A born networker, Victoria Nessen Kohlasch is a marketing dynamo and people connector. Maybe her secret is rising at 4am each day, or maybe it’s the unconditional support her family provides. Either way, she is unabashedly passionate about her business, and helping her clients achieve their goals.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to your current position as president of Nessen Kohlasch & Associates.
A: Growing up, I was a creative kid. I knew I wanted to go into advertising. I was always fascinated by what motivates people and how they make decisions and I wanted to learn how advertising helped build a brand and influence a target audience. So, I interned at an ad agency right through middle school, high school and college.
After college, my mentor, who ran the agency, said, “Go into marketing, there is more stability and predictability.” So I did, plunging into corporate America working for footwear giants Timberland, Clarks and Reebok. I loved retail and the industry. As a young marketer, footwear was an exciting tangible product. You could see it and ask consumers what they thought.
Eventually, I was curious to explore what it was like to market something intangible. I left retail and ended up at a real estate finance company. I set about trying to communicate to companies the benefits of removing real estate from their balance sheets.
It was a tremendous learning experience but I struggled with being the only creative in an office of lawyers and accountants. I had just had a baby and was grappling with my next step. Both my husband and my father said, “You should start your own company." I had never thought about that, but I listened to them. It was a crazy and wonderful time to try something new. After two weeks of exploration, I had enough clients to duplicate my existing income and took the leap!
Fourteen years later, I've built a wonderful company. I work with ingenious, smart people who challenge me to rise to new levels. I have a wonderful business partner--we share the same values and moral compass but come at problems from different angles, allowing for productive discourse and growth. I've learned that I'm independent, but also love collaborating.
Q: In your many years of working in marketing, and business in general, what changes have you observed?
A: When you're cultivating a brand, you need to meet your customers at the front door, right where they are in that moment in time. When you do this, you create an instant bond or relationship. Your brand does not need to be liked by everyone. As a matter of fact, we help our clients determine whom they want to attract and whom they want to repel. Both are important and the Internet gives us a wonderful array of new tools to build relationships and connect.
Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your life that led you to the work you are doing today?
A: We are always looking for proof that we are doing the right thing or on the right track. I drive myself hard and when I finally took the time to stop and look at what I had accomplished in building NK&A, I recognized that I had something special here. It came after several years of working with the same clients and seeing the continual influx of business. All the votes of confidence others had cast woke me up and, ultimately, helped me have the confidence and joy I feel today.
Q: Who is/was the most important role model in your life? What kind of wisdom/lessons did they impart on you?
A: My parents. I know that sounds stereotypical, but it’s true!
My parents have taught me that everyone is important and has a voice and to create change you have to listen and then lead. They have shown me very different styles of leadership to draw upon.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to women entrepreneurs, what would it be?
A: It's important to listen to people who want to contribute to your success. Sometimes they see things you don't see in yourself. But you also have to be clear about what excites you and gets you up every day and is your passion. Don't drift from that passion.
Q: Tell us why you are a member of The Boston Club.
A: I spend a lot of time networking and building my business. Several years ago, a male networking friend said, "You know you have never introduced me to any business women. You only know men." I went into my contacts and in a year, I had met 276 people and 27 were women. I thought, “Women are certainly more than 10 percent of the population! Where are they?”
When I went to my first event at The Boston Club, it felt like home. There were so many women who were really passionate about supporting each other and their careers. I joined the Club and right away got on the Membership Committee. I have never been to an event where I didn't have fun, learn something new and meet great people. Also, the Club truly meets you where you are. At one point, I had to step back a bit and everyone was very kind and nonjudgmental.
I want to mention that the Club’s mentoring program has been spectacular. I took part in it and it was as if an angel was dropped into my lap at the right moment. She helped me solve a serious business problem and I'm eternally grateful for that.
Q: What is one thing most people don't know about you?
A: I'm an early morning person. There is something about that time of day that is all mine—no one is interrupting or pulling on me. I don’t allow myself to get up earlier than 4am, but I can’t wait to start each day. I've been that way since I was a kid.
To learn more about Victoria, visit her company's website.