Starting today, we're launching an entrepreneur interview series called Practical Matters. Every month, we'll interview fellow entrepreneurs and ask them about their experience starting and running their respective companies. The idea is to ask them things we want to know and could learn from.
We're kicking off the series with CreativeMornings (CM) COO, Kevin Huynh. Kevin has been working alongside Tina Roth Eisenberg and the talented CM since July 2011 and will be stepping down on March 20th.
Want to read more? Check out our Q&A with Trello's Stella Garber.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do at your current company? What were you doing before? What’s your story?
Kevin: I grew up in the small town of Niwot, CO and ended up at Berkeley for a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I finished with a job offer at a big Bay Area tech company, but at the same time was devouring everything I could find regarding design and the “creative world.”
By chance, I was introduced toTina Roth Eisenberg, the founder of CreativeMornings (CM) and in a few weeks I turned down the tech job, traded my belongings for food, and moved cross-country to tackle this ambitious creative project. I now lead operations for CM which is a global organization hosting inspirational monthly talks in 106 cities.
Tell us your company’s story in a nutshell.
K: In 2008, Tina–a web designer and the force behind swiss-miss.com–started CreativeMornings in New York. The concept was simple: breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month. Every event would be free of charge and open to anyone.
I met her a few years later when CM was still a side project. Together, we scaled this wonderful community to what it is today: a small full-time team, a killer network of over 800 volunteer organizers and 10,000+ people gathering every month at (free) events in their cities.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while working at your company?
K: Trusts breeds magic. When we started this new model to expand CreativeMornings, we were very careful. We were signing on passionate people (that we’d never met in person) to represent this brand within their cities. It’s a scary thing. It was “our baby” at the time. The gut reaction was to think through worst-case scenarios, “What if they do X? Are we okay with them doing Y?”
While that was a valuable exercise, we slowly realized that if we put more time into making sure we attracted great people and then trusted them to experiment, remarkable, unexpected things can happen. Today, CreativeMornings chapters are starting to initiate community projects, create scholarships, support one another, all which wouldn’t be possible without that level of personal ownership.
What’s the favorite day you’ve had at your company?
K: On October 1, 2014 we kicked off the first CreativeMornings global summit. Almost 200 organizers from dozens of countries descended upon Brooklyn and gathered in one room for a two and a half day event. Over the past few years, I’d communicated with almost every one of these people. So many E-mails, Skype calls, hangouts… I knew all of the faces. Finally, they were all in front of me, and the room was electric. It was a feeling of absolute disbelief.
Who has been the biggest influence in your company?
K: I’d heard before that a founder’s DNA trickles through the whole organization, and at CM that can’t be more evident. Tina is the last person to take credit for what’s now happening in the CreativeMornings world, but I see daily how this community is saturated with her energy, kindness, and generosity. She’s genuinely the most compassionate person I’ve ever known.
What has surprised you about your work?
K: It takes a significant amount of work to apply for an official CM chapter, and we even encourage folks who’d rather skip the process to start a similar event under a different name. The world could use more free breakfast get-togethers. Recently, we’ve heard from other groups adapting the CreativeMornings model for their own communities. From BOLD bringing together all sorts of stakeholders in International Development to Friday CAFÉ for Community and Family Engagement in Bridgeport, CT to 1NTERRUPT for high school students interested in cyber security, this stuff blows my mind.
What are you working on next?
K: I’m actually moving on from my post at Creativemornings later this month. Laying the groundwork, creating the business structure, building the digital platform, and interacting with so many terrific people across the globe during the past three years has been such a fulfilling experience. That said, it’s time for my next step. I’ll be rooting from afar for the incredible team at HQ. CM has so many great initiatives in store for 2015 and beyond. Amidst couchsurfing with my new global family, I’m taking my time to find the next ambitious, creative team to join forces with.
What’s your favorite piece of advice?
K: “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” -Chuck Close
Kevin, it's been a pleasure working with you as a Justworks customer. We're wishing you the best of luck in your next endeavors. Thank you for sharing your advice and experience with us.
CreativeMornings uses Justworks for easy payments to their team.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.