Starting a business can be challenging and isolating, but Kristin Luna, a renowned woman with extensive experience, has encouraged the author and other women to join her on her journey to success. Kristin has provided business advice and introductions to people they had been trying to meet for years. The author has worked as a writer since the late 1990s, working with Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and travel companies. After moving to California, she became interested in international travel and tourism, traveling to over 130 countries and all 50 states. She now focuses on her blog and developing content marketing strategies for various locations. In 2012, Scott and the author established Odinn Media, Inc., offering media strategy, consulting, photography, copywriting, video, and drone work. The company is a two-person company with diversely skilled subcontractors, allowing them to customize their services to meet individual customer demands.
Evidently, starting a business is challenging and can be isolating. We all follow people online who live in our city, work in our industry, and seem to have it all figured out. I followed several of these ladies when I initially started my company online, but I had no idea how to introduce myself in person or ask for help or guidance. I started These My Bitches to both A) highlight and B) make available the powerful women in and around Nashville.
This woman is one of those strong women. Kristin is renowned. She has more experience than you in anything you do. But Kristin doesn’t want to climb Success MountainTM by herself. She wants me and other ladies to come with her. I have received business advise from Kristin and introductions to people I had been trying to meet for years. The good news for Kristin is that the trip will have been worthwhile because when I reach the top of Success MtnTM, I’ll have plenty of jokes and refreshments with me. Kristin Luna is the whore of the day.
What do you do, and what is the name of your business? How did you become a travel blogger?
I dabble in everything, making myself the prototypical “age of the slashes” entrepreneur. I’ve worked as a writer since the late 1990s for newspapers, weekly magazines like Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly, and monthly publications. My final in-house position before turning freelance ten years ago was with Conde Nast. When I started working with DMOs (destination management organizations) and travel companies like Fairmont Hotels, Airbnb, and Contiki, the travel and lifestyle blog I started in 2007 called Camels & Chocolate became a crucial component of my company.
The next year, I moved to California, where I met my long-distance partner (who is now my husband), and left New York. Through my travels there, where I spent one week in Macau and Israel and the next in Rwanda and the Cook Islands, I became more interested in the promotion of international travel and tourism. To date, I have been to more than 130 countries and all 50 states. Despite the fact that I still work as a freelancer for various national magazines, my travels have caused me to focus mostly on my blog, where I now develop content marketing strategies for numerous domestic and foreign locations.
Scott and I established Odinn Media, Inc. in 2012 after returning to Tennessee. Through this business, we offer media strategy and consulting, photography, copywriting, video and drone work, among other things. Being a two-person company with diversely skilled subcontractors allows us to customize our services to meet the demands of each individual customer. We are lucky to still be able to travel extensively, but we also have a great home base (in our “downtime!” we are restoring a Queen Anne Victorian from the 1800s!) and a client list we like.
What was the best piece of advise you ever got?
Overdeliver while underdelivering. I’ve found it difficult to “under-promise” since I’m a Type A overachiever who wants to give every customer my all-out effort right immediately. Every marketing project is seen by us as more than just a fast shot in the arm, but rather as a result of long-tail journalism that may help our clients in the long run. In other words, if you hire us, you’re stuck with us; even once our job is finished, we’ll probably continue to be your biggest supporter and publicist for years or decades. For every campaign or engagement we say “yes” to, we’ve probably said “no” to the last five that don’t align with our brand and our passion; this is in large part because we are selective about the projects we take on and only take on those in which we can truly devote our hearts and souls.
What has been your most valuable lesson to date?
Have a documented contract at all times. A few years back, after spending 18 months working on the blasted thing, my business partner who had first conned me into accepting this task resigned five weeks prior to the event. She never filed the documentation we supplied her, so we were operating without a formal partnership agreement, and she left me with a sizable debt I was not aware she had racked up in the company’s name (*face palm*). I had a good chance of suing her and winning, but I decided to use the experience to learn a pricey lesson. You must have a formal contract in place before continuing, even when working with peers. For any project we take on today, the same rule applies: We won’t start working unless all parties have agreed on the project’s scope and deliverables and signed a legally binding contract.
What is your most notable professional achievement or a moment you are really proud of?
being able to forge my own path and lead a flexible, location-independent lifestyle that involves working alongside my partner (and somehow not murdering one another!). Although they assert that the media is “dying,” I don’t think this is the reality. Those of us who have survived (and prospered), in my opinion, are bright, flexible, and have mastered the art of changing and adapting with the times. Am I carrying out my plans for the future after graduating from college? In no way. Do I like it just as much as—or perhaps more so than—the “dream career” I set out to pursue? I have no doubts. Contrary to popular belief, I have never had as much work as I have right now because of my tenacity, hard effort, and strong business ethic.
Do you follow a morning or nighttime schedule?
My morning routine includes coffee, catch-up, and exercise before my email gets out of hand. To give our minds a rest from writing, editing, contracts, and administrative work, I try to arrange a couple nights a week when Scott and I switch off the computers at dinnertime and watch one or two episodes of Homeland, Narcos, Westworld, or whatever we’re jiving on that month. I used to spend a half-hour reading on my Kindle each night before going to bed, but I’ll be the first to confess that Instagram Stories has significantly reduced my reading time! As a result, I now refer to my “nighttime reading” as “nighttime swiping.”
What helps if you get stuck? Do you have a favorite saying or proverb?
Does alcohol fit the bill? A 5 p.m. custom exists (who am I kidding? Since we started working at 6 a.m. or earlier, it usually starts around 3 p.m. when we serve a beer or a cocktail as a treat for a hard day’s work. We then give each other congratulations before going back to our own workplaces (mine is on the first floor, his is on the second). Our unofficial company motto is “Beyoncé has as many hours in a day as we do, so let’s approach each day as if we were Beyoncé.”
What role does self-care play in your life?
Every other week, I get a massage and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it! I was a collegiate athlete in the past, and as a result, I have a variety of ongoing ailments and skeletal muscle problems that are made worse by spending 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in front of a computer. About four years ago, I started having deep tissue massages every 10 days or so, and it has drastically improved how I feel. In addition, it’s the one or two hours each week that I’m forced to unwind and unplug. I also do AcroYoga every Wednesday for fun and fitness — it’s a blackout time in my calendar and a must for me; if I’m in town, I’m at that Acro class! I also run and train with a personal trainer. But the most essential thing I do is practice AcroYoga!
Your thoughts on social media?
Social media, in my opinion, is both our generation’s greatest triumph and its worst failure. It’s amazing how many free marketing channels are accessible to both small and large enterprises. But for many people, it has also turned into a tangible source of dread. We’re always being told how we can improve, so we don’t feel like we’re smart enough, pretty enough, good enough, wearing the correct things, doing everything we can to promote our businesses, etc. It’s a vicious cycle, and I think we’ve reached a turning point where people are choosing to engage with one other outside rather than online to make up for the relationships they’ve lost online during the previous two decades, when the Internet has controlled our every move. I just published a piece on this subject on how Instagram has stifled authenticity, and while I still use the site today, I now use it more for fun than for business since I am aware of the murky undercurrent.
Do you think any ladies had a part in your success?
Without a doubt. My writing skills were first honed by Mrs. Carole Lynch in fifth grade, then by Mrs. Tommye Price in eighth grade, and ultimately by Dr. Dianne Sawyer in high school for AP English and newspaper staff. The latter two are already gone, but Dr. Sawyer and I stayed in touch often throughout her last year of teaching; she was not just a grammar police, but also my biggest supporter and best mentor. My mother, who showed me that women could do everything they set their minds to, graduated from Vanderbilt University at the age of 20, received her MBA there a year later, and went on to work for IBM worldwide in the early 1970s. She is also the origin of my passion!
What are your favorite podcast and snack, and why?
True-crime podcasts are my absolute favorite, thus Dirty John and Serial have gotten me through many long drives. Because John and Sherry are two of my idols and a husband-and-wife restoration team like Scott and myself, the entrepreneur and home renovator in me loves the Young House Love podcast.
During the aforementioned cocktail hour, we munch on homemade salsa verde and plantain chips as snacks, but my day isn’t complete without chocolate (does that qualify as a snack?). — Gourmet is best, but I don’t have a preference; right now, it’s all about York peppermint patties.
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