Coming from a place of yes

By Mia Rossi

September 12, 2017

How Newhouse alumna Amanda Romaniello ’10 found herself at the center of a historic IPO

Amanda Romaniello spent four years studying magazine at Newhouse, but when she graduated, she decided not to pursue journalism as a career. However, she knew she wanted to use her journalism skills to work on something she believed in. The opportunity presented itself in a job at Chicken Soup for the Soul, the publishing, consumer goods and media company known for its “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series.

“I had published a story for ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul Campus Chronicles’ during my senior year at Newhouse,” says Romaniello. “After I got published I wrote a couple more stories and realized that Chicken Soup for the Soul was something I was passionate about, and I set my sights on working there.” So when Amy Newmark, editor-in-chief, publisher and author of the “Chicken Soup” book series, asked Romaniello if she could help with social media and marketing, she seized the opportunity.

“I am someone who loves to learn and will jump and say yes continually,” says Romaniello. This initial “yes” led to her making history with the company.

Photo of Amanda Romaniello
Amanda Romaniello at Nasdaq Aug. 18 Carlos Alayo Photography

Romaniello began working at Chicken Soup for the Soul in marketing and sponsorship sales with her current boss, chairman and CEO William J. Rouhana Jr.

“He realized that I was talented and taught me how to grow and run a business,” she says. Romaniello eventually began working as chief of staff for Rouhana. A large part of her job is implementing the business plans that Rouhana outlines, so when he decided to take Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment public, she jumped right in.

Romaniello says that she did not know much about the process of taking a company public when she first started on the venture, but saying yes to the opportunity and never looking back led her, and the company, to incredible success. “I was so nervous and felt like a fish out of water when I started this IPO process,” she says. “But I am so glad I said yes because I have learned so much.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a division of Chicken Soup for the Soul that creates and shares video content that aligns with the uplifting Chicken Soup for the Soul spirit. The company has series on CBS and Discovery Family, and an online short-form video series called “The Sip.” Romaniello says that taking CSS Entertainment public has many benefits, including the ability to expand their video content.

Romaniello’s role in the IPO process ranged from creating the investor presentations to ensuring that time was being used effectively, all while continuing to help run the company’s ongoing and growing business. CSS Entertainment went public through Regulation A+ filing, a new process.

“This process allows you to market your company for public offering before listing it on Nasdaq,” says Romaniello. “People are also able to buy shares before the company is officially listed.”

Filing via the Regulation A+ process also allowed CSS Entertainment to avoid the quiet period that most public offerings have to go through. “We could ask our millions of Facebook fans if they would invest, and we were able to talk to media outlets and tell them the story of why we were taking the company public,” says Romaniello.

Being able to speak publicly about the IPO and solicit fans to invest resulted in the company exceeding their investment goal “With a Regulation A+ Tier 2, you can raise up to $50 million. Our goal was to raise $30 million, and we were oversubscribed, which has never happened with a Regulation A+,” says Romaniello. “Other companies that have filed a Regulation A+ are on Nasdaq’s lowest tier, or on the New York Stock Exchange’s lowest tier, but we were the first company to be on the tier above that.”

After the huge success of their IPO, CSS Entertainment was invited by Nasdaq to ring the opening bell on Aug. 18. Romaniello accompanied Rouhana at the opening bell ceremony, and Sean Branagan, director of the Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, joined them. Branagan works with a group that helps smaller companies go public.

“The group that helped take CSS Entertainment public is a SWAT team of market makers,” says Branagan. He provides insight to the group about what is happening and what people are interested in on a college campuses. He believes that CSS Entertainment’s IPO will help them grow as a company. “They are now able to make the company better because they have access to money, and they are going to build a serious, successful company.”

Romaniello and Branagan have stayed in touch since this process ended, and are looking for ways to possibly work together again. “Sean is not only a brilliant man, but a great investor,” Romaniello says. “He exudes positivity and he and I have begun talking about different ways to work with his connections to help the entertainment business.”

Although the IPO process is now complete, Romaniello continues to work on moving the business of CSS Entertainment forward. “I am constantly asking: is this helping move the needle? Is this moving the business forward? What’s the short-term impact? Long-term impact? How do we get everyone to work together to implement the strategy?”

She also continues to say yes to new opportunities, and encourages current Newhouse students to do the same. “You will learn so much more than if you say no. Even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re getting into or what it will lead to, just say yes.”

Mia Rossi is a senior broadcast and digital journalism student at the Newhouse School.

back to top