CEO and Co-Founder Kristi Zuhlke on why she’d rather take risks than sit on the sidelines
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,’” says Kristi Zuhlke, CEO and Co-Founder of KnowledgeHound. “You just have to do it and you have to be vulnerable. You’ll never know if you don’t try.”
KnowledgeHound, launched in 2013, provides data organization and consumer insights for powerhouse companies, such as Clorox, P&G and Whirlpool.
Before her entrepreneurial career, Zuhlke worked in consumer and market knowledge in corporate America. But the idea of breaking out into business on her own always lingered in the back of her mind.
“I really enjoyed the thought of owning my own business,” says Zuhlke. “But I wondered, how do I push myself to leave my cushy corporate job and take a risk? It really came down to the fact that I never want to look back at my life and think what if. That to me is not living life to its fullest.”
Zuhlke knew that if her business didn’t work, she could always find another job. In 2013, she was at a point in her life where she felt comfortable with potential consequences - she didn’t have any children or family depending on her success. However, Zuhlke does point out that the timing is never truly perfect to start your own business. You just have to take that step. She gave herself a year to see if her business would work out.
The one thing Zuhlke wasn’t expecting in the first year of her business was the loneliness she felt. Years after working in offices and being a member of major teams, she spent days working by herself from her apartment. Fortunately, her company eventually grew, now with eleven employees and six open positions.
During that time before growth, however, Zuhlke found solace in networking.
“It was surprising how generous people are with their network,” she says. “Networking has always been natural to me, but you’d meet someone in the startup community and they’d always say, ‘You should talk to this person.’ All the sudden, I was talking with people who I couldn’t believe were willing to talk to me.”
After years of establishing itself, KnowledgeHound now plans for major growth. Zuhlke expects to see double or even triple growth year over year for the next five years.
“Because we’re starting so small and the market is so wide open, that kind of growth can be achievable,” says Zuhlke.
The greatest lesson Zuhlke has learned in the past three years is the necessity of intention and passion. “You have to be solving a problem,” she says. Regardless of the market, you have to be passionate about serving your consumer.
“It becomes your life,” says Zuhlke. “If you can’t become passionate about it, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It becomes a piece of you.”