Startup Spotlight: Apiarity

Dec 11, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Apiarity

Dec 11, 2016

This week we spoke to Stephanie Leishman, founder of Apiarity a startup that helps organizations with digital marketing strategy. She tells us why she lives by a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

GH: What is Apiarity?

Apiarity helps organizations with digital marketing strategy. Services include strategy advising, one-on-one or group training, presentations, social media management, analytics, assessment, blogging, email marketing advising, and more. Apiarity is unique in its strategic approach, which goes beyond customers as demographics and buyer personas and focuses on how people are connected to and influencing each other. The methodology is based on years of research and experience.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did  Apiarity get started?

I was MIT’s first social media strategist, so I developed MIT’s social media strategy and advised over 100 departments on social media, email marketing, and interactive web. I gradually came to the realization that I enjoy helping organizations develop social media strategy. I started Apiarity to help a greater variety of clients.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Before a deliverable is sent to a client, I ask one question: “Is this strategic, organized, and creative?” First, strategy is more than tactics. There are too many clickbait blog posts out in cyberspace promising quick growth through stand-alone tactics. What organizations need is real strategy. Second, being organized means good project management and clear communication with the client, who deserves to feel peace of mind rather than chaos. Third, creativity. Don’t copy what everyone else is doing. Experimentation and creativity can result in cool outcomes as well as data that inform future decisions.


GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

Every startup experiences failure because experimentation and testing by definition involve failure, and experimentation is a critical part of creative innovation. I fail on a daily basis, and that’s a good thing, because it means I’m quickly learning how to succeed. Failure has been a great way to learn. I don’t feel the need to “bounce back” from that type of failure; instead, I use it to my advantage. For example, I underestimated the price I should set for a project, but that forced me to learn how to contract out work that was not core to my business and find the right tools to be more productive. My mistake pushed me into a more profitable way of working that positively affected my business.

The real focus of this question, however, seems to be coping with the feeling of failure. This is where I think some of the most interesting stories of entrepreneurship can be told. I have experienced self-doubt at times throughout my journey, and many other business owners have expressed the same struggle. What helps me accept my imperfections and mistakes is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”


GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

One of my first customers hadn’t used social media at all except for Facebook, which she used minimally to connect with friends and family. I was tempted to tell her to use a more traditional platform like Facebook Pages since she had some experience with Facebook on a personal level already. However, in my heart I knew Periscope would be the best for her brand at that time. I wanted to suggest what I really believed was the stronger strategy, so I advised her to set up Periscope account and taught her how to use it to build a loyal following. She followed my advice and her audience grew like wildfire. She gained thousands of followers within weeks. That’s when I learned that if I am sincere, expert at what I do, and open, my customers will be willing to trust me and take a leap into the unknown. Seeing her live video posts go viral convinced me that if I speak the truth, it can benefit my clients in significant ways.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Some of my most valuable resources are at Boston University. BU’s BUzz Lab provides meaningful mentorship. Professors extensive experience with startups have provided me with some actionable advice. I have also appreciated the assistance that the BU Law Clinic has provided. Networking in Boston has been helpful. Twitter provides great networks, even for local connections. There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Boston and connecting with them on Twitter has been meaningful.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

It’s difficult to think of what Boston is lacking because there are so many resources for those who are entrepreneurial-minded. Something some co-working spaces do well is match startups with each other based on the skills they have and the skills they need. It would be great to have more matching opportunities in the startup ecosystem here. It’s also difficult to find resources for services startups. When I attend startup events like pitch contests, most of the ideas are products or apps and platforms.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

One great piece of advice I received was from one of my mentors who encouraged me to write down the vision I had for myself: not just where I wanted to be or what I wanted to be doing, but who I wanted to be. Putting into words that vision for myself helped me see ways I could work toward developing attributes and virtues that matter to me.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

 Some organizations rely on Apiarity to manage their social media accounts. In 2016, several clients experienced huge gains in the metrics that mattered to their businesses. It feels great to see a client succeed and to be a part of that success.

GH: What does the future hold for Apiarity?

Some neat projects are in the works and will launch in 2017. If you want to keep up with how things are developing, follow Apiarity on Twitter and on the blog.
Learn More about Apiarity here
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