Norel Mancuso is the CEO of Social House, Inc. an award-winning, social content and strategic innovation studio that has broadcasted content to more than 182 countries worldwide. For nearly a decade, Mancuso and her team have created distribution strategies and creative content for a multitude of brands and industries including Pepsi, Revlon, 7UP, Harry Winston, LORAC Cosmetics, SONOS, Playboy, J Brand, amongst other notable clients.
With an established background in global marketing merged with her love for all things digital, Norel – through Social House, Inc. – has emerged as a leading voice and thought-leader of impactful original content, producing online experiences and cultural dialogue that resonates and inspires.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was not the one everyone expected to succeed. I think that’s partially what motivated me. When I was growing up, I was a bit of an outsider. It was the mid-90s and I was in high school navigating the pressures of homophobia, and the process of coming out to my family and friends. It was a challenging chapter of my life that I look back on with sincere gratitude.
As challenging as this time period was, I saw it as an opportunity to listen and observe the perspectives and behaviors of others. I found that by listening and actually processing what people were saying, I was able to educate and embrace our differences with the aim to find a convergence of understanding.
No matter what label has been given to me over the years, I see myself today only as Norel Mancuso, CEO and Co-Founder of Social House. I do my best to be a thoughtful leader who pairs active listening with the ability to feel empathy. I believe that by asking questions and actually processing the response, you can learn so much more about a person and/or situation. Attention spans are shorter than ever, hence why having the desire to listen and learn more about what motivates people, has continued to fuel my evolution as a leader.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I always tell people that I was professionally raised with German pragmatism and French taste. My early career was spent in Global Marketing at Fortune 500 beauty corporations – Schwarzkopf & Henkel (Los Angeles) and L’Oreal (New York). I was trained to be sophisticated in creative ideation and disciplined in execution. I developed the internal workings of Social House with these key learnings in mind. Our focus has always been to strategically and holistically advise our clients on how to position their brands for success, in the world of social and experiential.
Over the last 9 years I have been a part of cultivating an agency culture, where the craziest ideas become a reality and the brightest underdogs have a voice. I could not have done this without my prior experience and I am grateful for that time.
What have the challenges and highlights been during your current role?
Five hundred dollars and a vision. That was all I had to my name in 2009 as I walked into a ‘We the People’ to incorporate Social House with my business partner. I could write a book about the challenges of launching an agency from nothing. My biggest challenge in building an agency has been reminding myself over the years, that I am the only one who could stand in the way of my success. Self-doubt is a challenge that I think many women face in life and in business, as we’ve had to push ourselves harder in the face of adversity.
The key highlights that stand out for me as the chief executive at Social House, are the moments when our team unveils their talents to our clients and the world. The creative content and experiential campaigns that we’ve conceptualized and produced have been broadcasted globally in over 200 countries. The fact that Social House is shaping the way hundreds of millions of people from around the world interpret and respond to the brands we represent, is indescribable.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
The best way to advance in the social and digital industry (or any industry for that matter) is to not see other women as competition. When we combine our thoughts, our voices and our dreams, our arsenal becomes louder and more powerful than if we went at it alone.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
You don’t get anywhere alone. Share your knowledge and bring people up with you – great leaders, create other great leaders. Don’t let potential leaders slip through the cracks. I was not always a CEO but what I have learned in the last 9 years is that you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Find your people and invest in them.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work/life balance. What’s that? JK (kind of)
When I am at home, staying in the moment and being present is a challenge for me. My brain is constantly breaking down the integration of new social technologies and how they may apply to our clients. The line for me is blurred when it comes to work/life balance as everything I see, and experience somehow relates back to Social House. If I am not traveling for business with my mobile device in hand, I am at home with my iPad researching the latest and greatest. Does this sound familiar to anyone else or do I need an intervention?
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The number of women in decision-making positions needs to increase. In order for businesses to evolve, there needs to be a far more balanced perspective in the decision-making process, across all industries and departments.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
I believe that women-owned businesses add a much-needed perspective to our society. Without the continued increase of women-owned businesses, we will never evolve the status quo. If you are reading this and just starting to think about owning your own business, remind yourself of times when you felt adversity or discrimination in the workplace. Now create a work environment where this type of treatment is a thing of the past.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am so fortunate to have had some of the most groundbreaking and innovative mentors show me the way throughout my career. Without their profound presence in my life I don’t know if I would be where I am today as they encouraged me to continue in my moments of doubt. I am forever grateful for them. I have also had the opportunity to mentor young men and women and it is my mission to continue to help build and guide them throughout their careers.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have three:
#1 – The first female leader that I admire is my sister, business partner, best friend, travel partner, and CFO, Bree Hardaway. We started the company together in 2009 and she has been with me every step of the way. Bree and I have seen each other go through the trials and tribulations of life and starting an agency, and we’ve had each other’s back every step of the way. Bree is such a strong business woman, mother, daughter, wife and sister. Starting her career in Silicon Valley and moving her whole life to LA to take on Social House with me, has been a journey that I will never be able to thank her for enough.
#2 – The second female leader that I admire is Kristin Patrick. What a powerhouse to say the least. Social House worked with Kristin when she was the CMO at Playboy and my agency then followed her to her next role at Pepsi. What I respect the most about Kristin is her ability to cut through the clutter and bring brands into the future. For Kristin, it’s not just about what is happening ‘now’ but what’s happening ‘next’. She has both foresight and determination and for that, I consider her to not only be an incredible leader but also a mentor.
#3 – Last but definitely not least, Kathy Alaama, VP of North American Marketing for Schwarzkopf is another female leader that I greatly admire. Kathy hired me out of college and she taught me so much. Despite the incredible amounts of work that we produced together, Kathy knew how to keep a team motivated by being human and empathetic towards others. She is a female leader who knows how to lead a team to success by reminding them to see the bigger picture. I don’t know where I would have been in my life without her.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
There are a lot of exciting things happening at the agency right now. In the next year, we will focus our efforts on continuing to scale the agency and expand into other key regions across North America. We also launched a social approval and calendarization software called CoFrame that we are bringing to the masses. On a personal level, I want to spend more time being present and reflecting on what’s in front of me. Life’s too short. I also want to mentor more people and rescue lots of dogs.
What are the top five tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
#1 – Find a mentor
#2 – Partner with people you trust and respect
#3 – Take your time to find the right employees
#4 – Keep your overhead low
#5 – Never let an employee leave your office not feeling motivated