Marti Grimminck’s creative approach to human engagement is changing the definition of business-as-usual
Marti Grimminck is the founder and CEO of San Francisco based innovation consultancy, International Connector. Known for her work with thousands of emerging young innovators worldwide, Marti designs experiential approaches to disrupt business as usual and create large-scale systems change. Her signature is using technology in creative ways to activate human engagement and her work has been utilized by diverse organizations such as Google, Canadian Government and Institute for the Future.
How did you decide to start your own company? What was the thought process, and what were you doing before?
Previously, I had been a live entertainment producer (i.e. touring Broadway shows and large-scale events). I traveled all over the world for work, and during every break I traveled as a champagne backpacker. I loved all the friends I made in hostels and all the communities I met on backroads. Travel was the best education I received especially in learning how to listen to, appreciate and understand people from other cultures.
After my experiences, I wanted to help connect more people to travel, especially Americans. Timing-wise, I also wanted to start a family and needed a business arrangement that I could manage while also taking care of my kids. So, I established International Connector as an avenue for these ideas of mine and for consulting projects. Where we are today, grew organically over time.
What do you know now, that you wish you had known when you started your entrepreneurial journey?
I started with passion and vision about a topic. My ideas were never perfect and it was a process of iteration that got us where we are today. Nothing starts off exactly where it will end, and you have to be flexible to shift and change ideas.
I thought as a marketer and creative visionary I had the skills that would lead me through. However, I learned that I needed heaps of other skills too. Although, sometimes, as an entrepreneur, I feel like I have to fake being a master of everything, truthfully, it was this year that I embraced my core skills of where I started my career– Producer, Creative Director, Performer. Once I did, all of my business decisions and choices made sense. I was able to more effectively collaborate with people who complimented my skill-set and who were and are greatly needed in the steps ahead.
Don’t work for or with people who bring negative energy your way — life is too short. There are always new avenues and new people to work with.
What is the biggest roadblock you have experienced in building your company? How did you navigate around it?
One night while watching a Silicon Valley episode, I realized what my biggest road block had been — our idea came too early into the market. Having the right idea at the right time is very important. It was amazing to have an excuse to completely release this frustration through laughter. From there, I also gained confidence in what we were doing and stopped trying to “prove” the hypothesis of our work. I knew there were company and societal pain points that needed to be addressed. From that moment on, I surrounded myself with the right mentors, peers and Millennial/GenZ innovators to develop, support and greatly contribute to the process.
If you could change one thing from your professional past to do over, what would it be?
Don’t work for or with people who bring negative energy your way — life is too short. There are always new avenues andnew people to work with. Seek out the “doers” and those that want to support your work and you as a person. Unfortunately, I choose to work with a lot of people that were competitive and insecure themselves and were destructive for me. These days, beyond my stellar extended team, I also only take on projects with clients that I adore. When there is a collaborative energy, it makes the project more magical and the outcomes even stronger.
Outside of work, what best defines you?
Singing defines me. I always sang from a very young age and it was who I was and it was my happiest place. Sadly, through life’s choices, I stopped performing in my 20’s. Once I had my two beautiful boys, I never thought I’d get back on stage again. However, it was the desire for my boys to see me perform even once, that got back on stage after 15+ years. Singing with a band, for an audience was magical and it connected me back to a part of myself that I had forgotten. I have gained a huge positive energy force around me that I can see carrying into my work.
When your mind wanders, where does it go?
My mind goes to sitting on a chicken bus through Guatamala, or playing cricket with a bunch of kids in India, or to the hostel I was stuck in for three days playing silly card games with other travelers on the top of the W trail in Patagonia, or to the day I ran into my now Australian husband for the second and third times in different hostels in different cities. And mainly, what the next adventure will be that I can take my boys on.
When there is a collaborative energy, it makes the project more magical and the outcomes even stronger.
If people want to connect with you, how should they go about doing that? And what should they know ahead of time?
We have a proven model and endless new innovative programs, but we need to get the word out further. If you have a company or a team that is feeling stuck or having workforce challenges, I want to meet you. We can turn the tides and take you into the next phase of your company. (Oh, and I always am looking for young talented innovators anywhere in the world!)