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A One-of-a-Kind Company: How Kim Kaupe is Creating the Kind of Experiences Superfans Are Really After

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds, raised funding, and are now leading successful companies.


Kim Kaupe, co-founder and CEO of The Superfan Company, is creating powerful and exclusive moments that superfans simply can’t find anywhere else.

Kim’s fan engagement agency has helped over 100 of the world’s top entertainers and brands—everyone from Amazon to Dolly Parton—reach millions of their most loyal fans through everything from limited-edition album covers to collectables and exclusive corporate incentives. Focused on creating one-of-a-kind products and programs for entertainers, brands, and celebrities, The Superfan Company and its unique approach to bringing fans closer to their favorites was hailed as a Top 30 Startup to Watch by Entrepreneur and an “overnight success” by Inc. Magazine.

We asked Kim about all the lessons she’s learned along her impressive journey as an “accidental entrepreneur,” how she grew her company into the success it is today, and the advice she has for other founders starting their own path.

 

Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting your company? 

A: I wish I had known to prep my friends and family. I chose entrepreneurship but they did not. However, they had to deal with the consequences of it—missed birthday parties, unreliable communication, moodiness, the entire spectrum of a roller coaster ride that they didn’t sign up for. I wish I had taken the time to sit them all down and let them know what crazy journey we were about to embark on together. 

 

Q: What was one unexpected hurdle or challenge you faced when getting started? 

A: At the time, entrepreneurship wasn’t nearly as cool and sexy as it is now. There weren’t a lot of people talking about it, and the people who were looked like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. Young, white, tech-focused, and a touch nerdy. I’m so happy to see women like Sara Blakely out there leading the charge for women who want to grow up and be a self-made billionaire someday! 

 

Q: What has worked for you in terms of customer acquisition? What hasn’t worked? 

A: Our best B2B customer acquisition strategy has been word of mouth. It has been to super-serve each client and at the end of the project say, “I’m so happy you had a great experience. Are there two or three friends that you think would also benefit from working with us?” It sounds simple, almost too simple to work, but it does and it has. Asking is a powerful tool!

 

Q: How have you been able to differentiate yourself in terms of product offerings, marketing, positioning, or leadership? 

A: We have always positioned ourselves as the scrappy team who is going to be frugal with your money. Most people view marketing dollars as being wasteful or costly. Our goal is that each client has full trust that we are going to spend this money like it’s ours. We are going to look for the best deals, the best options, and what’s best for them even if it ultimately isn’t the best for us. 

 

Q: How important have you found branding to be for the success of your company? What are the most important branding lessons you’ve learned along the way? 

A: The most important branding lesson I learned the hard way is to put your team first. Now when people meet me, I immediately introduce them to my team so they can get familiar with all of us. When you become the gatekeeper or people become too familiar with you then they only want to talk with or work with you which can lead to a huge clog in communication. I’ve learned it’s best to put your team in front. 

 

Q: What’s been the #1 lesson you’ve learned about hiring since you started your company? 

A: I’ve learned to hire for drive and a willingness to learn over experience and education. If someone is curious, is an avid learner, and has the drive to work then you can teach them anything. If someone is unwilling to change or stuck in old patterns, it’s very hard to get them to think differently. 

 

Q: Which were the first few roles that you hired for upon starting your company? Why were these important to fill first? 

A: For me, the most important job to fill was a project manager. The faster you can free up your time to work on the business and not in the business is critical. Get someone else to cross the t’s and dot the i’s so you can begin dreaming about what the forward vision will look like. I have the best client managers which is perfect because they are so much better than I ever was!

 

Q: What do you find most challenging about hiring? 

A: There is no try before you buy. It’s sort of like buying a house. The house can look great on the outside, great on paper, and when you tour it it gives you all the happy feelings. But once you start living there you realize the faucet is leaky and the floors squeak and the AC doesn’t work. Sometimes it takes someone coming in and working at your company for a few weeks before you realize this might not be the best fit. 

 

Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company? 

A: I’ve learned to trust my gut more. In the early days I would let a lot of people talk me out of gut decisions—my co-founder would say she didn’t agree or an advisor would say to do it another way. When their decisions would lead us down a bad path I would scold myself for not speaking up in the first place. I didn’t trust my own gut, my voice, or my wisdom. Now as a leader I’m much more comfortable with confrontation and saying, “I don’t agree with that.” 

 

Q: What is one challenge you have faced as a female founder? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in a similar situation? 

A: My advice for female founders is to find a tribe. Find other female founders who you can talk to, vent with and lean on. Male founders are fantastic, and I have a lot of male friends, but they sometimes don’t face the same discrimination and material questioning that women do. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “What do I want as a woman?” and “What do I want as a CEO?” and those can be two very different answers. 

 

Q: Which books, podcasts, educational programs, or other resources have been most helpful to you since starting your company? 

A: I love the book Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck and recommend it to every budding entrepreneur. No one talks about how some ideas just have the right timing to get lucky and make it. It doesn’t mean that the ones that don’t were bad, it just was too early or too late or not the perfect conditions. A successful company is like a hurricane—everything has to be exactly right for it to turn into a powerful storm. 

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting out on the journey you’re on? 

A: Find as many resources as possible to learn from. Copy other people’s homework. That’s been my motto the last few years—gather around and come copy my paper! I put out a course with LinkedIn Learning all about entrepreneurship, I set up a free weekly live session and add a ton of resources to my website. I never want someone to make the same mistakes or hit rookie level roadblocks like I did! There’s no need—I’ve done the homework for you! 


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