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ENTREPRENEUR MEANS YOU’RE CRAZY
“Growing up in Brazil, the word entrepreneur means… you’re crazy.” And if you get a loan for it, Hugo Azzolini says, “you’re going to be paying it off for the rest of your life because of inflation.”
Still, four years after coming to the U.S., what did Hugo decide to do?
Start a business, of course!
He opened a marketing agency called Different Perspective.
STARTED BUSINESS: Hugo: 2004 and Priscilla: Joined full-time in 2011
LATINO CONNECTION: Both Hugo and Priscilla were born and raised in Brazil
Hugo: Universidade Estácio de Sá – Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration
Priscilla: Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro - Bachelor’s degree in Social Communications with a minor in Journalism
DREAM JOB AS A KID:
Priscilla: A veterinarian
Hugo: A soccer player
BIGGEST GOAL YET:
HUGO: I have some short-term goals and long-term goals.
Short term: We are looking to buy a real estate property for the company.
Long-term: When we get to retire, to be able to pass it along, but to also…help communities. We don’t have any kids, so we try to help the community as much as possible.
PRISCILLA: Mentorship – it’s something that is a part of giving for us.
REALITIES OF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LIFE
Priscilla Azzolini grew up with both parents working as entrepreneurs. They owned retail businesses in Brazil. But her experiences of what that meant were colored by the time and commitment involved.
“We had a great life, but I could also see how hard they always worked…they never had a month off. They were always taking short trips, long weekends…because they were also constantly working.”
So Priscilla had no interest in starting a business.
But she joined her husband, Hugo, full-time in the business in 2011. The commitment in time was demanding (Hugo says if they could get one or two days off during the week, that was a big deal). The pressure to be all things to all people was also there.
ENTREPRENEUR = DO EVERYTHING
Hugo says, “I was the creator. I was the developer. I was the accountant. I was the janitor. I was the everything.”
But he loved the challenge.
Plus, a big difference between Brazil and the U.S. is the infrastructure and help available to entrepreneurs here in the United States.
THE HARD QUESTIONS
And the free help the Azzolinis got from Roger Greenwald from the SBDC at UCF (Small Business Development Center at the Univ. of Central Florida) is something they’ll never forget. The Azzolinis say Greenwald challenged them and asked them questions they never asked themselves, like the following:
How do you plan to grow the company?
How do you see yourself in one year? Two years?
What is the revenue you’re looking for?
“The last few years, when we had money in the bank, he [Greenwald] would say, Hugo, money in the bank is not making money. How can you make this money in the bank start making money?”
And that’s when Hugo and Priscilla started investing.
MAKING SURE THE MONEY IS MAKING MONEY
Hugo says, before that, the company’s money was static. Greenwald opened their eyes to making more money for the company.
But the way Greenwald worked was different.
He asked the questions, but he never gave them the answers.
The Azzolinis had to come up with them.
Then came the big unknown.
“VERY BIG, SCARY MONSTER”
Priscilla called it the “very big, scary monster” that left small business owners like them not really knowing what was going to happen.
Its name was COVID-19. And it upended businesses.
“People aren’t going to cut their accountants. They’re not going to stop paying rent. One of the things that some people – some companies – do is stop the marketing, which would affect us.”
The Azzolinis were forced to ask themselves critical questions like these:
What do we do best out of everything we do?
What services do we market that we are really good at providing?
How do we want to communicate with our new audience to grow our business?
Those questions and answers helped them refocus their business on what they did best. Priscilla says, “I feel like we’re in a much better place today than we even were before the pandemic…”
So what would Hugo’s parents say about his entrepreneurial turn? His mom would definitely not be surprised. He says his dad probably would’ve wanted something more stable, but he’d be proud.
And what about Priscilla’s parents? After all, she swore off the entrepreneurial life.
She says, “It was in the blood. I had no choice.”
I guess you could say, it's in their DNA.
THE TIP JAR...(tips passed out courtesy of Hugo and Priscilla Azzolini)
HUGO: Say no. And know what to say no to. What you don’t do is more important than what you do.
PRISCILLA: Build relationships. You have to have patience, but also understand that you have to build relationships. People do business with people that they like and trust, especially if you’re in a service-type of business.
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career):
HUGO: Just understand that, for you to grow a business, it has to be more than yourself. You have to hire people that can do things better than you. But you still have to understand what they’re doing, because you don’t want to be [held] hostage for these people. Because, if they leave, you just don’t want to be… literally, pulling your hair [out] because you have no idea what that person was doing.
PRISCILLA: He [Hugo] understood what he could do well and which areas were, perhaps, not his [area of] expertise.
REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE: Even when I came in…we understood that we needed someone who could really work on project management and kind of really strengthen those relationships. And so, I think, little by little, the team started taking shape.
HUGO: People think about starting fresh, but there’s a lot of transferrable skills…You don’t start from scratch. You don’t start from zero. Absolutely not.
PRISCILLA'S REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE: We had an employee. He was in a completely different industry. He came from financial services, which is very different than marketing. Transferrable skills. He brought things he did there [at his previous company] but applied [them] to a different industry and very different type of company…And, at the time, we were looking for somebody who would help us do business development. And…he’s been working with us for seven years.
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN:
PRISCILLA: You work with a client and you have that gut feeling where it’s not a cultural fit. It’s not [the] personality. You’re not aligned with values.
HUGO: Growing is great. We always want to grow. We have been growing. [But] the tech companies have the rule that they have to double, triple, quadruple very year…The kind of company that we are, the one thing that I will never do is grow too much, too fast. I know it’s going to sound cliché, but it can break this family relationship that we have…It has happened in the past, a few years ago. And it was just something that… shook me a little bit and probably [made] my hair fall off my head.
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE:
HUGO: My mom would always tell me to save for a rainy day…This is the mentality of growing up in Brazil.
PRISCILLA: This was your [Hugo's] mom’s saying, but this was really his dad’s doing. Your [Hugo's] dad is the one that really saved for the rainy days.
I remember my dad…he was the entrepreneur…He was always looking for what’s different. He had that open mind to explore. Don’t get stagnant. Don’t get stuck.
REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE: I feel like this is something we do, too…We have to be constantly changing and updating. But I feel like we have to be open and also seeking, you know, what’s out there. What’s new? What’s coming out? What [are] the trends?
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
You already know that you have to build connections in the community. Where do you start? How do you do it? SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) has compiled a list of eight professional organizations geared specifically toward Latina entrepreneurs or professionals to help you build your network. There’s a brief description of each, along with a link. Take a look and decide which group may be a good fit for you and your business.
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
I have a core belief that coffee makes any situation better. If you feel the same and would love to chat with fellow professionals or small business owners, here’s your chance. SCORE is hosting “Coffee Conversations”. It’s an opportunity to socialize online and discuss things about starting or growing your business. Sometimes, an environment like this (especially during the pandemic) can do wonders for your outlook and help you feel more connected to the business community. Here’s the link to register:
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
October 26, 2021
9:00 A.M. EDT
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE: Before the pandemic, anecdotally, I noticed that more people seemed to want to become entrepreneurs. At least I noticed it most among millennials.
Millennials watched too many people from Generation X give everything of themselves to their companies, only to be laid off.
They took note.
The pandemic seems to have also pushed people in that direction even more. It may have been out of necessity. Or it may because people reassessed their life goals and priorities and decided something had to change.
The internet may have made things easier in one sense. But it’s also created more work.
But the risks, the difficulties and the sacrifices of entrepreneurship are all still there. That never went away.
So I found it interesting that, even though Priscilla Azzolini brushed off the idea of becoming an entrepreneur because she grew up knowing exactly the kind of sacrifice it required, she became one, anyway.
Hugo and Priscilla Azzolini's ties to the community seem to have been pivotal. And one thing I’ve learned over the years is that, more often than not, people tend to give work to people they believe are invested in the community. They don’t want someone who will cut and run.
It’s clear the Azzolinis are proud of their extensive work for the Orlando Philharmonic and the Coalition for the Homeless, among other organizations.
It goes back to what Priscilla says about building relationships.
Just like being a journalist is all about building relationships and trust – with your sources, with the people whose stories you tell – it all goes back to bonding with your community.
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