Katie Wagner 5:53
Yeah, so I’m going to actually take you back a little bit further than that. So I was a television anchor for 15 years, and thought, that’s what I do with my entire life. And, you know, around 2004 2005, when social media started to get big, the powers that be at my station said, Oh, my gosh, you know, no one’s going home to watch the five o’clock news anymore. They can get headlines on Facebook and Twitter, they can see videos on YouTube. And they pointed at me and said, Go out there and learn to use these channels and get our audience back. And so I did learn to use them. And and as I got more immersed in digital and saw the power of using digital channels to communicate with your audience, I realized that I didn’t think our audience was coming back, at least not in the same way. And I thought that this was going to change the way we communicated, and that business owners would need to know how to use digital channels to reach their audiences over time. So I retired from my TV job and and what you said is right, I thought I would be you know, in my yoga pants in my spare bedroom with my laptop, and I would do some consulting and help people. And I quickly had a client base. I was, I like to say it was kind of the right thing at the right time.
Jeremy Weisz 7:02
Did you early on? I mean, you were right. In the inflection point.
Katie Wagner 7:05
Yeah, I started the company in Orange County, California, almost five years ago, and we were the first digital only agency in Orange County. So there were a lot of traditional marketing agencies that started to offer digital or try to, but we were the first to say, No, we’re only going to do digital. We’re not doing any traditional marketing. And people told me I was crazy, right? They said this digital things going away. You’re You’re a fool to hang your hat on that. And it ended up being the right thing at the right time. I did do some, some consulting. But quickly, companies would say, Well, can you do it for us? You know, can you just take this part off our plate. And so I hired a staff. Within about six weeks, I had three employees, and a full roster of clients. And I joked that my husband was my fourth employee, because he was in operations management for Starbucks corporate. And as we started to grow a company, I said, oh, gosh, you know, you’re either gonna have to come and help me run this thing where I’m going to hire somebody who will. And he did, he left his job, he became my fourth employee, he’s still with the company today. And he started to run the contracts, invoicing, you know, business side of things, operations. And I really evolved the service offerings part of things. So you asked about sort of that evolution. When we first started the agency. I usually don’t talk about this, but I’m going to tell you, it was called brace yourself. This is not brilliant. Katie Wagner Social Media. Again, I thought it was going to be a consultant, I thought that all we would do is social media, because that’s how we started. And that is all we did. And then as we started to realize that social media in a vacuum wasn’t as effective as having a good website we could drive to or using video in that content. And some of these other digital tools came into play. We started adding them to our repertoire. And we got in house web designers, SEO people, we had in house videographers, photographers, content creators, graphic designers. And we started really building out a sort of integrated, holistic staff that could do all of digital. And then I got wise in 2018, so eight years into the business, and determined it was not all about me, nor was it all about social media. And we rebranded as KWSM, a digital marketing agency. And since that time, we’ve really been a full service, we really full service before then. But these days, we really focus on the intersection of all those tools or tactics and how they work together to serve our clients. And most of our clients hire us to do lead generation, generate leads or online sales, and we design integrated strategies that take all of those tactics and combine them in a way that’s right for that business to create that lead gen infrastructure. So we’ve come a long way.
Jeremy Weisz 9:46
You know, I was looking at your site, and you serve clients like Dale Carnegie, which actually I like every couple years to listen to how to win friends influence people, one of my favorites, Mitsubishi 45 so I want to hear about some of the stuff you know, they come to you and what you do. And I mean, I know you help online courses software and you know in construction, even the Poop Plunger.
Katie Wagner 10:14
Yes. So this, this is a good story, actually. So the Poop Plunger was invented by a guy in Oregon. His name’s Karl Hickerson. And he just had this idea to make a plunger that looked like the poop emoji. And he kind of thought it was funny. And it was a joke, his friends, and he set up a Kickstarter, and Carl hired KWSM to help run the Kickstarter. And so you know, we created content, we set up this fundraising crowdfunding campaign, and he got the money to fund the Poop Plunger. But in this, we got so much awareness and so much affinity for the brand going that they were actually acquired by Squatty potty. And now Poop Plunger is part of squatty potty Carl is off doing other things. But um, you can find the poop plunger in Bed Bath and Beyond and a bunch of other retailers. So it took on a life of its own. And now, you know, I think everybody should have a plunger shaped like
Jeremy Weisz 11:13
I love the Squatty Potty.
Katie Wagner 11:15
Yeah, I mean, it’s a match made in heaven.
Jeremy Weisz 11:18
That’s perfect. So talk about then software and construction. So a company comes to you and in walk me through it a little bit.
Katie Wagner 11:28
Sure. So we have a lot of SaaS Software as a Service clients, a lot of apps that we represent a lot of the, you know, software products, and a lot of those just recently are in the construction industry. You know, construction has really had a lot of pivoting, that’s had to happen during COVID. And we’re representing a couple of products right now. One is a software that I created was created during COVID, to monitor who came on and off a job site. Because you know, there’s not a front desk at a construction site, but they still had to be wary of who was on the site, and whether they’d been tested or whatever, to prevent COVID. And so this was a software that helped track through GPS and sign ins, who was on the site wasn’t and now they really pivoted as the pandemic hopefully winds down gets behind us into tracking, you know, all the paperwork that has to be done and construction projects that are turning that into more of a software project rather than a paper project. And this has been great, our job is to market it to general contractors, essentially to construction firms who could streamline their businesses through this product, and it’s helped them grow and really cut costs during the pandemic, which has been important. So, you know, not all of our clients are huge household name brands. And I actually like that Jeremy, because I like working with, with small, important companies who are doing really powerful things to help other businesses and help other consumers, you know, have their lives be better grow their businesses, I think there’s a real ripple effect to that. And that’s the work that’s sometimes the most satisfying.
Jeremy Weisz 13:08
Okay, when a company like that comes to you, are they what services? Are they wanting off the bat, they’re saying we need a new website? Or are they saying we just need leads? What do they actually come to you wanting? And obviously, you probably take more of a holistic approach. But I’m curious when they first come to you, what do they say?
Katie Wagner 13:26
I think this is actually surprising. And the best part of our business is they often don’t know what they’re looking for, you know, they come to us and say we need more people to buy our software, or we need more people to sign up for our program or purchase our product, whatever that is. But they don’t have it narrowed down to we need SEO or Facebook or Google ads. It’s up to us to determine that. And I think that’s my favorite part of our jobs is really digging into not only what’s the company trying to accomplish, but what is the target audience looking for? What are the pain points, how are they interacting with content online? And how can we create a strategy that gets the right content, the right messaging in front of them and really drives action, which is all lead generation is right, it’s driving action. And a lot of people will talk about lead generation in terms of funnels, and you can have the most sophisticated funnel in the world with 15 different moving parts. But Jeremy, if you don’t have the content that gets somebody into the funnel, because it’s engaging, it’s all for nothing. And so we’re really looking first at the messaging and the the stuff we’ve got to create to interact with to then get them into that lead generation funnel.
Jeremy Weisz 14:35
Yeah. So from the software and construction to health fitness like infrared coffee, tell me a little about that. And if there’s any differences in that process.
Katie Wagner 14:47
Yeah, a lot of differences, right. Same tools, different strategy. So one of our clients is the first Infrared Sauna studio in Las Vegas. They’re bringing infrared therapy or red light therapy to Vegas. And that works a lot like we work in fitness a lot, we launched a lot of gyms and fitness studios. And that’s a similar strategy where you’re trying to, to essentially pre sell memberships before this thing opens, right? In the case of a gym, most people understand what the gym does, they might be looking for a fitness solution. But in the case of this Infrared Sauna studio, it’s more of an education play, because something like that hasn’t existed in Vegas before. Now, we are really educating people on the benefits of red light therapy, and what it can do for your body, your health, your mental well being. And then once they’re sold on those benefits, now we have to sell them into, okay, here’s how you get those benefits. And you need to pay this monthly subscription fee, you know, sign up for a package. But really, it’s generating that buzz and that interest in that action again, before the sauna open, it’s the studio open so that when he launches, he has, you know, hopefully hundreds of memberships, you know, we we launched a lot of F45 Studios, that’s a fitness franchise that’s really taking off, they’ve done a great job. And I work out there I love at 45. But But our goal is always to have 202 50 pre signups before they open. And so you know, that takes a lot of work and a lot of have the right tools in the right order. And it’s about a three month process to make that happen. So companies have to start thinking about it well in advance, you know, while they’re still building out the studio, you know, that’s a lot different than having a software product that already exists that you know, has the demo ready to go. And you’re just driving to a landing page where they’re going to sign up for a free demo. It’s the same mechanism, you know, content that drives action. But then in the case of software, it’s a lot more about keeping in touch, and really pushing them through that process. Because there are more steps they get from the free demo to buying the software product, which is typically a lot more expensive than, you know, a membership at a gym, which is a low monthly cost. This could be hundreds or 1000s of dollars of implementation of software. So it’s a longer sales cycle. It’s a lot more continuous education, continuous touching and staying Top of Mind once they’ve interacted with that landing page, rather than a quicker sale, and now they’re in. Does that make sense?
Jeremy Weisz 17:16
Yeah, totally. No, I love that. Um, and I love how you talked about, you know, the target audience and the pain points and focusing on that, because that applies to any industry and really speaking to them, whether it’s, I guess, a Poop Plunger, or if it’s Infrared Sauna studio, people probably have different pain points. And you know, there’s different target audience, I imagine.
Katie Wagner 17:40
Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes, you know, especially in the case of the infrared sauna, sometimes the audience doesn’t know their pain points, right? No one’s out there looking for infrared, because it’s going to solve their weight loss problems or their mental, you know, stress relief problems. We have to tell them that this is the answer. And by the way, are you feeling stressed? Here’s a new thing you could try, rather than somebody who’s experiencing pain and actively reaching out?
Jeremy Weisz 18:04
Yeah. Are you feeling stressed during COVID? Well, we that’s just about everyone.
Kristen David 18:11
It’s a good market, right?
Jeremy Weisz 18:13
So talk about I love to hear software and tools that you like, either internally or externally. You’re busy, you have lots of staff, you have multiple offices, how you stay productive. And so whether you use them, they’re on your phone, or your your team uses them. I know some of my favorites. I use LastPass and Text Expander and Sanebox for my Gmail. So I’m curious what are the software and tools you you love or your team loves?
Katie Wagner 18:42
Well, we we live and die by project management. And our project management software is called Teamwork. That’s also our CRM, we use Teamwork, CRM as well. And I really like those tools. They’re user user friendly, they’re easy to, you know, kind of intuitive, easy to use, and do everything we need to run an agency as we grow. Um, my favorite, you know, tool on my Google email is the snooze button. If I can’t deal with something right now, or the deadlines a little farther out. I’ll snooze it. Because I get about 300 emails a day. I don’t know about you. But it’s stress just about the same. Yeah, right. It’s I panic when I’m like, Oh my god, there’s 100. I haven’t read yet. So if I can just Newsom and clear out the ones that I have to deal with right away, it’s good for my sanity,
Jeremy Weisz 19:24
to use the snooze button more often.
Katie Wagner 19:27
Yeah, I think this is something I deal with next week. So you just got to Monday, right? Um, so those are good. I’m a big fan of calendar blocking. So I don’t use to do lists. I literally when I have something to do, I find a spot in my calendar when I’m going to do it, and I make a slot for it. And that allows me to let go of the ruminating and the stressing about all the things I have to do because I know there’s a slot for it. And when it comes up on my calendar, I’ll do it then. So that’s been a lifesaver. And I actually teach that to my team. We have a policy at KWSM that we don’t send Other emails after hours. So between 5pm and 7am, we are not allowed to send emails to each other. And if you’re going to write an email after five, you just schedule it for after seven The next morning, so scheduling is also my friend. But I think that allows my staff not to ruminate about work when they’re trying to enjoy their lives, right? It gives them more balance. Because when, when you know, there’s emails piling up, you have this tendency to check it after hours, right, you’re constantly checking to make sure you’re not missing anything. And so we just have a policy that there’s no need to check it because there’s nothing that’s going to be in there. And if something with a client blows up, or there’s a problem, which of course does happen, sometimes we text each other. And so you know, if anything urgent happens, you’re going to get a text and there’s no need to be slave to your email after hours. So I think it’s just putting systems like that into place that have been really a lifesaver for maintaining balance, because agency life is hard. It can be 24. Seven, it’s it’s strenuous, you know, we’d go really hard during the day. And so we really look for things like that, that can protect us at night, or in off time.
Jeremy Weisz 21:04
Katie, any other interesting policies? I love that one? That’s really cool one.
Katie Wagner 21:08
Yeah, um, I actually think one of the best things we implemented is the 9-80 work schedule. Do you know that is
Jeremy Weisz 21:14
Katie Wagner 21:15
Okay, so 80 hours of work in two weeks normal. But instead of working nine to five, every day, we work nine hours Monday through Friday, instead of eight. And then every other Friday, we’re completely off. So we’re still doing our 80 hours in two weeks, we’re just allocating it a little bit differently. And we implemented that about two years ago. And it’s been a game changer for my staff, because it’s 26 additional paid days off a year. And they can go on weekend trips, you know, they can really recharge because they can leave after work on Thursday, and not come back till Sunday night, and really get that benefit of the long weekend. So I think that’s a good one. And then one of my favorites is actually we have four offices in Orange County, San Diego, and California, and then Atlanta, Las Vegas, and first quarter of next year, we’re opening our Boston office. And so with these five locations, we have a policy that you can work in any KWSM office and not take vacation time. So as you might imagine, our Vegas office is very busy on Thursdays and Mondays. Because people can actually get off work at 430, we work seven to 430. During the week, they get off work at 430 on Wednesday, get on a flight to Vegas, you know, wake up and go to the office Thursday morning there. But then at 430, Thursday, they’re on vacation, they don’t have to then take up vacation time by flying after work then. So likewise, they can be on vacation straight up until Sunday night at midnight, go to the office Monday morning and then fly after work on Monday. And it just extends that time off. And it builds a lot of camaraderie between my team, you know, they get to meet their colleagues and other locations. And really, it builds the culture there too. So it’s a win win.
Jeremy Weisz 22:59
We’re just spend the month in Vegas or San Diego. That’s what I would do. Well, come on, we get Chicago like San Diego, so much nicer. Yeah. How Did you discover and why? The 9-80? Or how’d you come up with that?
Katie Wagner 23:15
You know, um, I guess this is another policy, if every six months, I step away from my company for strategic planning time. And I’m gone three to four weeks where I don’t have anything to do with the day to day operations of the business. And this serves a couple of things. It gives me white space to really think about how I’m growing into the strategic direction, what initiatives we need to take in place. But I also do a lot of research and a lot of learning about how to be a better leader and and how to do things better for my staff. And the 9-80 is one of the things I discovered just in in learning and research during one of these vision periods. I guess about two and a half years ago now. I brought it back to my staff and I said hey, this is something I learned about is this something we might be interested in because agency life is stressful, and I wanted to give them that break. And to be honest, Jeremy about half the staff said yes, do it and half the staff said, Whoa, I’m not sure that seems a little scary. No change is hard, even when it’s good. And so we went through a three month discovery process of learning about the 9-80. We had town halls where we got to ask questions, discuss it as a team. And then we ended up taking a team vote. And I said if more than 50% of the staff votes for this change, we will enact it for one year to determine whether it’s right for us. And they did we got about 60% of the vote in favor. We enacted it and the year was actually mid 2020 by that time everybody loves it even though we can’t go anywhere during 2020 and so it’s it’s stayed ever since. So yeah, that’s sort of how it happened.
Jeremy Weisz 24:51
That’s very cool. I’d love to hear you know before the call we’re talking about the the biggest things Top of Mind hiring systems and management and I want to start with a systems for a second. And so I’m talking about some of the systems your husband came in, obviously, you know, Starbucks has to have tons of tons of systems and operations. So I’m wondering what things that you that the company learned from him lessons and some of the things that were implemented systems wise, either by you or him?
Katie Wagner 25:21
Yeah, well, he brought a lot of great things to the company, one of the things Starbucks does really, really well is train their employees, right, they have a very specific training program where everybody has to learn to make the drinks and run the store the exact same way, right? Because that Starbucks experience has to be consistent. And so he has a very specific process of training people where you know, you teach them how to do it, you tell them how to do it, then you show them how to do it, then you have them do it, and you watch and give feedback, then you have them do it without you there, and you give feedback on their work. And then they can do it on their own. So it’s this repetitive, you know, iterative process where there’s a lot of feedback, a lot of asking for, make this small tweak or, or do it a little bit differently. So he brought that he also has some great interviewing tactics, they do behavioral interviewing at Starbucks, and we’ve really incorporated a lot of behavioral interviewing, you know, tell me what you would do with this situation, tell me about a time that you, you know, those types of questions. So he’s taught me a lot about that. Um, and really, you know, I’m interested in systems and processes, because, hey, it makes things easier for the staff, they know what to do, they’re able to innovate within those guidelines, which I think is easier than just saying, Do whatever you want, that’s stressful for people. And we have a creative agency, there is a lot of Do whatever you want. But if we put guidelines and rules in place, it actually improves creativity improves innovation, because, you know, if you’re going too far, right, it allows a little more freedom in that space. And so we start our engagements with a six week strategy process. And that process goes the same every time, we have the same series of meetings, we have the same sequence of the things we analyze, and the work, we do the same deliverables to the client. And within that, there’s a lot of flexibility. But that process allows us to ensure that there’s a consistent onboarding experience for all of our clients. And you know, I have, we deal with about 200 clients a year. So it’s busy, a lot of moving parts. And that allows no matter who the account manager is, no matter who the lead on that strategy is, it allows us to deliver the same product and the same experience every time, which I think is important, you know, not just with Starbucks, getting your coffee, but really in any customer service or any service business. And we are a customer service business, we just happen to do digital marketing, but the client relationships that client experience are our number one. So I really believe in that, you know, we have a lot of systems in place that, you know, preserve work life balance, and talked about a few of them, we have a lot that, that encourage ongoing development and personal and professional, you know, we use a management philosophy called best self management. And in best self management, it was created by David Hassell, who’s the CEO of 15Five, I should mention that as a software tool, 15Five is an engagement software, it’s terrific. But David really espouses a management philosophy and style where you get to know your employees on a personal basis, as well as a work basis a skill set basis, and you understand that work in life are not separate. And David believes and I agree that work life balance is kind of a misnomer. It should be work life integration, right? Work is part of life. It’s the biggest part of life. In many cases, we have to understand that the things that happen to our teammates outside of work affect their ability to work. And so all of the managers at KWSM are trained and certified in best self management, which means we get to know who our employees are as people and what they want out of their lives and careers, not just out of this job. There are systems where we check in weekly, we have weekly one to ones they fill out an asynchronous checking form every week to let us know how they’re feeling scale of one to five, and if they have any concerns or challenges. We do reviews every 90 days. And we have a best self kickoff when somebody starts which is a two hour meeting with really formulated questions to get to know somebody. So there’s a process and the system that we follow there. And it really helps with not only onboarding of new employees, but really their experience throughout their tenure at the agency. So things like that you think are really important. It’s all about streamlining and, and improving the experience for the shareholders, clients, employees, all the people we touch.
Jeremy Weisz 29:49
I love that I’m gonna check it out. It’s 15 and then Five.com And what is meeting cadences look like cause I know there’s again offices all over the country. Are they meeting more for just their internal office? Or is it more hands? You know, all hands meeting? I love to hear that.
Katie Wagner 30:12
Yeah, so even though we have individual teams and all of our offices, we consider ourselves one agency, right? All of us work for the same company with the same goals, we serve the same clients. So it’s a lot of all hands, we do an all hands huddle every morning from 710 725 15 minutes. Over zoom. It’s always been overdue, even pre pandemics. We’re in different cities. So that’s a quick huddle. We we talk about, where do you need to collaborate? What deliverables are you waiting for from team members? No, where are you stuck in might need help, we just sort of touch base with each other to jumpstart our day. And then we have a weekly all team meeting for an hour every Tuesday, we just had it this morning. And that’s a time when I can communicate about any policies, any, you know, deliverables, we need to produce any changes to, to the way we’re going to work or the clients, that sort of thing. And then everyone else has a chance to communicate things that the whole team needs to know as well. We also spend time going over one of our core values during that meeting every week. So we have seven core values. And we pick one every week and discuss it as a team which helps keep keep us in touch with those things that we’re we’re trying to espouse as we do our work. And then there’s a lot of meetings that happen throughout the week for onboarding new clients that not a whole team joins. But any member of that clients team, anyone is going to work with that client. So we onboard one new client every week, it happens at 12pm. On Tuesdays, we have a getting started meeting every Tuesday at 12pm. That team will join. And then our strategy process takes about six weeks. So six weeks later, we have a strategy review meeting that happens at 10am on Wednesdays. And so every Tuesday and every Wednesday, we’re doing at least one getting started and at least one strategy review meeting. So those cadences are also built in to make sure we stay on top of client deliverables.
Jeremy Weisz 32:08
I’m wondering, thanks for sharing that. That’s really helpful. And I was talking to someone earlier today. And he used to work at Google. And he said there was a all hands meeting every week. And I think he said like whatever, 50,000 people and he was you know, some of them were alive, some are virtual, but it was like, Listen, if they could do it, then everyone can do it. Right. From aberrations perspective. SOPs wise, how do you keep track of your SOPs? Do you use software? I’m curious of how you keep track of because you probably have clients in various industries, you do a lot of different services, how do you keep track of it all?
Katie Wagner 32:50
Well, this is not as sophisticated as maybe you were hoping. But I’ll tell you the truth, we have a wiki. So we have a wiki for our training protocols. We have a really robust three month 90 day training program for any new employee that comes on to KWSM. And we will train them in all our standard operating procedures as far as the way we interface with clients, the way we do the work on each of the channels, right. So there’s a chapter in the wiki for Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and one for email marketing when for ads. So all of those are trained. And then we also train a lot of these work protocols that I’ve been telling, you know, emails after 5pm until 7am, you know, working in any office nine to five work, or nine at work day, all of those things. So we keep a wiki and that allows us to have access to it anytime it’s available on the internet, and also change it in real time. Because as you know, the tools we use Facebook, Twitter, etc, are changing all the time. I like to say we work in the only industry where the tools we use are actively working against us, but they don’t like us to succeed. You know, Facebook doesn’t want your ads to succeed and Google doesn’t want you to show up in search. So what works last week isn’t gonna work next week, which means we have to have that kind of dynamic resource available that we can be constantly updated as these things change and and rsvps change quite frankly, I mean, we’re doing that in real time because what works changes
Jeremy Weisz 34:17
Katie I have one last question and I just want to thank you I you know could listen to you talk about this all day because it’s really fascinating how you manage it all and how you started it and before I ask it I want to point people towards KWSMdigital.com they can learn more there’s an about us the services the clients page, learn more on their blog, so check out KWSMdigital.com to learn more there and other any other places online we should point people towards
Katie Wagner 34:48
our website is pretty comprehensive. I like it there you can follow us on social media we we drink our own Kool Aid, do all those channels, but but the websites great. Cool. There’s actually sorry Jeremy. There’s our Have a checklist if you want to know how your digital infrastructure is doing. As far as, you know, can you generate leads? Are there things that need to be in place or changed? We have a really robust checklist available on our website that you could download for free and, and do a little assessment on your own digital. It’s
Jeremy Weisz 35:18
great. I love it. So if you’re on the homepage, where’s the best place to navigate to the checklist? I don’t know, if you
Katie Wagner 35:26
probably go to one of our services pages, and it’ll ask you if you want to sign up for an audit, and you just fill that out, you’ll have access to it
Jeremy Weisz 35:33
got it. Awesome. So you can go to KWSMdigital.com And then there’s the Services tab and click on one of those two, to learn more. Yes, I could see that request. 30 minute audit. Yeah, um, last question, Katie. What’s interesting, is you’re also a certified first responder. And you were actually one of the first rescuers allowed into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And so I’m wondering if you could talk about that a little bit in your experience there.
Katie Wagner 36:05
Yeah, I would love to that was one of the most life changing things I’ve ever done. So I’m a first responder with American Humane Association. So animals, not people don’t ask me to save you in a heart attack. But if your dog is having a problem, I could probably handle it. So yeah, I am. I am certified in in search and rescue for American humane and I was deployed to Hurricane Katrina, in the first weeks of the disaster, and I was there when the levee broke. And our job I spent about six weeks there living in a parking lot in New Orleans and an RV. And our job was to go door to door. You remember when the levee broke, many people were at work, and they didn’t know that they weren’t gonna be allowed home. So they didn’t take care of their pets, you know, pets were locked at home. And there was no way for citizens to get back to rescue those animals. So our job as rescuers was to go door to door and check on the animals that may have been left behind, you know, where they save for? Did we need to take them to a temporary shelter? You know, do they need medical attention? Did they need food water? So so we did that. And we actually had the National Guard that was assigned to work with us, and they would protect us as we went house to house because you remember, there was a lot of looting and a lot of violence in New Orleans during that time. And it was, it was scary in some ways just to be out there, you know, essentially breaking into houses, but for the good of rescuing the animals, right? And so the National Guard went with us and we’d go and we gain access to these houses, check on the pets if they needed to.
Jeremy Weisz 37:37
How do you gain access? Like when you walk through the army breaking a window? Like what do you do?
Katie Wagner 37:41
I mean, yes, or a door? Or you know, if that’s a euphemism,
Jeremy Weisz 37:45
your kung fu skills? I mean, what what?
Katie Wagner 37:47
What you can tell that I’m a large person, I have lots of brute strength. Yes. But no, yeah, I mean, we, we break windows, we knock down doors, we do what it took to get in there. And remember, a lot of these buildings had already had floodwaters come through. So these were not pristine homes, these were homes that had been, you know, had sled drag through them. And many times windows broken just from flooding, and that sort of thing. And, and animals and inside were in rough shape and needed us so many cases, we take the animals that administer medical attention, and then take them to a temporary shelter to be reunited after the the emergency was over with their owners. Um, but also, you know, Jeremy, a lot of a lot of animals that had passed a lot of animals that didn’t make it through that we found. And I think that was an important part of our jobs too, because we were able to let owners know what happened, right, and provide some kind of closure because remember, these were people that had been displaced and, and we’re not sure what of their lives was left. And it was really powerful and really wanting to be in these people’s homes, because they just left for work that morning, you know, just like normal and think about when you and I do that and we’d walk in and, you know, the half drunk coffee cup was on the counter or their planner was open, you know, with a big red expert plans later that night, or their clothes were laid out on the bed for the gym that evening. was really a powerful look into the everyday lives of these people that it just sort of been frozen in time. And then, you know, during the six weeks I was there we pulled 10,000 animals out of New Orleans and that and sheltered them and took care of them. And if they couldn’t be reunited with their own orbits, we couldn’t find the owner or something like that. We sent them to shelters all over the country where they were resolved and went on to new happy endings. So it was tremendously powerful. I loved my time there as much as you can love being part of something that was so so horrific for so many people but it felt like making a difference and that was life changing.
Jeremy Weisz 39:54
That’s wild. katie. What what what sticks out if you are described I mean, it’s probably hard to describe the scene, but does any anything stick out that you can describe one particular scene of either house or when you got there just to kind of paint a picture a little bit. So for someone who’s not there to kind of visualize the craziness?
Katie Wagner 40:21
Yeah, I’ll tell you a story. So you remember that when the when the flooding happened when the levee broke, the water was toxic, right? So we were not allowed to touch the water. And so you’re you’re driving around in boats. And when you’re driving through the streets, and like inflatable boats, you’re hitting street signs, like tall street signs that are the level now of where the water is. So they’re like little speed bumps in the water. That’s how high the flooding was. But you couldn’t touch the water, we actually had somebody that I knew fall out of the boat and pass away because the water is not safe.
Jeremy Weisz 40:57
And was too toxic about it.
Katie Wagner 40:59
You know, it’s not a pretty answer. But this water had washed through cemeteries that had washed there’s a lot of excrement in these things through the water just wasn’t clean. Right. And, and then also, you know, there were a lot of people because there was violence that were dead from those things. And this was the first time I saw dead bodies, like not in a controlled situation, right, a hospital or things like that. Remember, I was a journalist, so I, I’d seen those situations before. But this was very raw, very gruesome, in a way. But I’ll tell you about a specific house, we went into where, where we went inside, and they were two cats that we knew were in the house because the owners had communicated with American Humane and left a list of animals we were supposed to find. And I don’t know if you know anything about cats, but they’re not just coming when we call, right. These cats are hungry, they’re traumatized, they’re hiding. And our job is to turn things over and find them and catch them essentially. And so things in the house have been misplaced because blood work water has washed through, there’s kind of this like black sludgy, you know, do all over everything. You know, couches are covered in at tables are knocked over, things have been knocked off calendar, so it looks like a disaster area. And we are picking through this trying to find cat and then catch cats. And I will show you you’re on my exam, but see this see this scar right here? Yeah, okay, well, there’s a matching one on this side of my wrist, right? I don’t know if you can see right here. And that is because I found one of these cats grabbed it, and it bit me here. Right. And remember, I’m in a situation with toxic water and sludge, and it’s probably not cleaned. And now I have a cat bite that broke skin made a huge scar on my wrist. And all I could think about was I can’t let go of this cat. Like, darn, that hurts. But I can’t let go with this cat because if I do the cats gonna get lost again and may not make it out of this. And so I get the cat to the carrier and we get them and we find the other cat we get out of there. And I’m I’m wearing plastic gloves but there’s blood running down my arm, Rob these plastic gloves. And I go to the campsite. And I know that if my commander in chief there finds out that I’ve been injured this way. I will not be allowed to stay. And that was not okay with me. At the time. I felt like I was making a difference. I did not want to go home. And so I actually never told this story publicly and I probably shouldn’t but it was a long time ago. Now I was young and foolish back then. I wrapped up the cuts. Nobody could see it. And I went to the onsite vet. And I said hey, today we we rescued this great dane about 110 pounds and it looks like they have a cut. Do you have any antibiotics and they gave me antibiotics for 110 pound Great Dane, which I’ve been took to prevent an infection in my wrist and it was Cipro. I took Cipro and I live to tell the tale. My wrist is fine. I just have two little scars, which reminds me of that time in my life, which is great. The cat was fine. And it all ended. Okay. But um, that’s a snapshot of what life was like there. And you know how strongly I felt about the work we were doing and I was leaving.
Jeremy Weisz 44:05
Katie, I want to be the first one. Thank you. I thought you were an Ask him to stitch it up. Also, without any anesthetic. So I’m glad you asked for antibiotic everyone go check out KWSMdigital.com and Katie. Thank you. It’s an absolute pleasure.
Katie Wagner 44:22
Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.