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Women in Business Q&A: Samantha Nicholson, Co-Founder and SVP of Salmon Social

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Samantha is the co-founder and SVP of Salmon Social, a new social media app. Samantha graduated with a degree in advertising from the University of Colorado with a minor in international media. Throughout her college career, she worked with various professionals from advertising agencies including Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and Victors and Spoils. Her senior campaign created for Luna Bar is launching Summer of 2014. After graduation Samantha obtained a job at a Silicon Valley company. In her first year there she was promoted seven times to Director of Marketing, and was working at that position until recently making the decision to pursue Salmon Social full time. She has a love for English Bulldogs, travel, and the UFC.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have made so many mistakes it's not even funny, but each mistake has given me insight into situations and caused me to learn and grow as a person. My first mistake was not giving enough credit to my parents when their business had to close. At the time, I did not understand the difficulties and challenges faced by entrepreneurs and I now fully admire what they attempted to do by running a business on their own. The second mistake I made was feeling angry that I was responsible for my college education. Initially I thought having to pay for college myself was a punishment, but I now would not have it any other way. All my independence was gained during those four years. My last mistake was under-valuing myself once I graduated. I did not think I was smart enough to be worth anything at a company and had zero confidence going into job interviews. I now feel the exact opposite. I know that I am capable and am fully prepared to launch my own venture and follow my dream as a young female entrepreneur. Without these three major stumbles, I would not be near where I am today professionally and personally.

Tell us about Salmon Social and what you are hoping to achieve.
Salmon Social is a social media app that is being developed and launched in Boise, ID. My partner and I are attempting to do this in 90 days. The story of Salmon Social is also the base for an upcoming documentary feature film titled Salmon Social: The Life or Death of the Next Big Social App. I wish I could say what the app does, but we are in the process of filing patents right now so I can't release the functionality until April 23rd! My goal with Salmon Social is to rival all the current social media networks and be known as the first woman to launch a successful social app.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Salmon Social?
My previous employment allowed me to gain insight into a startup and observe important decisions first hand. I also learned valuable lessons in employee relations and management. I've learned that the most important thing about being in a startup is not feeling like you are in a startup. When I was working at my previous job, we were also in startup mode but originally it never felt like we were a startup. The work days were never stressful and we therefore were much more productive. But then management changed, it felt like a startup, became extremely stressful and much less productive. And when it comes to decision making, never make the decision because you are a startup, give yourself the value you deserve. If you believe that you are valuable, then others will too.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Salmon Social?
Every day is a challenge here at Salmon Social, so therefore every day is a highlight of the experience. The challenges are what make a journey like this fun and unforgettable. I will say that I could not have predicted where we would be at Salmon Social when we first started, because our initial plan has completely changed and it seems like we are pivoting frequently. This is turning into an incredible business journey that I will look back on as a highlight of my career.

How is Salmon Social shaking up the digital landscape?
Salmon Social is truly revolutionary and forward thinking. We are showing the world how amazing each one of us is. I wish I could go into more details on the app, but because of the patents we are filing I cannot detail the functionality until April 23rd, be sure to follow our launch!

What advice would you give to women who are looking to make a similar risk?
The hardest part is taking the initial leap. I have pretty much lost count of the number of times my friends and family and past co-workers have called me 'crazy'; they all ask me why I would give up such a good job in Silicon Valley to pursue an app that has a one-in-a-million chance of making it. I always respond saying that if I didn't go after something that I truly believe in at my core, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I define my life by the number of regrets I have, and if I can keep that number small I am on the right track.

So to those who are nervous to take the leap because they think it is crazy or that it is not a good idea, I would say to you to look at your current situation, ask if you are happy, and then ask if you will regret not pursuing your passion. And always remember that the bumps and challenges you will face are what make the journey fun, so embrace the rollercoaster ride!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I know that when I start to get cloudy, it is more productive for me to take a break than to move forward. Taking a break is the best thing you can do throughout your day. My best ideas come to me when I am doing random tasks throughout my day. I might go for a run, do laundry, clean, cook dinner, or just watch a TV show that I recorded, but doing anything else besides work clears the clouds and gives you clarity again. So I never think that by stepping away from my computer I am not working; I am really just thinking and processing and letting my mind cool down. This typically leads to a breakthrough or brilliant idea. Best example of this was when we first launched Salmon Social and were going through our strategy sessions. Our brains were so fried we walked down the street just for a change of scenery and to get some food. Over wings, we ended up stumbling onto the entire marketing strategy for Salmon Social. Going for dinner was the best thing that happened to us.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I wouldn't say there are any issues for women in the workplace, but I will say that the biggest challenge a woman will face is herself, and that statement includes myself. You are your biggest barrier to success, and it is definitely not easy to overcome your insecurities and walk into your job with power and confidence, but the second that you are able to do that you will change your whole future and take control of your life. For me personally, taking on the challenge of Salmon Social has caused me to face all of my insecurities but in turn has given me the confidence to pursue my career goals and be proud that I am a woman in the workplace.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has taught me to embrace my weaknesses and gain confidence in myself. When I initially started out in my career I never wanted to feel that I couldn't do something or let my co-workers know the areas that I felt I wasn't strong. I have come to realize that embracing your weaknesses and showcasing your strengths is actually much more beneficial. A team will be much stronger when they are created based on strengths and weaknesses, meaning if I know that my weakness is analyzing data, I will put someone next to me that is highly successful in analyzing data. This is how the most powerful teams are built.

It also takes a lot of confidence to admit your faults. I have gained that confidence over time and in return my strengths have become even stronger. I now love stating the fact that I am the creative type that loves to write and can't produce a decent spreadsheet to save my life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin - I admire the fact that she never believes an idea is bad; if you truly believe in something than nothing should stop you.

Heidi Ganahl - Besides the fact that she started Camp Bow Wow and I love watching my English Bulldog run around all day on the camper cam, I love that she never limits herself and dared to dream big. Nothing is impossible for her.

Alexis Wolfer - She loves collaboration and believes that women entrepreneurs should stick together and help each other out, and I agree with that statement one hundred percent.

What are your hopes for the future of Salmon Social?
This time next year, I want to walk into restaurants and bars and gyms and see Salmon Social on the screen of everyone's phone!