Family Tradition

Sophomore Kathleen Balaban manages social media accounts for her family’s warehouse business

Hunched over in her chair, phone out, she waits until the bell signals the start of class before she finally presses post on the latest promotional post to her company’s Facebook. Sophomore Kathleen Balaban’s time between classes is often utilized for work: her job as marketing manager for her family’s shipping company, McGills Warehouse, requires a bit of overtime.

“I help manage the Facebook and LinkedIn accounts,” Balaban said. “The nice thing about doing social media marketing is that you can work on it when you [have time]. Creating a post only takes about 10-15 minutes, so I can really make one whenever I want to.”

At times, though, the easy access Balaban has to the McGills social media accounts can also lead to her feeling stuck in a work-life limbo, where the two parts of her day-to-day bleed together. 

“There are moments where I’m with my friends or in class and I get struck with a ‘Wait a minute, this would be such a great thing to add!’ idea,” Balaban said. “It’s also hard to separate work and my regular life because it is a family business. For instance, recently, we had this family dinner at a restaurant and it accidentally turned into a business meeting.”

However, for Balaban, there are also a lot of positives that come with working with a family business, as there’s a lot more forgiveness when one’s bosses are family members and close family friends.  

“For me, if I spill a box of beads, no one’s gonna give a crap. There’s definitely less stress because the worst anyone will say is ‘okay, you can’t work on this anymore,’” Balaban said.  “There is still pressure, but it’s different from a normal job.”

Balaban’s mother agrees, stating that she believes the family-run environment gives a lot more “room for growth,”which she feels is important for her daughter. 

“A few months ago, Kate put together a pitch for paid advertising using Google, Facebook, or Instagram ads,” Mrs. Balaban said.  “She put a lot of work into it, but because she’s new to this, she didn’t know what questions to ask and she was missing some major components. And we worked through that together as a family.”

The family bloodline runs deep in McGills, as it was started by Balaban’s grandfather 21 years ago. The shipping warehouse is an importer of a diverse catalog of items, from saw blades to stained glass supplies. Though the store has been up and running since 2001, quite some time now Balban only started helping out around the warehouse in ninth grade.  

“Ever since my grandfather died, I’ve been taking more of an active role in the company,” Balaban said. “I always had an interest, but even now I don’t go to the warehouse as much as I’d want to, because of school and because we don’t operate on weekends.”

As much as she enjoys working at McGills right now, according to Balaban, she is “pretty sure” it’s not the path she wants to pursue for the rest of her life–a decision that Mrs. Balaban is completely fine with. 

“[Balaban] is a very hardworking, enthusiastic employee and is welcome to join the family business if that’s what she would like,” Mrs. Balaban said. “However, my first preference would be for her to pursue her own interests.”

Though Balaban isn’t too sure where her interests are going to take her in the future, she has a backlog of skills built from her time at the company that she plans on using during any future endeavors she might take, business-related or otherwise. 

“I would say working there has taught me about responsibility, and how to put in a good day’s work,” Balaban said. “It’s also taught me a lot about how to better manage my time, for both my work and my fun.”

Mrs. Balaban feels similarly, saying that working builds ‘character’ and that she hopes other students  try investing in helping out their family’s businesses.  

“I think working is very valuable for teens. It introduces them to real-world issues and expectations and it turns math into something concrete and less theoretical,” Mrs. Balaban said. “As for [Balaban], she’s learning to roll with things and not react, a skill that she’s probably going to have to utilize a lot in her life.”

As she’s only in her second year of high school, Balaban still has a bit of a way to go before she plans on leaving the company behind. For now, her main priority is making sure her posts are as appealing to customers as possible, complete with a cute caption and the most well-lit photo she can find off the McGills’ official website. 

“Being [part of] Gen-Z and being exposed to so many digital advertisements on the daily, both good and bad, definitely helps me see things from a customers perspective,” Balaban said. “This is good because, for posts or ads, it’s all about how someone will perceive them. Is it too cheesy? Does the product make sense? Those are the types of things I have to think about.”

Balaban isn’t stopping with LinkedIn and Facebook. She plans on launching a TikTok account using the “sassy” marketing method of going for a more funny and relatable image. She also has plans to implement more ads for both Google and Facebook, and wants to help update the company’s website as well.

“We’re still just trying to establish our social media presence,” Balaban said. “I didn’t have social media before starting this job, so I’ve had to do a lot of exploring. All the new responsibility and stress can be a lot, but I think it’s helped me grow into my own person, who I am outside of school, and has allowed me to develop into someone who’s more independent and adult.”