Tina Wells – Founder of Buzz Marketing Group and Best Selling Author of tween fiction series, Mackenzie Blue
When Tina Wells was 16 she wasn’t sitting still. She was founding an agency. A BIG agency — Buzz Marketing Group — with big-name clients like The Oprah Winfrey Network, Apple, and Johnson & Johnson. Then she became a best-selling author of the tween fiction series Mackenzie Blue. On today’s episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow, she shares more with us including her spin-off series The Zee Files. Listen for BIG inspiration.
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Mentioned in the Episode:
Tina Well’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tinawells_/?hl=en
Tina’s Well’s Website: https://tinawells.com/
Check out Tina’s books here: https://www.amazon.com/Tina-Wells/e/B002IAY1XC%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Kara Goldin 00:00
Hi everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin Show and I’m super, super excited to have my next guest here. This is Tina Wells and Tina for those of you who do not know her She is an entrepreneur, business strategist, and best-selling author multiple times we’re gonna get into many of her books. But her most recent book, the Z files, is a spinoff series of her best-selling tween fiction series called McKinsey blue. And we are so excited to have Tina here to share a little bit more about it. But again, she’s just a little bit more on Tina. She’s a business strategist, adviser, author, and founder of RLVNT Media. And Tina has been recognized by fast company’s 100 most creative people in business essences 40 under 40, and so much more. And for over two decades, she led Buzz Marketing Group, an agency she founded at age Wait a minute, Tina, 16 years old, you founded an agency. I love it. We got to talk more about that with clients like Dell, The Oprah Winfrey Show Apple j&j just to name a few. So it’s so so great. We’re gonna get into some of her other books and her marketing Handbook, which is gold, everybody should definitely pick up a copy of this, for sure. So many more board positions have included things the United Nations Foundation’s global entrepreneurs Council, that is a mouthful. Wow. The Franklin Institute and young entrepreneurs Council, she has served as the Academic Director for Wharton’s leadership in the business world program at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the 2017 class of crown fellows, Henry crown fellow sorry, with the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute and a total badass. I mean, this could go on and on. So let’s dive right in. Welcome, welcome. Where are you coming from today, Tina,
Tina Wells 02:08
thank you. I’m coming to you from Brazil. I know. Not at all the place I ever thought I would say I’m coming to anyone from so I’m just as shocked these days.
Kara Goldin 02:20
So had you been there before?
Tina Wells 02:22
Only once, before I was here for a Dell women’s conference, maybe five years ago, I was in Rio. And so as many of us had to make really quick decisions and 2020. And this is a quick decision. And I’m really grateful it’s worked out. But it was definitely not at all on my vision board my life plan my anything plan. So
Kara Goldin 02:46
I love it. I was supposed to be at that conference five years ago, I wanted to go to Rio, I’ve never been there. And I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil. And I mentioned to you I’m taking this course right now that the professor was actually mentioning how Brazil, obviously a huge country and doing amazing, great things. But on he’s got it on his radar of countries that are really not as not sort of on the radar as much as they should be in terms of paying attention to what they’re doing. So it made me even more interested in kind of going back there and visiting. So really excited to hear more about that as well. So you started buzz marketing group at age 16. Let’s just jump in what I mean, what in the world were you doing at 16? Were you so you’re in high school? Yeah.
Tina Wells 03:39
And let me just be very honest, at 16 really 15 my dream in life was to be a fashion. You know, I’m a child of the 80s, a teenager of the 90s. So I was watching Saved by the Bell. I wanted to be Lisa turtle. That was my dream that I had, I didn’t even know what marketing was. So I got a job based on an ad I saw in 17. Magazine as a product review editor for this newspaper called the new girl times. And that’s how I got really into market research. Because I would review products, I would send my reviews. And the companies would always say if I send you more stuff, will you keep telling me what you think. And that became me giving surveys to friends. And I didn’t really understand what I was doing. It was just a hobby to get through stuff. And that’s a real business. And you know, my freshman year of college, I had had a quote-unquote client tell me that she needed someone $25,000 for market research and what my friends and I had done, it was 10 times better. And then I have a business and I needed to figure it out. And I literally went into one of my professor’s offices during office hours and said, I’ve been doing this thing. What should we do? And she kind of stared at me for a while and then she just said, Okay, why don’t you take an independent study with me and let’s make it a business, and then It became a business. But I mean, for a couple of years, I was just having fun. I didn’t really I wasn’t, you know, I have a plan. I’m going to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know what any of that meant. I knew I wanted to be Lisa turtle when I grew up. That’s all I knew, like at that time.
I love it.
Kara Goldin 05:13
Did you see an ad? Or did you know somebody?
Tina Wells 05:17
No. So what happened was 17 had put an ad like the new girl times placed an ad in 17 magazines like back in the day when they used to have this classifieds, and 17. And so it’s very embarrassing, but I did not even have a computer. At this time, my parents had just gotten me a brother word processor. And so I typed up a column. My mom texted from work for me. And then we got like, the call and the home line, the message back in the day when that used to happen. And I called and got the job. And so it was I really just thought I want to be a writer, you know, and I actually My degree is in journalism. And so I ended up going to a post-baccalaureate program at Wharton, which is how I ended up getting hired at Wharton, my professor ended up hiring me to run leadership in the business world. But I went to Penn because I was like, I don’t really know how to run a business like I know how to write and communicate, but I need to learn some business skills. And so I was very fortunate to go through that program at Penn when they still had it and then end up, you know, for many years kind of teaching there, which was its own amazing adventure to, you know, over my summers get to go there every day and have just such brilliant students was really amazing.
Kara Goldin 06:31
That’s awesome. So you turned your creativity into a business. And so you’re in college at that time, and you started your own little marketing company? Was that actually buzz marketing?
Tina Wells 06:45
As a teenager, I called it the buzz. And then when I turned 20, I named it buzzword paper. But yes, I just always knew buzz was what I just I don’t know, for some reason that word really resonated. And I think when we start to talk about how I come up with books and book concepts like that naming process is just something that is super important to me, and it always has been, it’s probably just one of those like innate skills I have. And I just knew at first it was like, the buzz about information. And then a trademark was fodder. And it’s our version of a trend spotter. And so I just knew that originally, we were a research firm. And then we really grew with our client needs and grew into an influencer agency. And with every step, it was like, I don’t know what this is, but my clients are asking me for it. And they say, I can do it. So I guess I can, you know, it was never me saying, we’re gonna focus on influencers, clients coming in saying, you do this really well. And I need you to do this for me. And so I really grew up with my business, I always say, you know, because I really was the place that I grew up
Kara Goldin 07:54
more than anything that’s amazing. And really solving problems, right? I mean, it sounds like you were sort of tackling these issues that people would come to you with, and you had ideas about how to really solve those problems, which is really, I mean, that’s marketing. Right? That is ultimately, what I share with people all the time that I think that the biggest lessons that I’ve learned about marketing are that in order to actually get people to engage, you have to be solving problems, right, you have to identify the problems and sometimes they don’t even know what the problem is, but then come up with the solutions, which I think you clearly did. So you’re working while you’re in college. And you’re I mean, social media wasn’t even what it is today. Right? And there were multiple platforms of social media. And this is mind-blowing, the more that I think about it because it wasn’t, you know, this is pre-Twitter, right? I mean, this is, you know, the no Instagram. I mean, it was just, I mean, this is amazing on so many fronts, how did you end up Who was your first client? Well, okay, so first, I
Tina Wells 09:02
have to tell you a funny story. I remember, back in 2000 I so I’m about to turn 41. So this is definitely clearly going to show my age kozma girl wrote two sentences about what I was doing. And I got 9000 applications from all over the world from people who wanted to be both spotters. This was back when and show cat was one of the founding editors there and, and Michelle Lee, who’s now the law, those are the women who kind of birthed my influencer network, and I’m loving because I remember a moment where their phones were ringing off the hook. They’re like, you need to answer these people. They’re now stocking our magazine. Like, we don’t know what to do. And I remember thinking, there’s okay there. You know, girls who want to work with me in Texas, how would I communicate with someone in Texas but again, this is like your 2000 thinking, you know, and so I’m like, okay, so on our website, do we have to have a function where like it just the idea of what I built so long ago and how long it took to build Build it today, you can build that business is probably a few days, you know, it just technology didn’t exist. And I’m also laughing because I’m thinking of my girlfriends, I went to a women’s college hood college when it was a women’s college. And I just think back to our Friday nights, like getting on MySpace, and connecting with the guys that we met at a club like a week ago. And so you’re right, like, the technology that exists now, just didn’t exist. But
Kara Goldin 10:28
and this is dial-up to right. I mean, at times, like you probably fight I tell my kids about this. Now I said, you know that the number of fights that we would have with roommates or with, you know, brothers and sisters about Don’t be on the phone, because I am actually on, you know, at that time, AOL chat, and
Tina Wells 10:52
it’s not like sexy startups, right. I mean, I also am the oldest of six children. And so my parents were very smart to get us our own phone line. But I would monopolize it with my dial-up internet and my business and it was like hating me, but then I would always give them stuff. So they were like, Alright, you know, we’re gonna like roll with this. And then that was my college roommate. We’re still such dear friends. But yeah, like, at one point, our dorm room was like a shipping center for clients I was working with. And to answer your first question, my first check ever came from Neil Cole. And so Neil Cole is famously the genius behind Bongo and candies. And I was doing a fashion show and he sponsored it. And they like wrote me a check on the spot. And I couldn’t believe that people were going to give me money to do something I loved to do. You know, and, and 20 plus years later, I still don’t believe that people give me money to do things that I love to do. You know, and I think that is entrepreneurship when you’re really kind of on mission and on brand and living your dream. That’s the awesome part of what we get to do you know, is that we every day, we’re waking up and doing things that we love to do. Well, you
Kara Goldin 12:01
can’t see Tina’s face. But she’s smiling right now, which I always say is the sign of a great entrepreneur, the ones that are, you know, sharing their story and smiling about it, because they think, exactly as I see you doing about, you know, the stuff that you just can’t make up, right. That happened and it seemed hard at the time. I’m sure there were different points along the way. But so you’re the founder of relevant media, and content ventures serving entrepreneurs and tweens and culturist influencers, etc. How can people remain authentic? threw out their careers Do you believe? Well,
Tina Wells 12:48
first, I cheated a little bit, right? Like when you talked about not having social, for me, like my profile was really built through traditional print magazines, you know, and so, I was really able to hold on to so much of myself, because I show up, I’d have the photo, I do the interview, and then I’d have my life back, you know, and I’m getting to go do the work that I love to do. And, you know, when I look at the pressure that social puts on people, you know, even for me, it’s like, Alright, I have a content plan. And all these things I couldn’t imagine growing into myself as an entrepreneur and also having to do that. So publicly at the same time, you know, because there’s, there’s a maturing process, and you’re learning and you’re growing. And all that growth is not the best thing ever, that you want everybody to see, you know, those tough lessons. And so, I was fortunate that I could always remain myself and be my true self because I had so much time to cultivate that before I had to kind of be a very public person that I am an extreme introvert, you know, and it’s no wonder I write fiction for middle-grade girls because I live in my head so often. And so that public part of what I have to do is still really, it’s not scary for me, but it definitely takes me out of my element a lot more than most people would probably think.
Kara Goldin 14:09
What do you think is the biggest change since you? I mean, obviously, you started in print, and where do you see social media today? I mean, obviously multimedia content, etc. But where, what is kind of the secret sauce there? Do you believe it?
Tina Wells 14:24
I think what I really love now, I think we went through a period where social was if I can be honest, becoming almost dangerous, you know, mental health. I think now we’re living in a time where people are really taking these tools, and they’re building these massive businesses that are changing people’s lives, you know, and what was so hard for me to do back in 1996. You know, to see the tools and how we’re democratizing entrepreneurship is awesome. I think we talk so often about women of color, not raising venture capital at the same rate, as you know others but what we don’t talk about Women of Color are starting businesses, you know, at the same rate, as you know, like women. And that is because these tools that exist are really democratizing that process. And so I understand when we have the venture conversation, but we also need to celebrate all of these amazing businesses that people are able to create because they’re able to take their phone and turn that phone into their business and into a money-making opportunity, and connect with customers really quickly, and use these tools to do that.
Kara Goldin 15:30
That’s really interesting that you say that because I totally agree. I think sometimes when we talk about how many blocks are in front of us that we can’t do, you know, we realize, I mean, I know many people who have built businesses that are 1,000,200 $2 million businesses, and they didn’t raise any money. And they’re quite happy. Right? And I mean, that’s a lot of money, right? And so they just don’t, and they don’t have a lot of people on the payroll. So this idea that sometimes if you sit there and put in front of yourself, oh, you’re never going to be able to go raise money. And this isn’t your company isn’t going to be a unicorn, do you care? Right? I mean, you know, there’s a lot of people who have a lot of headaches from raising money and having these giant companies too. So I think it’s, it’s something that a lot of people need to think about. So I’m really happy that you said that. What do you think are the key? I mean, obviously, you’re focused on the tween audience. But I think you’re so much more than that, though, you really understand in order to understand one audience, then you need to understand them all. So let’s go into actually your, your book McKinsey blue for those of I think that’s a good starting point, right to the next one that you most recently launched. But people from the audience who don’t know about Mackenzie blue, what made you write that? And tell us a little bit about it?
Tina Wells 16:54
Yes. So I kind of got started on my twin fiction journey when I was 26 years old. And around that time, I was tapped by a top publisher to do some marketing for a new way or young adult fiction book that was coming out. And during that process, they kept asking me, don’t you want to write something? Don’t you want to write something and I’m like, I don’t have time to write, I’m in the middle of, you know, my agency career, I really don’t have time. And I was doing some focus groups for a top consumer packaged goods company, and we were studying this new consumer called a tween. And during that focus group, a mom came up to me and she said, You seem to know about these things. You know, my daughter is 10. And she’s reading Gossip Girl, what should I do about it? And I thought about that, and I’m like, you know, how would I kind of market a good girl to girls? Like, is there a way I could do that? And then I started writing McKenzie. And then I really started talking to girls in our network, talking to their moms and saying, Can I, you know, send this survey to your daughter? And can we talk about issues and I really kind of package this idea, you know, and I am very honest and saying I’m not well, I have a degree in journalism, and I write I do not consider myself a traditional typical writer of fiction, you know, I, some might call me a packager, but I am very clear, and I look at it, the way I look at any other product, I’m launching product-market fit is really important? And so, you know, I use those skills as a marketer to really think about what’s motivating my customer, what is she feeling? Or what’s the feeling, what life stage are they in? And then what are the marketing things I need to add to make it exciting. And so when I started, Mackenzie, she was a typical 12-year-old girl living in Southern California, you know, very deliberately gave her red hair and blue eyes because I wanted her to feel kind of very unique, and the Southern California setting, and she was kind of like Punky Brewster style and doing her own thing, and went to a certified lead school. And you know, sustainability was incredibly important in my first series still is in my writing. And I really just created this girl, who was not perfect, because I think that the idea that at 12 girls feel the need to be perfect is so crazy because that’s one of the benefits I had growing up in the 90s. Right there. I wasn’t trying to take a photo for social media. I mean, I remember the time when I and my friends had to go to CVS or to a pharmacy to print-out photos. And so we couldn’t even instantly see what we looked like we lived so in the moment. And so I just wanted to create this kind of every girl that girls could relate to, and show her life. And that’s it. You know, I
Kara Goldin 19:41
think we were incredibly successful in doing that. That’s amazing. And so and then you went on to write the Z files, your most recent book, so exciting. So talk to me a little bit about that.
Tina Wells 19:54
Yes. So I’m really, really fortunate to be in partnership with target And exclusively in West Martin press for this and it’s a spin-off of McKenzie plates. So in Mackenzie blue, she was 12 years old in the Z files. She’s 13, her family’s now moved to London, and she is actually going to a boarding school in the Cotswolds. And so it’s super fun to introduce new characters, and then to kind of move her and transition her into this new life experience. And, you know, we deal with issues in the series that we didn’t deal with in, in Mackenzie blue, but now we’re one of her best friend’s parents is getting divorced, she starts to develop some issues around learning and attention issues, and then also some issues with anxiety. And so, you know, I think here, we’re really focused on how do we make it as real as possible. And I think that when I say we, you know, it’s my writing partner, like illustrator, you know, the public, there’s a team that really comes together to say, how do we create the very best experience for our reader. And so it was many months of being in that headspace of were girls that today, what’s mattering to them, you know, when you look at the life stage 13, from my perspective, there’s now this need for independence, right, and to grow into their own person. So the idea of boarding school is very specific because we wanted, I wanted to lean into that idea of like, she has pseudo independence, you know, and there was nothing for me at that, at that age. When I was 13. I was dying to go to boarding school, right, like my parents were ruining my life. So any idea that I could escape them for a little bit like the board? I remember watching 15. I don’t know if you guys know the show on Nickelodeon with Ryan Reynolds. Like That was my dream to go to that boarding school. So yeah, that was really the inspiration for it.
Kara Goldin 21:45
Did you ever live in London?
Tina Wells 21:47
No, but I will tell you, when I started writing the Z files, I was actually writing it as a TV show. And I was in London, and I was spending the weekend at Soho Farmhouse in the Cotswolds. And so when I was there, and on my bike, I was like, Yes, this is the setting for this fictional school, I think it’ll be perfect.
Kara Goldin 22:07
I’ve always wanted to go there that’s on my bucket list. It’s It looks so amazing. So one day, that’s so great. So I have four Gen Z years living in my house. And I feel like I’m living it as maybe as much as you have in this process of writing these books, too. Because I think that there are so many questions I have, in fact, many questions I have is actually, you know, how millennials, I think that millennials today are, you know, very different from Gen Xers, which is where I came from, and exactly how happy Millennials are right, with the current sort of status of, you know, the, there’s a great book, if you haven’t read it, I look called can’t even have you read this book? No, it’s, it’s a great book that I actually interviewed her for my podcast recently. And it’s about millennials and feeling a little jaded by what they felt was going to be happening, and that you could do it all. And you, you know, went to the big city, and you went to the right schools, and, you know, even if you took on debt, that’s cool, you know, like, all of this, and then all of a sudden, they’re, you know, take the kind of part of the gig economy, and in many cases, because they took equity instead, and they didn’t really understand what that meant. And so, you know, as a Gen Xer I actually feel this responsibility to, as long as I’m working to try and fix some of these things, but I also feel like there’s the stuff that needs to get worked out in order for many of those people that are interested in your books, right. Also, Gen Z is the four that I have in my house because I think there are things that need to get worked out and it’s so I love that you’re focused on this. And you know, looking at this overall because I really do think it’s it’s a challenge that we all need to look a little bit closer at. So in terms of life experiences, what do you think are the key things that you’ve seen that have really helped you as a writer?
Tina Wells 24:23
Oh, gosh, um, so I, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get on a plane for the first time until I was 19. And, like, my first flight ever was to Houston and my second flight was into Pacific alpha in Honduras, where I lived for a few months and amazing. It was an unbelievable experience to have at 19 and really profoundly changed my life. And as you mentioned earlier in my work as a member of the global entrepreneur’s Council, with the UN Foundation, I got to travel to Uganda. I got to spend a few days in a refugee camp. Actually permanent refugee settlement, I went to an island, a remote island, and I did some consulting with female business owners. And I, it was probably one of the most humbling experiences of my life, because I really felt like what in the world do I have to say, to these amazing women who are running businesses on a remote island, you know, without electricity. And so, I think my writing, like travel, is such a big inspiration, I talked about being inspired to write the Z files on my, you know, trip to London, I fondly remember that trip. And so, you know, the last year has been really tough, you know, not being able to just kind of like, go and explore and, you know, learn or integrate into a new culture. And so, you know, that exploration is so important for me, as a writer, as I develop characters is I think about, you know, taking my reader on an adventure, you know, I was a girl who read a book every single day in the summer, and reading was how I really started to understand I could have a different type of career, you know, I grew up in suburban New Jersey, with five siblings, and we had a really awesome life. But in my mind, it’s like, Okay, I guess I’ll go to law school and be a lawyer, I didn’t have any idea that I could have this creative career be an entrepreneur. And so, you know, it was booked. For me, that really opened up my world. And so I think a lot about that, when I’m writing about the world who’s going to read this book, and will it open up her mind to a new experience that she might have, you know, later in her life?
Kara Goldin 26:31
I love that a lot of what you’re talking about, you had ideas about maybe what you wanted to do, but you also went back to what you enjoy doing, which I always, you know, share with, when I’m speaking on college campuses and high school audiences, I always share that the most important thing is figuring out what you want to do and get up every day and go do those things. And sometimes that’s really hard because I think we hear a lot of noise around us, sometimes even from parents saying, what do you want to be when you grow up? Right or, and I think that it’s something that you’re, you’re just so inspiring, sort of sharing that you ultimately just went into what you want to do. Right, and maybe you made some kind of missteps along the way, and then you came back what, like, what’s one misstep that you made? You seem perfect? You
Kara Goldin 27:27
I mean, you went to all these countries, do you really think you win? I mean, all these like you write best-selling books? I mean, what can’t you do, but there has to be like, one little nugget in there that you were just not that happy about at the time.
Tina Wells 27:42
Yeah, I was talking to her friend the other day, and I was like, laughing and I was like, Boy, was I a little dictator of a boss in my 20s. Right. Like laughing again. I’m like, you know, I really did grow up with my company. And so I was managing things I never experienced before in my life, like, I’ll tell you this funny story. I once had someone who was working for me and their grandfather passed away, and then their grandfather passed away get and then we decided, like, we discovered rather, this person was just like blatantly telling many lies. And I didn’t really understand like, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with people not being truthful at work? How do you deal with, workplace issues? So such an entrepreneur that I just wanted to do my own thing and work and be in my bubble, and again, introverted, I didn’t really sign up to like, be the boss. And I never got a lot of fulfillment from you know, tons of people reporting to me, like, that just wasn’t my thing. And now, I look at my team, and I so enjoy every single person that I work with. And they, you know, their performance is unbelievable, but I what I realized just recently was, how important it is to make sure that the people that are working with you are enrolled that they love, you know, and I think so often in marketing, you find people who are willing to be an assistant, so that they can then move on, right, not that their love or passion is, you know, in this area, and now again, it goes back to you know, building teams online, I get to work with people who absolutely love what they’re doing, and it just makes what they’re creating 10 times better, you know, and so whether it’s an illustrator, or whether it’s, you know, the editor, the copy editor, everybody approaches their work with such joy. And I didn’t really have that for a big part of my marketing career. And it was the toughest thing to manage, you know, and I think, you know, next book might be a guide for recovering marketing executives or something because there’s a lot in our industry that, you know, we need to get right there. There’s a lot no work-life harmony, you know, it’s just working 20 hours a day for clients just isn’t the way to survive. And so, you know, what we were tasked to do as an agency for Clients kind of created stress for people that they didn’t deserve. And people not being in positions they love, you know, creating stress. And so there’s just I realized now that there’s so much stress in that business that just didn’t need to be there. And when I decided to close my agency, people were super shocked. But I was there a point where it was like, Well, I don’t want to sell it, because I don’t want to go do this for five more years of my life, I just don’t have that anymore. I don’t want to grow this to a 400 person agency, I don’t want you to know, 355 more problems like I don’t I there was just there was nothing more. And so I think that that was my biggest difficulty, really. And it was so private, and few people knew, it’s just how introverted I was how much I wanted to be dedicated to doing a certain thing, and how you really don’t get to do that when you’re running an agency. You know, your job, as a CEO is not to be the chief creative officer, that wasn’t the job that I had the job I would have loved to have. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t, you know, boys, meeting with lawyers and reviewing HR policies and doing all the things that I didn’t love to do. And so, you know, that was really, really tough. For me, it was tough, because every experience was so brutal because I just had a way that I thought things should happen as a person who never spent a day working for another person. So you have to understand, like, I literally know, I had a telemarketing job at 16. But besides that, I didn’t know what a company culture should be. Because I hadn’t been in one, which also was really great, because I would elevate young people. And, you know, diversity, inclusion, and belonging were always the philosophy of my firm. So there were a lot of great things. But on the downside, it was I just didn’t know how to manage situations that came up. Because I in my mind was in this utopia. And that was just not the real world, you know?
Kara Goldin 31:50
Yeah. And I think it’s also probably you had a lot of young people where this was their first job, too. So they didn’t know either. I mean, that’s right. I mean, it’s, it’s, but you learned a lot about the culture, I learned through my journey as well, I’ve learned a ton about culture. And some were not my favorite. But I actually, you know, really am grateful, because I learned about what I didn’t want to have when I ultimately went and started my own company. So I, I hear a lot of similarities in that. But I think there’s something else that you touched on, too, that is really fascinating, that I think a lot of people don’t think about which I didn’t think about it, until a couple of years ago when I had been in America Online prior to launching my company hint and was there for seven years and ran eCommerce and shopping, there are a couple 100 people working under me. And because I was really good initially, at working with all of these eCommerce partners and figuring out ways to actually launch them. This was even during the dial-up days, and that whole time, I became a manager. And then I, I was a vice president. And all of a sudden, I’m signing off and meeting with legal teams, I’m just signing check checkbox, and I was so bored, I couldn’t even stand it. I was like, and then when you get bored, what happens is you start to get grumpy, and you get angry. And, and so I had gotten to a point in my career where I was able to easily leave it was a billion dollars in revenue to AOL, I had three young kids under the age of four living in my house in San Francisco that I somehow conceived, but I never saw. And I thought, I’m going home to San Francisco, I’m going to go find a job in Silicon Valley and go do something there. But the real nugget that I hadn’t kind of appreciated until I actually got off the train and saw this idea that I had that was solving a problem that I had around health was water and beverage, and I knew nothing about it. And I would sit there and hang out and the whole food store that had just opened in San Francisco, and I’d say so how do I get a product on the shelf? How do I get distribution? And they’d say, Did you you know, have you like you got to go and work for Coca Cola for a few years. And I’m like, why do you have to do that? I mean, can’t How hard is it? You know, I was just asking questions along the way. And, and anyway. But the net of it is, is that by not actually having the experience, which is kind of where you were when you were 16 you didn’t know what you were doing. You didn’t know what was wrong. You didn’t know what the rules were, but you were learning. And so I think the biggest problem we have for so many people, and it’s kind of what you talked about even being the head of your firm, you’re just you’re not able to kind of be learning you’re teaching, right you’re managing and it’s really frustrating. And I think so many people think oh, I’ll go join some boards. I’ll go that’ll solve everything right. I’m like people who want to hire you for boards want to do it because you’re good at this, you’re just going to be teaching more, you know? And
Tina Wells 35:07
right, because yes, I went on a board, and boy did I have to teach a lot. So,
Kara Goldin 35:12
right. And there’s nothing wrong with mentoring and managing and teaching. But if you’re doing it every single day when, you know, you miss the creating and the learning, and the learning doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school, either. Learning just means going and putting yourself into uncomfortable positions moving to Brazil, right, and learning around you. So anyway, it’s a beautiful thing. Chasing youth culture, and getting it right is also one of your great, great marketing handbooks. And we didn’t get a chance to really talk about that, but I highly recommend it to people, what do you think is the biggest takeaway from that book for people?
Tina Wells 35:53
Um, I’ll tell you my biggest takeaway when I was writing it, I had this idea that teenagers were so addicted to technology. And what I actually discovered writing that book was that those of us who are not digitally native, is actually the tech addicts, but they actually it was just a tool in the toolbox, but their relationship to it what because for us, it was my, gosh, now I have email. And I liken it to, you know, a woman in yoga class, who still just typing the last message on her Blackberry, you know, and I think of my youngest brother, who’s nine years younger, he can text without even looking, but he knows how to be completely present with his friends. And then he knows when he needs to pick up tech. And I don’t know, I just had this idea that like, these teenagers don’t know. And I’m like, It’s nothing new for them. You know, it’s like, I had TV my whole life, right? So I know, when I’m watching my shows, and I’m not watching my shows, it was not this big invention of our time. And so I often think that younger generations, in general, get such a bad rap for things. And I think it’s a lot of projection that we are putting on to the different generations. Like, for example, I remember, my book was very focused on millennials. And I was meeting with a client once from a Fortune 500 company, and she said, Oh, these Millennials are so entitled. And I said, Do you have children? Yes, she happened to have a millennial. I said, so your child is somebody else’s entitled employee, think about that, you know, where are they learning this that they’re entitled, who’s taught them to be entitled, and, you know, I, I would say my research on millennials, what I found was a new hinted at this earlier, wow, this generation, they were promised some stuff they didn’t get right, they were still like a very bad bag of goods, and then had to fix it instantly. And because of that, because of their anti-establishment thoughts, we got Uber. And we got Airbnb, like, all of these breakthrough companies that came because they had to fix it themselves. And they had to fix it really fast, you know, and we saw the gig economy, but it was just the idea of how quick it all came to be. And now when you look at Gen Z, you know, Gen Z will be the most educated generation in history. Also, you know, only 6% of Gen Z is not born in the US. And so, you know, they, as a generation actually believe the government is important, you know, versus millennials who believe the government was something that they had to overcome. This generation believes no government actually has the responsibility to people, and we should go in and fix it, you know, and so they’re educated, they know how to fix it. And they’re also going to be, you know, the wealthiest generation because they were able to look at the financial crisis and these issues and say, This is not going to happen to me, I don’t need to buy a really big house, I don’t need to buy a really big car, I actually don’t need to buy a car, maybe I could just share a car, someone and so, you know, money is important to them, but so is their creative endeavors. And so it’s fascinating for me, you know, I still dabble in my, you know, like market research days of looking at generations and creating for them, but I, you know, when I started to learn more about Gen Z, I was like, okay, so they’re kind of like teenagers in the 90s, who I thought were pretty cool kids too. And so you know, very cool, but also with all these tech tools to support them, you know, as they move forward.
Kara Goldin 39:18
I think it’s so true if you ever want to come and hang out with my, my four because they’re there for their Gen Z ers, but they’re four different ones. And there are so many aspects, but I will say that the one consistent thread that I see in these kids and really four very, very different aspects are that they are incredibly hard workers. Yes. And there’s like, I mean when I hear that, you know, these kids are slackers. I’m like, looking around the room because they are really hard workers. And, and maybe at times too hard. They you know, have a lot of anxiety. Yeah, you know, I that would be my one wish that we can start to take some of that away and try and figure out what is important because there are, there are a lot of stresses around, I totally agree with you, I grew up with TV, I grew up with Donkey Kong, and there were out there and I was pretty damn good at Pac Man and all those things. But I mean, these kids trying to figure out what is important and what isn’t important. And there are points where, you know, I watched them just totally sign off on gaming, and some of it, and I’ve got one gamer, the other three couldn’t care less about it. And, and, you know, anyway, I just think it’s, it’s interesting, because it’s not, it’s not a cookie-cutter generation, either. They’re just all very, very different. But I think there are great aspects about them that and like you said, they’ve seen the financial crisis and seen many of their parents, they’ve now seen a pandemic. And it’s a very interesting, very thoughtful, very educated group about what’s going on in the world and wanting to embrace and, and knowing that we can’t actually be a society if we don’t all try and figure out how to work with each other, I think is kind of a key thing that I see from them. So well, Tina, I absolutely love everything about you. And where can people find your books? You mentioned the target relationship. We love target, go pick up a bottle hint as well as, all of Tina’s great books. They’re super great. And where else can people find you? Tina wells.com.
Tina Wells 41:31
So every week I share a blog. I’m working on a course right now to help people start and launch businesses. And so yeah, Tina walls calm.
Kara Goldin 41:40
I love it. I love it. Well, great. Well, thanks, everybody for listening and give Tina five stars and definitely share this interview as well and let everybody know we’re here every Monday and Wednesday interviewing great people like Tina and other entrepreneurs and wonderful people, and have a wonderful week. Thanks, everyone.
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