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Kim Komando is the host of The Kim Komando Show, a top-10-rated radio talk show with over 8 million listeners every week. She is also a syndicated columnist, and the author of seven books.
Kim began her businesses in 1992 after several years of selling computer and telephone systems for IBM, AT&T and Unisys. She started with a radio show at KFYI and a column in the Arizona Republic. Both are in Phoenix.
Today more than 400 radio stations carry her weekly show around the world. Kim also is a syndicated columnist, appearing in over 100 newspapers, including USA Today. She also writes a technology column for small business on Microsoft's Small Business Web site. In addition, she publishes three e-mail newsletters that have more than 1 million subscribers, and she is frequently asked to appear on network television, including CNN.
Kim's success has been phenomenal, but she's remained true to her beginnings. Her radio show is still carried by KFYI.
Kim's roots in computers go back more than 25 years. Her mother worked on the UNIX development team at Bell Labs in New Jersey.
"When I was sick, I went to work with her," Kim said. "I used to play a game called Hunt the Wumpus. Years later, I was writing an article about UNIX. Unknown to me, I had been beta testing the game."
Kim was raised under what she calls the "life acceleration program." Her father picked her up at school everyday. They would go home and have a bowl of soup or crackers and cheese.
"He would ask me what I had learned in school," she said. "If I said nothing, he would have me read a story in the Wall Street Journal. I'd have to tell him what I learned."
Her parents taught their four children self-reliance. Kim often went grocery shopping with her dad. She learned at a tender age how to select beef and why some ketchups were better than others. When the family traveled, she was expected to check in the entire family and handle the ticket purchase.
The acceleration paid off. She graduated high school at 15, and, a month later, turned 16 and moved out. That fall, she entered Arizona State University. She started as an architecture major. But her father asked for some research on what various jobs paid. The research, and the report she produced, changed her life. She discovered that the computer industry paid very well. Being interested in money and in computers, she changed her major to computer information systems.
Kim graduated in 1985. She went into sales, but after seven years, she grew tired of the corporate grind. So on Jan. 1, 1992, she went out on her own.
Like most entrepreneurs, Kim struggled to get her business off the ground. The first project was an infomercial, with which she planned to sell an instructional video on using computers.
Kim threw herself into writing the infomercial.
"I would get up at 6 in the morning and go ride my bike," she said. "I would be at my desk at 7 and work till 4. Then I'd go to aerobics and come back and work some more."
It took a year to finish the infomercial. Kim was living on her savings, which were nearly depleted. Finally, the infomercial ran on late-night television. After the airing of the first show, she called to see if the tapes were selling. They were moving out the door, she was told.
"I was busted. My first check was for $26,000. I thought, 'Oh my, I've never seen so much money at once in my life.'"
After finishing the infomercial, Kim pitched America Online about taking over its computer section. AOL agreed, and Kim launched the effort on Thanksgiving 1994. She picked a holiday in hopes that her first day would be slow. It wasn't; the response was overwhelming.
"I called my parents and said, 'I don't know what I've done.'"
The pact with AOL lasted several years, as did a stint with Fox News. During this period, in the middle '90s, she got her radio show off the ground. She first approached the networks, but they were uninterested. A CBS vice president told her computers were a fad, much like pet rocks.
Rejected by the big guys, she formed a partnership with Barry Young, a leading talk show host at KFYI in Phoenix. They formed WestStar TalkRadio Network and built a studio. Kim did the marketing; Barry kept the equipment running and formatted the show. Gradually, the show blossomed, as hundreds of radio stations signed on.
Kim has since acquired the status of a cultural icon. The 20th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit includes the question: "Who earned the moniker Digital Goddess while hosting a radio show on the Internet?" The answer, of course: Kim Komando