Please state your name and a little about your current status.
My name is Cynthia Samanian and I’m the founder and CEO of Hidden Rhythm and the host of The Experiential Table, a new podcast that uncovers inspiration and tactics to help food and wellness brands craft impactful experiential events.
I received my MBA from Harvard Business School and currently reside in San Francisco. Growing up in a Persian family, I am no stranger to dinner parties and how sharing food sparks a meaningful connection. When I’m not in the kitchen, I enjoy traveling along the California Coast, skiing in the Sierras, or visiting family in my hometown of Seattle.
What exactly does your company do?
Hidden Rhythm is an experiential marketing agency for brands in natural food and wellness. From interactive influencer dinners to large consuming-facing pop-ups, our activations are designed to build meaningful brand loyalty.
How did you start your company/business as a startup?
While working more traditional jobs in finance and tech, I explored my professional interest in food through food blogging, photography, styling, and of course, cooking. Despite not having professional experience in the food world, the decision to turn my passion into a profession was pretty natural. I had always wanted to build a business in an industry I loved because I believed that having a genuine interest in the space would enable me to achieve my best. I love living in the blurred lines between work and play. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
When it came to discovering my place in the food, it wasn’t so straightforward. It took a few years of exploration and iteration to discover how my strengths could really shine as a newcomer to the industry. I first started with a foray into food media with Confetti Kitchen, a new media company dedicated to entertaining and hosting for millennials. When I wasn’t recipe testing or shooting photos, I hosted pop-up dinners to promote the site and build the community offline. Little did I know at the time that I was doing experiential marketing for my own brand!
Over the next year, I found the experiential business to be more interesting and full of opportunity, not only for Confetti Kitchen but also for brands looking to build loyalty. In 2018, I pivoted my company and re-branded as Hidden Rhythm, an experiential marketing agency for food and wellness brands. Our mission is to spark engaging relationships that build loyalty between brands and their communities.
What struggle did you go through to reach your current status now?
There are two ironies when it comes to pursuing your passion for work. The first is that in the beginning, you don’t get to enjoy your hobby in the same way anymore, because it’s now tied to deadlines, budgets, and clients. In my world, cooking at home for friends is very different than cooking for a 30-person branded pop-up. I cooked for myself more frequently before I started the business because I had free time.
The second irony comes as your company grows: as a business owner, you’re no longer doing the work that you love and drove you to start the company in the first place. I’ve hired chefs, mixologists, and more to support the culinary needs of our activations. While I help define the experiential vision, which includes food, I’m not involved with the actual culinary execution. Instead, I spend my time crafting experiential proposals, managing client relationships, and creating content on experiential marketing. This has led me to reclaim my hobby and start cooking more at home again!
Ultimately, the key is to always have an outlet outside of your work. If your favorite pastime becomes your work, then it’s time to find a new hobby to fill the void.
How did you manage to cope up with those struggles?
The biggest downside of running a business is the feeling of isolation when dealing with challenges. No matter how understanding and supporting your friends and family can be, there’s only so much they’ll be able to comprehend unless they’ve experienced entrepreneurship firsthand. Fortunately, I’ve been able to connect with an incredibly smart and inspiring group of entrepreneurs in San Francisco. We have real and honest conversations about the personal and professional struggles of running a company.
Who inspired you to move forward and influenced you in all your achievements now?
The biggest inspiration in my life is my mother. She is undoubtedly the strongest person I know and has an unwavering belief in me as a business owner. As an immigrant, her ability to tackle challenges far greater than mine help me keep a healthy perspective around risk. I’ve always believed that the risk isn’t in taking on a new opportunity or venture, but rather in not fulfilling your potential. This mindset truly stems from my mother and I’m so grateful to have her support alongside me in this journey.
Hire an accountant, even if you think you don’t need one. As a finance major and MBA, I took my fair share of accounting courses. I knew what debits and credits were, so I figured I could manage it myself. What I didn’t know was that there are so many filing deadlines that you simply cannot keep track of as a business owner. It’s worth the peace of mind to have professionals on your side.
Your business will change. My first venture in food media didn’t tap into my strongest skills. I’m a project-oriented person who enjoys diving deep to solve a unique creative problem before moving onto the next project. The consistent, on-going nature of publishing digital content was a total mismatch. My business pivoted from a food media company to an experiential marketing agency. It was a windy path and every step of the way led to key learning that helped me develop the business. Now, I’m able to leverage my project management skills and unleash my creativity to design and produce experiential activations for natural food and wellness brands.
Niche down. The value of a niche is something I had read about but really didn’t take to heart until reading Seth Godin’s latest book, This is Marketing. Hidden Rhythm has been able to gain traction because we choose to only serve natural food and wellness brands. In today’s noisy marketing world, it’s nearly impossible to stand out unless you over-serve your customers. You can only do that by being obsessively focused on their needs.
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs
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