weather it will be a fun day for sure!

Feb 4, 7:31AM EST0

What future plans do you have for Mavens and Moguls?

Feb 4, 5:16AM EST0

I started the business to be a platform to do work I care about and enjoy.  Over the years it has gone from being mostly consulting work to more coaching, advising, mentoring, writing, and speaking engagements.  I will continue moving in this direction as opportunities I find intriguing pop up.  I serve on several boards which has been very interesting and fulfilling as well.  My antenna is always up for new opportunities where I can grow and contribute my experience and passion.

Feb 4, 7:56AM EST0
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