On this episode of #BLUEPRINT, I had the pleasure to interview Nik Sharma, Forbes 30 Under 30 Member and marketing wizard.
At the age of 15, Nik was already handling social strategy for celebrities like Pitbull and Priyanka Chopra. Since then, he’s built up a long list of accomplishments and worked with many amazing brands. As the former Director of DTC at Hint, he helped grow their direct-to-consumer business, accounting for nearly 40% of their $100 million in sales, as referenced by Bloomberg. Nik has also built audiences for Complex Media, Bustle Media Group and Refinery 29, and most recently served as Head of D2C for VaynerMedia. On this episode, Nik shares his story and how he bypassed a college education to pursue his passion for storytelling.
1. From starting out in the marketing space when you were 15 to running DTC at VaynerMedia, what’s been the story behind where you are today?
When I was 15 years old, I started to notice that Facebook was becoming a big player in the social media world. I was spending a lot of time on the platform and I was really good at coming up with funny Facebook statuses that would go viral among my friends and be talked about all over my high school. Once I started to notice that I was good at getting people to interact with things and that I could figure out what makes people tick, that's when I tried creating a Facebook page. When I was 16, my cousin started a TV show on an Indian network and I asked if I could create her Facebook Page for her. That page did really well and as one thing leads to another, it went from running my cousins page to working with different celebrities like Pitbull and MAGIC!. From there, I divided into the ad tech world and started working with brands like Hint Water to lead their performance marketing efforts and most recently heading the direct to consumer department at VaynerMedia.
2. What has been the biggest obstacle you've faced on your journey and how did you overcome it?
When I started my first real company I was just coming out of high school and being taken seriously in the business world was a big challenge. As a fresh 17 year old, nobody took me seriously at first and I was definitely overlooked. However, I decided I had to just accept it, understand it and figure out how I could reverse engineer this problem into an opportunity. I did this by outperforming others in my space and letting the quality of my work and results speak for me. Eventually, it got to the point where I had built up a strong enough track record that my age was no longer a limiting factor. At the end of the day, when it comes to hiring, people and companies are looking for experience and a strong track record. So, if you're struggling with not being taken seriously because of your age, focus on building up a solid portfolio of work; soon enough your age will become irrelevant.
3. What are 3 lessons you have learned over the last few years that have had the biggest impact on your life?
The number one thing I have learned is to keep really good company and surround myself with the people I aspire to be like. I think it is really important to identify those individuals in the business world, where you are career goals are aligned with theirs. Equally important is to have a similar circle on the personal side, where you have you best friends that embody the characteristics and values that you want to have such as kindness, humility, or whatever it may be. Another crucial thing I've learned that never really gets talked about is getting enough sleep. It's something I still struggle with today, but I instantly notice that I am extremely more productive when I have a good nights sleep. The last lesson I've learned is to give without any expectation. The reality is, so many people are so focused on what they can get, so giving without having any expectations can become your competitive advantage. What goes around comes around and if you focus on the giving, opportunities and situations that you could have never seen coming will present themselves.
4. You are an amazing self learner and much of what you know today has been self taught, what tips do you have for those who are trying to learn outside of the classroom?
One thing I do that has worked really well for me is going straight to the source. When it comes to the world of marketing, understanding what makes brands successful and what is coming next, I have used Twitter to educate myself. Twitter has been my biggest tool and has given me access to people that I would never of thought I would be able to meet. It is free to use and anyone can leverage its power. I don't do any courses or too much book reading, most of my learning comes from going straight to the people who I think are on the front lines of whatever I am trying to do.
5. If you could go back to your younger self, just finishing high school, what advice would you give yourself?
There are two main pieces of advice I would give to my younger self. First, I would tell myself to focus on building relationships and develop a strong network of people right from the get go. Second, I would focus a lot more on writing and sharing my learnings throughout my journey. Writing is a great way to connect with others and it also really helps me to solidify my understanding of a topic.