Social Success: How Two Entreprenistas Built an Empire

pnc_insights_commitments_social-success-entrepenistas-empire

Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer started Socialfly as a side-hustle. After 10 months, they quit their jobs to pursue the business full time.

Like many successful founders, Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer launched their businesses – a social first digital and influencer agency Socialfly[1] and the Entreprenista podcast and The Entreprenista League, a membership and networking community — out of a combination of personal passion and market need.

Both became fascinated with social media when Facebook launched. “I remember thinking, ‘This is going to change everything I’m learning about,’” Cartin says, then a hospitality and business management undergrad. “I quickly became obsessed with the idea of social networking.”

Spritzer, meanwhile, who had begun working in financial services after graduating with a degree in economics and business, noted her new employer’s initiatives to grow a social presence. “That’s when I knew I really wanted to get into the space,” she says.

Realizing that businesses needed social media strategies to stay connected to their customers and reach new ones, Cartin and Spritzer began working on the side to help businesses do just that. And after 10 months of running the side hustle that is now Socialfly, they quit their jobs to pursue the business full time.

To scale the business in their first year, they quickly hired six interns and bartered with a printing company for affordable office space, and, as suggested by the print shop’s owner, joined a networking group. The networking group proved pivotal and prescient: it helped the owners develop relationships that connected them to business opportunities – and it seeded the idea for what is now Entreprenista. Socialfly now employs over 30 people and has worked with 300 brands creating and managing social media campaigns since 2012.

Choosing to Empower Other Women

Socialfly’s growing success came with awards and recognition, which led other women to contact Cartin and Spritzer for business advice. “Every week, women asked us out to coffee to pick our brains,” Cartin says. “We both wanted to help absolutely everyone, but started to realize that if we went out to coffee with every person who reached out to us, we would never have time to run our own business.”

Spritzer and Cartin brainstormed how to help as many women as possible. Rather than repeatedly sharing their own story, they decided to create a space where women could share knowledge and build a community. Recalling the networks they had been part of and the advice they had received over the years, they realized the abundance of women who are building businesses with insights and advice to share. “That was our ‘Aha!’ moment,” Cartin says. “Let’s start a podcast so we can share these stories.”

In November 2018, they released the first episode of the Entreprenista[2] podcast, which took off quickly. Not only did Cartin and Spritzer know how to market the podcast – they run a marketing company, after all – but they were sharing inspirational stories every week that women wanted to hear, Cartin says.

When the pandemic hit, Entreprenista grew even more. “We were getting so many messages from women wanting to start a business,” Cartin says. “Some had lost jobs during the pandemic and were re-evaluating their priorities, especially given increased childcare responsibilities that, for many, necessitated a more flexible working environment. We realized we needed to go all-in and help these women.”

Because they’d already created the Entreprenista platform, adding new resources made sense. Cartin and Spritzer launched the Entreprenista League, an online community of trailblazing women. Members can take advantage of virtual event programming and coaching, get featured on the Entreprenista website, and connect and do business with each other. The Entreprenista League is the community that Cartin and Spritzer wish they had access to when they launched their first business and they wanted to create it to help as many women business owners have the tools, resources, and community that they needed.

Working to empower women is important to Cartin and Spritzer because, as women founders, they have experienced many of the same struggles others are facing, such as funding the business and fighting to be taken seriously.

“For us, it’s important to show that you can achieve your dreams, even if you don’t have millions of dollars in the bank,” Spritzer says. “There’s so much power in the stories that we’re sharing and the community we’re building. Socialfly has benefited from a community of like-minded founders, and now we’re bringing that to other women. And it’s so rewarding to be able to give back and do that.”

Facing the Challenges

Women founders often face similar challenges in starting and growing businesses, and Cartin and Spritzer are focused on finding solutions. Funding is one of the most common obstacles: In 2020, women received just 2.3 percent of venture capital (VC) investments,[3] according to a Harvard Business Review article. And loan approvals for women are 15 percent to 20 percent lower than men.[4]

The right relationships can be a solution to the funding challenge, according to Cartin and Spritzer, and women’s networking groups like the Entreprenista League can help facilitate those relationships. For example, an introduction made through the League resulted in a $1.5 million Series A investment in one member’s business. Not every business is looking for VC funding, but the right relationships can also help women founders find grants, business credit cards, partners, employees, and vendors.

In addition to securing funding, women founders often share the challenges of balancing motherhood and growing a business. “I have a toddler, and it’s not easy, but I draw inspiration from the women on our podcast who share their tips on how they’re able to manage it all,” Cartin says.

Another common theme for women founders is “impostor syndrome,” Cartin says. Many podcast guests and Entreprenista members say they’ve felt uncomfortable sharing their business idea or owning the fact that they’re a CEO, fearing that others will assume they aren’t capable or aren’t being honest about their roles.

For many women, learning that the challenges they face are not unique to them can be empowering, Spritzer says. Realizing that other women share the same struggles, and learning about what’s worked for them, can be freeing and restorative for women founders.

Sharing Advice

After building two businesses and spending three years interviewing other successful female founders for their podcast, Cartin and Spritzer have plenty of valuable advice for founders, including these three important bits of wisdom

  • Find a community. “Our community and our network have been vital in helping us to quickly solve problems throughout our time in business. And that’s one of the reasons why we started the Entreprenista League, Spritzer says. “All of these women get access to a community of other like-minded women, and everyone wants to help and support each other.”
  • Learn from challenges. When Cartin and Spritzer first launched Socialfly, it actually had a different name. After spending several months branding the business and getting it off the ground, they received a cease and desist letter explaining that their business name was owned by another company and they had no legal right to use it. “We had no idea what to do and what type of legal and financial trouble we could be in,” Cartin says.

After bartering for the services of a business attorney, Cartin and Spritzer ended up changing their business name to Socialfly. “The big lesson is that whenever you think everything is going wrong, you just have to problem solve and continue to move forward, and something really great can always come out of a tough situation,” Cartin says. “I would definitely say that the name Socialfly is much better than the name we first started with. There can always be a silver lining.”

  • Believe in yourself. “Through the dozens of the interviews we’ve done for the podcast, a common trait among the women founders is their self-confidence,” Cartin says. “They have grit and resilience, and they don’t take no for an answer or give up after a lot of ‘no’s.’If more women could develop that mindset, to believe in themselves and not feel the need to make things perfect before taking risks, we’d see a lot more equality and hopefully more funding going towards women.”

Similarly, many of the women interviewed on the Entreprenista podcast launched businesses in fields in which they had little or no experience. “They were just so passionate about whatever it was that they were trying to solve and that passion fueled them and pushed them forward,” Cartin says.

Cartin and Spritzer firmly believed in Socialfly when they started, and again in themselves when launching Entreprenista. “There are all kinds of tools and resources for women who take that first step and lead with a passion for their craft,” Spritzer says. “You just have to be resilient and okay with things not being perfect. As long as you can keep moving forward, you have every ability to build the business and life of your dreams.”

Share it!

Tags

Leave a Comment





Valeria Lasak’s Marketing Agency Focuses on Fashion, Beauty, and Personal Brands

Hi, Valeria! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hi, I’m Valeria. Cofounder of MKT Besties and Nomad, a marketing agency focused on fashion, beauty, and personal brands, I’m also a community leader with the New Miami Girls community and host the street podcast ‘Who Is She Miami.’ This project is especially…

Leigh Burgess on Her Passion for Consulting, Coaching, and Curated Events

Hi, Leigh! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Leigh is a CEO & Founder and driven entrepreneur who is passionate about helping organizations and individuals achieve their fullest potential faster. By continuously stepping out of her comfort zone and pushing boundaries, Leigh has not only grown her own company into a…

How to Avoid Legal Challenges with Lauren Bercuson from Storylock Legal

“In the beginning, if you don’t have a team or a system or community around you, it’s very easy to feel lost. There are these amazing communities out there for amazing female founders that will really help guide and support you. So, the greatest lesson I learned pretty quickly was that you’re never alone. Or,…

The Secrets to Building a Community Led Business with Ingrid Read

“You really have to understand that, in order for you to scale, you have to learn how to do certain things and master them before you move on. If you don’t do that, then your audience is going to feel just as lost as you feel.” In this episode of Entreprenista, we sat down with…

Krystal Childrey’s Journey to Founding a Boutique Ad Agency

Hi, Krystal! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Krystal Childrey is the founder of Soulwave Digital, a boutique advertising agency helping purpose-driven eCommerce brands scale profitably with Facebook and Instagram ads. Her agency takes a holistic approach to advertising and loves helping brands better understand their numbers, making sure that our…

Veteran Marketing Exec Mindy Anderson Brings Brands’ Stories to Life

Hi, Mindy! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Mindy Anderson is a veteran marketing executive, growth strategist, fractional chief marketing officer, and Founder of I Breathe Marketing. She has a proven record of building stronger brands, driving client engagement, and attracting more leads while maximizing return on marketing spend. Who are…

Tye Barrett Inspires People to Love Themselves Through Her Luxury Collection

Hi, Tye! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Amami was created by entrepreneur Tye Barrett, an African-American woman, who set out to inspire people to embrace their authentic selves and create a community rooted in selfacceptance. Like most powerful stories, hers starts with a personal journey of perseverance. As a single…

The Most Common Mistakes When Starting a Business—and How to Avoid Them

When you’re first starting a business, there’s so much you don’t know you don’t know—like how to price your offerings, market your business, or hire people to support you. Every entrepreneur learns along the way, so why not save yourself some time and money (and potentially even business heartbreak) by learning from the candid stories…

How Leyla Bilali is Building a Holistic Fertility Brand

“One big thing that sets us apart from other people in [the fertility] space is that we are a team of medical professionals and it’s all within our scope of practice to guide you through these things.” After a decade at one of New York City’s top fertility clinics, Leyla Bilali was approached by one…

How To Build a Sellable Business with Carrie Kerpen from The Whisper Group

In this episode of Entreprenista, we sat down with Carrie Kerpen, founder of The Whisper Group, an exit readiness practice for women-owned businesses. Carrie previously co-founded Likeable Media, one of the first social media agencies, which she successfully sold for eight figures in 2021. Carrie is an accomplished author and hosts “The Exit Whisperer” podcast,…

Multifaceted Entrepreneur Katie Villacres on Her Live Event Production Business

Hi, Katie! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hello, my name is Katie Villacres. I am a multifaceted entrepreneur with a diverse skill set and a passion for creative endeavors. Alongside being a dedicated mom who loves fitness, I have successfully owned multiple businesses. Currently, I am embracing my creative side…

Temprance Williams-Bell Offers Eco-Friendly, Ethical Skincare Products

Hi, Temprance! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hello, my name is Temprance and I am the founder of My Natural Butter. With a passion for natural skincare and wellness, I created this brand to offer eco-friendly, ethical products that cater to the needs of conscious consumers. Our mission is to…

Peighton Woodard Shares About Her Women’s Wellness and Lifestyle App

Hi, Peighton! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hi, I’m Peighton. I am the CEO and Founder of Luna Leaf and app designed to revolutionize women’s wellness by aligning lifestyle choices with the menstrual cycle. Who are your customers? Women between the ages of 26-45. What was your background prior to…

How Shannon Weinstein is Making Financial Literacy Relatable for Entrepreneurs

“A lot of people have the misconception that PR is only intended for large brands, and that is so not true. PR is really a formula, right? It is building brand awareness, gaining visibility to earn credibility, which equals profitability.” After a career spent working in Big Four accounting and corporate America, Shannon Weinstein was…

How Lauren Picasso Navigated Fundraising Challenges to Grow Cure Hydration

“It’s all about, you know, investors are going to be looking at your background and whether they believe in the idea. Sure, but are you going to be able to execute on this idea?” In this episode of Entreprenista, we sat down with Lauren Picasso, founder and CEO of Cure Hydration, a plant-based hydrating drink…