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Female Founders: Kathy Schenfelt of Missmanaged On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

… Freedom is the first thing that comes to mind. When you have your own company, you’re able to choose how you work, when you work, and who you work with. Of course financial stability doesn’t come overnight, but once it does, it’s the best thing in the world.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Schenfelt.

Born and raised at the southern tip of Argentina, Kathy Schenfelt’s dreams to pursue a career in entertainment were as big as she was far from Hollywood. While most 14-year-old girls were navigating the throes of middle school, Schenfelt was preoccupied — spending nights on her laptop learning to code, perfecting her graphic design skills and running the school’s first-ever blog. This innate drive would land the budding talent her first job just a few short years later.

At 16-years-old, Schenfelt launched a fan project on The Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn Part I and II that quickly spiraled into something much more exciting. The project accumulated over one million followers, two websites, nine staff members, and most notably, garnered the attention of Summit Entertainment. What was meant to be a fun hobby changed her life. The company’s digital strategy team recognized the teenager’s unique talent and provided Schenfelt with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help fuel fan engagement surrounding the global franchise.

Consecutively, adding on to Schenfelt’s passion for storytelling, she assumed the role of Senior Editor at Page To Premiere, a leading publication covering book to screen adaptations from an “industry” point of view. No longer online, Page To Premiere was acquired by Hypable Media in 2015. In the next couple of years, Schenfelt would fine-tune her craft in the space working with companies like Lionsgate, Warner Bros. Pictures, LifeTime, Disney Channel Latin America, and serving as a consultant to industry friends who were in the early stages of positioning their online presence, exploring digital partnerships and maximizing their influence — a brand new territory back then.

Realizing the untapped potential, Schenfelt started a digital marketing and social media agency, The W List, from the comforts of her small hometown Argentina. The company flourished, servicing hundreds of top global brands as well as high-profile talent and non-profit organizations.

By 2016, The W-List was doing so well that it was time to make moves and Schenfelt packed up and did what so many before her had done — followed their dreams to Los Angeles. In the 5+ years the young entrepreneur has lived in LA, she graduated from UCLA with a certificate in Music Business and founded SCH Entertainment as an umbrella company to house several endeavors. SCH acquired the original The W-List (soon to be a rebranded LA-based digital communications agency) and gave life to Missmanaged, a boutique talent and music management firm representing 30+ clients worldwide, and Schenfelt’s newest passion project, Guests Only, a simultaneously exclusive and inclusive community of creatives, business leaders and change-makers aiming to connect and champion women across entertainment, fashion, tech and beauty.

While most of the 28-year-old’s time is spent as the President and Senior Talent Manager of Missmanaged, Schenfelt doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon and enjoys sharing her breadth of knowledge with others, frequently speaking at public events and serving as a guest editor across any number of publications.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Movies were my first love. My dad owned a Blockbuster store for a few years, so storytelling was all around me. I was very passionate about sharing the things I liked, and at thirteen, that was the Twilight Saga, so I asked for a computer for my 15th birthday and created a Twitter account to connect with other fans. In a couple months, the account had passed 100k followers, which was a big deal back then, so I decided to take the next step. I learned some graphic design and taught myself how to code, and shortly after we had a website, community forum and all. There were plenty of fansites and I can’t tell you why mine stood out from the rest, but the production company, Summit Entertainment, reached out and I got to work with them on the last two films. It was full-on digital strategy and I was learning so much, but now I know I had no idea what I was doing. I was still in highschool and had no expectations, which is probably exactly why it worked out.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A few months ago when we were in the process of hiring a new talent coordinator for our talent management firm, Missmanaged, we ended up interviewing a girl who I used to watch on YouTube when I was younger. She was a former-influencer herself, one I knew and had watched grow over the years, so it was kind of like “I used to love your videos back when I was 16 and now you want to work with me?”. It felt like a total full circle moment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think every person I’ve crossed paths with professionally has helped shape me into the person I am today. I don’t like to namedrop, but there’s a specific person that comes to mind. Her name is Jane and she owns a very successful marketing company. I met her a long time ago, back when SCH Entertainment didn’t exist and I didn’t know many people. I’ll never forget how, the first time we met in person, she led the conversation with “What can I do to help you?”. I had nothing to offer back, and she knew that. It’s stuck with me because it’s very rare to meet people like that in this industry — people who are willing to help you out when they know you’re not on their level yet.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I believe there are a few reasons. Funding is one of them. Getting a company off the ground can be expensive, most people don’t have the means to pursue big ideas without investors. I would also assume most don’t have the additional time and energy required to work on a side project because they’re already busy with their day jobs or running their families. And last but not least, the fear of failure. Investing all that time, money, and hard work into something that might never seem the light of day is incredibly daunting.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

There are a few select companies offering angel funding for women-owned businesses. The idea itself is great but they are hard to come by and the competition is very tough. It would be a good starting point if governments worldwide were able to offer grants, loans or tax incentives to help get them up and running. In terms of what women themselves can do to succeed in launching their own companies, I would say start early. Start as early as you can, because the more you get into a structured career path, get older, maybe start a family, the harder it will be time-wise. I don’t think most schools offer entrepreneurial classes, but my advice would be to learn as much as you can and give it a go as soon as you can.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Freedom is the first thing that comes to mind. When you have your own company, you’re able to choose how you work, when you work, and who you work with. Of course financial stability doesn’t come overnight, but once it does, it’s the best thing in the world.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

That it’s easy. Nobody knows how hard it is to get a business off the ground unless they’ve tried. Especially anything service-based. People tend to think that because you’re your own boss, you don’t have to work as hard because you don’t have to report to somebody else, but in reality, every founder knows it’s the opposite. I never fully turn off. That’s one of the cons. When you’re running a company, you have this constant little voice in your head telling you you need to work because nobody else can do the job the way you want it done. But having to do it all yourself is also a myth, and the biggest mistake you can make. You have to learn to trust your team and delegate what you don’t enjoy doing or what you just don’t know.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I’ve had the privilege of never being somebody else’s “employee”, so it’s hard for me to say. Even during my freelance days, I still felt I had complete freedom and the ability to choose how and when I worked, so I don’t really know what it’s like in the corporate world having to work your way up from the mailroom. That being said, I do believe anybody can have a great idea and make it happen. You don’t have to run the business to be a founder. If it’s successful enough, you can always take a step back and have someone take over. To be a founder, you need to have vision and capital. That’s about it. When it comes to running a business, the most important things you need are excellent people skills, the ability to communicate your ideas efficiently, relevant knowledge to guide your team, experience to back it up, and critical thinking skills to be able to make hard decisions.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

This one is tough. I would say, first, you don’t know as much as you think you do. But that’s totally okay, you will learn as you go. Secondly, to go along with that first bit, learn as much as you can. There’s an online class for just about anything these days and a lot of them are free. You lose absolutely nothing by taking that class, but you will gain knowledge that might come in handy later on. Thirdly, don’t glamourize people you don’t know. What you’ve heard or what you see on social media means absolutely nothing. You might think someone is on top of their game and in comparison might feel like you’re slacking or you’ll never achieve that level of success, but in reality most people are busy questioning their own timeline. Fourth, if you are in the room, you deserve to be in that room. Don’t let imposter syndrome creep in. And lastly, hire a good accountant as soon as you can afford to do so. Your future self will thank you!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’ve been working on a special project for a few months now. The name is Guests Only, and it’s a simultaneously exclusive and inclusive community of creatives, business leaders and change-makers aiming to connect and champion women across various industries. We’ll be launching soon with super exciting editorial pieces highlighting one-on-one conversations with some incredible people as well as in-person happenings. I’m so proud of everything Guests Only stands for and I hope it offers our “Guests” that sense of non-transactional connection we so desperately need here in LA.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Probably something along the lines of what we’re aiming for with Guests Only. Maybe not for “the most amount of people”, but anybody who wants to be part of it. I’ve always felt Los Angeles is such a lonely city and even though the industry is so small, most people keep to themselves, so it feels nearly impossible to connect with peers without expectations or without it being a transactional relationship. If we can create a safe space to change that, I’ll feel like I’m doing something good.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

The LOST showrunners, because it’s been over ten years and I still have so many questions.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Female Founders: Kathy Schenfelt of Missmanaged On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.