(Photo below is a steampunk gun Chris won as a trophy for winning Best in Show at the 2012 BMA-TAM awards for his Belden social media work. Photo by Katherine Bish.)
Chris Reimer is an award-winning new media strategist, and is Associate Director of New Media at Maryville University. A marketing career is not where Chris expected to be, as he spent almost 20 years in finance (which scares him to even think about). He also is the author of the 2015 book Happywork: A Business Parable About the Journey to Teamwork, Profit, and Purpose.
He graduated from Marquette University in 1993 with a B.S. in Accounting, became a CPA in 1995, and then served as Chief Financial Officer of several organizations around St. Louis, including Zipatoni and Nurses for Newborns Foundation. The entrepreneurial bug bit in October 2007, and the idea for a funny t-shirt company called Rizzo Tees was born. After a year of development, Rizzo Tees went live on October 30, 2008. Five days later, Chris started marketing his tees (and himself) on Twitter. A Facebook fan page soon followed, and then two blogs. As “Chief Shirtologist,” Chris was and still is responsible for marketing Rizzo Tees and growing it with no marketing budget. The lessons learned by bootstrapping his way through marketing his business allowed him to make the improbable leap from CPA to ad man.
He was named the Most Influential Twitter User in St. Louis by STLTweets.com for 2010 and 2011, beating out over 500,000 local Twitter users. Other awards include the The Riverfront Times 2011 Web Award for Best Twitterer in St. Louis, the 2011 BMA-TAM “Best-in-Class” award for Falk Harrison’s “Save Pratzel’s” social media campaign, the 2012 BMA-TAM “Best in Show” award for Belden’s social media campaign, and the 2012 Riverfront Times Web Award for the Pratzel’s campaign. Entrepreneur Magazine named him one of the top Twitter users in the world to follow if you’re new to the service. His Twitter community continues to grow and is now over 55,000 followers.
At Maryville, Chris directs new media strategy, including video, website, social media, and advertising. He works to bring a fun and human perspective to the story of Maryville. He uses social media 365 days a year – yes, even Christmas. It’s hard to take a day off from doing something that one truly enjoys. He believes very strongly in the power of these new communication platforms, as they helped him change careers and carve out a much happier work life.
Chris sat on the Board of the Social Media Club of St. Louis during 2010 and enjoys speaking to groups about social media and the impact it has had on his life. When he isn’t spinning the yarn on Twitter, he sips a glass or two of red wine and watches any sport in hi-def. Most of all, he enjoys playing with his two daughters. Nothing is better than chasing them around the playground at Francis Park.
HIGH RESOLUTION HEADSHOT
St. Louis Magazine A-List for 2012 – Best Twitter user in St. Louis
Top 5 Twitter User in the World to Follow if You’re New to Twitter – Entrepreneur Magazine
Most Influential Twitter User in St. Louis – STLIndex.com – 2010, 2011, and the first half of 2012.
Best Twitterer in St. Louis – Riverfront Times Web Award – 2011
Best in Class award – TAM Awards – Pratzel’s social media campaign – 2011
Best Social Media Campaign – Riverfront Times Web Award – 2012
Best in Show award – TAM Awards – Belden social media campaign – 2012
WHO ARE MY INFLUENCERS?
I have intensely studied the writings and videos of the following people, or have basked in the glow of their general presence:
David Meerman Scott
Mayor Francis Slay
Arlene Maminta Browne
Michael De Vlieger
David Siteman Garland
My awesome wife
Writing, changing the world, social media, red wine, the NBA, German automobiles, NPR, French language (my two daughters attend a French language immersion school and I’m trying to learn too), dining out, every kind of pizza in existence except Pizza Shuttle on Marquette’s campus ’cause that stuff was awful. I’m on the board of Beyond Housing, and a member of the Social Media Avengers, a volunteer group dedicated to helping the St. Louis Area Foodbank spread the word about hunger in St. Louis.
FROM CPA TO AD MAN: HOW I CHANGED CAREERS
Have you ever felt uncomfortable in your own skin? Have you ever questioned how you ended up in the line of work you’re in? Quite simply, have you ever wanted to be someone else?
What a powerful notion, and a heavy subject, isn’t it? Many people are unsatisfied at their jobs, or even unhappy. Since we spend the majority of our waking life working, those hours might as well bring us joy and fulfillment. However, all too often, we don’t experience job joy. There are tens of millions of 9-to-5 zombies driving to work right now, wishing they were headed somewhere else. You feel like a cog in an insane mess of a wheel, unfulfilled and yearning for something else.
Finally, after 15 years, I harnessed those feelings and turned them into that “something else.”
Since entering Marquette University in 1989, and graduating in 1993, I had been a CPA. An accountant for 20 years – how does that strike you? We’re not the cool guys certifying the Academy Award results. We’re dorks – it’s math and details. And yes, I am good at those things, but it’s so left brain. It leaves the right brain to shrivel up into a small black lump of coal. This is no fun! I have to have fun in everything I do. Remember, being able to do something well and enjoying yourself are two different things.
Back in October 2007, my birthday was approaching, and it was a stressful time for our family (crazy kids!). I had been on a few funny t-shirt sites like Busted Tees and Snorg Tees, and I asked my wife if she just wanted me to handle my own birthday gift. She said, “Yes, please, thank you!” So I ordered 4 tees total from the two sites. When they arrived, I cannot describe exactly how this worked, but it simply occurred to me right then – you could run such a business. I had always wanted to start my own company, but just lacked the big idea. Until now.
I immediately started planning. I brainstormed tee ideas, I found great graphic designers via Craigslist, I hired a skilled web development company (the second time around – UGHH! Don’t ask – I’m trying to block that out of my memory), and I saved and then spent thousands of dollars getting the entire operation ready. On October 30, 2008, RizzoTees.com went live. My uncle immediately bought $240 in gift certificates for all of my cousins, and my friend Jon Falk bought the first tee. Thank you Jon and Uncle Pat!
Five days later, I joined Twitter. My life has been lived in 140 character bursts ever since. I still remember my first follower – @AlexTrottier. I also remember the first real interaction I had with someone – it was @Tojosan, telling me that the autoDM I sent him was a violation of all that was good and wholesome about Twitter. He was right, even though I continued to send them for a long time. I’m a conversationalist, and a current events and news junkie – I took to Twitter immediately. I made many friends, gained a decent following, and then noticed that folks from Twitter were buying my tees. This was way better than Google Adsense!
A Facebook fan page followed, then a Posterous blog. I did my best to keep each communication platform filled with interesting content. People started reaching out to me, asking for advice on starting a t-shirt company or increasing their Twitter following. I tried to help everyone to the best of my ability, and made some very close friends this way. I then realized that the advice I was giving out was only being consumed by the person asking me the questions. Why not formalize the answers in the form of a helpful small business blog? And so The Basement Entrepreneur was born (now Rizzo Tees Blog).
I then started attending Social Media Club of St. Louis events, where I was meeting my Twitter friends in person. The feeling of meeting a good “eFriend” in person was striking to me. The first such meeting was at Atomic Cowboy – I met @CosmosGirl. Words fail to describe how strangely meaningful it was to meet an online friend in person. It rocked! A few months later, I joined the Social Media Club’s board. It remains hard to this day to find enough time to do it all, but I’m managing all aspects of my life (family, real job, Rizzo Tees, blogging, Social Media Club) to the best of my ability.
As we rolled into 2010, Rizzo Tees was doing well. If I had to predict, I thought I would have been farther along by that point. I guess I’m just naturally impatient. While Rizzo needs 3-4 times as many sales as it’s getting, my social media efforts continued to roll along. I helped a few friends gain an understanding of Twitter, and each of them said to me, “Man, you should do this for a living.” Sometimes an idea has to be pistol-whipped into my brain before I even begin chewing on it… and this was no exception. Finally, a few more people said, “You would be good at this!” So I started cooking up plans to do some social media consulting. I’d be a one-man social media wrecking crew. My juices were flowing.
One problem – if you hadn’t noticed, the economy blows. And I fail to see how we’ve emerged from the recession. Times are still quite tough – we can probably all name several people we know that have been laid off. A close friend of mine, Arlene Browne of Robust Wine Bar, expressed concern that the small businesses I would be targeting might find it hard to squeeze social media consulting into their budget. My wife also expressed concern that leaving my day job and tackling this new consultancy would leave our family at financial risk. It took a few weeks of planning and thought, but I arrived at this conclusion: I’d be better off joining up with a strong team of people and going after this dream that way.
Time to ramp up the job search! I’ve done this before – I tune up the résumé, I drape a job dragnet across St. Louis, I call everyone I know, and an opportunity usually pops up. But that’s not what I did this time.
Instead, I sent two emails. The emails said the same thing – I’m making a career change, I am not concerned about money, I just want to find the right opportunity, and can you keep your ears open for me? The two emails quickly resulted in a meeting, and a job. No résumé, no interview. The most important career move of my life was one of the easiest.
To be clear, the road to that point was anything but easy. I started a business while working an intense day job as a CFO. I ran that business and learned as much as I could about social media at night. I made great progress on my dreams while really tiring myself out (drank alot of coffee to keep going). I finally made the move, giving five weeks notice at my CFO job. With two weeks to go, they noticed how much I had tweeted on a Thursday, and they fired me on Friday. People always ask me, “How can you get fired from a job you quit?” That’s how! I wish it had not happened that way, but life has its twists and turns. I packed up my things and started agency life as a social media strategist. After over four years of agency life, I moved to my current position as Marketing Director of Kaldi’s Coffee.
- I worked my ass off for over two and a half years on my business, Twitter, Facebook, and my blogs.
- I paid attention to the advice of Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott, and David Siteman Garland.
- I became proficient at using these new communication platforms (social media, blogs, Flip videos).
- I helped just about anyone that asked me for advice.
- All of this resulted in a very strong personal brand for Rizzo Tees and myself.
- I then had several people tell me, “Hey, you could do this for a living.”
- When the idea finally sunk in, I had to decide between starting my own consultancy, or going the agency route. I chose the agency route.
- My job search consisted of sending out two emails to people I know – that’s it.
- I did not show a résumé (that’s a first for me). You can see my CV by Googling “Rizzo Tees.”
- I left behind an almost 20 year career as a CPA and started my agency life.
- After four years of agency life, I joined Kaldi’s (again without preparing a résumé.)
Take that, mean job interviewers!
In all seriousness, yeah I’m biased, but this is the Olympic case study on how to use these new communication platforms to get where you want to go in life. It is no less weighty than this: you can use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a blog to put your company on the map, increase sales for little or no cost, and even reinvent yourself. You can do this too!
HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA: ARTICLES
The Waterfall Of Goals (one of my favorite posts – this is critical for businesses to understand)
Social Media Case Study – Pratzel’s Bakery (a social media campaign I designed)
I Am Done Talking About Marketing (it’s about awareness and visibility)
ADDITIONAL MEDIA AND SUCH:
Family comes first. It’s not always easy, but we all need to make it happen.
I used to write a column called “Social Media Rizzolution” for AdSaint.org – list of articles here
2011 Riverfront Times Point & Clique Awards – I won Best Twitter User in St. Louis
Entrepreneur Magazine named me one of the top 5 people to follow on Twitter if you’re new to the service.
I was featured in David Meerman Scott’s new book “Real-Time Marketing & PR.”
Blog post and video of my appearance at Webster University as part of their Walker Speaker Series (both a Ustream feed of the video and a link to the YouTube video)
A unique “140 chat” interview I did with bestest buddy from Boston Julio Varela. His questions and my responses had to stay under 140 characters.
One of the first written interviews I ever did, this with awesome t-shirt blogger Coty Gonzales
Written interview with St. Louis SEO guy Will Hanke
Writeup on Firmology.com as part of their series “Social Media Success Stories”
Interview I did with Mason and Remy on 93.7 The Bull as part of Falk Harrison’s Save Pratzels initiative
Interview I did with the esteemed Rob of Lady Umbrella Ltd.
Interview with the one and only Charles West AKA “The Trendaholic”
Several videos of my presentation at the kickoff party for STLMixTapes.com – me in front of a bunch of rappers. I was nervous (and public speaking normally does not bother me)
Blog post on my appearance at the Show Me The Blog conference, including a video of part of my talk
My presentation on the business use of Twitter, Facebook and Blogging – David Siteman Garland’s RISElunch (the video is currently down – hoping it will return)
A 1.5 hour podcast of a presentation I did at Maryville University. Note that you need to hit the play button and let the audio file spool up for 5+ minutes.
My appearance on Recycled GoGetter with Nick Ruiz
Several recent local TV appearances (KSDK and Fox2Now)
My first appearance on Chris Brogan and Joe Sorge’s “Kitchen Table Talks” show
My second appearance on Kitchen Table Talks, filling in for Joe Sorge who was filling in for Chris Brogan who was wearing a robe
My third appearance on Kitchen Table Talks with Chris Brogan and Joe Sorge
My presentation on social media engagement at Get Digital 2
My first-ever appearance on TV – KSDK Newschannel 5, here talking about social media for the holidays. Sorry I don’t have it embedded here; it begins playing automatically, which I don’t like. I didn’t want that to happen on this page, so I’ve provided a link to it instead.
My Pecha Kucha presentation on Pratzel’s Bakery (very sorry for poor sound on this. It was out of my control. You’ll have to turn your volume way up)
A Falk Harrison video, discussing social media and my role at the agency
My faux commercial I did for Chase Ink while attending the 2011 Inc 500 Conference
My appearance on David Siteman Garland’s “The Rise To the Top.” Link to David’s blog post here.My appearance on Torrey McGraw’s Grind and Thrive. Link to the video’s blog post hereMy appearance at Webster University as part of their Walker Speaker series
Social Media Consultation, Speaking Engagements:
Email me using this contact form.