Can you imagine a better job than running a business with your best friend? Jade Port & Shanna Lakin couldn’t, so they decided to make their dream a reality. The college pals tapped their natural knack for style and their social media savvy to start Shadow Social, a social media, fashion, and beauty consulting firm that reps a handful of the city’s hippest lifestyle brands. Sound like heaven? Here’s how they did it.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND SHADOW SOCIAL? TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO START IT?
Shanna: We’re a boutique social media, PR/marketing company with a minor in fashion & beauty consulting 🙂 We both had 9-5 desk jobs, and felt like there was something we were missing. After months of obsessing over ideas about how to start our own company, we came up with Shadow Social. Funny enough, we are now available to our clients 24 hours a day… but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
HOW DID YOU LADIES MEET?
Jade: We met in college. I went to the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Shanna went to Indiana University. We had a lot of mutual friends and instantly formed a bond when visiting each other’s respective colleges. When I moved to California after college, we kept in touch, and were so excited to be reunited in Chicago two years later when I moved back to Chicago for good.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS TOGETHER?
Jade: We always loved fashion and beauty. When we were “long distance best friends” we would send each other fashion, skin, beauty and hair pictures, tips and articles all day and night. We were lucky enough to find a job together after I moved here, doing modeling, styling, and buying for a high end store in the Gold Coast. We eventually had clients asking us for help on freelance gigs outside of the store, which gave us the courage to go off on our own.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A BUSINESS PARTNER?
Shanna: The most important thing to us is that we each excel in different aspects of our business. While we try to do EVERYTHING together, our personalities allowed us to quickly establish our roles as business partners. Jade is the more assertive one who handles any confrontation and uncomfortable, or simply out of the box, situations that arise. This can be anything from finances all the way to reaching out to celebrities to work with our clients. I take on a more creative role in the business, managing photography and design.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK WITH A FRIEND?
Jade: Well obviously it’s the best thing ever! We already talk 24/7 so why not monetize that? Just because we are best friends outside of Shadow Social, we are not afraid to speak our minds and stand our ground when we disagree (which rarely happens). From 9-5 we focus on work (okay.. with maybe a few side-tracked convos about our husbands or the latest skin treatment we’re doing) and after business hours are over, the flood gates open and any topic is fair game to discuss!
WHAT WAS THE TRANSITION INTO OWNING A BUSINESS LIKE? DID YOU IMMEDIATELY LEAVE BEHIND YOUR DAY JOBS?
Shanna: It was a scary start, knowing that we were on our own and needed to put ourselves out there like we never have done before. While we were working at the boutique together, we started putting together Chicago pop up events for Jade’s sister (Whitney Port) who owns the clothing line Whitney Eve. Putting together successful events gave us the confidence to lean on each other instead of a boss.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST CLIENT?
Jade: Around the holidays, a blow dry bar (Blowout Junkie) in River North reached out to us to host and put together a holiday event. The event was so successful that they asked to work with us in any capacity. Before we knew it, we were managing their Social Media, Marketing and PR.
SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGES CONSTANTLY. HOW DO YOU KEEP UP?
Jade: You will never not see us on our phones (our friends, families and husbands want to kill us). There are new trends always popping up within each social media platform (i.e. boomerang for Instagram). We are constantly learning and evolving with each platform.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL PLATFORM RIGHT NOW?
Shanna: Hands down…Instagram. Instagram is the one platform that gives our clients the furthest, most immediate and effective outreach possible. We’ve formed relationships via social media with celebrities and influential people. A simple “like” from one of them, combined with hashtags, can ultimately make a picture go viral.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST EFFECTIVE MARKETING TOOLS AS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?
Jade: We’ve worked very hard not only to brand our business, but to brand ourselves. We try to make appearances at important events, and form relationships with influential brands and companies that have helped further our business. Networking is our number one marketing tool. It only takes one event, one cocktail, or one interaction on social media or in real life to open doors.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AS ENTREPRENEURS?
Shanna: Success doesn’t happen overnight. In the beginning, there were 10 setbacks and disappointments for every one success and accomplishment. Start at the bottom and work your way up for a strong and long lasting foundation. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. We cannot stress it enough…the more people you work with and connections you make, the bigger your brand will get.
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Jade: Nerves and butterflies should fuel your fire. You never want to get too comfortable. In the beginning, we almost backed out of being on live panels and events because of nerves. At the end of the day, our butterflies only helped us to excel and bring us to the next level.