Like many entrepreneurs, Kyle Shemanskis is a multitasker. He’s currently attending Capital Community College (CCC) to earn his Associate of Science in Business Management/Entrepreneurship, he’s substitute teaching sound production at Prince Technical High School, and he founded Neck of the Woods Marketing in August 2020.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke to Kyle about launching his startup in Hartford and his future plans.
NAN PRICE: Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset?
KYLE SHEMANSKIS: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I went to Prince Technical High School in Hartford, where I studied music and live sound production, which ultimately led to my first business idea, ØWL Audio.
I took a year off after high school. I knew I didn’t want to move to New York or California to pursue a career in sound. My life is here. Music has long been a passion of mine, but the industry is a bit scarce in the area. When I discovered CCC offered Business Management with Entrepreneurship as a degree path, I decided to chase my dream of owning my own business.
NAN: How did you transition to launching a marketing company?
KYLE: I was unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic and took a job managing a restaurant and bakery, where I ended up designing menus for the owner. That grew from a need—customers had been asking for them, and then the same for the bakery. Gradually friends of friends needed help with their marketing and I started to build this network of other entrepreneurs who were interested in having design work done.
NAN: Is that how you found your niche?
KYLE: Yes. Marketing is really essential for businesses, especially now with so many entrepreneurs coming out of the pandemic—and especially around Hartford, where I noticed people starting to develop their businesses. I saw a lot of opportunity for small businesses that needed business cards or logos.
So, I decided I want to be the business that can serve the Hartford area and, as our business begins to grow, help people outside of Hartford and Connecticut develop marketing content for their businesses.
NAN: Why Hartford?
KYLE: I see a lot of potential in Hartford. The city has a lot more opportunity than people sometimes see at face value. I like seeing the development of Hartford as it starts to grow into this metropolitan kind of area. There’s a large business community and so many places are popping up. I make it a point to support them, like when The Place 2 Be opened their first location, I knew I had to go there!
NAN: How are you building your entrepreneurial network?
KYLE: CCC is somewhat of a part of that because the business department has a lot of ties, especially with some of the insurance companies in our region. A majority of the connections I’m building are either through entrepreneurs I know personally or through social media.
Every time I get a new follower, I send a message thanking them and letting them know I appreciate the support. Every once in a while, I’ll get a positive response and develop a conversation from it. I’m hoping those connections will build more connections and help build a name for us.
NAN: You’ve got a lot on your plate. Do you find that working on a lot of different things helps with your creative mindset as an entrepreneur?
KYLE: I think juggling and keeping busy right now kind of keeps me sane—especially during the pandemic, where I have time to work on Neck of the Woods more. I do a lot because I don’t want to be in my 30s wishing I did things in my 20s. Being actively engaged keeps me motivated. And it keeps me moving forward.
Being busy now in my 20s is good because when I’m closer to 30, I want to really focus on building the business more, building more clientele, building credibility, and working with some of the businesses that are going to be opening up in Hartford in the next 10 to 15 years.
NAN: What has been your biggest entrepreneurial challenge?
KYLE: There are a lot of challenges, especially starting a business as a side hustle and trying to develop it in a few years. I think the biggest challenge is getting the right amount of online engagement. You have to be really consistent, especially on social media. You want to make sure you’re consistently posting because that consistency builds credibility. It creates more opportunities for people to interact with you, which ultimately helps build the brand.
Once we have more engagement, I hope we’ll gain traction and progress forward. It could take six months, it could take a year, it could take five years to get there. I think persistence and patience are really the key, especially in entrepreneurship, because a lot of people give up easily.
What’s nice is, I see a lot of small businesses—even like small ones like mine—helping promote their fellow entrepreneurs, whether it’s by pointing out someone’s Esty shop or encouraging followers to check out a favorite restaurant. We uplift each other and help build each other up instead of breaking each other down. Those random acts of kindness really do help motivate small businesses owners, and I like to see that.