Ari Krzyzek, CEO & Head of Strategy, Chykalophia
Ari Krzyzek is CEO & Head of Strategy of Chykalophia
What's your industry?
Marketing and Technology
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
In 2011, I packed one suitcase and left the comfort of my home, family, and friends in Bali to pursue my love and dream. At the time my husband and I were freelancers doing our own things. I mainly take on design projects, while he would work on web development projects. We used to take on freelance projects through websites like UpWork, 99Designs, and Freelancers.com.
A few months after we got married, he proposed to me to be his partner in business and build a company together. I thought it was a great idea and said yes. I clearly have no clue what I was doing. Not knowing how to start the process of building a business, we did what most millennials like us do: Google it. We found SCORE and attended their business 101 classes to build our Business Plan, file an LLC, put our website together, and our company Chykalophia (read: see-ka-lo-fia) officially opened for business in October 2011.
Being newlywed and new business partners, our personal and professional relationships had no boundaries. We were stepping on each other's toes, telling each other what to do with our clients and what's the right or wrong way to get our ducks in a row. It was hurting us. However, with the help of our mentor, we were able to set boundaries for both of our relationships and slowly put things in order for the business.
When we built the business in 2011, we didn't have any funds to support the company. We bootstrapped it along the way. Because of that, I ended up taking on a full-time position at Sears Holdings from May 2014 to June 2016 to help fund the company and take on a part-time role on the projects at Chykalophia.
It was not until June 2016 that we were able to see some traction and growth in the company. I knew that I won't be able to juggle everything after delivering my first child. I chose to officially join the company full-time again in July 2016. Ever since then, our team has grown from 2 people to 15 people today serving our clients across the US.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
My day revolves around the business development and marketing side of things. I often spend my time out connecting with women-led businesses, speaking at events or podcasts, strategizing with clients, as well as directing my team on design projects. Other times, I review the state of business and plan for growth opportunities.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Our clients are primarily women-led brands in B2B technology and Femtech (Female Health and Wellness Technology) D2C. I'm personally excited about the current growth and new innovations coming from the women founders in Femtech space. From everyday sustainable products for women around menstruations to awkward yet functional products to innovative in-home testing kit. This industry is getting so diverse and impactful every year.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Network, network, network. It's cringy but the saying of your network is your net worth is true. While the word networking might have you think the stereotypical of going to events and exchange business card, the reality is, you don't build your network from simply doing that. It takes time and most importantly cultivating relationships with people you truly believe in and align with your values. To start, you can search for local business events that aligns with your interest or an industry event. Perhaps it's an event for marketers, or an event for SaaS founders. You can also start small by aiming for meeting one or two new people at the event. It's all about the quality of the people you meet not the quality. And of course, not simply exchanging business card.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
When I started the business with my husband, we thought it would simply be just the two of us. However, as inquiries keep coming in, and more businesses are made, we couldn't keep up. I had to pause and rethink of what we want this business to be. What direction we should take. As a designer, my heart always lean toward coming up with the creative ideas and to design. I wasn't sure how to let that part go and bring in designers to work under me. On top of that, we didn't really have any documentations of our processes. I felt disappointed at myself for not having them in place the first time. It wasn't an easy journey, trying to recruit new team members who are qualified and building up our library of operations and process documentations. The one tip that I've learned from my mentor when hiring the right team member is to hire someone with a clear focus. Rather than hiring jack (or jane) of all trades, hire someone with specific focus like UI or UX designer, or motion graphic designer, etc.
In the current climate especially, many CEOs are looking for ways to cut costs, with marketing budgets usually one of the budgets to be cut. Is that wise?
It's not always wise for a CEO to cut marketing budgets costs, as every company has unique marketing plans based on their industry and target audience. Therefore, the marketing budget is generally targeted towards whichever channels or campaigns bring the most impact for the business. Cutting the marketing budget can have a negative impact on the overall success of the business, as it limits the ability to reach and engage with potential customers.
If a company must cut costs on their marketing budget, they are most likely cutting the budget for marketing channels with low or zero performance. It's important for CEOs to carefully evaluate which channels to cut and to not make hasty decisions that could harm the business in the long run. Instead, they should consider alternative ways to reduce marketing costs, such as negotiating better rates with vendors or reallocating funds to more effective channels.
The decision to cut marketing budgets should not be taken lightly, as it can have a significant impact on the overall success of the business. Careful evaluation and consideration of the impact on the business should always be taken into account before making any changes to the marketing budget.
For people thinking of starting businesses in 2023, would you say it's still possible to build a big business with little or no marketing budget?
There's always a cost associated with building a business, be it small or big business. If you're aiming for building a big business, you'll definitely want to set a side marketing budget that will help get you the visibility you need to attract interest and leads. Though, that's not to say that you can be strategic in marketing your business through free or inexpensive channels like social media.
Can you share one or two of your favorite free marketing strategies that a business owner in your industry can use.
1. Content marketing on LinkedIn. This can be in many form or content from you or your business. You have multiple choices of photo, video, text, carousel, or even voice event and live event on LinkedIn. Explore and experiment with the different post types to see which one gets the most engagement from your audience. Showing up on a business social media like LinkedIn, helps you get connected with decision maker and peers in your industry. You'll be doing the networking without going to a networking event and still making new connections while setting yourself as a thought leader.
2. Speaking at industry event or podcast. Speaking at events or podcasts can help increase your visibility and raise brand awareness through the events or the podcast's host network. It's essentially a free marketing to showcase your insights and experiences with a wider audience. This can often lead to new partnerships, collaborations, and even project opportunities.