Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 😊 Grateful to be able to connect with each of you today through this newsletter.
There are those who plan out everything before they start a business. You know the type. They have the business plan, the marketing plan and the careful exit strategy out of their current job ready to go.
And then there’s Andriana Oliva.
“I don’t want to say I’m impulsive, necessarily, but if I need to jump and figure it out as I go along, I do it.”
If this more free-spirited, freestyling kind of approach speaks to you, Oliva’s your girl.
INDUSTRY: Digital media, Communications
1st business: Summer 2008
2nd business: May 2013
3rd business: Sept. 2013
Mother – Cuban
Father - Cuban
Miami-Dade College: Associate’s degree - Communications
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “As a child, I’m sure I was, like, I want to be a lawyer. And I want to go here, and I want to go there. But music was such a strong passion in school growing up… my high school and middle school career dreams are part of my retirement plan now…My dream job and goal – and it still is, is to be part of Disney World’s music recording group…recording soundtracks for their movies. Working with them, being part of their symphony is something that I’ve always wanted to do. They write the most amazing [French] horn parts that are absolutely epic and make me kind of melt.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “Without getting into the political side of it, my biggest goal is to become an elected, local official.”
“My biggest goal is to really be in a position where I can help the greater good and… establish and foster really great collaboration [between government and nonprofits] that are solving local issues in our community. That really is one of my biggest passions.”
THE NO-BRAINER OFFER
Oliva started out very modestly as an events planner. Eventually, she shifted the focus of her company, theAOinsight Group, to digital media and communications consulting.
One of Oliva's first clients was an organization called Guitars Over Guns. She liked that the nonprofit focuses on mentorship through the arts, teaching kids how to play guitars, drums and how to sing.
Even though the group offered her $100 to do social media at the start, it was a “no-brainer” for her. She'd been a member of the 5th grade all-county recorder group and placed 2nd in the county on the French horn as a senior in high school. So the nonprofit's musical focus made it all worth it.
“At one point, I was, like… I don’t even want your $100 anymore because I started to get business from working with them and referrals… And, so, being together for six years, you really do kind of grow together. And, you know, [I] maybe gave them $300,000 worth of services, easily. So, as my agency grew, my capacity for what I could do for them grew, as well.”
LET’S DO IT
Oliva was around 25 years old when she opened her first business. At the time, she had been working at a job for five years. That’s when she decided to just up and leave.
“This was back in 2008. So we were having a not-so-great economy at that point. And, I said, you know what, let’s do it. Let’s open up an events company.”
Of course, because the Great Recession took a huge chunk of money for events out of budgets, her first business was short-lived.
“I was already living on my own, so I had adult expenses like rent, my own cell phone and a car payment. And you have to be realistic with yourself, right? Like, how long can I go without any money, basically, and… [live] off of friends’ support and things of that nature?”
THE “SIGN” FROM ABOVE
Oliva had one or two big contracts, but it wasn’t enough. She started feeling helpless. Even though she says she isn’t a very religious person, she went to a local church and prayed.
Afterwards, she ended up in Target in the detergent section when she ran into someone she knew who offered her a job at the local science museum. She’d be doing sales, marketing and events.
“And it was like, you know what? This is a sign. This is the time. Let me take this job.”
More importantly, she said it directed her to nonprofit work and taught her a valuable lesson.
“I didn’t realize that I needed a few more years to keep learning, keep getting my name out there. You know, keep just being exposed to these other avenues that I may not have been exposed to if I had just been working by myself.”
NOT MY JAM
Fast forward to 2012. Since the janitors set up the museum’s events, she was in charge of them and had to make sure the bathrooms were clean. One day, after getting a call from one of the janitors telling her one of the bathroom was flooded, she decided, it was time to go.
She said to herself, “I’m over dealing with dirty bathrooms. That’s not my jam.”
So with a married couple she met through the museum, she took a leap of faith. Together, they all opened an events company with a solid event gig they’d secured. Or so they thought.
Still, the allure of seeing if she could make it on her own pulled Oliva into starting her own business shortly afterwards.
GIVE IT SIX MONTHS
“And a very dear friend of mine said to me at the very beginning, give it six months. You know, just give it six months. And, at that time, that one contract that we had from that company – the client ended up stiffing us like $15,000.”
Oliva had counted on a big part of that $15,000 going towards her net profits. She was in a bad place. Oliva says she was kind of a “floating gypsy” for two years trying to figure it all out. That’s why she says, it’s really important that you have a support system.
“Even if it’s one person cheering you on because, man, you can get in your head when the times get rough.”
She was able to get through the rough times and realized, event planning was too unpredictable in terms of income. So she shifted to the communications side of the business.
Oliva calls it a blessing because, a short time later, COVID hit.
LEARN AS YOU GO
Clients and new prospects asked if she could produce events for them virtually. Her answer?
“Alright. Sure. I have no idea how to work any of the livestream platforms. I know they exist. I know they’re super easy. Let’s just do it. So I invested, I think it was, close to a thousand dollars on the software for livestreaming.”
She used her basic knowledge of video editing and lighting and “went to town” with it.
Oliva created three virtual galas. Some were completely live. Some were pre-videotaped. And some were quasi-live, quasi-prerecorded.
But here’s how she was able to make it work: She leveled with her clients.
BE STRAIGHT-UP WITH THE TRUTH
“Being completely honest and frank with our clients.” She told them, “Hey, this is the first one we’re doing. You’re in this with us - together. Like, it’s both our firsts. We’re going to rehearse the crap out of it, which we did…They [the events] were successful with nearly zero glitches.”
She says it boils down to clear communication and a philosophy she lives by:
“There is a solution to everything… Anything can be fixed. Anything can be adjusted. Anything can be figured out. And having… that mindset will help you get through it.”
She goes back to that dear friend who told her to give her new business six months to see if she could make a go of it.
“And those six months have turned into eight years. And he’s now opened his own consulting firm and feeling the same way. And, I was, like, you know, a wise man once told me, give it six months. So we’ve now come full circle on that."
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Andriana Oliva)
STARTING OUT: “The most important thing is to be known. You have to get yourself out there. And I tell this to people all the time, ‘It’s not necessarily who you know. But it’s who knows you.”
She suggests you go to networking events, but with a caveat.
“I’m not a fan of going to networking events within your own industry because, at that point, you’re just competing with your own people…. I made it a point to, for example, not be part of the events associations, but to be a part of the more-generic business associations where you get to meet the decision-makers, where you get to meet the other small business owners - and it’s a whole variety of industries.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “I say, go for it, to be quite honest. You know, life is, basically, about figuring it out as you go, right?”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “When I started the business, it was a very events-driven business. And three years ago, I was, like, you know what? I’m done with events. It’s not sustainable. I want to focus on the comms [communications] side of it.”
“When I was in college, social media did not exist at all… Right now, social media is my bread and butter… You learn as you grow. You learn as you go. And, especially with technology, and things of that nature, it’s ever-evolving, as with many industries. So you’re constantly learning, anyways.”
STARTING OVER: “Go for it!”
As a millennial, Oliva says her generation is more open to change. “We get an itch where it’s, like, every three to five years, we need something new, whether it’s a new place of business or a new activity or a career change…But [for] anyone older, I know it’s difficult.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “I just had a friend who I know was leaving her job – and she didn’t want to. She was so scared. She was closer to her 60s. And she had been at this job for twenty-something years.”
Oliva spoke to her friend about the process, and they made a list of pros and cons. The questions about whether to stay at the old job included the following:
Is it taking a toll on your health?
Is it financially suitable for you what you’re doing now?
Are you happy? Are you not happy?
Is it going to improve your quality of life?
She says, “I think just taking that leap of faith after doing some soul-searching is the advice that I would give people.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “I’ll never set myself up for failure again. And I know that that sounds very generic, right? With that comes knowing when to say ‘no’ to someone who wants your services.”
What are the tell-tale signs?
“Not a great return on investment.”
“It’s not a big contract”
“You can see they’re [the client] all over the place.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE:
Oliva says her grandmother, the famous Cuban actress, Elodia Riovega (she calls her "Avi"), gave her the most valuable lesson: “Cuentas claras conservan amistades.”
TRANSLATION: Clear communication preserves friendships.
Many people have heard this in terms of a financial situation. But, Oliva learned that it applies to non-financial things, even things that may be considered trivial.
EXAMPLE: “You forgot to call someone… text them and say, ‘hey, I forgot to call you. Can we chat tomorrow?”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
YEAR-END BOOKKEEPING CHECKLIST
As we approach the end of the year, it's the time to get our financial books in order. Do you know what to do so you'll be good-to-go for tax purposes? If not, find out with this virtual webinar through the National Entrepreneurship Center and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). It's happening Thursday, Dec. 2nd, and will help you flag what items you need to get in order. Check it out:
National Entrepreneurship Center & SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Thursday, December 2, 2021
8 a.m. EST - 9:30 a.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER - IN PRACTICE, NOT JUST IN THEORY
We all know we need to work smarter, not harder. But how many of us actually know how to do it? I know I would welcome some tips. This FREE virtual webinar gives you an actual strategy to do it in business. But, as usual, anything that helps you become more efficient in business, I suspect, can be applied or modified to help you in your personal life, too. By the way, the instructor for this course trained for the Olympics as a former member of the U.S. national hockey team. He later became a serial entrepreneur. Interested? Learn more here:
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
1 p.m. EST - 2 p.m. EST
INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS ISSUE:
I recently read an opinion that we’ve become so polarized because our politics has, in many cases, acted as a type of substitute for religion. That’s why we seem to cling to our political views so strongly.
For this newsletter, I wanted to focus on someone who founded their business with a concentration on nonprofit clients. I found Andriana Oliva through her work for a social impact accelerator.
Then, I found out she had previously unsuccessfully run for a local political office.
For that reason alone, I almost decided not to profile her – because I try to stay away from politics altogether.
I have a policy of not endorsing candidates of any political affiliation. And that still holds true.
But, again, I thought there was value in sharing Oliva’s looser, riskier approach to starting a business. We all have different personalities. And some of us can relate better to someone who approaches things the way she does. I also wanted to see how she’s parlayed her interest in certain social causes into her business.
The more I thought of it, the more I became convinced she’d make for a great profile, specifically because of how we seem to categorize people as of late. In this period of our country’s history, we tend to dismiss, mock or support people based on their political affiliation and, as a result, their political viewpoints. Sure, it may have been a consideration before. But it wasn’t so pronounced – until recently.
My hope is that we get away from that.
That’s why I purposely did NOT want to find out Oliva’s political party affiliation. I don’t care if she’s a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn’t matter.
Looking at people through a NON-political lens and focusing on the other parts of who they are is way more interesting to me.
What they can share with others about their experiences and lessons in business and life is even more valuable than seeing them through a political prism. And that’s why Andriana Oliva’s contributions stand out to me as someone we can learn from as we try to improve ourselves this season.
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