Growing up, Paige Edmiston was surrounded by an innovative and dedicated family who helped her appreciate the importance of creativity and entrepreneurship. As an adult, she has found her passion in helping young people achieve their dreams.With help from GA’s Digital Marketing course, Paige has found a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who have helped her support and grow her startup, The Sidekick Collective, which seeks to identify and invest in the superheroes of tomorrow.
What were you doing before you came to GA?
Before starting at GA in Digital Marketing, I was working in Product Marketing for Geocaching HQ in Seattle and acting as Executive Director for The Sidekick Collective. I’m still doing both!
What brought you to GA’s Digital Marketing course?
Everything I knew (before taking this class) I learned on the job. I joined GA’s Digital Marketing course to become better at what I do, learn from industry experts, and gain a network of marketers who I can continue to grow with and learn from.
Tell us about Sidekick Collective. What inspired you to start this business?
Growing up, my family and I went to the theaters to see nearly every blockbuster superhero movie. In some ways, it was the family book club — the superhero origin stories became fodder for discussions about what the world is like, how it ought to be, and what we can do to change it. In high school, I won a $25,000 national essay contest sponsored by Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Seattle author Eric Liu. Inspired by years of superhero education, my essay was a call to action to my fellow youth to do what superheroes do: help others first, make right what’s wrong, and protect the vulnerable. The Sidekick Collective carries that same call to action to students, with a few added twists.
Your background is in product marketing and communications. How did you become interested in “hero capitalism”?
As a student, I was sure I was headed for the Peace Corps or Foreign Service until I experimented with a summer marketing internship at Geocaching HQ. I was surprised to discover how much I not only enjoyed marketing, but also working in the technology industry. There’s such a sense of possibility—like anything is possible if you just decide you want to build it.
Hero capitalism was born out of a belief that young people are capable of extraordinary, world-changing (and even superheroic) things combined with a desire to give them the same sense of possibility that exists in the tech industry. Currently, we provide seed funding to one student each year to jump-start a project of his or her own to make the world a better place. One day, I’d like to see the organization become the go-to for young people who have great ideas, but lack access to resources that other adult-initiated startups have.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I love this question. I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My dad is screenwriter and film producer and founded a successful board game company when I was in elementary school, all in addition to his ‘day job’ as an intellectual property lawyer. Growing up, my mom ran her own e-commerce company out of our basement. My sister founded her own photography business when she was 14. Because of this, I always understood entrepreneurship as what you do when there’s a problem you think needs solving.
Have there been any challenges along the way that you didn’t expect?
The most surprising challenge I’ve encountered with The Sidekick Collective is probably the suddenness of responsibility. One day, you have an idea that you, as an individual, are passionate about and working towards. Then, if you’ve done your job right, you find yourself surrounded by others who are also invested in the success of your organization’s mission and vision. People start looking to you for direction, even though you’re still learning and trying your best to make the right business decisions. This is an exhilarating and exciting experience, but also terrifying. I’d guess that many other startup founders have similar experiences—or at least I hope they do!
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned since starting DGM?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned since starting at DGM is that marketing is more than a department—it’s everything a business does. This may seem simple or cliche, but too often organizations find themselves with silos, like “I do social media” or “I do email marketing” or “I work in user experience.” Everything an organization does impacts a brand’s perception. Especially in the digital age, marketers need to collaborate with departments across an organization—from product development to finance to design—so they can make data-driven decisions and ensure that customers see a business as the business wants to be perceived.
I’d also say that I’ve been happily surprised to learn what a wonderful community exists at GA. I’m looking forward to leaning on and supporting this community for many years to come!
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or prospective GA students?
First, find a community of people like GA. Being a part of a group of people who love learning and feel excited about the world is huge. The Sidekick Collective is the product of hard work and passion, but it is also the product of the inertia that comes with collaborating with people like those who you find at GA.
I’d also recommend watching more superhero movies. Seriously. There’s a lot you can learn from superheroes about what it takes to be an entrepreneur—courage, fortitude, creativity, inspiration, and sometimes even sacrifice.
Who’s your favorite teacher and why?
As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I took a class with Professor Erika Blacksher called Social Justice in Health. While bioethics may seem a million miles away from business, her teachings were essential to The Sidekick Collective’s evolution. Ethics and philosophy make you answer “why” and then dig even deeper—something every founder should be able to do with their own organization. To be successful, organizations—for-profit and nonprofit alike—need others to believe in them. The kind of thinking ethics teaches helps you get at the root of your values and explains why others should rally around those values too. Erika now serves as an Advisory Board member for The Sidekick Collective and continues to help us think deeper about the work we do.