By Emily Cervone on March 22, 2017
“Start Each Day with a Grateful Heart”, a framed picture reads in the corner of Courtney Maki’s office, founder of Glow Social Media in REO Town Lansing. Maki is the 2017 recipient of ATHENAPowerLink, a mentoring program that honors women business owners in the “growth stage” in the Lansing area.
“I get advisement from a panel of volunteers–financial and legal– and I get to meet with experts and have quarterly team meetings all free of cost,” said Maki. “They want to help you to succeed.”
Although Maki now owns her own business, she never thought she would be interested in that field, she said. However, she was drawn to social media because of the spike in its relevance after she graduated college.
“Social media was the onset of the personal branding phenomenon,” said Maki. “Since MySpace, Black Planet, etc., I used to update my media every day and I was interested in the personal branding side of things. I could never see myself in anything else.”
Graduating from Lansing Catholic Central in 2003, Maki made her way to Florida A&M where she received a full academic scholarship to a 5-year MBA program.
“I had, and still have, a hard time spending other people’s money,” said Maki. “So I figured I would go where they were giving me money. I didn’t even go to the orientation [program]. I figured if I go and don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do anyways.”
Since the program was rigorous and required students to do at least three internships (each three months long, two without classes), she thought her resume was more than ready for the real world — until she graduated.
“Of course, it was during the economic downturn in 2009,” said Maki. “So I found myself as an assistant manager at a mall boutique. I resigned myself to being a retail employee for the rest of my life.”
However, her plan changed in the form of a call from Disney, who hired her on a contract-basis. Three weeks later she found herself in Orlando, FL. Amongst the many hats she wore, including working on social media for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons, she still focused primarily on personal branding.
“It was the best place to learn about social media with all of the resources I had,” said Maki. “We launched every form of social media there was available at the time: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…it was an ideal scenario.”
Unfortunately they did not have a contract to renew for her, so she ended doing social media for a small network in Atlanta called UpTV in 2010. This was a pivotal experience in her growth as a small business owner.
“As a sort of ‘faith based’ ABC family-type network, it was a huge change because I went from a huge company [Disney] to maybe 30 people running this whole network,” said Maki. “It was a learning opportunity, and set me up for solving problems, learning about the company.”
Maki continued until she was laid off in 2012, which was an “extremely devastating” time. After a conversation with her dad, she decided to email all of her previous employers of her situation; she ended up getting in touch with the editor in chief of CocoFab.com.
“It was a freelance job, I needed money so during it I just applied to other jobs,” said Maki. “But I didn’t receive any offers. I didn’t know it, but there was something better in the works.”
Family and friends started asking her for help with personal branding during this time, which turned into a couple of “gigs”, she said. From this, her first LLC, ‘Courtney Lane Maki’ was born.
“Over a glass of champagne with my friend, I got the name Glow Social media,” said Maki. “I think because of my effervescent personality and passion I bring.”
Within the course of her first year, there were many ups and downs: inconsistent numbers of clients, moving into her mother’s cousin’s basement, and selling her clothes for a little extra cash. But she doesn’t want this painted as a “hard-knock-time” story.
“I had about $10,000 of clothes in my closet,” said Maki. “I learned that it’s stuff, it’s fluid. And in your journey, yes, people will push you to question yourself – and not in a good way.”
Her “small” misfortunes were met with a few positives: she dabbled into acting and booked a national Ford commercial, with a check containing money she had “never seen before.”
“I was a 20+ single woman, so I spent it all,” she laughed. “I bought clothes, went to Paris…but I also bought stocks.”
Still, she felt she had no direction until her mom became diagnosed with cancer in 2014 while visiting her family for the holidays. From networking through Craigslist and LinkedIn, she booked her first “gig” with a PBS hunting show, virtually as a personal brander. The rest is history, she says.
“I joined the chamber here, and in the first year I was at every single event they had,” said Maki. “I took advantage of all of the resources given to me. I really attribute my success to going away during my career, it really made an impact on me.”
Maki’s eccentric career helped her serve the variety of clients now at her job, she says. Remaining transparent and open is one of her biggest mantras. She has a large posterboard of 1, 3 and 5 year goals – which have altered slightly due to her new engagement.
“You never know who walks in and asks what your goals are,” she said. “So they are right here, for everyone to see.”
However, as a woman business owner, she has faced some unfortunate backlash, and offers advice to any women pursuing owning their own business.
“Assert yourself,” she said “Watch your body language, keep it in mind. I think because I’m bright, people never labeled me ‘aggressive’, but as a young woman you have to be. Remain acutely aware of your physical language and actual language.”
Nevertheless, Maki continues to plan for her upcoming wedding, expanding her business, and the excitement of starting a new family.
“I am so confident in this: if you are organized, well-documented, and have a good plan: you don’t have to worry,” said Maki. “Listen to God, the Universe…whatever you call it. Trust your gut.”