Katy Shah and India Mayer are bringing an innovative concept to the Nashville influencer scene that merges public relations and marketing with a coworking space devoted to developing local content creators and connecting them with brand opportunities. With the launch of their first networking hotspot in East Nashville, called Note House, they’re offering one-stop content creation with everything from a podcast studio to a fashion closet to a test kitchen for cooking tutorials. Please welcome Of Note founders and this week’s FACES of Nashville, Katy Shah and India Mayer.

Of Note founders, Katy Shah and India Mayer

Meet our newest FACES of Nashville, Of Note and Note House cofounders Katy Shah (right) and India Mayer (left).

What inspired you to go into business together?

Katy: We launched our company in January of this year. We both have backgrounds in public relations, social media, and marketing. As we were growing our careers over the last five to 10 years, we really got excited about how influencer marketing was taking off and becoming such an important part of the overall marketing mix. Through our previous jobs in Nashville, we connected with tons of influencers and worked with them to help brands and influencers connect. We started thinking about different and easier ways to make that happen, and we came up with this idea for these physical locations that do just that.

It’s such a unique idea. How did the concept come about?

India: We were very close already and worked together, and we’d already been having conversations about what the industry is going to look like. We were both over doing traditional PR — we felt like it was getting less and less fulfilling.

Katy: We were getting more clients who were less interested in traditional public relations and more interested in influencer marketing. I knew I wanted to leave the company we were at and start something of my own, and I started thinking about what I was missing. In addition to being co-founders, we’re best friends, and I was telling India that I feel like I’m missing a physical element to our job. We were even like, “Maybe we should open a retail store.” Then I listened to a podcast about how people still need human interaction and physical connection in this digital world, and I think there was something in it that sparked the idea. When I shared it with India, she added to it, and it evolved into what it is now.

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Of Note and Note House co-founder, Katy Shah

Katy says an influencer’s path to success is authenticity. “The consumer can tell whether or not it’s contrived — if [someone] just wants to make money or if they really like a product that they’re sharing.” 

Why do you think Nashville is such an influencer hotbed?

India: In general, the influencer population has boomed everywhere. I think Nashville is a hotbed because it’s grown so much so quickly, and it has become a hip place to be. We have a growing list of over 200 influencers in the area, which is crazy, but they’re all doing their own unique things. Some are much larger, and some are more in the micro-tier and mid-tier ranges. We wanted to open the first location in Nashville because we’re based here, but also because it’s a community of creatives. East Nashville is a great neighborhood for that, but the influencers in Nashville are all over.

Of Note and Note House co-founder, India Mayer

“Influencers aren’t loving being referred to as influencers, and I hope the rhetoric changes a little bit,” says India. ” I hear over and over again they would prefer to be called a content creator or brand strategist. A lot of them are doing things outside of Instagram. Part of it, too, is it has now become a little bit like the word ‘celebrity,’ where that doesn’t really [explain] their business and what they do. ‘Influencer’ tends to sound less like a legitimate job, and these men and women are running legitimate small businesses.”

What does it really mean to be an influencer?

Katy: I think the most straightforward way to say it is if you have a following who wants to hear from you and follows along with what you’re doing, you have an influence over them. Therefore, you could say you’re an influencer. Our company focuses on lifestyle influencers who post about the way they live their lives daily, which includes fashion, beauty, food and travel recommendations. But the cool thing about influencer marketing is there are literally influencers for every single category. If you’re interested in skiing, there are influencers. Some only focus on Disney World. If you’re interested in something, you can find someone to follow who will do the research and share tips and tricks.

When we were thinking about our company’s name and how we wanted to move forward, we thought about how there have always been influencers. Long before Instagram, there was the girl in your high school that started the trend of wearing the Juicy Couture zip-up, or there was a celebrity who carried a bag in a paparazzi shot. There were society women in New York City who set the fashion trends in the U.S. … there have always been people “of note.” And now, because we have Instagram and all the other digital platforms, it allows them an easier way to connect with their audiences.

Most of the influencers we love to follow and work with at Of Note, they started to post on Instagram about things they love and created beautiful content because they wanted a creative outlet to post about what they wear or about their kids and the products they love to use in their family life. People caught on and started following them because it’s really helpful information. They grew that way organically … the people we see who are having the most success and who have a clear trajectory to a long-term career are really passionate about whatever they’re promoting.

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How can local brands potentially partner with you and your influencers?

Katy: We have a number of ways local and national brands can gain exposure, but the easiest way right now is through activations in our spaces. For example, we have a beauty closet full of products brands send us that are available for our influencer members to take. The expectation is if they like the product and they’re using it, and they share it with their followers, they’ll tag the brand. The brand gets exposure in the Nashville market through a one-stop-shop — the Note House — instead of how brands traditionally do it, which is that they would have to go out to all the influencers in Nashville one by one and offer to send a gifted product, then follow up and encourage them to post. We take all of that on.

We are currently at membership capacity with a waitlist. We’ve accepted 35 influencer members — we’re being extra cautious with COVID. We’ll wait and see how our influencers use the space — how many people we feel we can safely accommodate on a day-to-day basis, and then hopefully, we’ll be able to accept more influencers off of our waitlist.

Katy Shah and India Mayer, FACES of Nashville

“Even though we have a waitlist, we’re still taking membership applications on a rolling basis,” says India of their coworking space. Katy adds, “And we’re always interested in connecting with brands that want exposure in Nashville. I think we can confidently say we’ll be opening a second space in the next year, and it will more than likely be in Texas, but we’re looking at a lot of cities.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Katy: I think the best piece of advice I was ever given was right before I moved to New York City to start my career in public relations. I was really passionate about the fashion industry, and my boss at the time in Minneapolis said, “Don’t consider it a failure if you go to New York and decide you want to change your path and come back home. You’ve already been successful by just making the leap.” In our business, I use that advice to mean: we can change our path. I have no doubt we’re going to build a big, amazing company, but we have no shame in deciding that we’re going to change our path next week. We know we’re going to be successful, no matter what, and if we have to change direction to get there, that’s okay.

India: I think it’s to surround yourself with people who will really support you, no matter what, and won’t be like, “That is a crazy idea; you shouldn’t do that.” Taking a huge leap of faith and knowing you have a community as your safety net is a huge blessing. I feel super lucky to have that because I know not everybody does. Surround yourself with people who say, “Yeah, you should probably jump. You should probably quit your job and start a company and go after what you really want to do.” I think a lot of times, people are held back because they aren’t given encouragement.

Outside of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

Katy: Carbs, a new dress or outfit, and a weekend getaway.

India: Coffee, music, and comedy.

Thank you for the inspiration, Katy and India, and thanks to Ellen Pelletier for the images.

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