Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Andrew Hapke, Co-Founder, Zokos.com

“Be 100 percent genuine. If you have to fake it, then maybe you are at the wrong event or in the wrong business.” — Andrew Hapke, co-founder of Zokos.com

Andrew Hapke, co-founder, Zokos

We meet a lot of entrepreneurs, but when we were connected with Andrew Hapke, the young, dynamic co-founder of Zokos.com — a dinner party crowd-funding site or “kickstarter for parties” — we were impressed. We recently spoke to Hapke about his exciting idea as well as the challenges and opportunities involved in getting a start-up off the ground.
What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?
Make friends with people in the press long before you need anything from them.  Learn about what they find interesting just by being friends with them.
What are your top networking tips?
Be 100 percent genuine. If you have to fake it, then maybe you are at the wrong event or in the wrong business.

 

What’s your advice for developing a relationship with someone you don’t know?

Find common ground to start the conversation even if its something as small as the weather.

 

What is the one piece of advice that you wish you knew when you were graduating?

Have coffee with everyone you know and let them bring up your career.

How did Zokos get from idea to reality and what prompted you to launch a business?

The idea first originated when the founders took part in a vegetarian dinner club as graduate students at Yale.  We were so excited about the amazing food and all the great people we were meeting that we thought, “Why aren’t people doing this more often?”  From that spark, we went on to found the company as a way to bring down the barriers to entertaining, so that we could host better parties and host them more often.

 

What’s your “elevator pitch” for Zokos and how did you come up with it?

“Zokos is a kickstarter for parties. We believe people are hungry for real life interaction and that food is the world’s favorite reason to come together. Zokos.com helps you enjoy better parties more often by sharing the cost with your friends.”

We spent a lot of time crafting our pitch over the last year, working with mentors and going to pitch competitions.   It’s amazing how many different opinions smart people can have.  We settled on something that resonated with us, but also referenced the crowd-funding industry more generally.

 

What’s the hardest thing about getting attention for a new brand, particularly without dedicated PR support?

Its hard to get rejected so much!  Generally when you first try and get press, it’s when you launch something big for your company, and so you are in a very exciting time in your company’s history. Yet, apparently 95 percent of the press you contacted didn’t think it was that exciting, which can be very discouraging.  For us, we just had to make sure our list was long enough that the 5 percent that came through for us was meaningful.

 

What’s your advice for helping your brand stand out against the competition?

Have a really clear idea of why you are different, and which group of people would care about that difference.  Start with that small group, and let them help you build your story so that as you grow, you have a genuine identity that fills a real need.

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