How I Made It: 13 Questions with April Smith of Social Ape Marketing

April Smith knows the service industry. In high school and college, she spent more than five years working in a restaurant as everything from hostess to prep-cook, learning everything she could about customer service and thriving under pressure. Years later she was able to put this knowledge to use for her restaurant and brewery clients at Social Ape Marketing, a PR firm that specializes in social media and influencer marketing.

“I joined Twitter in 2009 and immediately fell in love with social media marketing,” April says. “Shortly thereafter, I realized that many businesses in Charlotte were not taking advantage of social media marketing to grow their business … I founded Social Ape Marketing a year later, once I realized there was a true need for social media marketing services in Charlotte and that market was underserved.”

April Smith

“Women tend to doubt themselves, especially when it comes to business, so my advice is to do an occasional gut check to make sure you’re dreaming big enough, and know that you can do it all if you really want to.”

April Smith

April’s prep cook days are behind her, but they were an important part of her journey to where she is now. Here are 13 questions about how she got here:

1. What was your first job?
My first job was as a hostess at Applebee’s in my hometown of Richmond, VA.
I worked at Applebee’s for 5 1/2 years throughout high school and college as a hostess, server, prep-cook and expo. During that time, I learned so much about helping people, working under pressure and customer service.
We work with a lot of restaurant and brewery clients and my experience in the service industry has helped us tremendously in marketing those businesses. 

2. How did you get into the business you’re in now?
I joined Twitter in 2009 and immediately fell in love with social media marketing. Shortly thereafter, I realized that many businesses in Charlotte were not taking advantage of social media marketing to grow their business, so I started freelancing and was very much self-taught. I eventually landed a job with ESPN doing social media marketing.
I founded Social Ape Marketing a year later, once I realized there was a true need for social media marketing services in Charlotte and that market was underserved.

3. How many years has it taken you to get to where you are today?
Social Ape Marketing was founded in 2012 but I began my career in marketing in 2009. It’s been a long, ever-evolving journey.

4. What’s the number one mistake you think women in business make?
Thinking they’re not capable or worthy of doing BIG things.
When I first started, I was incapable of thinking on a larger scale, and a client actually once told me that. Since then, I’ve learned to remind myself that I deserve any and all success and praise that I work hard for.
Women tend to doubt themselves, especially when it comes to business, so my advice is to do an occasional gut check to make sure you’re dreaming big enough, and know that you can do it all if you really want to.

5. What’s the highlight of your business?
I love single-handedly playing a part in helping local businesses grow. Over the years, we’ve worked with more than 70 businesses and it’s pretty awesome to look back and know we’ve made a difference doing what we truly enjoy.

6. What’s been the low point of your journey?
2020 was tough because of COVID. Within just a few months, we lost 90 percent of our revenue and half of our staff. To say it was a period of self-reflection would be an understatement. I almost gave up, but I’m glad I didn’t because this year is shaping up to be our most successful yet. and I now have a renewed passion for our clients and what we do.

7. Do you have a 5-year plan for your business?
Social Ape is rapidly growing again now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic, so I anticipate continuous growth including expanding into other markets in the Carolinas. I’d love to work with more clients in the Charleston and Raleigh areas. We also plan to offer more service lines as marketing trends are always changing, as well as online learning courses for marketers and entrepreneurs.

8. Are you able to mentor other women professionally? If so, how?
Absolutely! I had the privilege of having a few mentors when I first started, so I understand how pivotal that can be when beginning a career or small business. I would love to lend an ear to aspiring female entrepreneurs and help them navigate through the process because it can definitely be overwhelming.

9. What pandemic change in your business will you keep going forward?
We started working remotely in March of 2020 and will continue to do so until at least next year.

10. What else do you want others to know about yourself, your company or your journey?
At Social Ape, we truly see ourselves as an extension of our clients. We are a smaller, more flexible marketing firm, so we’re able to talk to our clients almost daily and because of that, we’re better able to set them up for growth and success. Most of our clients become our friends and we often hang out with them outside of work too.

11. Where’s your favorite place to go to dinner (and what do you order?)
So many places! I really love Charlotte restaurants so I have several favorites. One of my favorite restaurants is 300 East and I always love getting the bacon-wrapped gorgonzola-stuffed filet when visiting for dinner. It’s mouth-wateringly delicious.

12. For workwear: Dress or pants?
I love wearing dresses, especially in the southern summer heat. I usually throw on a dress, cardigan or blazer, flats or heels, and I’m good to go.

13. What’s your daytime drink of choice: coffee, Diet Coke, etc.?
People think I’m crazy because I don’t drink coffee, but I drink water all day to stay hydrated (and enjoy a Coke with meals). I’m a sucker for an ice-cold Coca Cola. 

Social Ape takes pride in supporting local businesses and helping business owners to reach their marketing goals by successfully using marketing, social media, public relations and influencer marketing.

Since 2012 Social Ape has helped dozens of businesses grow and continues to prove the return clients’ investment by providing solid results.

Contact the team here.

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