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Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, Co-Founders of theSkimm

Over the past 3 years, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg have successfully started a Millennial media movement from their couch. Realizing the need for a simple, engaging way to help their peers stay up to date on current events, Carly and Danielle quit their jobs at NBC and launched theSkimm, a daily newsletter summarizing top stories, delivered directly to your inbox. With over 1.5 million subscribers waking up to theSkimm every morning, their witty, conversational newsletter has become a nationwide phenomenon, and a saving grace for busy professionals everywhere.

As our Millennial Makers, we talk to Carly and Danielle about engaging Millennial readers, growing an audience organically through community, and the best advice their moms ever gave them.

What inspired you to create the theSkimm?

Our friends are the inspiration behind theSkimm. We saw that our friends — who are smart, went to great schools, and have great jobs — would ask us basic questions about the news. They know everything going on in their industries but didn’t always have the time or the interest to explore outside of it. We wanted to create a news source that let you walk into a room and strike up a conversation with someone regardless of if they worked in finance, or education, or politics. We wanted to create a news source that our friends would like and fit into their routines. We look at what we do first thing in the morning — roll over, grab our phones, and check emails from friends and family first. So we started a daily email newsletter that sounds like your friend giving you what you need to know to start your day.

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How would you define the purpose of theSkimm?

theSkimm makes it easier to be smarter.

Why did you settle on the newsletter format and what makes skimmable content so attractive to our generation? 

It fit into the routines of our target audience. We focus on female Millennials who are influencing tons of spending and are the next generation of breadwinners. They are busy, on the go, and need information that fit into their routines. Email is the first thing you read in the morning. We call it the one eye open routine.

What have you learned about the value of building a community around your company and how have you leveraged personal brand building to do so?

Our Skimm’bassadors are our brand reps. They are the most engaged of our engaged community and have accounted for over 10% of our user growth. We thought about a lot of things when we started theSkimm but were very lucky that a community formed around us organically. People started writing in and asking how they could help. We would respond and ask them to send theSkimm to 5 friends. These turned into penpals. Our first hire was someone to turn this into an actual program. It takes time and resources but has been an amazing surprise.

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What advice would you give to future Millennial Makers? 

Learn to code.

What keeps you inspired at work?

Our employees — it’s amazing starting something from your couch, but that just takes belief in yourself. Seeing people have enough faith in what we are building to quit their jobs and come join us makes us work ten times harder.


Words to live by?

Carly

What has to get done will get done.

— My Mom

Danielle


The worst thing they can do is say no.

— My Mom