The average teen’s first job might typically be at McDonald’s, but Ini Augustine landed her first job at age 15 with Dun & Bradstreet Inc., then worked for Dell Inc. in the 1990s. She was writing and producing television ads for KCWI 23 in Des Moines when she realized that clients needed help with their websites and social media presence. Using training she received from the ISED Women’s Business Center (see story on page 9), she launched SocialWise Media Group Inc. (www.getsocialwise.com) in March 2012. The Central Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners recently presented Augustine with its Aspiring Woman Business Owner of the Year Award. 


How did you persuade Dun & Bradstreet to hire you when you were 15? 

It’s weird, because I’ve always looked exactly like this since I was 12 years old. I think Apple One was the employment agency, and I just went in and applied like I had every business to, because I had taken typing and word processing, and that was all that they needed; they would train you for the rest. 


How did your background prepare you for doing this? 

(Dun & Bradstreet) gave me a good background in business analysis and finance. From there, I worked for Dell computers. And way back when, I worked for Wells Fargo when it was Norwest Financial, and also Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink). And I’ve also done publicity for an insurance company. I ran a staffing agency as well, so I have that employee training and development background, too.


When did you learn to use social media? 

Right around the time I graduated from high school was when the social media thing was really picking up. So I’m kind of a Facebook kid, first a MySpace kid. I’ve always been technically savvy. 


What are some of the most common social media issues small businesses have? 

Small businesses are up against a lot; it’s really an uphill battle for them. For name recognition, there is no way that you’re going to outspend a Wal-Mart or a McDonald’s on TV. But with social media, you can look just as good as a Wal-Mart or a McDonald’s; you can have just as many followers and fans. 


Tell us about your company’s growth. 

When I first started, I assumed people would want me to set up their Facebook pages, do their posts, handle their Twitter accounts. But people also wanted to have that knowledge, because social media is being used for so many things besides marketing ... so that’s when I started doing the training aspect of it. 


Do you have any employees, and what are your growth expectations? 

What I’ve been doing so far is working with contractors – my graphic designer is a contractor; my programmer is a contractor. My website developer actually lives in Russia. This year, I’ll probably add a full-time assistant and some sales staff. But I really want to keep my company flexible, and utilize technology to let people work smart instead of hard. 


What does receiving the Aspiring Woman Business Owner Award mean to you? 

That was such a big honor. ... I have mentors whom I really respect in the organization. I think it’s a good opportunity for me as a young person in business to have that support system. It’s difficult to connect with people my age. I might say, “I have to deploy 20 people next week for a training session,” and they’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to go to a bar next Wednesday.” So there’s a big disconnect.


What do you like to do in your off time? 

I serve on the board for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates); I volunteer with the Des Moines Arts Festival and with Habitat for Humanity, building houses. I teach yoga and Zumba as well. But my favorite thing to do while I’m at home is just sleep and watch trashy TV, because I work really, really hard. Between working and school, there’s really not a lot of time left for anything else. 


Do you have a role model? 

She would be a cross between Connie Wimer, Beyonce, Michelle Obama and (Argentine President) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.