ChannelNet founder and Marshall Alumna lays out plan for success


  A Marshall graduate recently visited Huntington to share a story of motivation. The alumna now owns a company that specializes in using technology for marketing campaigns.  

Paula Tompkins spoke to college students and alumni last week at the Marshall University Foundation Hall. The native Huntingtonian and alum of Marshall had a complex, but simple message. To succeed in the business world entrepreneurs have to be persistent, focused and find an idea that’s not already addressed.

“Dive into the deep end of the pool, you’ve just got to go. You’ve got to pull up your socks, you’ve got to write your idea down and you’ve got to take it to as many people as will listen to you,” Tompkins said.

“When I came up with the idea for my company I took it to some of my friends in Silicon Valley and they all told me it’s the dumbest idea they had ever heard of, seriously.”

Tompkins ideas led her from an early career with 3M and General Electric to starting her own business, ChannelNet in 1985. The company is based on using new technologies in sales and marketing ideas.

ChannelNet is based in San Francisco and has worked with companies such as Ford, BMW, IBM, Intel, Macy’s and Coca Cola. ChannelNet started just as the popularity of personal computers was on the rise.  She used those computers and software to create unheard of marketing campaigns. Tompkins said technology is the key and something companies have to stay ahead of.

“Its quicksand, the technology evolves and you have to evolve with it and keep up and it moves at lightning speed, but the concepts and the kinds of things we’re trying to do really has remained the same. The way people used technology then to shop for a car using a PC and a diskette, today they’re doing the same things online,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said it can be tough to be the leader of a company because the business world is never steady, it’s up and down continuously.

“Ups and downs are absolutely wrenching, you know recession hits the first time and you haven’t been through it, you’ve got all these employees and money is getting tight and you’re worried about whether you’re going to meet the payroll and in 28 years I’ve never missed a payroll,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said in the world of technology and business, there has to be a marriage. Meaning IT people shouldn’t be the ones selling the products, they need to work with sales people closely.

“It takes all kinds and all disciplines, in my business today its art and creative people and copywriters, sales people, marketing people, I mean there is a whole range of people that come together and it isn’t just all about IT,” Tompkins said.

Aaron Davis is a student in game development and digital forensics. He said her speech inspired him.

“Well one thing that hit me the most was, if you have an idea, the second step drive is something that I need to start incorporating more, that really hit hard and so motivation wise, that’s where a lot of us fall short,” Davis said.

Brandon Slone is an Integrated Science and Technology major. He said he never thought about the fact that entrepreneurs need more than IT knowledge.

“Like she said you have to combine the arts and the IST programs because I’m fairly good with computers, but when it comes to making graphics and some of the things that my sister does I have no clue and what she was showing was a combination of the two,” Slone said.

Tompkins still has family that lives in Huntington.