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Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 73: August 2, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Meghan Rothschild, president and owner of Chikmedia and one of five finalists for BusinessWest’s coveted 40 Under Forty Alumni Achievement Award

Meghan Rothschild

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Meghan Rothschild, president and owner of Chikmedia and one of five finalists for BusinessWest’s coveted 40 Under Forty Alumni Achievement Award. The two talk about her business, but especially her efforts to mentor and coach women in business and also her work within the community and to support many of the region’s nonprofits. It’s must listening so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to the generosity of Summerlin Floors, Ryan McCollum of RMC Strategies, and the Springfield Thunderbirds, Chikmedia has chosen four $500 scholarship awardees for its 2021 Chik of the Future scholarships.

Chikmedia, a boutique firm offering strategic marketing planning and creative PR, launched its annual scholarship this year to support future generations of marketing professionals. Chikmedia offered four $500 scholarships in 2021, and a variety of local businesses decided to match that scholarship amount. These four scholarships are being awarded to Western Mass. women who are high-school graduates pursuing a college degree in marketing, public relations, communications, or business. They are:

Shermarie Hyppolite is pursuing a double major in communication and public relations with the hope to one day become a successful public-relations professional specializing in brand building and storytelling. She aims to have her own public-relations agency that can help uplift brands and create a space in the public-relations industry for women and non-binary people of color.

“Winning this scholarship is so meaningful to me because it feels special to have won it from public-relations professionals since it is my dream to become one as well,” Hyppolite said. “I am so grateful to be awarded something that will allow me to further my education in public relations.”

Claudia Gonzalez is currently obtaining her degree in marketing with the goal of working in a television and networking company. Additionally, she will be pursuing her MBA this fall at Bentley University.

“I am honored to receive this scholarship from an organization that empowers women in business with diverse and cultural backgrounds,” Gonzalez said. “Winning this scholarship brings me a lot of joy and some financial relief.”

Kimberley Moore is completing her degree in communications with a concentration in human resource management at DeVry University. As a mother of six daughters, she made a commitment early in their life to instill the importance of education, including hard work and dedication. She is proud to say that all have finished or are still attending college, and it is now her turn to do the same.

“I am honored to be selected to receive the Chik of the Future Scholarship. This will certainly assist as I continue the final stretch of my educational journey as a non-traditional student,” Moore said. “It also gives me the push and motivation to work even harder and maintain my 4.0 GPA. I am deeply appreciative of your generosity and support.”

Saniya Stewart is a full-time student at American International College and a dual-enrollment student at a local community college. She simultaneously attends both colleges, working toward her bachelor’s degree and the prerequisites for a master’s degree in healthcare management. Her goal is to open a nonprofit healthcare facility in her hometown of Springfield to be an advocate for those who truly need a person to lean on.

“I am ecstatic to be a recipient of the Chik of the Future Scholarship. As a black woman in a male-dominated major, it is important to receive support and recognition; I am glad that Chikmedia makes it a priority to recognize students such as myself,” Stewart said. “This scholarship will help with my educational expenses and aid me in becoming a trailblazer in the business community.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to the generosity of a number of local businesses, Chikmedia is now offering four scholarships as part of its Chiks of the Future annual scholarship initiative. The application deadline is Saturday, May 1.

Chikmedia, a boutique firm offering strategic marketing planning and creative PR, has launched its annual scholarship to support future generations of marketing professionals. Chikmedia will now be offering four $500 scholarships in 2021 as Summerlin Floors, Ryan McCollum of RMC Strategies, and the Springfield Thunderbirds have decided to match this scholarship amount. These scholarships will be awarded to four deserving female high-school seniors or college students of color pursuing a degree in marketing, public relations, communications, or business.

In order to see individuals succeed, the community needs to help them grow from the beginning. Last year, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chikmedia did a little digging into scholarship opportunities and found that Caucasian students received 72% of all scholarships, while minority students received only 28%. Although a $500 scholarship doesn’t close the large gap, the company wanted to do its part in expanding available opportunities. The community involvement from local businesses has been welcomed with open arms. Four recipients will now be awarded a scholarship thanks to these partners.

Completed scholarship applications and all support materials must be submitted to Chikmedia by May 1. Scholarship recipients will be notified by e-mail and then announced publicly during the first week of August. Applicants can find the guidelines and application form by clicking here.

“This is something we as a team are very passionate about,” said Meghan Rothschild, president of Chikmedia. “We started the scholarship to combat the racial injustices we saw in 2020 and plan to honor it every year. We cannot thank our partners enough; their generosity is humbling and overwhelming.”

Nathan Costa, president of the Springfield Thunderbirds, added that “it’s been our mission these past few months to stay connected with our community and to participate in meaningful programs that will have a positive impact. This scholarship fits perfectly into our foundation’s mission, and we couldn’t be happier to help support Chikmedia and Meghan, who has worked tirelessly to give back and help support the next generation of women-led businesses.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Chikmedia invites the community to apply for the Chiks of the Future annual scholarship, and submissions are now open.

Chikmedia, a boutique firm offering strategic marketing planning and creative PR, launched its annual scholarship to support future generations of marketing professionals. This $500 scholarship will be awarded to one deserving women of color who plans to pursue, or is currently pursuing, a degree in marketing, public relations, communications, or business.

Chikmedia’s mission has always been to help small, women-led businesses thrive through badass marketing, public relations, branding, and more, said Meghan Rothschild, the company’s president. “This is something we as a team are very passionate about. We started the scholarship to combat the racial injustices we saw in 2020 and plan to honor it every year.”

Chikmedia has a passion for working with female-run organizations and women business owners. In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chikmedia did a little digging into scholarship opportunities. It turns out that Caucasian students received 72% of all scholarships, while minority students receive only 28%. Although a $500 scholarship doesn’t close the large gap, the company wanted to do its part to expand available opportunities and promote a tradition of excellence in future generations of communications professionals.

Completed scholarship applications and all support materials must be submitted to Chikmedia by Saturday, May 1. The scholarship recipient will be notified by e-mail and then announced publicly in mid-May. Click here for the guidelines and application form.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Chikmedia announced the launch of its Chiks of the Future Scholarship, a $500 scholarship to be presented to a woman of color pursuing a degree in marketing, public relations, communications, or business.

“If we want to see more small businesses succeed, we have to help them grow from the beginning,” Chikmedia President Meghan Rothschild said. “At Chikmedia, our mission has always been to help small, women-led businesses thrive through badass marketing, public relations, branding, and more. We are a resource to help these women and businesses exceed their goals. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be extending our mission to the next generation of leaders.”

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Rothschild and her team began researching scholarship opportunities and found that Caucasian students receive 72% of all scholarships, while minority students only receive 28%.

“Although a $500 scholarship doesn’t close the large gap, we wanted to do our part in expanding the available opportunities,” she said.

The scholarship recipient will be notified by e-mail and then announced publicly during the first week of August. To apply, click here.

Coronavirus

Don’t Lose Touch

By Meghan Rothschild

The last two weeks have been an unprecedented storm of chaos for anyone managing a business, small or large. Effectively communicating changes in event plans, services, and fundraising strategies is no small feat and requires consistency and strategy. Staying in touch with your clients and customers has never been more challenging, yet more important.

We at Chikmedia have been navigating these communications challenges not only for clients, but for ourselves as well. Remaining calm, proofreading before you click ‘post,’ and applying a strategy are your best bets. We’ve drafted some go-to tips and tricks for ensuring your business looks polished and communicative during this time.

Identify your primary team/spokesperson during this time. As is true with any crisis, you must put together your decision-making team. Your primary spokesperson should not be the president or business owner, as you need a buffer for filtering information between the key decision maker and your primary audiences.

Outline and implement compliance strategies. Explain what you are doing to comply with CDC recommendations, such as, social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizing, and encouraging staff to work remotely.

Write your plan down. Make sure you have committed to compliance policies that work for you and your business. Don’t say you’re offering hand sanitizer if you don’t have it in house yet.

Ensure your entire team is up to date. Your staff should be well-versed in what the plan is moving forward. Arm them with the copy points they need to communicate effectively to the public, your customers, and other important constituents. 

Make a public statement. If you haven’t done this already, you should, immediately. Even if you are not currently operating or client facing, you must acknowledge what is happening in the world; otherwise, you appear reckless and out of touch. Include information on how it will impact your customers and your business.

Use all of your channels when communicating. Use e-news, social media, signage, your website — whatever you currently use to communicate to clients.

Continue to post. Even when you do not have an update, you must continue to acknowledge and keep your customers informed. They will want to hear from you regularly.

Navigate the official updates from the CDC. Make sure everything you post has been confirmed by two sources and is factual. Do not share content that is not confirmed, not vetted, or from unreliable sources.

Continue to produce regular content. Don’t make it all about COVID-19. Do not stop posting or let your social channels go dormant, as algorithms will penalize you. It may feel awkward to post regular content, but it’s important to maintain some consistent messaging and normalcy on behalf of the business.

Start developing your post-virus plan now. How are you going to get people back through the door when this is all over? Will it be through an event or a major sale? What about a big contest or giveaway? Be thinking about how you will re-engage your audience when the competition will be at its highest. Do not wait: have the plan prepared and ready to go for when the world begins to spin again.

Should you have questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to shoot us a note at [email protected]. You can also visit our website, www.chikmedia.us, for more information.

Meghan Rothschild is president of Chikmedia.

Women in Businesss

Women Supporting Women

Meghan Rothschild

Meghan Rothschild

When Meghan Rothschild launched Chikmedia as a two-woman operation five years ago, she was determined to build a successful marketing firm that focused heavily, if not exclusively, on women and brought a fierce attitude and a sense of fun into the work. Five years later, as the head of a small team with an ever-growing clientele, she says those philosophies haven’t changed — nor has the need for a company that reminds women of the power they wield when they lift each other up.

Marketing has come a long way in the 21st century, Meghan Rothschild says, in ways many companies struggle to understand.

Take social media.

“When we first started, social media wasn’t what it is today — it was something that businesses absolutely used, but it wasn’t this intricate skill set you have to educate yourself about in order to be up to date on the latest trends. That’s been one of the biggest advances,” said Rothschild, whose marketing firm, Chikmedia, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

“We’ve learned how to use social media from a business perspective in a really successful way,” she went on. “Our social-media management is much more comprehensive, and includes graphic design and creating custom content, and using the live features and story features on all the platforms. That’s evolved quite a bit. But other things about this business are the same, like writing press releases and helping people have grand openings at their businesses.”

“You have all these places that have ample budgets, or have a staff person dedicated to marketing. We like to work with the companies that don’t have that. Marketing is such an important part of business ownership that people forget about.”

Chikmedia is unique in other ways, though. For one, Rothschild — who gives herself the title “chief badass” — says she started the business to put an emphasis on female-run organizations and women business owners with an “edgy, fierce, and authentic” approach.

At its inception, Chikmedia focused mostly on social media, graphic design, and public relations. However, the firm has expanded its services outward, with branded events (more on that later) and a series of educational workshops that aid businesses with social media, personal branding, PR 101, and crisis management, to name a few topics.

While not all clients are female-run companies, the average client, Rothschild explained, is a woman who owns a small to medium-sized business who isn’t sitting on a six-figure marketing budget and, therefore, needs to be creative with her efforts.

“We sort of thrive in that space, finding unique and creative ways to engage audiences that aren’t going to cost you $100,000,” she said. “You have all these places that have ample budgets, or have a staff person dedicated to marketing. We like to work with the companies that don’t have that. Marketing is such an important part of business ownership that people forget about.”

Among its newer clients are the region’s new Futures Collegiate Baseball League team, the Westfield Starfires. Chikmedia also worked with Square One, a Springfield nonprofit that provides a range of early-education and support services, in launching a new service line that expands childcare to all hours of the day. The company has also partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts in sponsoring several events.

In short, it’s a varied clientele, which means a lot of education going both ways.

It all feeds into a “fierce” attitude she further describes as “bold, empowering, having confidence, and positioning clients in a way that they are the experts on their subject matter.”

In fact, Rothschild said, empowering women is at the core of everything she does, having been harassed and encountered inappropriate treatment many times in the corporate world — and not only by men.

Educational workshops

Educational workshops have become a staple of Chikmedia’s services — and a way to put more autonomy in clients’ hands.

“It’s one thing to walk into an environment and not be supported by your male peers, but to encounter that from your female peers is really something. It’s frustrating,” she said. “I said, ‘this is going to stop with me. I’m going to start a company whose mission and sole purpose is women lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.’

“As a culture,” she went on, “it’s really easy for us to give each other a hard time and drag each other down and be super competitive, but we want to be the complete opposite of that — women supporting women.”

Choosing a Path

Rothschild had been in marketing for eight years — with stints as marketing and promotions manager at Six Flags, development and marketing manager at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and director of marketing and communications at Wilbraham and Monson Academy — when she teamed up in 2014 with Emily Gaylord, who brought a strong design skillset to the partnership they called Chikmedia.

With about two dozen clients coming aboard in the first few months, including Bueno y Sano, UMass Dining, Papa John’s, ArchitectureEL, Energia Fitness, SkinCatering, and Lioness magazine, they were, frankly, overwhelmed with the early response and realized they had something that was more than a “side hustle,” as Rothschild put it.

Gaylord eventually left the company to pour more of her time and passion into the Center for EcoTechnology, where she works as Communications and Engagement director. Meanwhile, Rothschild was balancing ownership of Chikmedia with a full-time gig at IMPACT Melanoma. A survivor of the disease who had built a national platform for skin-safety advocacy, she was working for IMPACT as Marketing and Public Relations manager when he realized she had to make a choice.

“I spent about four years at IMPACT, and last year, the success of Chikmedia was getting to the point where it wasn’t sustainable — I couldn’t do both. And I felt like Chikmedia was the right path.” Today, she still serves as a spokesperson for IMPACT, which is among Chikmedia’s clients.

As the company has grown its client base, Rothschild said, so has its emphasis on education and training, both one on one with clients and in the community.

“We’ll do a training for anyone. We did one-hour training for a client on Constant Contact; she was new to the software, so she brought me in, and I walked her through,” she recalled. “If you have someone in your office that’s supposed to be managing Instagram and they don’t know how to use it, instead of giving them a month or two months to learn all the intricacies of it, bring us in for an hour, and we’ll educate them on what to do. That way, we’re putting the power back into corporate hands. A lot of people would love for us to manage their social media, but it’s not the most cost-efficient thing as opposed to us coming in and training your staff how to do it.”

“I’m going to start a company whose mission and sole purpose is women lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.”

She also teaches personal branding and social media at Springfield College, calling education a “side passion” alongside marketing and helping firms grow. Often, she takes what she’s done in those classes and packages the material into condensed workshops for clients and other audiences, like a three-part series she recently conducted on navigating one’s personal brand — what it is and why it’s important.

“It’s super relevant,” she said. “Think about social media. Even though universities are starting to adapt, starting to insert it into the curriculum, it’s definitely not a standard part of the curriculum. So I’m helping to fill that void until everyone catches up.”

While teaching, though, she’s often learning — specifically, about each client and industry she takes on.

“Our specialty is learning the industry, and we’re working with everything from financial investment firms to UMass Dining, Dunkin’ Donuts, local spas like SkinCatering and Beauty Batlles, nonprofit organizations, event-planning companies … we’re sort of a mix. I always say to clients, if we don’t know something about this subject matter, we’re going to learn it.”

She tries to be honest with each potential client, too. “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘this is what I need,’ and I’ve said, ‘I don’t think we’re the right fit for you; I think you should go to XYZ.’ Or, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for marketing yet; I think you should see a business advisor first.’ We’re not going to put a square peg in a round hole. We want the right fit.”

Fun with a Purpose

In all those efforts, she’s also passionate about keeping the emphasis on making marketing and branding fun. When BusinessWest sat down with Rothschild and Gaylord five years ago, after the launch of Chikmedia, they said if they’re another stressor in a client’s day, they’re not doing their job right. Today, as the sole business owner, Rothschild has not abandoned that philosophy.

“I can be hard to stay true to that because, as an entrepreneur, you’re trying to stay afloat and get all the work done. But I made a promise to myself when I made this a full-time job I was going to continue that path and have fun in everything I do. You spend the majority of your waking hours at work; you’d better enjoy what you do and be passionate about it.”

Ashley Kohl, owner of Ohana School of Performing Arts

Ashley Kohl, owner of Ohana School of Performing Arts, was one of many women business owners show-cased at Chiks’ Night Out.

Part of that sense of fun comes out during the firm’s branded events, such as Chiks’ Night Out event, which took place in Springfield in March to promote the spring line of Addy Elizabeth, a chic clothing boutique.

“All the focus is on women entrepreneurs, so all the models and sponsors are women entrepreneurs. We’re not calling them models, but women business owners. When they walk on runway, we describe their outfit — and their business. So women are learning what women on the runway have to offer them in terms of services.”

Then there’s a bus tour called Chiks’ Day Out, a sort of shopping trip where every stop is a female business.

“That’s how our events are positioned,” Rothschild said. “We want leave them tingling, saying, ‘oh my God, there’s such a need for this — for women to connect in a fun way.’ It creates a sense of community.”

Chikmedia promotes connections through its strong social-media presence as well, on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as its own blog — not to mention its line of branded merchandise, like T-shirts emblazoned with phrases like ‘Boss Chik.’

“I see women wearing our T-shirts, hats, and sunglasses, and I’m not sure if there’s another local firm that has that kind of presence,” she told BusinessWest. “I really am proud of that, how we’ve been able to leverage our own brand to help our clients.”

Besides its core team of four in Western Mass., Rothschild has an intern in Providence, a part-time accountant, and contractors spread out over its service areas, which extend beyond this region into Boston, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, and Charlotte, N.C. In today’s high-tech world, she said, there’s plenty a company can do remotely for clients, although she needs to be in front of them for certain tasks, like running events and producing video content for social media.

And there’s plenty of room for the firm to grow, she noted, adding that its success in its first five years has been a gratifying challenge — in every sense of both words.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t I say I enjoy being my own boss,” she said. “Of course, as an entrepreneur, you say, ‘I’m going to manage my own schedule and take vacations,’ and the reality is you never take vacations. Even when you go on vacation, you’re on the phone. When you’re a business owner, you’re the business. It’s my burden to bear; its not someone else’s. It’s not someone telling me to do something; it’s me being accountable to myself.”

Still, she added, “I love marketing and PR, I love social media, I love writing. Having control of my own company makes me happy, and my team makes me happy — they’re smart, awesome people. I genuinely love what I do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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