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From $60,000 to $5 Million in 3 Years: How ‘ZinePak Did It

For 'ZinePak’s co-founders, having the right connections in place before launch made all the difference afterward

Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe

Brittany Hodak’s and Kim Kaupe’s favorite number is 100. That’s because it’s the percentage they own of ‘ZinePak, the business they started in 2011 with $60,000 from their personal savings. The company, which creates memorabilia for entertainment “superfans,” usually consisting of a custom CD, magazine and merchandise, exceeded $1 million in revenue its first year and is projected to bring in $5 to $7 million in 2014. Today, their clients include some of the most popular entertainers in the world, such as Katy Perry, KISS, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Mary J. Blige. 

Despite their seemingly overnight success, being young female entrepreneurs in the music and entertainment business hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Kaupe says. The first time Hodak, now 30, and Kaupe, 28, met in person with the execs of a certain Fortune 500 company — one they’d just run a successful sponsorship program for — one man interrupted five minutes into their presentation to say, “I’m sorry, I just have to ask, whose dad let you in here?” The two replied, “No one, unfortunately. It would have been a lot easier that way!” — and finished their presentation. 

Perhaps they were able to take it in stride because, aside from stray incidents like that, they’d be the first to agree that youth has its benefits. It’s landed them on Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list for music 2014, Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40, and a nod as Startup of the Month in Entrepreneur’s “Young Entrepreneur” series. 

We talked to them about what it’s like to scale a business so quickly.

You both spent time working in entertainment and advertising before starting ‘ZinePak. How did you know you were ready to go out on your own?
Kaupe: We always tell people you're never going to be fully ready. If you're waiting to feel warm and fuzzy, it's never going to happen. You're always going to have a little pit in your stomach because you're quitting a full-time job that's a guaranteed paycheck with a 401(k) and [maybe] a pension, and all those wonderful, cushy things that corporate life offers you. 

For us it was definitely intimidating and scary, but we were also confident in what we thought we could accomplish. I worked at Condé Nast for a couple years in their marketing and events departments, and Brittany worked at Sony Records in marketing and retail distribution. Both of us have a real love and passion for entertainment, so it wasn't that big of a leap to go into this kind of industry, but it was a leap to go out on our own. 

Pictured: Brittany Hodak (left) and Kim Kaupe

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