Brittany Hodak is the co-founder of ZinePak, a content company that creates collectible merchandise for entertainers and brands. She has been named to Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 list, Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list, and Billboard’s 30 Under 30 list. In 2013 she won the Stevie Award for Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year. ZinePak has been honored with an Empact100 Award at the United Nations two years in a row, and in 2014 was named Most Disruptive Company for its innovation in the music space. Brittany holds an M.S. in Marketing from CUNY Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business.
How did you get into the tech industry?
My co-founder and I launched ZinePak in 2011 to create a compelling physical alternative to digital music. ZinePak’s entry into the tech space came in late 2013 when we began developing an app, ZinePak All Access, to serve as the mobile counterpart to our physical products. Now, in addition to enhancing music releases with collectible magazines and one-of-a-kind merchandise, we offer our artists a mobile outlet to share exclusive videos, photos, and more with fans.
Tell us about ZinePak. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
ZinePak is an entertainment company that creates compelling collectibles for pop-culture superfans. I had the idea for ZinePak while I was in college. The initial idea for the company was to re-imagine what physical music could be to help create a product to combat digital downloading. Since then, we’ve worked with dozens of artists (ranging from KISS to Katy Perry) to help launch their new music, and we’ve sold millions of ZinePaks. Over the past four years we’ve evolved and diversified to help musicians and other entertainers reach their superfans in lots of fun ways, ranging from coffee-table books to fan-club magazines to VIP tickets to iBooks, and lots of configurations in between. My vision for ZinePak is to help superfans everywhere get closer to their pop-culture idols.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that have attributed to Zinepak's success?
An important partnership early on for ZinePak was our alliance with Walmart. They were our first distribution partner, which immediately gave us an enormous reach of almost 4,000 stores nationally. This was instrumental in launching our product and being able to market it nationwide.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Although music sales are declining, music consumption is not. As consumer habits continue to evolve and streaming becomes the norm, there is a fundamental shift happening for a lot of people around the idea of "owning" music. While many people will be content not to own the majority of the music they listen to, they will choose to own collections from the artists they care about most. These "superfans," which vary in demographic from artist to artist, will continue to seek out new and exciting physical configurations for the artists they love.
It's easier to get forgiveness than permission.
Superfans deserve super products!
Your greatest success as founder of Zinepak?
There are lots of moments I’m proud of in ZinePak’s history, but one of the highlights was surpassing the $1 million revenue mark in less than a year. Less than 2% of women-owned businesses ever cross the $1 million threshold, so to do so in our first year—and to be cash-flow-positive from day one—was a big accomplishment. Our fiscal diligence has made it possible for us to grow our company from 0 to 12 employees while maintaining 100% equity in the company.
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The most difficult moment for me personally was putting my heart and soul (and thousands of dollars) into a pitch to work with one of my favorite artists of all time. When things didn’t work out due to timing, I was crushed. I overcame the rejection by reminding myself that a “no” today isn’t a “no” forever, and that I’m closer than ever to working with the artist. My biggest lesson learned was that sometimes deals can fall apart despite the best intentions of everyone involved, and it’s more important to lay a foundation for the future than it is to dwell on events in the past.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Just go for it! Don't wait for the perfect time to get started, because the perfect time will never come. Just dive in as soon as you can and get started! Once your company is off the ground, keep the same hustle going.
Favorite travel destination?
Rome or Maui, depending on the season.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Such a great question!! Lasagna and Dr Pepper.
What literature is on your bed stand?
I usually have a mix of business books, current fiction, and books about one or more of my hobbies (mostly songwriting, at the moment). Right now I'm reading Songwriting Without Boundaries by Pat Pattison and Dave Crenshaw's The Focused Business. I just finished Me, Inc. by Gene Simmons and Off the Sidelines by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Role model - business and personal?
Personal role model: My father, Jody Jones, who was the greatest role model I could have ever asked for. Here is an article about some of the lessons he's taught me.
Business role model: Sara Blakely from SPANX. Beyond the obvious reasons to admire her, she once worked as a chipmunk at Disney World. I started my career as a bumble bee for a radio station in Arkansas (picture here), so I feel a certain kinship with Sara!
I've always been very passionate about writing, which is part of the reason founding ZinePak was such an alluring proposition a few years ago. Most ZinePak writing duties have long since been delegated to others, so now I satisfy the writing bug with songwriting, and by writing articles about entertainment and entrepreneurship.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
"5 Scientific Reasons You Should Choose Your Friends Carefully," via Forbes
What's next for ZinePak?
It's a really exciting time for ZinePak, because we're growing like crazy and expanding into a lot of new verticals. Our fan-first focus has led us to begin working on projects for sports and movie fans, in addition to even more innovative releases for music fans. We'll also adding lots of new features to our app, ZinePak All Access, plus launching a brand new website!
In 2013, Brittany was named to Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 list, won a Stevie Award for Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year, was named a Top 30 Startup to Watch by Entrepreneur, was named one of NYC's Top 25 Female CEOs by SmartCEO magazine, and dubbed an “overnight success” by Inc. magazine. ZinePak was profiled in Wall Street Journal's acclaimed Startup of the Year documentary series and received an Empact100 Award at the United Nations as one of the Top 100 Young Companies in America. In 2014, Brittany was named to Inc.’s 35 under 35 list.
Prior to co-founding ZinePak, Brittany was an Account Supervisor at entertainment agency Fathom Communications, where she executed award-winning programs for Johnson & Johnson, LG, and A&E Television Networks. She was named to Billboard’s 30 Under 30 list for her work pairing musicians with brands. Before Fathom, Brittany oversaw retail marketing at Walmart, Target, and other accounts as Director of Marketing for Sony’s RED division. She holds an M.S. in Marketing from CUNY Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business and a B.A. from the University of Central Arkansas Schedler Honors College.
Outside of ZinePak, Brittany is a prolific writer who has contributed to Forbes, Inc., The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Under30CEO.com, and Success.