Note House Nashville
At their content creation studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Katy Shah and India Mayer, co-founders of the influencer marketing agency, Of Note, shared their journey to starting their own company and building Note House.
Legitimizing the influencer community
When the word “influencer” comes to mind, people often think of a frivolous way of life, with self-made models and actors absorbed with capturing a certain look or lifestyle. This assumption, however, is often incorrect.
Influencers today drive nearly 15 billion dollars of sales for brands, with some earning seven to eight figures a year. Being successful is hard work. Influencers are growing their own small businesses behind the scenes, from managing their taxes to legal licenses and contracts with major corporations and brand partners. As users, we see the final products on a news feed or in a story reel. Yet the strategy behind making these carefully crafted online advertisements is far more complex.
Katy Shah and India Mayer first met in 2016 while working for a public relations (PR) agency in Nashville. Before moving to Nashville, Katy had spent her early career in New York City, working her way up to account executive at LaForce, a contemporary fashion and lifestyle brand, and later operating as the director of Karla Otto, an international fashion PR agency. Meanwhile, India started her career in Chicago, where she worked in PR before moving back to her hometown of Nashville to be an account director for The Callaway, a lifestyle communications company. The duo first met through work and describe their meeting as an instant friendship.
The new friends inevitably started talking about their future goals, both personally and professionally. “We were having this continuous conversation around PR and where the lifestyle and fashion industry was headed,” Katy recalls. “We both knew that influencer marketing was going to be the thing that eventually took over the industry, and so we asked ourselves, ‘How can we disrupt the industry? What can we do that would be different from what everyone else is doing?’”
The two began bouncing around ideas. They knew they wanted to be involved in the influencer industry and understood that while social media lives in the digital realm, content creators were craving physical connection points. “With both of us having PR backgrounds, we already knew the industry, so we were also able to identify what was lacking,” India shares. “At the same time, we were asking ourselves what we could do to be creative and get out of a stereotypical office setting.” From these conversations, the idea for Of Note was born.
The first of its kind
Eventually, Katy and India made the jump—quitting their jobs and founding Of Note in January of 2020. “Of Note is first and foremost an influencer marketing agency,” Katy says. “We help brands who hire us connect with influencers and run their influencer marketing programs.” Despite the setbacks of 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Nashville’s tornado outbreak in March, the business has taken off and continues to grow.
In November of 2020, Katy and India opened their first physical location, Note House Nashville. “When we were envisioning this space, we really thought out how our members would use it and what we would offer as far as a place to not only shoot their content but also edit their content and respond to requests for brands they are working with,” Katy explains.
Members of Note House Nashville are granted access to the full facility: studios, coworking, and networking spaces. The house currently features 6+ artfully crafted studio spaces to serve a multitude of audiences. From a kitchen for cooking tutorials to a fashion closet with racks of clothing from brand partners and cosmetic and hair products, Note House does not disappoint. “We also have a full bedroom studio because we often heard members say that they would get a campaign with a pajama brand, but they didn’t feel comfortable having the shoot in their bedroom,” Katy said.
The house also features a full podcast studio, which partners with HSC Media in Nashville, and a large bathroom studio that is specifically designed to provide optimal camera angles for capturing products. “A lot of influencers were renting a hotel room just to have the right setting or space for shooting bathroom and beauty products, so we designed this space with that in mind and made sure we had a lot of beautiful, natural light,” India comments.
Though their company is still in its infancy, Katy and India have big dreams, with hopes of eventually opening spaces for influencer populations and markets across the US. They understand that the industry itself is ever-evolving and will continue to change, whether it’s driven by Instagram, TikTok, or whatever is next. They believe that the influencer community needs more connection points where they can physically engage with one another. It’s through this exchange that new ideas emerge and content is born.
Fostering a collaborative culture
In addition to legitimizing the industry, Note House strives to support its influencers as independent business owners. “With COVID-19, it hasn’t been safe to gather, but when it is safe again, we plan to host happy hours, legal workshops, branding workshops, and bring in representatives from social media platforms so that we can help our clients grow,” India says.
For lifestyle and travel bloggers Emily Bache and Abigail Breslin, otherwise known as the WanderLust Girls, Note House has provided a refreshing and new approach to content creation. “It’s been great working at Note House because it’s constantly evolving, from the furniture to the brands. We are always being introduced to new content,” Emily comments.
The WanderLust Girls relocated from NYC to Nashville a few years ago and have found the change to be invigorating and inspiring for their work. “People in Nashville are super willing to work together and collaborate. The most important part of content creation today is storytelling, and places like Nashville and Of Note help us do that. If you are passionate and excited about something, people here want to get involved,” Abigail observes.
While a competitive spirit is central to becoming an influencer, the culture at Note House is focused on collaboration. For Katy and India, prioritizing the progress and success of clients like the WanderLust Girls comes naturally. “We’re trying to help them grow alongside our own business, and truthfully, some of our clients—especially the women—are total role models for us. So even though we are helping support them, we also aspire to one day be as successful as they are,” Katy says.
When you give people a space to connect, amazing things happen. But more than that, Note House has fostered something much more powerful: a truly collaborative culture that thrives on shared resources, knowledge, and support.
Trust your intuition and learn from it
For both Katy and India, the biggest challenge to starting Of Note was taking the leap of faith and deciding to quit their day jobs. “It’s hard for women, particularly young women, to be taken seriously as business owners. Especially working in our industry, that is sometimes seen in a superficial light,” India comments. But the two pushed forward, and while they admit they were learning it day by day, they were determined to make it work.
When they left their jobs at the start of 2020, they had scraped together enough client work to pay themselves a living salary for the first year of their business. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “On March 11, when everything shut down, those clients left us. We had nothing and were starting from scratch, but we figured it out and found a way to make it work,” Katy recalls.
“People always say, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ But you do work and it is a job. That’s just a reality of life,” India explains. “There are parts to every job you aren’t going to like, but I think what Katy and I have done is create something that gives us a great deal of fulfillment, and we get to do it together.”
Trusting their instincts, the two survived a challenging first year—with many forces working against them—and their business has flourished. India recalls a recent conversation over text message with her mother: “I sent her a note saying, ‘One year anniversary of the tornado and pandemic.’ She responded, ‘But we survived.’ I thought, ‘Yup, we did.’”
No new business comes without its challenges and rarely is it successful overnight. Katy and India had their fears and an occasional wavering of confidence, but they learned this can be cured through knowledge and the courage to persevere.
Create the life you want
Although the two are business partners, they say this comes second to their friendship, which goes beyond ordinary companionship. Katy laughs as she explains that she often calls India before her husband. “It’s one of the most important relationships in my life,” she explains. “We are so deeply committed to being successful on a personal and business level. It’s a balance. We want our business to thrive, but never at the cost of our friendship. We certainly disagree at times, but we always remember that we are friends first, and we try to honor and respect that.”
One of their greatest desires for their partnership is to lead a lifestyle that isn’t driven solely by their business. “We knew from the start that we both wanted to get married and have kids, to go on trips, and not feel like we were stuck in the rat race,” India comments. “As cheesy as it sounds, so much of it is about the work-life balance. I think our society glamorizes this idea of constantly being sleep-deprived. Don’t get me wrong—we will work very long hours when we need to, but neither of us is interested in living that every day.”
Perhaps their greatest success has not been in growing their business, but rather in growing their friendship and providing the support and encouragement to succeed as one in building a life they both want. “I don’t have a sister. To me, Katy is my sister,” India says. “And now that she has a son, he’s my nephew. I love our business, but what I appreciate most is our friendship.”
Katy laughs as she explains that even while going into labor, she called India before calling her own mother. “We care so deeply for each other and everyone in our circles,” Katy notes. “India is an extension of my family. I’ve never had a friend like her.”
There isn’t an easy way to define the term “best friend,” because we all have our own definition for what the word means. But to Katy and India, it can be seen in the very foundation on which they have built their business. A best friend and true partner is someone you choose to go through life with. It’s a relationship built on respect, unwavering trust, and support. For this reason and many others, we have no doubt that Of Note—thanks to Katy and India—will continue to prosper.