Shaheen Samavati | [Top Agency Series] From Wall Street Journalist to 200+ Person Agency Founder
Smart Business Revolution

Shaheen Samavati is the Co-founder and CEO of VeraContent, an agency that manages global social media and content marketing channels for international brands. VeraContent works with over 200 freelance and full-time employees worldwide to generate content in multiple languages.

Shaheen started her career as a journalist in the US before moving to Spain in 2010 where she completed an MBA at IE Business School, worked in corporate communication, and formed part of the founding team of a real estate startup before launching VeraContent in 2016.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Shaheen Samavati, the Co-founder and CEO of VeraContent, about how she became a writer and transitioned to entrepreneurship. Shaheen also talks about the lessons learned being part of the founding team at Spotahome and her strategies for hiring and managing over 200 employees.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Shaheen Samavati’s entrepreneurial background and why she became a business journalist
  • Shaheen talks about going back to school to get a business degree and writing for the  Wall Street Journal
  • The lessons Shaheen learned from being part of the founding team at Spotahome
  • Tips for overseeing work in multiple languages
  • How Shaheen picks the right clients to work with, how she hires and manages over 200 employees, and her strategy for marketing and growing an agency
  • How VeraContent was impacted by the pandemic
  • The peers Shaheen appreciates for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here and for those of you who are new to the program have never listened to an episode before. First of all, you’re in for a treat today. And secondly, go check out our archives got lots of great episodes there with smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies. And we got some great upcoming episodes recently. We got Quicken. We got Redfin, we got HubSpot, some interesting companies. But this is part of our agency leaders series, where we talk with some of the interesting founders and CEOs of different agencies, digital agencies that are doing really cutting edge work in today’s evolving market and in an economy and so we’re going to dive into that. And, of course, I am the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest here today is Shaheen Samavati. And she is the CEO and Co-founder of VeraContent. It’s an agency that manages global social media and content marketing channels for international brands, who was based in the US. Now based in Spain, they’ve got team members all over the globe, about over 200, different freelancers and full time people that are all working collaboratively together to generate content in multiple different languages. So there’s so many different challenges that I want to really dive into. She started her career as a journalist. So as a child of a journalist and kind of a part time aspiring journalist myself, we’re going to talk a bit about that. She also got her MBA at IE Business School in Spain, worked in corporate communication, worked for the Wall Street Journal, also worked on the founding team for a real estate startup Spotahome as well before starting their content in 2016. Also, the launch The Content Mix community for those looking to advance in their content career. So we’re gonna talk about that as well.

This episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You can go to our website to learn about that at or email our support team at [email protected]. All right, Shaheen. First of all, we connected through the the EO world, the media marketing channel, and I thought you were doing some really interesting things with your company. But let’s start as a kid, now, you kind of we have so many things in common in terms of kind of the journalism and the entrepreneurship background, but you literally kind of combined those who I asked you if you did anything entrepreneurial as your kid, and you started a newspaper with a friend, which is so cute.

Shaheen Samavati 3:10

Totally. Yeah. It’s, uh, this is going way back. But like, just, yeah, when you asked me that question and made me think about like, back in the second grade, I already had an interest in journalism and an entrepreneurship because my best friend at the time, her father was the editor of the local newspaper. So that, I think was our influence and inspiration. But we decided we need our elementary school needed to have a newspaper, and we decided to create it on paper and, and go make our own photocopies folded in half and give it to him tickets. Which he did, like on a couple of occasions, we had more than one edition. It was serious.

John Corcoran 3:47

Cool, cool. very profitable. There’s must have been a very profitable endeavor.

Shaheen Samavati 3:51

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We didn’t think that far into it. I think we did put a price but I don’t think we actually. But I learned a lesson there, though.

John Corcoran 4:03

Yeah, but I mean, it shows the foundations of your interest in writing, you’re interested in editing, and you’re interested in creating something from scratch, which is, you know, what you’ve done as an entrepreneur. So I think I think that’s fascinating. I actually, as one of my college essays, I remember I created kind of like a faux layout of like, a newspaper page. So it’s like my essay, you know, instead of just writing an essay, I created this like, page and the essay was written in as an as an article on the front page of this newspaper. So I kind of like had similar types of kind of interests and everything. And I also you know, like band camp, everyone says, like the, you know, the nerds go to band camp. I went to journalism camp in high school was just kind of like a nerdy or versatile band camp as well.

Shaheen Samavati 4:45

I wish my school had that. been all about it.

John Corcoran 4:49

So you end up going did an internship. You grew up in Ohio with the local paper there, and then you end up getting into business journalism. Because why? Because people had told you that that was a an area where there’s a lot of opportunity.

Shaheen Samavati 5:06

Yeah, so Well, actually, I did have a great opportunity in my high school where there was this job shadowing program. So I had, and they was like, you could volunteer to be part of this program. I was like, Yeah, of course, I want to do that. I think there was only like, 10 kids in our school that actually did the job shadowing. But um, and they asked like, what your interests were and what kinds of people you’d like to shadow and my interests at the time were like politics and journalism. And I, I had the chance to job shadow, a county commissioner and thought it was like the most boring thing ever. And then I got a job shadow, a newspaper reporter. And I was like, Oh, that’s awesome. That’s what I wanted to do. And that’s what got me into it after that previous experience as well with the, with my fledgling newspaper. made sense. And then, yeah, well, it how I got into business journalism, specifically, that came later. But actually, that one job shadowing experience in high school, like led me to later get an internship at that same newspaper. And then from there, I had the chance to go to a talk, or someone was talking about business journalism, and how many opportunities there are in that. And I thought, well, that sounds cool. And if there’s a lot of opportunities in it, I’m just gonna like position myself as a business journalist. And I went to this job fair and applied, saying that I wanted to be a business journalist. And I got a really great internship at a big newspaper, in Ohio, the Plain Dealer, and which is the newspaper of Cleveland, and I ended up getting a job there after graduation. And that was how I got into.

John Corcoran 6:34

It’s interesting, because so my father was a journalist. When I was growing up, he started in print, went to TV, and then my best friend growing up in high school, he and I connected because both our parents were journalists, his dad, so Jason is his name. His dad, Bill Rempel, was an investigative journalist for the LA Times wrote these really interesting cutting edge, but that’s really kind of the sexier stuff, right? And investigative journalism. That’s what most people want to go into. So were you kind of like the maverick wanting to go into business journalism and in college?

Shaheen Samavati 7:03

Yeah, I think that I mean, actually, I was really interested in doing like, the boring stuff, writing about stocks and whatever. Like, I found that fascinating. But I think it’s not what was popular. So it was worked out great for me, because there’s like, a huge amount of business content that needs to be created. Yeah. And there’s, and most people want to be either like the sexy investigative jobs, the political stuff, which is what I started out doing, actually, I did an internship and political reporting, as well, which was cool, actually has a lot of things in common with business journalism now, in terms of like, feeling, like talking to influential people and telling their stories. But I think, yeah, and then on the other side of it, people want to be like arts and culture writers and write about the fun things. That’s really hard to get into.

John Corcoran 7:48

Yeah, you have to be a great writer, too. Yes. Yeah. What What were some of the most memorable stories that you wrote are most interesting, like, were there interesting entrepreneurs that you connect with, or stories that you covered? Or companies you covered?

Shaheen Samavati 8:01

Yeah. So I mean, I get to write about really fun things when I worked at the Plain Dealer. Because I was like, the technology I wrote about technology and technology companies and small businesses as well. So I wrote a column about called Bright Ideas that was all about people who had cool startups, basically.

John Corcoran 8:19

Oh, you’re a columnist already. Wow. That’s,

Shaheen Samavati 8:23

it was like a feature is a weekly feature that I wrote in the journalism world becoming calmness is like cream of the crop. I didn’t get my face on it. That’s as good as, yeah, it’s true. No, there’s weekly feature that was on the on the front of the business section, it was always about, you know, some someone doing something cool, you know, a startup. So that was like, one of my favorite things that I did in that job. And it was, like, really, like, inspirational to, like, talk to all these entrepreneurs. And yeah, that I actually, like, I never thought really about entrepreneurship until I started meeting all these entrepreneurs. And I was like, Oh, they they’re doing really cool stuff. And

John Corcoran 9:02

I could do that too. And is that what inspired you to go get your business degree get your MBA? Yep,

Shaheen Samavati 9:07

pretty much. Yeah. I was like, Okay, I writing about businesses cool, but I’d rather do business. Yeah. So yeah, that’s, that’s why I ended up actually coming to spend to do the MBA.

John Corcoran 9:19

It’s, it’s an amazing thing to get paid, especially in your early 20s. To write because it’s not easy to do. And then you go back, and then you go back to grad school, and I had a similar experience. So I was you know, I was a writer in presidential letters and messages in the Clinton White House and then go and get my law degree. And you go from like, kind of the excitement of being out in the real world to like being back in the classroom. What was that experience like for you? Or was it was it more exciting because you gone from Ohio to then Spain, which is pretty cool.

Shaheen Samavati 9:50

Um, I mean, I don’t know I like school. So I am always like, I like learning things. I’m a curious person. So I found it. It was a good light. change of pace to go from like working and doing my daily grind of putting pumping out stories to then like going back to the classroom kind of, I don’t know, having a different a different pace of things. And yeah, it was super interesting. Like I really enjoyed the coursework of the MBA. So yeah, and I did like this English program in Madrid that was, like I said, why I decided like to combine two things that I really wanted to do, like study business, and live abroad is something even though my father’s like from Iran, and I have an international background, I had always lived in the US. I’ve never had an experience living abroad. I didn’t do study abroad in college, so now’s my chance.

John Corcoran 10:43

It’s funny another thing we have in common because I felt the same way didn’t study abroad during college, regretted it, and then ended up going to Dublin for a summer while I was in law school as kind of like a makeup like because I’d missed that opportunity in college. You ended up getting an opportunity to write for talk about jumping to the big leagues to write for the Wall Street Journal. Shortly after you graduate with your MBA, what was that experience?

Shaheen Samavati 11:09

Like? Yeah, well, so after I came to Spain, I was like, doing well, I finished the MBA, I had the opportunity to work in corporate communication in a in a company after the MBA, but it was only a short term contract, which they didn’t renew. And the company actually went bankrupt. But I really liked Spain. So it was like trying to figure out what I could do, like if there’s something else that you do in Spain. So I just reached out to a bunch of news bureaus. And I ended up having, like having to write to the to the Dow Jones Bureau at the right time that they happened to meet some they were doing a lot more coverage of Spain at the time, because there was the whole like, housing crisis happening. And so they needed more stories about what was going on with real estate investment in Spain. And I was like, I can do that. So that’s, that’s how I got into it. I was doing that for about a year writing freelance stories for other real estate investment.