She’s a 28-year-old dynamo who seems destined for success. Meet Hannah Schneider, CEO and founder of Hannah Schneider Creative and two new business ventures, BRND House and Kettner Coffee Supply. She’s smart, driven and wise beyond her years, but she’s also quick to smile, generous with affection and always good for a laugh. Be inspired by the drive this Southern transplant embodies, hear about her new Nashville ventures and more in our latest FACES of Nashville article. Welcome, Hannah!
Where are you from, and what led you to Nashville?
I grew up in Coronado, a small island in San Diego. I wanted to get out of my hometown, so I flipped a coin with my best friend — it was between Austin and Chicago, and I’d never been to Texas. So I drove there without a job or an apartment — I was 20 or 21. I ended up working at a steakhouse for Del Frisco’s group, and my last position there was as the sales and marketing director at Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
Then my sister in New York, who had zero restaurant experience, was opening a restaurant, and she begged me to come help her for three months. I was back in San Diego at that point doing PR at a local firm, and my boss let me go to New York and work remotely. After three months, my sister found an apartment two blocks from Egg Shop (her restaurant), and I ended up staying in New York. A work opportunity then led me to Nashville three years ago, when I was offered the chance to come open a restaurant called Salt & Vine. I had every intention of going back to New York, but I just fell in love with Nashville.
You are the CEO and Founder of Hannah Schneider Creative. When did you open that company?
When I was living in New York, I was running the restaurant at night, but I was also doing social media on the side — that was what I had been doing since I was 18. I did a lot of the social and helped with PR for Egg Shop. The other restaurant owners in Soho were asking who was doing our social media because we kind of blew up. So I started freelancing for the neighboring businesses. I did that for about a year, and then I got so busy that I needed help. So I hired a social media coordinator, and we worked out of coffee shops on the Lower East Side. I’d go on Craigslist and look for social media jobs, and I’d offer to do it for restaurant clients for way less than a salary. From there, it really grew organically through word of mouth.
How did you get into PR, and did you have any mentors along the way?
In San Diego, I was a front desk manager at a high-end, locally owned steakhouse. At the time, Instagram was brand new, and I love taking photos and I love hospitality. I begged the owner to let me run their Instagram account because I thought they should have one. I did that for six months for free – I was hostessing and posting when I was at work. And when I was 18, they actually became my first client ever. They had a PR firm that they worked with, so I sat in on the PR meetings with their publicist, Amy Ogden. I specifically remember thinking that she has my dream job — she’s a powerful, well-spoken, smart woman. I literally wanted to be her.
I ended up applying for an internship at every single PR firm that handled restaurants. I was the first intern for a small hospitality firm called H2PR. Now they are one of the biggest PR firms for restaurants in Chicago and San Diego. To this day, what I learned in that internship is what has carried through to my whole career.
When that internship ended, I applied for another internship, this time with Chemistry PR. I got that internship, and after three months, that was my first 9 to 5 publicist role. Audrey is the owner of Chemisty PR, and she is still someone I text weekly — she has played such a huge role in how I want to run my business and has been such a mentor to me.
Tell us about Kettner Coffee Supply.
There was a retail space opening up in the building, and the owner really wanted a coffee shop, but he couldn’t find a concept that fit perfectly. Since my background is in restaurant operations, I jokingly offered to create a concept for the building. He took that seriously, so we got started almost immediately. I have hand-picked everything, from the design to the name — Kettner is a street I used to live on in San Diego.
Something I missed about New York was having my go-to shop. They knew my name, my order, I was out in 30 seconds. I was missing that community. So I wanted to create a space that was fun but delicious. My goal is that the quality is superior to the rest, but it’s done in a playful manner. If you care about coffee, we can geek out and tell you the story and origins of the beans we’re serving. If you don’t, you can get a drip and be out in a minute and go on with your day — we welcome it all. Kettner is like me — a mix of New York and California, a little bit sassy and edgy, but hopefully will make you laugh and put a smile on your face.
You also just launched BRND House — tell us about that.
BRND House is a sister company for HSC, and it’s an upscale, full-service, all-in-one destination that allows us to service clients who need design and web development. Basically, A to Z. If you’re opening a business, it can all come out of BRND House. I have found that when working with more corporate clients, I’m one of five agencies that they’re working with — it’s inefficient and it’s way more expensive. Lisa, my BRND House partner, comes from the hotel, travel and design background, and we were constantly referring clients to each other. We saw the need to have all of the agency needs come from one group so you’re not waiting for 15 people to make a decision. We only take on clients who want us to handle everything.
You didn’t go to college. Has that been a help or a hindrance?
Both. At first, I had a hard time getting in the door, and I had to work for free for quite a while. That said, it’s self-awareness. I don’t learn sitting in class. My dad said if you’re not going to go to class, don’t waste your time or money. If I didn’t know what I wanted to do, it would have hurt me, but I knew without a doubt that this is what I wanted to do.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
We have grown so much in the last year, which is great, but it also means I can’t do every part of the job, which I used to do. So realizing I may lose some business because of that has been a lesson. I need to take ownership and learn from it and set expectations for our staff and clients because no one will do the job the way I do it. I can’t expect the same amount of work from the team as I do from myself because it’s my name on the door. So forgiving myself for that is a lesson.
What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?
When we get a client something they have worked so hard for that changes their business … there’s no better feeling, which is why I love working with local businesses. The second is I love seeing my team’s relationships with one another — my old interns are still friends with my team now. It’s really special to see this family and bond that we’ve created and a safe place for them to form these relationships and learn and challenge each other. I have provided that for young women that were me 10 years ago, and that is by far the most rewarding.
What is your favorite place in Nashville?
My home that I just bought. It was such a big personal goal, and it’s just become my sanctuary — I never want to leave.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, and who gave it to you?
I’m very much about being good to people and conducting business with integrity and being empathetic to my staff and my team. Basically, don’t be sh*tty to people. It will come back around in life and business. My mom always says that if you feel good about a decision and you feel that you did something out of integrity, then you will never go wrong.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Puppies, coffee and music
Shout out to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for the beautiful photos of Hannah at Kettner and in the HSC office, both in East Nashville.
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