Helen Todd is the Co-founder and CEO of Creativity Squared, a platform that explores how creatives collaborate with artificial intelligence. She is a seasoned entrepreneur, award-winning marketer, and international speaker. Helen is also the Co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared, a women-owned, full-service social media agency founded in 2010 and headquartered in New York City.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Helen Todd, the Co-founder and CEO of Creativity Squared and Sociality Squared, about the intersection of AI and creativity. They also discuss the concept and use of synthetic media, how businesses can leverage AI, and why Helen started a social media marketing agency.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- [02:01] The entrepreneurial lessons Helen Todd learned from her parents
- [07:26] What drove Helen to start her own company?
- [10:15] Helen talks about her first introduction to ChatGPT — and the effects of AI on marketing
- [15:19] What is synthetic media?
- [22:38] Top AI applications for businesses
- [29:14] The people who have had a significant impact on Helen’s life
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- Creativity Squared
- Creativity Squared Podcast
- Helen Todd on LinkedIn I Twitter I Instagram
- Sociality Squared
- David Dumoulin on LinkedIn
- LW Office Furniture Warehouse
- Adobe Firefly
- Reeps One (Harry Yeff)
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John Corcoran 0:00
Today we’re talking about the intersection of AI and creativity. These two fields are merging with one another. And there are a lot of different connections between the two, especially in the world of marketing in business today. My guest today is Helen Todd. I’ll tell you more about her in a second. So stay tuned.
Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.
John Corcoran 0:35
Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And you know, every week I feel so privileged to get to talk to interesting CEOs, entrepreneurs, founders of all kinds of different companies. You can check out our archives to check out past episodes with folks from Netflix and Kinkos, EO, YPO, Activision Blizzard, GrubHub, Redfin, and many more. And of course, this episode’s brought to you by Rise25, my company, 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 at Rise25.com. You can learn all about our new podcast Co-pilot, which we’re really excited about our digital platform. Cool.
And first, I want to give a shout out to Dave Dumoulin. He is the Owner of LW Office Furniture Warehouse who introduced me to today’s guest. Thank you, Dave, for sponsoring today’s guest, Helen Todd. She’s the Co-founder and CEO of Creativity Squared. She’s a seasoned entrepreneur. Fun fact, she digitally cloned herself, the first person in Cincinnati to do that. What is that? I have no idea. No, we were talking about it a little bit beforehand. I’m going to learn a little bit more about what it is. And as we’ll use really interesting, it’s a lot of potential for it. And she also, in 2010, established Sociality Squared, which is a New York City based social media agency. And her interest in social media that expanded her interest in AI and the connections with creativity. So we’re gonna talk about that. But, you know, I love to ask people, Helen, I love to ask people about where they got started with entrepreneurship. You were the child of entrepreneurs, a second-generation entrepreneur or maybe beyond. And you actually sold plastic visors. Now I’ve had people on here that said they sold gum, candy, lots of people who said they sold weed, but you never had plastic visors. So why plastic visors?
Helen Todd 2:27
I feel like weed might be a much cooler story.
John Corcoran 2:31
Especially if it came with the visors.
Helen Todd 2:34
I grew up in Sevier County, which is actually Dolly Parton’s hometown, which, and she’s actually a dream guest for my podcast.
John Corcoran 2:48
Oh, nice. If anyone has any Dolly Parton connections, there’s got to be a billboard on the edge of town, I hope. Dolly Parton. Oh,
Helen Todd 2:54
Yeah, she’s everywhere. But it’s an extremely tourist town. Because we have the word the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. We have Dollywood, which is Dolly Parton’s theme park and get millions of visitors every year that comes into the area. So it’s, it’s super touristy. And you mentioned my parents are entrepreneurial. My mom has had an art gallery for many, many years. And at some point in front of her art gallery, I had a little table. And I think it was from another venture, where we that my biological dad had, where we had all these leftover plastic visors that are like, so cheesy for tourists to put on their heads. And I don’t know how old I was maybe six or seven years old. When people would come out of the store and they if they wanted advisor to be customized. We had the markers and would put their names and decorate them however they wanted. So that was one of the early entrepreneurial memories. That is cool.
John Corcoran 3:56
That’s cool. And so it’s interesting, really, that here you are interested in AI and creativity and you’re the child of an artist. Now, artists sometimes, of course, we know can be challenged with the world of business, those two can kind of seem at loggerheads. What did you observe or learn from your mother, who was able to engage with both art and commerce by having a gallery and selling her art? Yeah, that’s
Helen Todd 4:26
a good question. I I was actually talking to someone about this the other day that unless you go to business school, whether you’re a dentist or an artist, oftentimes you’re not ever taught like business skills, even though almost everyone needs them in some form or function. And I would say, you know, seeing my mom be an artist was definitely I think her story is fascinating that she went a very traditional route of what she thought she had to do in terms of going to college. She actually was schooled as a a speech therapist and didn’t know she could be an artist. And when she was exposed to that she really pivoted and like followed her passion. So I think that was always just really inspiring and that she figured out how to a way to make it a living for her through her gallery, which is the story for of the plastic visors was in Pigeon Forge, but her current gallery that she’s a part owner of is called Cliff dwellers in Gatlinburg on the arts and crafts route. So I think it’s just she’s always kind of what is the saying? A drum to our own beat or whatever, like kind of beat
John Corcoran 5:41
Your own drum. Yeah, marches to marches your own drummer.
Helen Todd 5:44
I think is yeah, that phrase. And I think that’s always just kind of inspired me, or influenced me of just going a different route than what you might expect marches
John Corcoran 5:55
to the beat of their own drum. I think it’s true, it’s late on Friday, it’s good. In your your stepfather, and your biological father also had their own businesses? Did you? Do you feel like when you were kind of like raised that, naturally, you would go start your own business? No,
Helen Todd 6:14
I was actually, my first internship at college was with Fidelity Investments, and in their PR team, and I really liked the idea of a very structured path to leadership and development in terms of, you know, a very corporate structured and path. But then the my first job because I graduated grad school in 2008, and the economy was absolutely tanked. Then great time.
John Corcoran 6:45
I graduated law school in 2007. So same thing. Yeah. Yeah,
Helen Todd 6:51
it was another finding a job in the company that ended up hiring me was one of the early social media agencies as well. And it was this, which I’m very, very grateful for, but it was this couple and it was such a shit show. They were blowing up so fast. And it was almost like the reverse mentoring of like, I didn’t know, people could run companies this way and make money. And it was like, I can do this. I can do this, you know, was it 13 years later, I still have my social media agency.
John Corcoran 7:26
That’s funny. That’s that’s similar to how I ended up being going to work for myself as I kind of felt like, well, I can do this, like I saw, you know, the way that the company I was working for at the time law firm was working for at the time was running things. I was pretty independent. I was just like, I can do this myself. And so is that what it was like for you? You’re just like, Well, I’m gonna go start my own social media marketing agency.
Helen Todd 7:49
Yeah, well, I guess one key fact is, after 10 months, they actually fired me. Because the economy was so bad, like I quit. But it was like, honestly, one of the best things. And it took me a long time to admit that because you know, I’m a very good student overachiever. It was like a huge, huge blow to my ego. But the next day, I woke up at like, five 530 in the morning with a domain idea in my head and went to my computer, as most of my ideas, I immediately buy a domain. And yeah, before you know it, that was us around I forget the exact date January, but by February, you know, it was officially starting Sociality Squared as my social media agency.
John Corcoran 8:35
And you mentioned the economy still kind of limping along at this point. Was did it take a while to get your feet under you to get clients to get some traction? The
Helen Todd 8:48
they paid me so little my benchmark, and I’m pretty low. Yeah, yeah. And I had nothing to lose at that moment in time, you know, in terms of stakes being high or whatnot. But no, we were profitable. And I had a co founder, too, we kind of had this Vegas wedding of jumping into running a business together. But
John Corcoran 9:10
what was that like? So it was with like, did you know you get fired and then you immediately contact someone’s like, let’s start a business together? Or, or were the Were you already discussing it with that person? Or how did that? Yeah,
Helen Todd 9:22
it was. It was like, I have this idea. Oh, I love it. Let’s do it together. It’s actually the only time I’ve ever shared a bank account with someone so I you know, it’s very much a relationship in its own right. But ya know, we originally were like, cuz she was actually from the, we met at the same company that Oh, but we wanted to get out of agency services. And we were like, Oh, well, we’ll build a platform to educate people how to use social media, but a few clients followed us And they wanted to pay us to implement their social media marketing. So we just follow the money. And because we had like no overhead at the time, we were profitable from day one. And we’ve grown the business through word of mouth ever since. Yeah.
John Corcoran 10:16
And now, what’s really interesting to me, I think about your story is that you actually got a peek under the cover of OpenAI, you had a friend at the company who gave you a demo before it was released widely. And it you know, took the world by by storm with ChatGPT. What was that like, for you, when you saw this demo of this technology? Did you, you know, anticipate that this is going to be a huge success is going to get everyone’s attention.
Helen Todd 10:48
You know, there’s, there’s certain moments that change trajectories. And I feel like that day was one of those moments in my life that really has changed the trajectory of at least my career and this chapter that I’m in right now. But yeah, it was October of last year. And I always, in addition to my professional work, have creative projects that I’m usually just thinking about and talking about and marinating on. And one of them is this miniseries like a television miniseries, insecure esque style or category. And it’s in a massive Excel document right now. And my friend gave me a demo, and we use the first scene for the mini series into ChatGPT. And I was honestly blown away at how good it was how fast it was the dialogue that it just pumped out with very little input.