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Secrets of Success: CC Chapman

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: CC Chapman. CC Chapman is a talker, a doer and a creator. Or as his website describes it,  he’s a storyteller, an explorer and a humanitarian. He’s helped create, manage and execute marketing campaigns for startups and multinationals alike, such as Coca-Cola and HBO. He knows how to build passionate consumer communities, and the strategic value of content-based marketing. He’s the co-author of the bestselling book Content Rules and the CMO of YSN. He’s also (being from New England) wicked funny.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

CC Chapman: The earliest answer I ever remember giving was that I wanted to be an artist. Growing up, I was always doodling, and my imagination never turns off so I’d write and tell stories whenever possible.

In some ways I think I have grown up into an artist, but not in the traditional definition that I thought I knew growing up. I’m still ultra-creative and am happiest when I’m out with my camera capturing photographs and documenting my travels to the world.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Chapman: I had seen over the beginning of my career that no matter who I was working for I always wanted to do things differently and I hated not being in a position to make the really big decisions.

It was a bit of a fluke when my business partner and I formed our marketing agency. We had both just left another [agency] and planned on doing our own things, but then companies started calling to hire us as a team. We formed the LLC to protect ourselves and the next thing we knew we had clients and were making a profit so we made a go of it.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Chapman: I don’t know if there has been a single moment, but there certainly has been a series of them.

The day my first book Content Rules hit the shelves was certainly a huge moment as it raised my profile to a whole new level. The day we sold our agency to a bigger one of course changed a lot of things.

Most recently when I announced that I was joining YSN to be their first Chief Marketing Officer things instantly changed. It is the first time I’ve worked for someone where the mission hits my heart and soul so directly. I know we are about to do amazing things and I can’t wait!

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Chapman: You’ve got to be able to cope with being uncomfortable!

While it doesn’t get talked about much, being an entrepreneur and business owners is a scary thing sometimes. There is comfort in a steady paycheck, so when you don’t know week to week how things are going to be that is a high level of stress.

The entrepreneurial life is a beautiful one, but there will be dark days and you have to be ready for it. Risk scares everyone, but you’ve got to have the stomach to face it.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Chapman: Being human and a good person is the first thing that comes to mind.

While you have to make money, not every conversation has to be the hard sell. Talk to people, build relationships and be yourself. No one wants to do business with the person who screams in acronyms and navel gazing.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?

Chapman: With the economy starting to come back, but many people still out of work, I think we are going to see a new wave of first-time business owners.

The reality is, no job is as safe as we thought. That means more people will take a long, hard look at what they want to do with their lives. They’ll realize they can set up that shop, build the app or hang their own shingles.

I know we still have a lot of people hurting in this country and I hope the recovery continues, but I’m predicting good things for the coming year.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

Chapman: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien instantly comes to mind. I’ve loved it my whole life. I’m also a BIG Dr. Seuss fan, with The Lorax being my all-time favorite.

But, I’m betting you are looking for a business book, so I’ll say First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham because it was the first book that made me realize there were others out there like myself who wanted to choose their own paths.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Chapman: “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” – C.S. Lewis

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.
Rieva Lesonsky

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