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Featured on May 17, 2011

Karen Schoellkopf

"Who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?"


Karen wrangles all things social, both in person and online. She runs events, like the monthly Hobby lecture series and Walkabout NYC, and also organizes a small group of Community Managers to chat about the challenges and issues in the ever-shifting tech startup space. She's a superfan (and creator) of arts and crafts alike, and is continuing her goal of walking 5 miles a day.

  • Title: Community Manager, Harvest
  • Age: 34
  • Location: SoHo, Brooklyn
  • Contact: @kgunette

What do you find to be some of the most significant or difficult challenges that Community Managers at startups face?

In talking to many other Community Managers over the past two years (and even hosting my own small and cozy CM meetups), the thing I'm most struck with is that it's still a very new field. Being new means it is a field where you get to test and define the rules, and explore and experiment in a space ripe with possibilities, but that brings with it some definite challenges. Due to the open and amorphous nature of this often borderless startup terrain, the title Community Manager means very different things to different companies, and the responsibilities can run the gamut from social media, marketing, pr, biz dev, operations, events coordination, customer support, and even internal team cheerleader. These responsibilities can shift over time as your startup grows, and it can be a challenge to manage expectations. From what the company _thinks_ that you will do when they hire you, and what is actually needed once you get in there, to the needs of a product and community base that are ever-growing, the key is to make sure everyone is on the same page at every stage of the game. Over time, it will become more clear to companies (both startup and beyond) which kinds of resources need to be allocated to support this new mode of operating, and why it's important to their bottom line. As with most things in life, open communication with your team leads to the most satisfying results for you, the company, and ultimately, the community for your product or service.

You’ve been working at Harvest for almost 2 years now. What is your favorite part of working there?

My favorite part about working with Harvest is absolutely the team of talented and creative folks I work with. Prior to working at Harvest, I spent 10 years working in the arts, and none of the galleries and artist studios I worked for came anywhere close to the buzz and energy that Harvest HQ has: bubbling with ideas, erupting in debates, and hashing out solutions. I'm given room to experiment and test out new concepts and ways of working, and I find it incredibly inspiring to be a part of the discussions, and to learn and share new things continually with such a smart and accomplished crew of people.

Who is your hero?

There are so many people that I admire and learn from, from people in my family, friends and those I've met through life in various cities around the world, and those I know only through their art, or as public figures. There are too many to name, and important ones will be inadvertently left off the list. Instead, I will say that I strive to be my own hero in the story of my life, to have strength, patience, empathy, a willingness to take calculated risks, and to be an advocate for myself, and for those who have no voice.

You’re the organizer of Walkabout NYC.  What are some of your favorite startup offices around the City?

For those that don't know, Walkabout NYC is an "open house for startups," and aims to connect people working and interested in tech with companies in our NYC ecosystem. It's a great opportunity for people to learn about tech companies and get behind-the-scenes of their favorite apps and products, and learn about new ones. Last year, I (along with other participants in Walkabout NYC) got to peek into how things work at a number of great startup tech company spaces in New York, like's huge offices on Broadway, which are filled with clothing lines of t-shirts (all from Meetup groups around the world!), and Kickstarter's sun drenched digs on the Lower East Side. Etsy's offices in Dumbo are chock full of inspired arts and crafts, works in progress, and frequent games of ping pong, and were also definitely a Walkabout favorite. We will be updating our roster with even more companies for this year's event, which will be held on Friday June 10th, and we hope to see a lot of folks come visit us at Harvest HQ during Walkabout NYC!

Social Media, Community Management