Interview with 27 year-old Surfing Champion turned CEO

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If anyone embodies the attitude of a Renaissance Woman, it’s Kayla Beckmann. She recently published an article on Elite Daily entitled, How I Defied Statistics And Became A Female Entrepreneur. From age 12 to 22 she was a competitive surfer who was exposed to pay inequality. “Win a pro event as a female, get $5,000; win the same event as a male, get $20,000.”

She then retired from surfing, graduated from college earning Electronic Media Student of the Year, and landed a job as an associate editor of a culture/sports magazine. She spent almost a year being told that she was “almost ready” for the sought after editor position but she needed to work on being so “strong minded.” She quit.

Kayla moved on to an advertising agency where a male co-worker who had fewer clients and had been there for a shorter time made more money than her. She was told that she deserved to make more money but it was “complicated.”

Exhausted and frustrated, she decided to start her own business.

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1) Is a small fox your spirit animal? If so, why? If not, which animal would you choose and why?

A small fox is absolutely my spirit animal. It’s funny you ask – I never considered myself to have a spirit animal and thought it was kind of a silly concept. But once I began the process of trying to name my company, it was the only thing that stuck. I wasn’t going the animal-name route to begin with. I really wanted a one-word kind of kitchy name, and when I started the brainstorm I wrote down every word that came to mind – even if they didn’t make sense (Taco and Side-Boob were on the list). I narrowed the list down to five by polling family and friends, and then realized although the names on the list were cool – per se – they weren’t me. So then I started to think who am I? What makes me unique? How do I want my business to be run? Well – I’m small. I’m 5-foot even. But I’ve never let my size be an issue. I’ve played both football and soccer and was known for my tenacity and competitiveness. Business-wise I wanted to be efficient, clever, and yes, even aggressive. That’s when the fox came to me. They are small, but still a predator in animal world. So small, tenacious, and clever. I wrote it down Small Fox Media and it just felt right. I didn’t poll anyone this time, I knew that was the one. I even had a small geometric fox head tattooed on the inside of my forearm. It’s a nice reminder to embrace all of these attributes.

2) Can you tell us a little bit about your compulsive list making? (Side note: I share the same addiction, I always have little post-its strewn everywhere)

I’m definitely a Type -A personality. If there was something more Type-A, than Type-A, I’d be that too. There is nothing more terrifying and annoying to me than disorganization. I make lists about everything. Scrolling through my lists currently on my phone, I have ones about: March personal and business funds, how much my boyfriend owes me for cable/internet, social media posts to do for clients, items I need from Target, possible names for my future children, things to do while I’m in New York next month, current invoices I have out I’m waiting to be paid for, a list of songs I want played at my future wedding, things to watch on Netflix, and quotes I like that I plan to later use as Instagram captions. Then there’s a whole other app for grocery store lists. And my physical day planner. I think I’m just terrified of forgetting anything. Once I read all that back, I fully realize that I sound insane, but I’m okay with that, because one day, when I need a sassy photo caption for a selfie, it’s already stored right at my finger tips. And that is a comforting thought.

3) Do you have a favorite pun?

Gah! I love puns. All of them. Such a guilty pleasure. But my favorite so far is my pet hedgehog’s name, Pinnelope. Get it? Pin. She has spikes. Eh?! Eh?!

4) Do you feel that your status as a 27 year old female CEO intimidates others?

I’m not sure if I would say intimidates, but I think it maybe does throw some people off. For example, I’m so glad that I’m already in a long-term relationship with a very confident and supportive man. In the past, whenever I had met guys and told them what I did, I saw them immediately become disinterested. It was as if they didn’t want a woman who was as accomplished if not more-so than them. My now-boyfriend was the opposite. When we met he thought (and still thinks) I’m a badass 🙂 I’d say that I find more people are surprised. When asked, “what do you do” and I say that I own Small Fox Media, it’s more a surprised, “Oh!”.

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5)      Do you feel that others stereotype or prematurely judge you based on your accomplishments?

I think that people sometimes label confident, boss women as bossy and/or bitchy. I’ve been accused of both, a lot. Which is frustrating on so many levels, but mainly because I make a conscience effort to truly be kind and helpful to everyone. Writing for Elite Daily, I’ve had people comment saying I was a “blonde rich girl know-it-all” and a “stuck up bitch”. 1. My hair is ombre, thankyouverymuch. 2. Nope. Not rich. Did I mention I own my own business? Sometimes people see success and confidence as something else. It’s a double standard, and it sucks. But I don’t worry about. Too busy trying to be awesome over here!

6) Do you ever want to return to on-air sports reporting? If so, why? If not, why not?

At this point, no. As one of my college professors once said, “You’re great on air, but you’re much better at telling people what to do.” I love reporting, and doing interviews, but I love the freedom and fulfillment I get from owning my own business. There’s no way I could ever go back to anything else.

7) Did you ever confront anyone in the Surf Industry concerning unfair pay for women?

I did when I was younger. I was very vocal about the inequality and my discontent. I’d write emails to, and personally speak with contest directors about why women were being paid significantly less when the entry fee for the contest was the same for both men and women and we were surfing the same waves. Answers varied from shrugs to “that’s just how it is.”

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8) Why do you think employers seem to have a problem with “strong-minded” women in the workplace?

I truly have no idea. I think it’s such an old-school, outdated thought that women can’t be confident and strong, and if they are, they’re bossy and bitchy. I do believe that things are changing, and will continue to evolve as Millennials become the majority in the workforce. But it’s so silly. Wouldn’t you want an employee to be confident and strong regardless of sex?

As  woman, you have to prove your worth and competence every day, and even then there are some that won’t take you seriously – or equally as annoying – tell you you’re too strong minded.

9) Did you face any hurdles when you decided to begin/began your own business?

Oh my gosh! I’m still facing hurdles. Every day is a hurdle. I’m a “jump in the deep end to learn how to swim” person, so I started Small Fox with very little idea of what I was doing, or how it was going to work. I quit my job; went freelance as a producer. It then evolved when I started taking on jobs completely by myself and hiring out a crew to develop them. I started Small Fox and learned along the way all the legal items that come along with starting a business, and every thing else through basically just making mistakes. The first slow month I had I remember calling my boyfriend at work and sobbing into the phone, “WHY DID YOU LET ME DO THIS? THIS WAS SUCH A BAD IDEA!” I stayed in bed and cried the rest of the day wondering why on earth I left a very stable and well-paying job. Then I woke up the next morning and contacted everyone I could think of asking to pitch my services to them. It’s never a steady paycheck. You have to hustle every single day. But you also get to do what you love every day and know that everything you’re doing is directly benefiting you.

10)  What advice do you have for women in the workforce?

Never ever ever ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. You can do anything – literally anything – you want. Speak up, be confident, and know your self worth. I also highly recommend making a list of things you’d want to do if money, location, time, anything, wasn’t a factor. Pick one. Make some sort of plan, then just jump. It’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out yet. Seriously, that’s okay. But just go for it and do it. Then do everything in your power to make it work. Starting Small Fox was the scariest, and has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.

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Kayla Beckmann is owner/producer of Small Fox Media. She’s a compulsive list maker, future stage mom, professional loud talker, and loves a good pun.

There are two very simple words that Kayla lives by every day – never settle. 

Notable life-stuff includes: 2008 U.S. Surfing Women’s Longboard champion, 2011-2012 Electronic Media Student of the Year, awarded by the University of North Florida, magazine editor, advertising account executive, and now CEO of Small Fox Media. 

Kayla currently resides in Jacksonville, FL with her awesome and extremely handsome Ad-Man boyfriend/power couple other half, Guy, their dog, Mace, and hedgehog, Pinnelope. 

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @kaylabeckmann & @smallfoxmedia. You can also follow Pinnelope too, @pinnelopethehedgehog.