STEM: Rachel Tipograph, MikMak

This article is part of our Create & Cultivate 100 List created in collaboration with KEDS, you can view the full STEM List Here.

Saw the future of digital and commerce. 

“What risks can you afford to take?” This is the question Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of the world’s first mobile video shopping network MikMak, asks herself with every new challenge she faces. And in building a startup that takes on the Goliath that is the $250 billion home shopping industry, you can be sure the challenges abound. “The bigger the risk, the more likely the failure. You have to develop thick skin if you want to accomplish a lot in life,” says the 29-year-old minimercial mogul.

Tipograph, whose groundbreaking platform creates short, shoppable videos to market beauty, tech and home related products all priced under $100, has been destined for a career that bridges comedy and commerce since being crowned an eBay power-user at age 13. And she  harnessed the power of social media to launch an up-and-coming comedian she managed while attending NYU.

“The bigger the risk, the more likely the failure. You have to develop thick skin."

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After graduating, she cut her teeth working as a digital strategy consultant for corporate giants including Levi’s, GE, and PepsiCo. And then came the proverbial big break. By age 24, she was named Global Director of Digital & Social Media at Gap. “It was there that I saw the future of media and commerce, and decided to quit my job to build MikMak,” says the mobile shopping maven. With MikMak, Tipograph is on a mission to reinvent the traditional infomercial for the millennial generation. No more cheesy late-night sales pitches or impractical gimmicks. Just 30 second, mobile-friendly spots featuring actually-engaging comedians as spokespeople.

While Tipograph may have some of the biggest names on her resume, nothing has quite prepared her for the uphill battle that is building and running her own business. In May of 2016, a deal she spent four months orchestrating fell apart. For the first time in her impressive career, there was nobody to rely on but herself.  “I was exhausted. After a momentary pause where I allowed myself to feel defeated, I remembered I was the one who chose to build MikMak. No one will ever want this company to succeed more than me. The moment that energy waivers, it will spiral,” she explains. “Starting MikMak is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am MikMak. When you work for someone else, it’s not the same.”

As a CEO turning channel-switching ads into must-see entertainment, Tipograph does things differently, and that includes company culture. Every Sunday, she sends out the “MikMak Attack,” a weekly email that breaks down the goals by department and offers company-wide visibility into all high-level initiatives. “Each email ends with me answering the question: ‘What’s inspiring me to attack the week?’ The time I put in Sundays to organize saves me hours during the week.”

Just a little over a year old, MikMak has already raised its first millions in funding. And for Tipograph, it’s nothing short of all-consuming. “It’s my number one priority,” she says. “I do hope within the next five years it reaches a point where I can allow for other life milestones to occur. I want to own a home, start a family and for all the founders who do all of that while running a company, I have so much admiration for you.”