Elaine Kapogines is a Media Educator and PR Strategist with nearly 20 years experience in the Canadian media. She is now the Founder and Host of Pitch Class, a digital training platform that educates and empowers entrepreneurs to find their voice in the media. She also owns Wiltshire Media, a boutique PR agency specializing in tech and lifestyle brands.
Elaine is sitting down with The Corporate Escapists and sharing with us what the word EMPOWER means to her.
Thank you for joining us here at The Corporate Escapists. Please introduce yourself to our reader. They love to know about you, your passion, and how you came to find and follow your passion.
I’m Elaine Kapogines, a Media Educator and PR Strategist based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. I have two daughters, ages 6 and 9, a crazy little Boston Terrier, and a husband I adore.
I began my career as a journalist nearly two decades ago. I worked for two of the largest publishing companies in the world covering business, finance and law. In 2014, after the birth of my first daughter, I launched my own publishing company and was the owner of a successful print magazine for 5 years. In 2019, I made the switch from journalism to public relations.
Through my work, I have been able to reached hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners and other professionals from around the world with the message that being interviewed by the media is not only accessible, but that the media needs more diversity in their sources. I am passionate about empowering underrepresented voices in our communities to step up and change the conversation in the media.
As an successful entrepreneur please share your view point if you believe that entrepreneurs are born or made?
While I do believe there’s something innate that some people are just born with that pulls them towards entrepreneurship, I think that the skills you need to be successful are learned and developed, like a muscle. I think most entrepreneurs are often born with an internal drive that predisposes them to choose this path, however, no one is born with the skills to be successful. Really successful entrepreneurs are those that are open to learning, practicing and honing different skills.
Nelson Mandela once quoted – ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ What has been one fear you have overcome?
Tell us what the word “empower” means to you?
I believe it’s about having the power to control a given situation. In my case, I empower (mostly female) entrepreneurs to step up and use their voice in the public space. I want people to know that they have the ability to control how the world views them and their business, and that their voice matters. Empowerment means that you don’t have to sit back and wait for a reporter to call you and ask for your opinion; you have to power to make that call yourself, to tell your story, to give you opinion, and to be the representative that your community needs.
What has been one of the biggest business ideas you have had and how did you have the courage to implement it?
The biggest business idea I had was to make the transition from journalist to PR strategist, where I help other entrepreneurs get themselves in the media. At the point when I first had the idea to shift my focus, I had nearly 15 years under my belt in the media as a writer, editor and magazine publisher. I had imagined that this would always be my career path because I loved being a journalist. But I was feeling like something needed to change. I had taken the publication I owned as far as I could, and I was going through a huge life change that time as well. So although it was super scary, it absolutely felt right.
The courage to make the leap came from a business coach I was working with. She really helped me work through what was holding me back and forced me to admit some hard truths about myself and my business. My husband was also a hugely encouraging, so that made things easier as well. But once the decision was made and I begin implementing the changes, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I knew almost immediately I’d made the right decision. Having people who believed in me and supported me was absolutely critical to overcoming the fear of what was next.
Running your own business can be scary. Success requires moments of courage to push through to the next level, please tell us one of the moments you have had to push through to take your business to the next level?
As most people would agree, 2020 was an extremely difficult year! At the end of that year, I was stressed like I’d never been stressed before. The business was going well, but I was floundering to find my footing. I was working all the time taking on any contract I could find, with two young kids at home doing virtual school and no childcare support. It hit me like a ton of bricks that the way I was going was not sustainable, even in the short term.
I was on the brink of shutting the whole thing down and just riding out the pandemic without the stress of owning a business. I scheduled myself a month-long break in December for the sole purpose of trying to figure out what was next, and if I could even keep going with the business. I took some time to re-evaluate my goals, passions and really think about was I enjoyed about the business and what I could let go.
It was during this time that I envisioned a more self-sustaining digital platform, where I could reach even more entrepreneurs with the message that the media is accessible to everyone and that the media needs more diversity in their sources. I desperately wanted to educate and empower the underrepresented voices in our communities to step up and use their voice in the media, and I knew I could do that more effectively through online training and digital material.
I pushed through the doubt and was able to launch Pitch Class to a test cohort of 15 female entrepreneurs in the spring of 2021. The course received rave reviews and students were starting to get media coverage before the course even finished! It was at that point that I knew I was on to something special and that this was the next level I’d been searching for.
Tell us what attributes you feel make a good leader in business today?
Perseverance is a huge one! Owning a business is an emotional rollercoaster and if you’re not prepared to push through the lows, it’s almost impossible to make any real progress.
I would also say flexibility. Sometimes we have an idea of the direction our business should go, and we become stuck in the idea, even when our customers or the market is telling us we’ve missed the mark. A good leader not only adapts to changes, but oftentimes embraces the challenge, which has essentially become critical for survival over the last two years.
And also, optimism. A leader needs to feel like they’re making the right decision and that there’s always something good around the corner. If we get sucked in negativity, everyone around us will feel that energy, and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What is your favourite quote about empowerment?
That’s an easy one! “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Just do it! There’s not “perfect time” to do anything important. If you have the desire and passion, then just take the leap and figure the rest out as you go.
Also, you don’t have to do it all. Entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, sometimes have the tendency to believe we can do everything that needs to be done. This mentality can not lead to growth. Surround yourself with good people and tap into their skills and expertise, so that you can focus you energy on those elements of your business that only you can do.
What would be one (1) question you would you ask the person who most inspires you? Also share with us about this person and why they inspire you?
My dad is the person who inspires me the most, and luckily I can ask him any time I want! A long time ago, I asked him what advice he had for being successful, and he told me to take every opportunity that comes your way even if you don’t feel ready for it. You’ll figure it out! This has always stuck with me and guides a lot of my business decisions.
My dad had a very successful career in corporate leadership and has always been my biggest supporter! His strength, work ethic, humour and charisma has been an inspiration to me.