Kim Cayce: From Professional Athlete to Business Coach

BUSINESS COACH / PERSONAL BRANDING EXPERT / KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Interview by The DCStartupWeek Team on December 8, 2019

Kim Cayce is a DC-based business coach, personal branding expert, and keynote speaker.  As the CEO of Vitamin*E Ventures, she leads a full-service management and marketing consultancy that helps brands grow revenue through data-driven strategy, marketing, design, and technology. Kim has MBAs in Entrepreneurship from both Stanford University and UCLA Anderson School of Management. She is also an Adjunct Professor teaching Women’s Entrepreneurship at American University.

What do you love most about the DC Startup Community?

DC is such a cool town. I love the diversity of ideas and opinions we have in this city. What I love most about the DC Startup Community are the different types of companies, and the fact that there is so much innovation happening across different industries all within the same city. At any given startup event you will meet entrepreneurs who are working on new ideas for defense, AI/ML, cybersecurity, biotech, technology, and government contracting, as well as the unexpected industries like fashion, fitness, beauty, food, home decor, wellcare, fintech, the list goes on and on…

Tells us a little bit about yourself and your business. By the way, congrats! We heard you just launched it last week.

More than anything, my goal is to help my clients achieve their personal and business goals faster and easier than they ever imagined. Some days I feel like I am part cheerleader and part tough-love coach because I am usually working with entrepreneurs and executives to breakthrough their limits so they can elevate their businesses. It is hard work but so rewarding and it is exhilarating when people reach their goals.

Most of my work workshops and keynotes are around goals, strategy, creativity, leadership, selling, confidence and positive psychology; people love them because they bring about immediate changes and long-term results. In my coaching and consulting, I usually work directly with entrepreneurs and executives to help them to overcome challenges, get unstuck, create growth strategies, and build their personal brands. It’s really a great job, and perfect for me because I love helping people achieve their goals.

We are launching a few new products in January 2020, but I think you might be referring to the launch of Citrine Angels, which launched a few weeks ago. I’m very excited to be part of the founding team that is working to get more women into angel investing in order to close the gender funding gap for female founders.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I started my career as a professional athlete; and I traveled all over the world for 5 years playing professional golf. Playing professional sports was exciting, but the business side of sports was where I found my calling. It was very entrepreneurial because I was acting as my own agent, business manager, and publicist. I learned to wear a lot of hats and it also taught me that everything is possible if you are focused on your goals and have the grit and determination to pursue them. When I retired from sports, I became a co-founder of a fintech company, and that launched my career as an entrepreneur, over the years I’ve worked across industries and verticals but the thing I love most is being part of the core team that is building something out of nothing – that’s really the magic of entrepreneurship!

There will never not be a need for marketing — although some startups have a very small budget for it. Do you have any tips or tricks to maximize budgets for this kind of work?

Great question! I actually teach a workshop called “Marketing for Growth” and we tackle the topic of how to grow a business with a small marketing budget. 

I think it starts with goal-setting, and being very clear about where you want your business to go. Once you know where you are today, and where you want to go tomorrow, then you can reverse engineer your marketing plan to work within the budget that you have.

If you want to grow you have to spend money or time, so you have to find the resources. You can be very smart, and strategic, about your spending, but it’s really hard to grow a business without some increase in budget to fuel growth and manage its impact.

With that in mind, it starts with the end; get clear about where you want to go!

Marketing is all about telling a story, however we’ve found that “storytelling” is kind of a buzzword in the marketing field these days. How do you define storytelling?

This might surprise you, but I actually believe marketing is all about math. I generally take a data-driven approach to marketing, and treat it like a science.

Today I see a lot of entrepreneurs approach marketing as an art, and brand storytelling is a big part of the creative process. I like brand storytelling because it humanizes brands and builds a strong connection with the end user. I love a good story as much as the next person, but I also want to know more about the business to see what’s really going on.

So when I look at a startup, my first priority is to see the numbers, so I can listen to the story that the data is telling me. What are your conversion rates, how’s your engagement looking, where can how we optimize, what can we do to maximize results, reduce costs and close more deals? Marketing is all about the bottom line – it’s about analyzing results and optimizing data in order to maximize ROI.

Of course, the best marketers are geniuses at blending both art and science. They are brilliant storytellers as well as data scientists – marketers today have to wear a lot of different hats! And while stories have power to win hearts and minds, data tells the real story of a startup, and let’s you know how well the company is delivering on its brand story.

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If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business? 

If I could travel back in time to when I was first starting my business, I would ask three questions to help give myself more clarity and focus: 

  1. What does success look like to you? 
  2. Where do you want to go over the next 1/3/5/10 years?
  3. What’s the best way to hold yourself accountable?

That last question – how to hold yourself accountable – is a tough one for entrepreneurs because they are so isolated. I think it helps to have a support system, whether that is a coach, a board, or a peer-to-peer networking group  – something that forces you to get out of your head and report progress on a regular basis so you have some structure and accountability.