Tasia Duske is CEO of Museum Hack, a renegade tour company that leads tours at the world’s best museums. We offer public and private tours, plus corporate team-building activities in NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Tasia is from Seattle, has a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Washington University, and is a fierce advocate for bringing joy, passion, creativity and integrity to your work. ❤️💪
How did the concept for Museum Hack come about?
In 2013, our founder Nick Gray went on a date to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The lady showed him the art and artists she was passionate about and shared stories about why. That night, Nick fell in love…with the museum. He returned to the museum every weekend, iPad in hand, and researched the pieces he was interested in. Nick then created a free tour for his friends, and a journalist wrote about what he was doing. The next day, there were 1,000 people on a wait list to come on tour. Nick hired a guide to help lead these tours, and started charging for tickets so he could pay the guide.
How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was busy! We had tours nearly every week and did $100,000+ in revenue.
What was your marketing strategy?
Early on, we relied on word of mouth. We created a one-of-a-kind experience at the museum that guests WANTED to talk about, and then we encouraged this further. For example, on tour, we take photos of guests and print them out on an instant film printer with a #museumhack sticker. Many guests share these photos on Instagram and other platforms.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
By 2017, we were a $2.7 million revenue per year company. This was fast enough to join the Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
How do you define success?
For me, success is both reaching specific and measured goals, like revenue and employee job satisfaction scores. There is also a softer element of success, where I want to feel great about my work and the impact it makes.
What is the key to success?
Your team! I invest a significant amount of time working with our team, helping to develop and empower them, and helping them to feel happy and excited with their work. If you have a strong, productive team, then you will achieve more than you ever could alone.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
“Know how to do the work even if you aren’t doing the work.”
With a medium-sized company and team, I believe it’s important for team members, including myself, to have multiple skill sets. I don’t sell as well as our amazing sales reps, but if I had to get on a call, I know the basics! And it’s not about replacing their work, it’s about understanding where they are at and how you can help them become the best. Similar for marketing, HR, finances, and other areas of the business. If you build the systems, you will know them so well that you can help your team thrive!
I’m also a big fan of these life lessons by Michael Alexis.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can.” – Susan Scott
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
This isn’t one specific day, but instead, one specific kind of day. It’s difficult when team members move on, whether because they’ve found another opportunity, are taking some time off, or because we’ve decided to end the working relationship. Your work family is an important part of your life.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
At Museum Hack, we face challenges frequently: certainly weekly, if not daily. Since I was young, I’ve been very solution-oriented, and this continues with our work. I see the challenges and adversity as a puzzle, something that I can work to overcome. I also keep in mind the long term – it may be a lot to work through now, but future Tasia will thank me!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Identify your superpower and then double down on that. Not every entrepreneur has to be a visionary, and instead your strength could be in persistence, analytics, PR, or many other areas. When you successfully identify your superpower, you also find your competitive advantage in the market because no one can quite replace what you can do, and it will be very expensive for them to try.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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