Mika Stambaugh Walks Her Talk–Compassionate Entrepreneur, Co-founder, and PR-Expert
By Lynn Miller, CEO 50 Shades of Businesses
When I met Mika Stambaugh, a couple of weeks ago, our conversation began as if we had known each other for years though we had never met in person. Almost immediately, I noticed we shared a vision to “walk our talk” in terms of actions we take to support sustainable growth in Chicago for women and minority entrepreneurs.
When you start a conversation with Mika, and agree that “something needs to get done,” mobilizing a team to take action is no joke. Mika is one of those people who wastes no time seizing a market opportunity, and taps into her vast network to make sure the work gets done.
As the daughter of two parents who are entrepreneurs, Mika developed “a sixth sense” for new business opportunities early in her career. While shopping in a large mall with friends, Mika was looking for a high-end tanning salon. Tanning salons were fairly popular at the time but the quality varied greatly. Mika quickly discovered the number of tanning salons with the quality and customer experience she wanted was rare—particularly in Woodfield Mall which, at the time was clearly one of the largest in Chicagoland. She quickly explored building high-end tanning salons as a business opportunity, and, after calculating the amount of revenue she would capture by simply marketing to the employees that worked in the mall, Mika and her business partner sprang into action. Two years later, Mika’s first business venture resulted in a successful exit.
While being an entrepreneur came naturally to Mika, it never derailed her from pursuing the work she is most passionate about—telling stories as part of the news.
Growing up, Mika was a news junkie. Her passion for stories resulted in an internship at ABC in Chicago with Paul Meincke, which lasted four years! Mika landed a job at CBS Chicago about a month after graduation –she hustled to get assignments that were interesting to her, while being surrounded by Chicago news legends Jay Lavine, Bill Kurtis, and Walter Jacobson. When I asked her about the most important lesson she learned, Mika thought for a moment and said, Jay Levine was my mentor during my entire time with CBS. He taught me to immerse myself in each side of a story so that I could tell both sides completely.” Mika’s commitment to telling both sides of the story completely, eventually led to her becoming a 2008 Emmy-winning field producer.
After leaving CBS to join media startup Touchvision, Mika served as a spokesperson for the City of Chicago. In this role, Mika had an opportunity to be one the inside track of the challenges and opportunities women and minority-owned businesses and not-for-profits face. Walking her talk as always, Mika serves on the Board of Directors for the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Susan G. Komen Chicago to raise funds and awareness that benefit the sick and less fortunate in Chicago.
Mika took the life lessons from her roles with the city of Chicago along with her role at CBS and remains committed to two guiding principles:
A commitment to excellence–never compromising on the quality of her work.
Paying attention to the friendships that are most important to her—especially her relationship with best friend, Carmaine Means.
While taking some time off last fall, Mika visited Carmaine Means, a photographer/videographer who was her partner while working as a producer at CBS. During her visit, Stambaugh noticed the collection of drones–a technology that Means became fascinated with while shooting and editing video for CBS, so she became a licensed FAA drone pilot.
When she saw the drones, Mika become equally fascinated with this new technology. Since the drone photography business segment was just beginning to take off, Mika was curious about the number of women who were licensed FAA drone pilots—4 percent out of a total of 770,000 registered operators! The moment she discovered this statistic, the entrepreneur bug bit Mika again. She seized her next opportunity to start a company that closed a market gap and is totally bootstrapped and co-founded Drone Girls with the nation’s first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified female African-American drone pilot, and, her best friend, Carmaine Means! Stambaugh runs the company’s marketing and PR and Means pilots the drones and shoots and edits video.
Drone Girls is now a year-old business venture with founders who are as unique as the footage they capture. While running marketing and PR for Drone Girls, Mika’s awareness of how PR and marketing services are often bundled together, when in fact they are very different. In January of 2018, THEMASINK (TMI) launched. Mika has officially put her stake in the ground for PR as its own distinct discipline and most of her retained clients are women-owned businesses and not-for-profits. She focuses exclusively on communication strategy and PR and has assembled “rock-star” group of colleagues in various marketing disciplines who share her commitment to excellence.
Advice from Mika
Before we concluded our interview, I asked Mika two questions about lessons she has learned and will incorporate into TMI and Drone Girls and found her response a little surprising given her busy life.
Q. What advice would you like to share about when PR might be good for the women and not-for-profits who need affordable access services that will help them achieve their goals.
A. Do not look as PR as an add-on—it is the story that reflects your brand strategy. Once you are clear about your brand, then create your story. After you have those two components, I can help build the communication strategy.
Q. What is one surprising quality about you that people would be surprised to know?
A. People may be surprised to know how important solitude along with my health and well-being are to me. I live in Hyde Park, which is quieter than other parts of the city, work out daily (including the treadmill she was on during our interview), and make sure I have time with friends and my French Mastiff, Chapo.
The big surprise are the two times a year, when I go off-the-grid for 30 days and detox from everything–foods that are not good for me, the phone, texting, television, networking—all of it. I sleep a lot, walk alone, write, think, and no talking!
In case you are wondering when she takes this time, it’s in April (yes, that means now), and during the month of October
Q. Do you have any other advice for women entrepreneurs?
A. Yes—if you say you want to support women entrepreneurs, then actually be supportive. Share advice, collaborate, share your network, and let’s get stuff done!