Monday, November 16, 2009

Michelle Villalobos >

Michelle Villalobos, Owner, Michelle Villalobos.

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
1. Passion & Purpose. Without these fundamentals, none of the rest works. Passion gives you the energy to put in the hours, and the desire to see things through. Purpose gives you the security of knowing you’re on the right track, and helps you stay on it.
2. Support. Whether they are employees, a partner, or a collection of outsourced individuals, you need to work with people who you can trust and who represent you well. Skills can be taught, attitude and motivation can’t.
Also, try to find people that complement your strengths and fills in your weaknesses, that way you can focus on what you’re great at, instead of trying to shore up your weak spots.
3. A Win-Win Mentality. Unless you are focused on how what you do brings value to others, you will fail.
4. Focus on Execution - I have a million ideas and plans. I can only execute a limited number of them. You need to choose, and be ruthless about saying no. I haven’t 100% figured this one out yet. It’s my number one challenge.
5. Patience. If you have all of the above, it WILL happen. But the worst thing that could happen is to give up before it has a chance to work, and that takes time.

What did inspire you to start your business?
As Thomas Edison said: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I was miserable at work. The owner of the company I worked for had inserted a CEO above me, who just didn’t get what we were doing and questioned me and my team’s every move. After having worked my way to “the top” and fighting so hard to get there, I just couldn’t handle someone not trusting or believing in me. I started having fantasies about getting fired. That’s when I always know it’s over. I simply gave up.
So I quit my job to take another, which I ended up hating. Within a month and a half, I quit that one, and simply decided I would not, could not, go back to a job. The common denominator (or so I thought) was that I was miserable because I had bosses (I didn’t stop to consider I was miserable because I had bad bosses).
Anyways, once I’d jumped ship – and announced it to the world – I had to make it work. That is the WRONG reason to start a business. Furthermore, I discovered bad clients are FAR worse than bad bosses. That said, I ultimately found my purpose, my passion, and once that happened, things became much better.

How did you finance it?
I got my first consulting job on the same day I quit work, from that very same boss. He hired me on the spot to be a “consultant.” He asked me what I was going to do when I quite and I said: “I’ll be a consultant. That way I’ll do all the research and strategy and then hand it over, and clients can choose to take it or leave it, instead of argue over every step of implementation. He laughed and said “I’ll hire you.” And he did. He paid me my first fee, and with that, and my savings, and selling off all my old 80’s gold jewelry, and getting rid of cable, and disconnecting my home phone, and not (really) shopping for a year... well the rest is history.

Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
While I was with Spanish language media, selling it, I felt every day I went to battle to lobby for the Hispanic Market. It was such a challenge to get people to understand the value of it, of marketing to it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But now it’s not about that for me. A lot of what I’m doing is to help business owners understand who THEIR target is - and understanding Hispanics is just one piece of that puzzle.
See, in my entrepreneur workshops, seminars and trainings, we nail down who they need to target, what the correct message and value proposition is, and how to deliver it in a way that’s creative, viral and “pulls” business to them (instead of old-school pushy, promotional, interruptive models). So it’s not so much about targeting this market or that market, it’s about figuring out how exactly it all applies to your market.
Plus the lines are getting blurred anyways with so much acculturation and reverse acculturation going on(particularly in large urban markets), it’s more about engaging on much narrower ways than simply “Hispanic” or “Spanish.” It’s about interests and connecting emotionally with much smaller groups and on a deeper level by delivering value to people’s lives.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
Being an entrepreneur can be very very lonely and it’s true that sometimes I lose faith, think about giving up and just plain get overwhelmed. When that happens
I do one of two completely opposite things: 1) I go into my cave. Disappear and disconnect. or 2) I call up people who I know will inspire me and get me back on track. I’m a big believer that everyone needs a coach – whether that’s an ACTUAL coach or simply your family, friends, partners, employees. Whatever you choose, you do need SOMEBODY. Oh, and be careful, family usually (usually) isn’t the best for this, their too close and have trouble seeing things strategically...

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Our biggest challenge is me focusing, especially focusing on what I’m great at and letting go and allowing my team to take things off my plate. It’s difficult for me to trust others since I’m such a perfectionist. However, with each thing I let go, I’m able to focus more on the part of my business I love: helping others, designing and creating content, building new workshops and programs!

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
More scalability. I want to go national and even international. Perhaps the answer is finding partners who could help us launch our educational workshops and seminars on a much larger platform. For example, my dream would be to do workshops and
seminars all over the world for entrepreneurs, sponsored by Sharpies or Staples, or even the U.S. Government.
Imagine holding free workshops for businesspeople to help them become more successful. That would be incredible!

What was your childhood ambition?
To be an astronaut/brain surgeon/theater actress/professional gymnast/
skier (so I could do BOTH the summer AND Winter Olympics). I was an overachiever with serious ADHD.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire
Ali Brown: a badass businesswoman who has built an internet marketing how-to empire.
Tina Fey: a comedian who has turned her gift for writing and acting into an incredible success that makes me laugh, a lot.
Gary Vaynerchuck: the embodiment of passion and purpose (not to mention “hustle”). I love him.

For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
All three. And everything in between. I am a meeting machine.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
What personal life? I’m 34, single, and work 70 to 80 hour weeks. I love every minute of it. ‘Nuff said.

What is your favorite quotation?
Here is an expert from my favorite quote (it’s long): “I do not choose to be a common [wo]man. It is my right to be uncommon—if I can. I seek opportunity—not security.... I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed....I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout.... It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, ‘This I have done.’” – Dean Alfange

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
Perhaps at one point in my life it was, but I’ve sort of “grown into” myself and become more and more “me” - which is really quite unconventional in a lot of ways. And in fact, I think it’s essential to my brand. It makes me memorable, which is essential these days.

Biggest mistake made?
“There is no failure, only feedback.” Every decision, wrong or right, ultimately led me here, which since I’m here, is where I’m supposed to be. In terms of WHAT feedback I’ve learned, the biggest lesson (and I still learn it every day) is to trust my instinct. I know more than I think I do a lot of times, but I’ve often ignored the little voice in my head, and doubt those instincts.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
I am an innovator because I think creatively and can often see things in a way that others don’t, but also because I LISTEN more than others. I am open to other people’s ideas and can fit them together, whereas I find that many people, particularly other entrepreneurs are closed to other people’s ideas because they are too attached to their own. The key to being innovative is to allow other ideas to “have sex with” yours (I stole that concept from Gary Vaynerchuck, who is another innovator, one that i admire intensely.)

About the Company:
We create educational workshops and seminars that I deliver on how to market, sell and brand yourself more effectively so that people remember you, refer business to you and have you “top of mind” in your field.
What makes my workshops and keynotes different than most is that the learning program is always effective and educational but never boring. No lectures. No long dissertations. They’re interactive and hands-on. People walk out energized, motivated, and connected with the other people in the room. It’s like school but fun.
Our audience consists of mostly solopreneurs, freelancers and salespeople who need to build their business in this time of ADD, information overload and economic stress. The new program we’re launching is called “From Nobody To Somebody: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Becoming an Expert In Your Field... Fast.” We teach our clients how to do it using a combination of high-level strategy plus more tactical in-person and online techniques.
My company markets and sells these workshops to the public and to sponsors who want to engage this audience to generate leads and develop relationships. The networking at our events is just amazing – probably because people are so fired up from the content, their minds are wide open to meeting new people and exploring new partnerships. We also create custom programs for companies who want to bring us in-house.

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