This article was published in the Summit 2021 issue
by Brooke Mangum, Founder, Opta Brands
I never saw myself as a CEO. If you would've told me 5 years ago that I would be creating brands for cultural icons like Mike Tyson and Tommy Chong I would have been shocked! After 10 years as a broadcaster, I had come to see myself as an entertainer of sorts. Someone who made you laugh on your morning drive into work on the radio, or the friendly face who gave you your lighthearted news on TV, but there comes a time in everyone's life when you must ask yourself, is what I'm currently doing enough? For me, it wasn't. I wanted to build something from start to finish- especially when I became a mother to a daughter. I knew that I wanted to show her what was possible for a woman in business. I'm not sure that I've done that, but what I do know is that what my partners and I have created is uniquely our own.
Opta Brands is an omnichannel brand activation company. Simply put, we build brands. There is so much more to a brand than the name on the label. In our world products have personalities, and I am not just talking about the celebrities who endorse them. At Opta Brands we give brands identities. We formulate the products, manufacture them in our GMP certified facility and then market the hell out of them.
So how does one go from girl-next-door to someone who is creating brands for some of the biggest names on the planet? Short answer: I jumped.
After I graduated from the University of Utah with a journalism degree in hand, I had lofty dreams of being a big network entertainment reporter. But the only offer that came was to be a contestant on a competition reality TV series for the USA network. I jumped.
Although the show was a failure on paper it led to countless opportunities. I was interviewed on the Today Show, EXTRA, and WWE Monday Night RAW. All of which led to a press interview on a local Rock station that turned into a successful broadcasting career for iHeartMedia. That's the funny thing about opportunities, you never know where they will take you unless you are willing to take the risk.
I jumped and cohosted that Rock morning show for nearly six years. What started as a local morning show here in Salt Lake City grew to be broadcast in cities across the US from Nashville to Oklahoma City. My career at iHeartMedia led to my position at KUTV, the local CBS affiliate where I host the lifestyle show, "Fresh Living." A show I have been hosting for the last 3.5 years and continue to do so while running Opta Brands.
Most career consultants will tell you, "Never do a job for free, because once you do you will never get paid in the future." Well, I’m going to call B.S. on that. Now, I'm not saying to undervalue yourself or sell yourself short, but I do believe in earning your seat and inserting yourself into the position you want to be in.
When I first started at iHeartMedia I worked for free for months. I woke up at 4:00 am Monday through Friday and did the show for nothing. Eventually, a few months in they started paying me $10 per hour, that's what they paid the remote techs that were still in school. Many people told me that accepting that wage for that job was career suicide, but I don't give up that easy. If you prove yourself to be good enough, they can't ignore you. After 10 months of working for next to nothing, I was given one of the biggest contracts iHeartMedia had ever done for an "inexperienced jock."
I didn't realize at the time that pouring your heart and soul into something for free was the perfect training grounds for an entrepreneur or that my day-to-day tasks were grooming me for opportunities to come. In fact, my entire professional life was a boot camp for brand building. As a brand ambassador, I have been to more trade shows than I can count. I have endorsed brands, built marketing strategies, and helped countless companies share their message on all broadcast mediums. Three years ago when the opportunity arose to take these skills and cultivate brands for my own company, I jumped.
From that day, Opta Brands has grown from a "crazy idea" to a multi-million-dollar company. If there’s anything that my years at iHeartMedia and Sinclair Broadcasting have taught me, it’s that your team is essential to success. Build the right team and profitability will follow. Tommy Chong's CBD has over 160,000 customers and counting. We generate 2.1 billion impressions a month for our brands online. In the ever-changing landscape of digital advertising, we manage to optimize ROAS (return on ad spend) and get our products seen by and into the hands of the customers that want them. It's been one wild ride and we are just getting warmed up. So, the next time you are given an opportunity, bet on yourself and jump.
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*Read the latest issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine, Summit 2021