As part of The Startup Magazine Founders Interview Series, we interviewed Luisa Mendoza and Tim Carter—CEO and COO of UKONIK—a true startup that began early this year. UKONIK is a New York City-based brand-new and privately-held company entering the digital marketing and advertising industry by supporting businesses’ adaptation to digital reality.
Luisa and Tim launched UKONIK in 2021 as a way to help other businesses grow and survive during the pandemic. Luisa pivoted to this new business after establishing herself as the first U.S. Hispanic female to create a sports, entertainment, and tourism company.
With over 20+ years of experience in global business development and marketing, Luisa and Tim have the goal of making brands iconic ones while helping its leaders create legacies through UKONIK.
TSM: Describe the UKONIK company/service in 10 words or less:
Luisa: Digital marketing agency helping organizations and individuals achieve their goals.
TSM: With a bit more detail, tell us more about UKONIK? (Share with us your primary mission)
Tim: UKONIK is a full-service digital marketing agency offering comprehensive and customized digital marketing plans. We want to be the most impactful digital marketing agency by creating compelling marketing strategies that turn brands into icons while helping its leaders leave a legacy.
We provide three services: digital marketing, public relations and executive coaching.
TSM: Tell us more about your pivot from sports, entertainment, and tourism to digital marketing? Are these pandemic-inspired changes to marketing here to stay?
Luisa: These pandemic inspired changes are here to stay. COVID-19 shut down the tourism and sports industries and we were able to transfer the marketing skills and experience that made us successful in the sports industry to other industries.
This allowed us to expand our portfolio and post the pandemic we will have two companies, GTSE – Global Tourism Sports and Entertainment and UKONIK which is our digital marketing agency. As Steve Jobs says “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” This pivot gave us an opportunity to diversify our portfolio and create a diversified empire.
TSM: What are some key factors that will help companies build iconic brands?
Tim: Brand awareness and recognition is hugely important. Many people won’t buy from brands they don’t recognize so ensuring people who are not hearing about your brand for the first time when making a purchasing decision is key. Knowing how to connect with your audience while staying true to the values of the brand is a key factor in the success of brands. Authenticity goes a long way.
TSM: Are there particular industries that are more prone to building iconic businesses, or can you apply your key strategies to all businesses?
Luisa: You can apply our key strategies across all businesses and industries. Of course, there will be certain avenues and activities that are a better fit for certain brands or industries.
TSM: For your own company, tell us about the vision for the UKONIK?
Tim: Our vision is to combine innovation, grit and expertise to help businesses grow exponentially while connecting communities and resources around the world.
TSM: In this current environment, what have been the additional business challenges for you and how have you adjusted your operation and business model?
Luisa: Working from home has been a challenge that we have turned into a strength. In person meetings will forever be important, but we have figured out how to maximize time and resources by working from home. We have been able to connect with people from around the WORLD rather than just working In our local areas.
TSM: Beyond the Pandemic, are there other disruptive factors in the digital marketing industry that make it so promising?
Luisa: The digital marketing Industry Is extremely fast-growing. One of the big reasons for this rapid growth is the of trackability of the different campaigns. Digital marketing provides real-time updates on the success of a campaign, which make it a major value add for any company looking to do marketing.
TSM: Going back to your early career decisions, tell us what factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur?
Luisa: It’s in my genes. When I was 5 years old, I gathered all my dolls and books, placed them in a box and went door to door selling them to my neighbors in order to save money to buy my Mom a gift for Mother’s Day! As I got older that passion for entrepreneurship only increased! My vision has always been extremely big, and as an entrepreneur I can have the power to turn those visions into realities without any pushback.
Tim: I’ve always loved the challenge of creating something. It is extremely satisfying to work on something and see it grow from inception to success.
TSM: And what characteristics do you have that particularly contributed to your ability to build from a startup success?
Luisa: We think a big reason for our success is our ability to connect with people. There are so many different factors in building and growing a business, but the bottom line is if people don’t want to work with you, then they will find someone they do want to work with. Creating great relationships allows for better communication in business and ultimately better business. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It all comes down to deep relationships.
TSM: What is the most important thing you tell other startup founders? What are your lessons learned?
Luisa: Surround yourself by champions who have reached success as entrepreneurs, because that success will motivate you to keep on going.
Tim: I think the most important thing I can tell other startup founders is that it is not going to be easy. Ninety-nine times out of 100 it is not all rainbows and butterflies, but if you push through the hard times, the rainbows do exist, and they are totally worth it. All this to say, being a startup founder is a ton of fun, and every founder should constantly be learning.
TSM: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
Luisa: That I’m a miracle baby! My Mom’s OBGYN told her for 10 years that she would never have a child, and boom 10 years later he delivered me. Where there is a will, there is a way!
Tim: Most people don’t know that I am a huge nerd when it comes to reading books. I love reading. Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, in almost any genre, give me a good story and I am all in.
TSM: Thank you both for your time with us today and good luck on your continued success.