Entrepreneurial Lessons From Social Influencer Katlin Neese

  • Photos by:
    Katlin Neese
  • Published on:
    October 6, 2018
  • Reading time by:
    5 minutes

Katlin Neese

This Entrepreneur’s new goal: helping other women rise to the top through a local non-profit

As a military wife, I’ve bounced around the globe and back. I’ve always taken odd jobs and built an eclectic resume along the way.  I don’t sit still very well. I have a million ideas and I might explode if I don’t make at least some of them happen.

I started out going to school for art. I’m an artist by trade and that bleeds into every aspect of my life. I think all entrepreneurs are artists in their own light. Whether it be building a food truck, creating recipes, or product placement in a store.

Act one: Entrepreneur:

I put my creativity to good use while finishing my degree.  I designed a product, a hands-free dog walking belt. I wanted to build something from the ground up and really dig into what it takes to get a product out to the public.

Curiosity is the driving force in my ventures.

I went from a vague idea to multiple prototypes, to hunting down a manufacturer and building the brand. It may sound simple but I assure you, there were botched prototypes and many days of pure frustration. I was turned down by over 10 manufacturers and learned the hard way to ask the right questions and protect your ideas.

It takes grit to start a business. It takes 100 no’s and keeping your eyes on your “why”. My “why” was challenge-i wanted to make something and back myself into a corner with no option other than to succeed.

So there I was, designing a product and finishing my degree.

Did I mention I had a 2 and 1-year-old and a deployed husband when I started this? Nap times and bedtimes became my new best friends. I knew I was capable-I just had to make time. I had to start with the end game in mind.

The proudest moment of my life was walking across the stage to get my bachelors degree with my two little girls watching me. I did it. I took classes while I breastfed, I stayed up while they slept, I never gave up. I never made a single excuse. Mommy did it.

I pushed through my degree and I saw my product come to life. After a million baby steps, one day a box of hundreds of my product arrived on my doorstep. A complete, packaged product ready for the shelf. It was a very rewarding time.

Plot twist:

I ultimately decided to hand the business over and focus on moving forward. I learned the process and I knew I could do something else. It was a goal that I met and I didn’t want to waste time. I was satisfied with what I had done. I wanted to move on to the next venture.

“I had learned the process and felt it was time to move on. You have to know when to walk away.”

Act two: Risk Taker

When I had that lightbulb moment of “aha! I know what I want to do for the long haul ” I had landed on marketing. A job in that field isn’t easy to come by in every town. I interviewed and searched for a year and finally decided to create my own job.

I wasn’t willing to settle. The ever-changing nature of business combined with the creativity of marketing had me intrigued. My mind was made.

I couldn’t find the right job. I wasn’t going to wait for the opportunity so I started creating content and marketing for small businesses in the area as a hobby. Through this process, I began to build my marketing platform.

Act three: Facilitator

My social media began to grow which lead to the discovery of CEED. The Center for Economic Empowerment and Development where I would be hired as a business consultant in the Women’s Business Center. Now I knew what my purpose was and what my platform would be best-used for supporting startups.

My job now is to support other women in starting their own businesses. From idea to business plan to cut that ribbon-I get to watch women bring ideas to fruition. I get to help women build their brand and market their business. I also get to support them as they go through the stages where that grit is necessary and help them remember why they started.

I’ve met some strong intelligent women who unknowingly inspire me every day. Helping other women rise to the top and being part of creating new businesses in this area is an absolute privilege. Together they are bringing innovation to Fayetteville and creating a strong sense of community. I’m so proud of every one of them who wakes up every day and gets the job done.

Being on both sides of creating a business has been a unique opportunity.  I feel very fortunate to be able to share my experience and ideas. Why reinvent the wheel? I’ve already been there so I try to help others avoid those same mistakes. It’s important that as women, we work together and rise up together.

My advice ladies: Don’t wait. We are masters at multi-tasking and throw ourselves into what we love. Hit the pavement and make it happen. You don’t need permission you just need a “why”.

Tell us about the hands-free dog walking belt, how did you come up with that idea?

I came up with the hands-free dog walking belt because at the time my daughters were 1 and 2 years old and I never had a free hand. I saw that other mothers were struggling to push a stroller and walk their dog. I wanted to create a product that contributed to a better quality of life so that people could step back and enjoy what they were doing rather than have their hands full.

Is that still one of your businesses?

It is no longer my business. I handed the business over to the manufacturer when I realized it had played itself out and it was time to move on to something new. One of the hard parts about being an entrepreneur is that you have to know when the life cycle of your product is coming to an end. It may be time to close shop or just time to evolve. It takes grit to start a business but it takes a certain amount of humility to know when to walk away.

Is Guac & Soul created by you?

Guac & Soul was created by me. I started my Instagram, @guac_n_soul by posting about mom life and my art and when I decided to focus on social media marketing, I began growing the platform and focusing on collaborating with businesses in the community. Recently my co-workers and friends inspired me to start blogging in addition to my Instagram and that has been a fun outlet for me. I’ve recently begun to monetize my social media platforms so I suppose I’m still in the entrepreneur game in that respect. I’ll probably always have some type of side hustle. I can’t resist the challenge of building something and social media has definitely been an interesting challenge.

How have your entrepreneurial motivations changed since you first started?

My entrepreneurial motivations have changed since I first started because my goal went from having my own venture to using my knowledge to help other entrepreneurs succeed in theirs. I now work in the Women’s Business Center at CEED where we empower women to succeed. In fact, we have a huge fundraiser coming up in October called Over the Edge where people in the community have a chance to rappel off of a building here in Fayetteville to celebrate a milestone such as opening a business or a personal accomplishment. I love to celebrate the success of others and I’m so proud of the entrepreneurs in this community.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other women leaving a job and start for themselves?

Your business will be your baby. Working for yourself is much harder than working for anyone else. You will have to be very disciplined to make it flourish and get it to a self-sustaining point. It’s entirely doable, but you have to know going into it that

Describe to us the most exciting minute of your entrepreneurial journey.

The absolute most exciting moment was getting that shelf-ready, packaged product on my doorstep. I literally cried tears of joy. It was such a journey to get to that point and took a great level of determination. It was very gratifying to have something I dreamed up to become a tangible product.

As an entrepreneur do you have innate qualities, or is it something that you learned?

For me personally, I have an innate need to create. Before I had a paint set I would paint on printer paper with nail polish. When I was in elementary school I spent a summer saving up for a Minolta camera. I wanted to take pictures and I remember being so curious about that art form. I suppose that’s another innate quality, curiosity. I’m ridiculously curious. Creativity and curiosity are a strong mixture for an entrepreneur to have.

What do you do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working I am playing with my daughters, cooking, creating art, dancing to Billy Joel in my kitchen, or working out. I also really like to clean. Like, a lot. Probably more than necessary. Honestly, though, I work a lot. When I go home I like to read marketing books. I’m always thinking of the next project. Some may call me a workaholic but I just really love what I do and it doesn’t feel like work to me. Maybe that’s another quality of an entrepreneur, we don’t really separate work from play-it’s all play for us and we’re happy to do it even when times are tough. It’s kind of a way of life.

Discipline and creativity: are they two forces in opposition, or are they complementary?

Discipline and creativity complement each other in the best way possible. As someone who thrives on creating, I have learned the hard way over time that without discipline, I can create all day and it will go nowhere. I could decide to paint masterpieces but if I don’t have the discipline to finish them or market them, it won’t make a difference and will remain an unfinished hobby in my closet. While discipline and creativity are two sides of the same coin, it is very difficult to have both of those elements and personally, I must remind myself every day to keep a balance between the two in order to be productive. I have many ideas and I can easily get carried away with starting a million projects but I have to have the discipline to focus my energy.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

I constantly fail at things. I’m always learning. I could always do better, do more. It’s learning to do things better and integrating that into your work that makes the failures stepping stones and not setbacks.

If you had one piece of advice to our readers to those just starting out as a business owner, what would it be?

Figure out your “why” and write it big and bold where you can see it every day. That’s what’s going to get you through those days, weeks, and even months in the trenches of the start-up days. Remember why you did this and keep your eye on the bigger picture.

If you could start a new business would it be in the same business? Or something else? And why?

Definitely not the same. I don’t like to look backward. The world is constantly evolving and what was needed yesterday is no longer relevant today. I don’t have any plans to start another business-I really enjoying helping others start their own and I can see myself in the non-profit world for the long haul.


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One thought on “Entrepreneurial Lessons From Social Influencer Katlin Neese

  1. I am so happy to be able to call Katlin a friend and even as her friend I had no idea how many dreams she has accomplished.
    “I had learned the process and felt it was time to move on. You have to know when to walk away.”
    This is something I think many of us who start this journey of entrepreneurship may find difficult to accept at times. You have that seed of a dream that you work so hard to grow and when you get it to where you always wanted it to be there are times when moving on is the only way to move forward.
    Thank you for shining a spotlight on a woman, wife, mom and friend who has truly made it her business to be the best at whatever she does!

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