Tyler Samani-Sprunk: Marketer & Entrepreneur, Simple Strat: “We’re All Just Figuring Things Out as We Go”
Tyler Samani-Sprunk is a partner at a B2B content marketing agency called Simple Strat. Prior to that, he helped start and manage an agency called Forgelight Creative that primarily worked with local startup companies. He has been heavily involved with the Lincoln, NE chapter of the American Marketing Association, serving as its board president in 2018 and 2019.
Tyler’s Original Story: “We’re All Just Figuring Things Out as We Go”
I grew up in a small city in Nebraska and spent most of my teenage years planning what I thought of then as my escape after high school graduation. Like many young gay kids, I didn’t exactly feel at home in my hometown and my relationship with my parents at the time was difficult. I threw myself into school and work to earn scholarships and money, and to spend as little time at home as possible.
In high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. But, in hindsight, there were three experiences I had then that served as the initial sparks for my passion for marketing.
First, there was a business course in high school that made me fall in love with business strategy and the art and science involved with growing and managing a company. Then, there was my time on my high school’s yearbook staff, where I got my feet wet with graphic design and writing something other than a school essay. Finally, there was my high school job at Office Max. I had started there on the sales floor, but eventually used what I was learning on the yearbook staff to begin working in the print and copy department, helping small businesses with simple marketing materials.
It was in college that I finally realized where my passion laid. After beginning a degree path that was focused on computer science, I realized that a future in programming wasn’t for me. As I was soul searching to discover where I should shift my focus, I looked back on those experiences in high school and realized that marketing and advertising were what I truly enjoyed.
One summer, I had an opportunity to intern at Union Pacific Railroad in one of their sales divisions. My primary project was to make recommendations for changes to their website. This was my first experience working with business professionals to get to the bottom of a marketing problem and then develop a solution for it. There wasn’t a lot of direction or guidance, just a company with a problem that looked to me to figure out how to solve it. That summer was when I knew for sure that I had picked the right career path.
I earned two degrees at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, one in Business Administration and one in Advertising and Public Relations. My college years definitely had an impact on what I do today, but not in the ways you might expect. During most of my time in college, I thought of my classes as just going through the motions to earn the right degree and a solid GPA to get a good job. But luckily, I took every opportunity I could to take non-traditional classes – and it was there that I truly learned skills I still use today. From a student-run advertising agency to a sort of think-tank for Union Pacific Railroad (which eventually led to my internship there) to a semester abroad in Italy, I sought out opportunities to get out of the classroom and do ‘real work’ I could learn from.
Quote: “I sought out opportunities to get out of the classroom and do ‘real work’ I could learn from.” – Tyler Samani-Sprunk
Then, of course, there were the people and connections I made during college that were extremely helpful in my career. It was in college that I met my partners in my first agency, got introduced to the local startup community, and formed relationships with professors I can still call on for help to this day.
I think it’s safe to say that I benefited greatly from college, just not from the academic format that dominates 90% of the college experience.
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had as an entrepreneur, especially as a young one that started my first business in my last year of college, is that there isn’t any rulebook or perfect example to follow. You have to figure things out for yourself at every turn, and the important lessons often come from sizable mistakes. While that challenge can feel lonely at times, one of the first things I realized in the business world is that every entrepreneur and executive is essentially in the same boat. While some may have more experience or successes than others, we’re all essentially just figuring things out as we go.
My advice for someone that’s just starting out would be to surround yourself with experienced people you can trust, learn as much as you can as often as you can, and work to achieve a good balance between humility and confidence.
Finally, there is no substitute for experiences that challenge you. The more difficult something seems at the onset, the more you’ll gain from it in the long term.
Find more from Tyler Samani-Sprunk at Simple Strat.