It was just a few years ago that Kirsten King was at a crossroads of sorts in her life, working as a human resources specialist at Fort Benning, a job she enjoyed, but still left her wondering if something more was out there.
She began promoting parties on the weekends, then found that not only did she enjoy that vocation, but it also was more lucrative than her full-time position on the military installation. So the single mother of two children said her prayers and found the inspiration to make a leap that ultimately put her on the path to her current job — chief executive officer of D30 Marketing & Promotions in Columbus.
More than seven years later, King, 36, has seen her business evolve to one in which she assists and coaches clients with branding themselves online and setting up social media programs to boost their own odds of success. She also launched D30 Radio, an Internet-only radio station that has a dozen independent contractor hosts and draws roughly 100,000 listeners. It also is an advertisement vehicle for the Columbus resident and native of Geneva, Ga.
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A success story she has become, but King says she’s far from satisfied. Her goal is to continue to grow her own brand that helps promote motivation and empowerment into a global entity. The Ledger-Enquirer sat down with the somewhat soft-spoken woman to discuss her job, how she came to this moment in her life and precisely what she does to make life better for other people seeking success. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. Do we call what you do motivation? Empowerment?
A. It’s marketing, branding strategies, and I think the empowerment comes with my daily motivating, especially utilizing social media. That’s kind of how I reel my audience in by showing my real side and the motivating and empowerment side, and then I’m able to engage them with what I offer in my business.
Q. How did you get to this moment in your life?
A. Initially, I started out as a party promoter. I was promoting parties at different clubs around the city. After I did that for about four years — I’m a single mother of two, my son is 14, my daughter is 15 — so as they began to get into the teenage years, I had to find a way to evolve from the nightlife scene. The nightlife scene was very good to me because it was a very lucrative business, but as the violence began to increase at some of the venues I was working at, I knew I had to find a different source. So I basically took the strategies that I utilized to build the party scene, and I began to teach business owners how I was able to build my own following on social media and what I did to generate the revenue that I did. So it was just taking those strategies and those principles and kind of packaging them up in a business perspective and then teaching it to others.
Q. How long has that been?
A. It’s probably been about four years.
Q. It’s fair to say that social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, is a necessity, right?
A. You most definitely have to have it in 2017, because that’s where everybody is. If they don’t have their phone, they have their iPad, they have their Mac. They have some type of device on them at all times, and it’s almost simultaneously because if you’re waiting on the 6 o’clock news and something happened at 3 o’clock, most of the time we get it on social media before we actually see it on the news. It’s like if you have something that you really want to get out right then, it’s important to have social media.
Q. That puts print products in a tough spot?
A. Yeah. It can be kind of hard, because people nowadays just want to see everything as a visual. They don’t want to read. They don’t want to wait on the paper. Social media is making it where it’s just right there, click, view and they’re done.
Q. How did you evolve with your services? Did you layer on the elements over time of helping people with their social media and branding?
A. I layered it on as I went. Basically, a lot of people already knew me from being in the nightlife scene and they saw how successful the club business was for me. So they’ve always seen me around doing things, and my brother was big in the promotion industry and did like big concerts at the Civic Center. As I began to transition from the nightlife scene, that’s when he was picking up doing the concerts, so I began promoting and managing his social media page, and it began to draw that traffic. From there, other concert promoters were asking: Who promotes your concerts? Who promotes your shows? And from there I would have business owners, tax offices, artists, models, a variety of them, they would come to me and ask: How did you build your following? How do you get people to interact? How do you get people to buy? So from there I just started creating products.
Q. So early on, you were giving folks advice for free, but you then understood the financial opportunity you had?
A. Right, in the beginning it was like loose lips. I was just talking and talking and talking. But I began to understand that this is my lane, this is what I really should be doing. Then I had to sit down and think about how I was going to present it as a business and transition to D30 Marketing & Promotion. I began to think about different workbooks I could put together, different workshops to have people come out and learn about marketing. That’s when I began to put a price to the services that I provide.
Q. Have you found most people truly need help with this?
A. Uh-huh. A lot of people really need help in the area of social media, but most people don’t like to be on social media all the time. But in order to generate revenue in your business or to get that exposure or to gain that following that you want, it requires consistency and commitment. A lot of people don’t like that part of it. For the most part, people know how to go on their Facebook and update their status and they’re good, and a lot of people think, if I just post my purse (for sale), they’ll buy it. But there are strategies and different things you have to do to get them to buy that purse.
Q. And you find what you are doing transcends most types of products or services or events? You’ve got to have this social media outreach?
A. Yeah, you’ve got to have it. If you’re on social media, it can be very lucrative. It can be lucrative because you’re not just reaching people locally. If you have a product, you can sell a product online to someone in China or Afghanistan, because anyone who has access to the web, they can purchase things. But if you’re not showing up on social media, if you don’t have your brand in place, they don’t know how to buy. And if you’re not marketing properly, they don’t know what you’re selling.
Q. So you are a businesswoman. Do you sell things yourself? I saw the books and T-shirts on your website?
A. I just throw that in there because that’s part of my brand, because basically people knew D30 Marketing & Promotions, but a lot of people didn’t know the person behind it. So I began to brand myself and people would say: ‘You’re so motivating, you’re so inspiring,’ because I’m a single mom and I have the business and they see me doing a lot in the community. Then I began to brand myself, that’s when I created the T-shirt line and the mug and things of that nature so that people could follow my brand and my business at the same time.
Q. Is part of your message that everyone needs a brand? That you have to develop one and manage it to be successful?
A. I think that people knowing who you are, you are your brand ... People buy into the person before they even buy into the brand. But it does depend on the type of product or service that you offer. Most people buy based on relationships with other people, or I know you and you know me. What type of person is she? That’s the first thing they ask. What does she sell? And most of the time they buy into that person, and then they begin to buy into the business side of what you do.
Q. So the social media presence allows you to convey what you stand for and how you can help people with a service or product?
A. Right, definitely. On my social media, I post a motivating post in the morning, and with the way I’ve strategically designed my page, it’s personable. It’s just enough information for people to say: ‘Oh, I like her. She’s positive. She’s motivating. She’s about her business. She takes care of her kids.’ Then when I post something about business, or if I’m marketing one of my clients, they’re quick to say: ‘Who is this person or when is that concert or when is that happening,’ because I built that audience. So they buy into me first, and then they begin to buy into everything else that I post on my page or that we promote on the radio station.
Q. Which ultimately develops trust?
A. Yes, trust. And they know that I’m going to show up. Beyond a shadow of doubt, Kirsten is going to show up on her media platform. She’s going to do a Facebook live here and there, but she’s most definitely going to show up posting at least three or four times per day.
Q. So if you’re not on there one day, people ask what’s going on?
A. They ask what’s wrong. Are you OK? If I’m not posting, I’ll have (my assistant) post. I’m always trying to keep some activity on the page because that’s how I built my brand. So I stay consistent with that.
Q. What is the biggest mistake businesses make with social media?
A. I think the biggest mistake that most make with social media is not really understanding it. A lot of times they feel that their way of doing things is the correct way, or they try to do things the way they see someone else is doing it and they’re not sitting down and (focusing on): This is my business, this is what I offer, and this is what works for me. So I think it’s the lack of knowledge and not researching the platform that they’re on.
I tell all of my clients, don’t create a Facebook (page) or Instagram or Snapchat and Twitter if you’re not going to show up on those platforms. That’s because I may go looking for you on Twitter and because you create an account and you don’t have any posts, then I’m going to be like: ‘Oh, I’m not going to buy anything from him. He’s not even on here.’ But you may be very active on the other platforms. So I think a lot of times they create (pages) because that’s the thing to do, but they don’t put the time and effort into actually building those profiles.
Q. That’s like a customer walking up to a door, knocking and no one opening it?
A. Right, and they’re at the wrong door. She’s not on Twitter, she’s on Facebook. But they don’t know that.
Q. What do you do day to day?
A. The average day we go into the office and work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’re basically marketing and promoting our clients. We have clients who purchase social media advertisements, and we utilize social media by posting and getting them fans on their page, getting them likes on their page, basically getting them exposure. That’s all day long. In the middle of that, I also coach business owners on how to utilize Facebook. I may have people walking in and wanting to learn more about social media marketing and branding and how I can help them. Then while all of that is going on we have the Internet radio station because it runs 24 hours.
Q. Is that music?
A. It’s music. We have some where it’s just talk, but for the most part it’s music and we have a show for every different audience. We have a spiritual show on Sundays. During the weekdays we have a midday show. We have a morning show. So it’s just like a mainstream radio station, it’s just Internet.
Q. Can people make money with their own Internet radio station? Is there advertising on it?
A. Yeah, we do advertising as well. The clients that I have from my marketing side I always offer them advertisements on the Internet radio station, and then we have some people who are not located here and they may hear one of the shows and they ask for advertisement. They may have an e-commerce-type business, so Internet radio would be a great source of advertisement for them.
Q. You have a big staff?
A. I have a big staff on the radio Internet side. It’s 12 hosts. But on the marketing side, I have five strong marketing reps.
Q. Those are employees?
A. I consider them independent contractors, because with what we do it’s a commission-based job. It’s basically sales.
Q. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A. Just building relationships. My biggest thing is that relationships and favor is bigger than any amount of money. The relationships that I’ve built and the networking opportunities that I’ve gained have allowed my business to grow tremendously. It’s the exposure. My brand has been elevated. My staff, they always get a lot of exposure and recognition for different things that they do within the company. So that has been the biggest thing for me.
Q. Ten years ago, could you see yourself doing this?
A. No. I worked at Fort Benning for six years. I worked in human resources and I loved my job. I was a contractor. That was the downside to it. I loved my job, but one day I just felt that I didn’t want to work for anybody, I just wanted to work for myself, and things just kind of began to line up for me to be able to do that.
Q. You started researching possibilities?
A. I started researching, and also I started doing the party promotion while I was working. So as that began to evolve and the income was being generated, I was like wait, I’m making more doing this on the weekends than I’m making at my job Monday through Friday. So I began to pray and I was like, God, what is it that you want me to do? And things just really began to line up for me and ever since then, seven years later, I’m still being sustained and things are still flowing and elevating.
Q. It sounds like you truly enjoy it?
A. I love it.
Q. What do the next five years hold for you? Do you have plans?
A. The next five years, I really want my company to be global. I do have some clients that are not in Columbus, Ga., but I definitely want to have a global company. I want to be able to go to different cities and states and have people recognize the brand, and possibly have offices in the Southeast first, and then branch out globally.
Hometown: Geneva, Ga.
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 1998 graduate of Central High School in Talbotton, Ga.; earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from University of Phoenix in 2010; she’s now pursuing a master’s degree in business administration from Strayer University’s Jack Welch Management Program
Previous jobs: Human resources assistant for six years with a contractor at Fort Benning; and worked as a party promoter in Columbus
Family: Single mother with two children — daughter Jakedrea Morgan, 15, and son Jakeveon Upshaw, 14
Leisure time: Enjoys riding bikes, as well as doing yoga, which is her stress reliever; she simply likes peaceful quiet time, sitting in her bed watching TV