BABE #85: KAYLA BECKMANN BARNHART, CEO @ Small Fox Media
Kayla is a force. We met at an event earlier this year but I had of course already known of her through mutual friends, because she's just one of those gals who is always doing big things around town. I knew I liked her, but after interviewing her, I now know why. We are eerily alike in so many ways - but she has the surfer/skater vibes that I never will, so I certainly envy her for that. I'm super impressed by her decision to take the leap and launch her own biz, create her own schedule, and ultimately be her own boss. Thanks for chatting with us, Kayla. You're a friggin' babe.
Babe you admire and why?
I really admire Autumn Berrang of Adjective & Co for so many reasons. This woman does it all. She owns a thriving ad agency that produces really quality work. She’s a really great mom to two amazing little girls. She does a ton for the community. But what I admire most about her are her leadership skills. Autumn is a strong bulldog when she needs to be and a quiet, reflective leader as well. She lets people do what they’re good at and trusts them to do their thing and provides gentle and enthusiastic guidance along the way. The woman not only does it all, but does it all well.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy surfing, skateboarding, and hanging with my husband, Guy and dog, Huckleberry. We love going to the dog park, the beach, brunching, reading, and porch sitting.
Favorite app, website or blog?
For business: I can’t live without the Shoeboxed app (which stores and categorizes receipts) and Sprout Social app and site. For personal: What the heck did we do before Venmo? Letterspace for note jotting. Target Cartwheel (duh). Instagram (double duh). AnyList for groceries.
Go-to adult beverage?
Prosecco. I’m boujee af.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Florence, Italy. Pretty sure I left my heart there last year.
What is something not many people know about you?
A lot of people think I’m tougher and more of a “boss lady” than I truly am. I’m told all the time that I’m intimidating or that they don’t know how my husband can deal with me, and I mean, I am those things when I’m working, but I think of it as more of a role. Shit has to get done and it’s my job to make sure that happens, even if I have to piss some people off along the way. But I think my true friends and husband know I’m more emotional and kind than people tend to perceive.
Tell us about your hustle:
I'm the owner of and producer at Small Fox Media, a video production and social media services company. We partner with Adjective & Co on social media, so I work closely with them on their social clients as well. I've also been a teacher at Pure Barre - Jacksonville Beach since October 2014!
What does your typical workday look like?
There are absolutely no “typical” work days, but here is what today looked like:
4:45am: Wake up, coffee, social media and emails
5:45am: Leave house to teach Pure Barre
6:30am-12pm: Teaching and taking Pure Barre
12-6:00pm: Working on Small Fox stuff (social, proposals, quotes, pre-production)
6-9:00pm: Hubs makes me dinner because he rocks and I suck at cooking, we eat and watch a show
9:00pm: Try to read and fall asleep 10 minutes later.
What inspired you to take the leap and leave your desk job to launch Small Fox Media?
To be honest, I think what inspired me was pure frustration. I’m a bit of an overachiever, so no matter what I do, I do it 120%. It kind of dawned on me one day that I was busting my ass for someone else. My efforts were benefiting the owner of the company and all the partners I worked for. I was just a pawn. That, and I hated how unflexible my schedule was. At my desk job, sometimes work was just slow, yet I’d have to be in the office pretending to work from 8:30am-5:30pm when I could have just been surfing or getting some shit I need at Target. I don’t think I had a clear vision of being my own boss, but I knew what was important to me: flexibility, my efforts benefiting myself and my family, and doing things in a way that I felt was right. So I guess that means I *had* to be my own boss.
Where do you think your love of storytelling comes from?
When I was little, my great grandmother would send me books for Christmas. All the classics. She would ask me to write her stories in return. I think that’s what got me started with a love for writing. Once I was a bit older and my family got a video recorder, I carried it everywhere and would film my friends riding bikes, surfing, and skating. I'd interview them and narrate what was going on. I followed this passion into college with the goal of becoming a sports reporter, and ended up doing so for my college morning show (beating out about 25 guys for the job!) My professors thought I was definitely cut out for it, but one professor and mentor I really trusted kept pushing me to be a Producer due to my knack of (his words) “being organized, being collected, and being great at yelling at people”.
What inspired the name of Small Fox Media?
Naming a company is HARD! I knew I wanted something unique and short, so I wrote down 100 words that came to mind. Spoiler alert: I didn’t name it any of those words. But it did make me start thinking about what I wanted my company to be and represent, and I came up with the words: creative, clever, and collaborative. Clever reminded me of a fox and foxes are small, tenacious and clever just like myself and what I wanted my company to be. So I wrote it down, showed it to my then boyfriend (now husband) and he was like YES.
What is your work environment/office culture like? What's your preferred work atmosphere?
When we’re shooting, it’s a mix of being serious and professional, but also having fun and busting balls when appropriate. Everyone has a role and everyone respects each other and trusts each other to do their role well. But it wouldn’t be production without set culture getting insanely inappropriate (and I’m maybe the worst offender.) When not shooting, I work on my own everywhere. I have a home office I sometimes use, Bold Bean locations, Adjective & Co. office, and in-between classes at the Pure Barre studio. I prefer to work between 5am-2pm, and then my creative brain kind of shuts down.
How long have you been teaching Pure Barre? How do you prioritize it into your schedule?
I’ve been teaching for over 2.5 years. When I first started Small Fox, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make money, so I asked to become a teacher at PB Jax Beach, where I took classes and managed their social media. Now it’s great extra income and and I truly just love my PBJB squad, the amazing clients, and teaching in general. Plus it makes me take a break from Small Fox chaos and get in a great workout. PBJB is so great at being super flexible with me so when I’m slow with SFM they schedule me to more classes, and when I’m busy or out of town, they don’t put me on schedule.
What draws you to producing?
It’s like putting together a puzzle in a war zone... which sounds silly, but I’m serious. There are all these different parts of a production you have to figure out how to piece together (location, talent, crafty, makeup, wardrobe, crew, gear, budget, permits). While shooting, you’re faced with all these obstacles that you have to figure out a way around (clients throwing a wrench in something, extreme weather, gear failing, location isn’t the same as it was during scout, etc.) It’s my job to do it all. I thrive under stress and pressure and I secretly love when shit hits the fan. In my head I’m like “GAME TIME BITCHES!” and then go into action.
How would you say being a woman has affected your career/work/professional experience?
I think being a woman has made me work harder. TV, film, and marketing are traditionally a boys club and I’ve definitely experienced that, but I don’t play that game. I just want to be the best at what I do so that it doesn’t matter whether or not I wear a dress.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The biggest thing is how much unpaid time you waste writing and preparing proposals and bidding out for jobs that you never get. It’s a little soul sucking - not going to lie.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
A big obstacle has been having a company that produces high-quality work in a market that – to put it nicely – doesn’t always demand high-quality work. Thus far, it’s still a challenge I’m dealing with. I’ve combat it some by working within different markets outside of Jacksonville and absolutely plan on continuing doing that, but I do hope with the growth of Jacksonville, and more millennials taking over the workforce, that it will improve. Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”, and I try to remember these words and practice the sentiment.
What is your advice for other Babes wanting to take the leap into entrepreneurship but worried about an inconsistent paycheck?
Here’s the thing: you can always go back to your 9-5. So just leap and put your heart into it and work hard. Persistence will keep you afloat. If it doesn’t work out, at least you won’t spend your life wondering 'what if.'
You also dabbled in professional surfing! When and why did you decide not to pursue a career in it? Do you find that any of the skills you learned from Surfing help you in your career today?
I love surfing but always knew I didn’t want it to be a career. It’s too short-sighted. But through surfing I learned a lot about networking. I started finding my own sponsors at age 14 by just finding connections at companies and emailing them or attending Surf Expos and just asking brands to sponsor me. It also taught me that one person’s success does not dictate your success. Yes, it’s a contest, so someone has to get 1st, but just because someone had bigger/better sponsors and coaches than you didn’t mean that they couldn’t be beat. Sometimes it comes down to who wants it more.
What have some of your favorite client and/or brand experiences been?
I love working with ICEMULE Coolers (video + social) for a few reasons. Mainly because my client is my husband, which can be tricky at times, but it's mostly rad. He’s insanely smart and amazing at marketing so he just lets me do my thing and totally trusts me. Plus it’s just a really fun brand. One of my favorite clients and jobs was Drug Free Duval, for whom we created STOKE. They basically told us they wanted a video featuring kids talking about what they do instead of drugs and alcohol, and that was it. We were able to create a piece that I think is really impactful and beautiful. It also won us a good amount of awards, and the client used it to win a $100,000 grant from the Clinton Foundation.
What kind of support system do you have behind you and your work?
My husband, Guy, is my biggest fan and number one supporter. He works the 9-5 so I don’t have to, cooks our dinners, lets me take baths instead of cleaning the kitchen sometimes, and is just a reliable source for bouncing ideas off of. He rocks and makes my dream possible. I also have wonderful support from family and my network of fellow entrepreneurs in Jax. Toni Hernandez-Brown from Leading Ladies 904 has been a huge support system for me, and Autumn Berrang and Team Adjective as well. Plus of course my creative partner, Joe Karably. It definitely would not be possible without his talents.
What’s your favorite thing about your job(s)? Least favorite?
Fav: Doing whatever the heck I want all the time and telling people’s stories.
Sucktastic: Clients thinking that $400 is a reasonable budget for a video project.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your role?
I have an extremely high capacity for chaos. In fact, I thrive on it. In a totally sick way, I love when I have a bajillion things to do and not enough time to do them. I’m extremely competitive, so it’s an “oh I’ll show you” thing... but in competition with myself.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
I’m the least patient person you’ll ever meet. I expect everyone to function on my level and get really annoyed when that doesn’t happen (ask my husband, aka “The Human Slug”.) Additionally I’m really passionate about the things I do, so I can get frustrated when I feel someone is trying to dilute my ideas. But that happens with client work - so ya have a quick vent session and move on.
What does success look like to you?
Success, to me, looks like a healthy work/life balance. It sounds cliche – but YOLO – so although I want to be a badass woman who takes over the world, I also want to be present in life. I want to do really good work that is recognized by my peers and stokes out my clients, but I also want to spend time with my husband, travel, surf a little, and when we have kids, I want to be really present in their lives as well.
How do you successfully achieve that work-life balance?
It’s just being tuned in to what your body and brain are telling you. Sometimes I know I have to buckle down, have zero fun and miss out on things, and other times I know when emails or schedules or quotes can wait a couple hours or a day and I can go do something that centers me. I know I’m at my most creative when I feel energized, and sometimes the best way to refocus is to just take a break or do something fun.
What’s next for you?
I truly have no freaking idea. I know I want to expand my client base and focus on working with more sports and tech-related clients, but I haven't nailed down a game plan quite yet. I envision a life where I’m able to work with bigger/better clients, create some really cool work, have a brick and mortar Small Fox headquarters and hire a full-time team of ass-kickers while traveling and enjoying life with my family. We also want to make a human sometime soon, so there’s that. I just want to do all things.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
You’re never going to feel fully ready to go on your own when starting your own business. I’ve been doing this for almost three years and still I’m like “WHAT AM I EVEN DOING GAAAAAAAAAH”. But I believe the recipe for success is this: perseverance, having a solid support system and/or mentor, and hard work. If you want it, fight like hell for it.
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