Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Annie Liao Jones – The CEO Of Rock Candy Media

Annie Liao Jones is the founder and CEO of Rock Candy Media, an advertising & marketing agency that is based in Austin, Texas – it has become one of the fastest-growing businesses in Central Texas. Under Annie’s leadership, the full-service content strategy, design, messaging, branding firm, and growth agency went from the ground up to grossing over seven figures a year.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Annie to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business? How did you choose the name Rock Candy Media?

I was born in Dallas, Texas but my parents were born in Taiwan and that makes me a dual-citizen of the world. I also lived in Taiwan while my parents finished college in the US from the ages of 1-3. That lead to the company name. I knew I was going to do things my own way from a young age, where I just didn’t think about other options. So instead of dreaming up jobs, because I didn’t dream about the white picket fence either, I dreamed of types of companies. Taiwanese desserts are entirely different because there is only a hint of sweet, and it’s because all the desserts are made from pure sugar which I called ‘rock candy’ as a kid. So it was going to be Rock Candy something. I’m glad it wasn’t Rock Candy Mountain, which apparently is a thing for a lot of people. I have issues with things that just should not be loud, especially if you think we sent someone to the moon: I have an aversion to leaf blowers and motorcycles, but I guess the latter says more about the person and the former is existential – don’t the leaves just come back?

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

By stalking people at Highland Mall in Dallas to see what they bought. I learned a lot about life doing that, and you think I’m joking. And I started working at the mall when I was 16 at a fashion-forward teen girl wear boutique named Judy’s, which is now called Rampage. I imagined I would be much more successful than I am actually. All I want is to wear PJ’s on MY PJ and I’ll call it a day. Oh, and real silk or cashmere ones.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

I am pickier about who I vet because I can have the best of both worlds: I learn from clients smarter than me in their respective areas, have the time to streamline operations as my focus is solely on my reputation and the work we put out — I’m past the high number of employees and lack of control, it just isn’t me. Acute anxiety does not look good on me. And if I continue hiring smarter people, I’ll evolve as a human and get to that PJ lifestyle faster than you know it.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase brand awareness?

That is a mixed bag because there is visibility and then there is engagement and then there is sharing.

Visibility: I don’t care about the number of eyeballs, so the number of impressions in media land does not impress me. I care about the quality of those eyeballs and if they have a high word of mouth factor. So when working with a corporation who is starting a new division or who’s division is basically a start-up, I’d go for say CTO’s if it’s data security but I’ll make sure they are CTO’s in an alumni association, golf club, or country club as visibility only counts if your brand build is memorable. Ours is and I know because people will start to type in the company name into google instead of doing a google search.

Engagement: Many social media managers promote a post to get 20 likes but they never realize that they never had to like your page. Now that’s just foolish. And ‘like’ ads are $7 a pop easy. So put out quality content that will get you ranked AND people will want to read and they’ll opt-in on their own. Then you can pay for clicks at a much cheaper rate.

Shares: When is the last time you shared a post? I deem shares from our highly segmented audience builds (for example, the CTO will be segmented by 25-34 and then 45-64) the most quality, and any clicks that come from someone watching a full video (95% or more) to be qualified as a share. That is retargeting gold. So while clicks on Instagram Stories may be harder to get, I prefer that. If it is a CTO, I’d say a Facebook share. That means your content, your brand campaign, is something he is proud to represent and it resonates with him, or he learned from one of your client’s articles that your media relations lead worked his butt off to land.

Does paid advertising work?

It does when it makes sense and when it’s unique. For example, in addition to the usual PPC, if a million people are going to be at a tradeshow the client has always gone to and it’s a ‘must’, then I’ll make sure everyone attending at the respective hotels has a gift in their bag from said client and it’s such a rare ask that I have the negotiation down pat. In terms of sponsored content, earned media is much better.

What is your main tactic to make sure Rock Candy Media stands out?

Stay five years ahead. Don’t study your own industry trends; I never read those because I have to emote things. I read memoirs, I read client industry trends as the start-ups that make it, especially today when the landscape changes at five times the speed in one calendar year alone. I also like to remind myself and clients to never think you are infallible. I admire the head of GoPro and how he said early success can make you more prone to fail later. That stuck with me. We were in danger one time as a company and I literally just emailed our Managing Partner to change out an industry page background to a different image to test it out, and every month we review the most engaging content and go with who we targeted, and what resonated with them, to change out a client’s site. A website should never be ‘done’. It should evolve with you. It is your calling card, your reputation, what you stand for whether you like it or not. You should like it because you have control over it. I think the attitude founders have that never separated themselves from what they love to do is to try to make sure they can remain independent of any channel as possible. And that is the power of branding. For hospitality the enemy isn’t another hotel, the true enemy is a hotel booking site who is taking 30% of each head in each bed.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

We only know one model: direct marketing of the digital kind. We have never been just in one industry. We started heavily b2b, had big years in e-comm and I always wanted a mix of both because we grow them where they are now as a hybrid of both. Direct to consumer is the same concept when applied to business that is a product, service, or distribution.

How does Rock Candy Media stand out from the rest of the other agencies out there in your niche?

I just keep my head down and give a lot of sh*t. So I try to hire for the self-taught (they have less of a fear of the unknown and will get their hands dirty to figure things out on their own) and not look at the competitors. My focus has always been on what I would want if I were a client from an agency. And I respect our clients – some of them can afford me when I couldn’t in the life cycle of my business, but all of them share one thing: We are an investment and they have to know we value their time and will always ask why they made a decision because success lies in collaboration. If it is important to them, it’s damn important to me.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

To let go of a lot more pieces of the pie I have no control over.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

The one I try to block out is that in my first year I made so much that I got punished for not forming an LLC to the tune of $20K in taxes. I hope my then CFO does not read this.

What have you learned in the process of becoming successful that others can learn from?

Just be yourself, and the respect you want will give you the most satisfaction. The second you start caring what other people think is the second you become a commodity.

What new business would you love to start?

Well, you are going to find out soon ladies and gentlemen. This lady knows how to keep secrets believe it or not. Also, if I could live another life it would be floral arrangements. Or someone who makes perfumes all day. All my memories are scent-driven.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

This sounds really stupid, but I had a peer/mentor who said, “Annie you run so deep you do not do yourself justice in meetings dressing so casually.” At first, I was pissed but then I clarified with him that it was about respect. When I show up, my style is all my own and I am very much about textiles and “the closet overfloweth” as that is how I show to the world what mood I am that day. It’s art you can wear each day. I needed to ‘show up’ with some respect to client meetings and it took a lot of balls to tell me that and I’m pretty sure it backed up what I was saying with more authority. It sounds silly but it was a game-changer.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

No, but there are profiles of founders by the best journalists and writers out there in Wired, Vanity Fair, and Esquire. For personal development, I learn from the words of the authors who have lived BIG, so I am huge into memoirs and seeing through another’s’ lens. I read all the time, 24-7, and usually have three books going at once. Right now I just have two: Val Kilmer’s memoir and a book Obama recommended called “Maid” that is changing my mind on what it means to be poor in America.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

To wear nice clothes in my closet with tags still on them. They not only disgusted me but they helped me with showing up, as mentioned earlier.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Do it before you accumulate ‘stuff’ and ‘big things’. Do it when you have nothing to lose and never stop making fun of yourself. Stay humble or you won’t learn sh*t. Surround yourself with smarter people. Be wary of ‘yes’ people, but keep the ones that support you and know you around as well. And with success comes haters, and I wish I could prepare you for that but it ties into not giving a f*ck what others think or else you’ll fail. Don’t let people you don’t know bring you down.

Tell us about your fashion style as an executive?

Definitely polished with an edge. I like good tailoring and solids but I like one thing to be a little ‘off” whether it’s my shoe color or earrings. And my Managing Partner & Art Director, Kelsie Singleton always compliments the most expensive thing I’m wearing – it is a true talent I’m telling you.

We hear you might have one of the biggest shoe collections in Texas, and your coworkers call you the “Imelda Marcos of Category Marketing” how do you store and keep track of all those shoes?

If guys have a man cave, well girls should be able to shop their own shoes damn it! I think the Bang & Olufsen television sound systems and plasma TV’s equal out to the same anyways.

4 Affiliate Marketing Tips for Beginners

Starting your own business can be an overwhelming experience. However, we now live in a world where building a business doesn’t need to be so overwhelming anymore. If you’re looking for a much simpler way to start your own business but with very little capital needed, then you should definitely consider affiliate marketing. Basically, this is where you promote other people’s products and services and in return, you earn a commission from helping out. You just need to find a product you want to endorse, promote it to other people, and you can earn money for every sale that you make. Since there are plenty of affiliate products and services available today, you need to find a unique product or service to promote. Just remember that your desire and determination to succeed are also equally important if you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer in the long run.

Find High-Quality Products

You need to choose high-quality products or services if you want to become successful as an affiliate marketer. If what you’re promoting is of high quality; then chances are, the customer support and supply chain process of the company you are promoting are also of high quality which will give you credibility as a marketer.

Choose Something You’ll Get Value From

You should always choose a product or service that you can see yourself using or getting value from. It should be an extension of you. The program you are affiliated with should offer value for all your efforts. You should also look for a program that provides valuable free gifts. Remember that online reviews and feedback can make or break your business. Once customers get free gifts, they will no doubt be impressed and give you great reviews in return.

Look for a Niche Market with Big Problems to be Solved

You should always look for a niche market with significant problems to be solved and provide a quality solution to these issues. If you are able to fix a problem, especially the big ones, you will gain the trust of your customers and that is no doubt a big plus for your business.

Variety of Products

Look for an affiliate program that offers a wide range of products so that you can encourage your customers to keep coming back for more. Variety helps build a solid fanbase, which is definitely good for business. For instance, if the affiliate program is offering ebooks that discuss weight loss, it is also a good thing if it provides supplements and exercise equipment. So, you should pick an affiliate program that offers a wide range of products so that your customers will also most likely recommend you to their friends and colleagues.

One of the best benefits of affiliate marketing is that you can promote as many affiliate programs as you want. This means that your earning potential is big as well. Some people give up their 9-5 job to focus on their online business. Another benefit of affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to leave your home just to promote a product or service. Even if you are in your pajamas, you can still work and sell online because you can promote the program on your website or social networking sites. Some affiliate programs even provide their affiliates with a website where they can promote the products or services.

7 Practical Steps For Managing Your Credit Card Responsibly

While it’s true that credit cards can come in handy when you get caught cashless on certain instances; but then it’s also wise to take note of the fact that excessive use of credit cards can only lead you into the path of going straight down the drain of having a bad credit history.

Therefore, it’s important to be smart when it comes to using credit cards and managing your debts associated with it so you don’t find yourself in much deeper trouble in the long run. It’s obviously very easy for anyone to acquire large debts through credit cards; but, it’s extremely hard to get out of a credit card black hole once you’ve been eaten by it alive. That said, here are some tips to consider when it comes to managing your credit cards wisely.

Only use one card

You don’t really need a lot of credit cards because it will only result in a lot more repayments to various banks and credit card companies. Typically, most people would use cash advances from one card to pay the debt in another. The thing is, this system will only make your financial condition much worse because managing multiple debts can be time-consuming and even confusing; not to mention there’s the hassle of managing multiple credit cards.

Always pay the monthly balance of your credit card in full

It’s always good practice to pay the monthly balance of your credit card in full so that you don’t end up paying unnecessary interest. However, just in case unforeseen circumstances occur that you have no control of; then, at least have your debt paid within a maximum of two months – no more, no less.

Opt for another alternative

If you find yourself always maxing out your credit limit each month then a much wiser alternative would be to apply for a personal loan which charges lower interest rates compared to credit cards.

Have a card calculator handy

It’s always a good idea to have a card calculator handy if you deem that you can only pay the minimum amount required for each month. This way, you will be able to determine how long you’ve still got to pay off your debt. Furthermore, take the time to talk to a financial advisor who will be able to help you manage your credit card in a much healthier way.

Be very cautious of cash advances

While there may be some interest-free days available within your credit card plan; unfortunately, that doesn’t cover cash advances. Keep in mind that no amount of payment will ever be able to pay off cash advances as long as there is still an outstanding balance on your credit card; meaning, any balance you have on your credit card must be paid off first. Also, your benefit of having interest-free days will most likely be forfeited anyway until you pay off your cash advances first.

Always keep the fees down

You need to learn when to use your credit card so you can avoid getting hooked with unnecessary swiping; this way, you will only have a lesser amount to pay for your monthly dues. You must make it a point to always pay in full and on time to avoid any unnecessary charges piling up which can lead to financial downfall.

Look for alternatives in making payments

To date, people have the option to pay either over the phone or online. These routes are obviously much cheaper compared to paying over the counter.

Meet The Man Behind The Cover Of The August 2020 Issue Of MoneyCentral Magazine: The Amazing Armand Peri

If you’ve ever been bullied, you’d know first-hand what kind of negative long-lasting impact it can cause the victims. To be a successful entrepreneur requires not only a powerful motivation and passion but also an ability for overcoming setbacks. But setbacks can come in many shapes and forms and one of the most common forms of setbacks experienced in adolescence is bullying. Although the negative effects of bullying are lengthy and can continue well into adulthood, some entrepreneurs have found that negative experiences have had positive effects on their adult life because it allowed them to be more capable to overcome the many challenges they eventually face in their own ventures.

One such entrepreneur is none other than the incredible Armand Peri. He was once a seventeen-year-old student who used to be bullied a lot but he made a definitive decision to do something about it. He decided to get into weights so that no one would mess around with him anymore and two years later, he was rewarded for all his hard work with a first-place title in the teenage division of “Mr. New Jersey” which then led to winning the heavyweight division in the same competition two years later.

Armand Peri was originally born the son of Portuguese parents who emigrated to the U.S., settling in New Jersey when he was just 12 years of age. One of his early memories was hearing his mother tell him that they [the family] were “not born to be rich.” Rather than accept this as his inevitable destiny though, he was motivated to create his own mantra for success, and it taught him one of his most crucial life lessons: the importance of setting goals and then taking well-thought-out steps to achieve said goals.

Armand’s first goal was achieved when he was recognized and lauded for his accomplishments in the bodybuilding arena. He also won a National Talent Search, was introduced to President and Mrs. Reagan and he even had his work displayed in a prestigious national gallery, as well as in the New Jersey State Gallery of Art. To state that Armand is an overachiever is an understatement.

Armand worked his way through college, first as a bouncer, and then eventually a dancer for a male entertainment revue. This decision to take on these dancing gigs was actually pivotal in his life and would ultimately bring him success and enable him to start his own company. Armand saw an opening in a niche market that felt right and he decided to fill it. He created Hunk-O-Mania, a high-end male revue and strip club for women in New York City. He focused on every aspect of building a reputation, not just for the exotic male dancers but for the entire staff – waiters, security, and ticket takers alike. Having been a dancer himself, he was uniquely positioned to run this enterprise, understanding the psychology behind it and making customer service and satisfaction on every level the top priority. This was undoubtedly what ensured his success right from the start.

Fast forward to today and Armand is now a successful entrepreneur, investor, artist, author, and motivational speaker. His venture has grown and expanded nationwide to Atlantic City, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Savannah, Greensboro, Raleigh, Baltimore, Washington, Austin, Houston, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, Charleston, and Nashville. In his book “Unparalleled Success,” which was published in 2019, he shares his recipe for that success. He’s also frequently engaged as a motivational speaker. His genuine desire to help others to achieve true success, while keeping the focus on their professional and personal well-being, is what inspires others to find their own path to victory.

MoneyCentral magazine recently caught up with Armand to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

Struggling to find a place in life as an immigrant kid, I was constantly bullied throughout high school. After enduring many years of negativity from my classmates, I decided to approach weightlifting with laser-like focus and became determined to transform my physique. However, my goals were met with many obstacles as my family struggled financially at the time and I was unable to purchase a gym membership nor was I able to buy the necessary foods to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I overcame these obstacles by working at my school gym and was able to lift weights there three times a week. On Sundays, I would commute almost an hour each way from my home in New Jersey to Manhattan to work out at a commercial gym. At the time, commercial gyms were sparse and not as popular as they are today. But, by staying focused and determined, I was able to gain the weight I needed and eventually competed in my first bodybuilding competition where I went on to win Mr. Teen New Jersey.

I applied the same level of determination to other aspects of my life, including business. While in college, I met another fellow bodybuilder named Joey V and noticed that Joey was driving around campus in a new Corvette and constantly wore new clothes. I became curious and approached Joey one day and asked what he did for a living. He too was an aspiring bodybuilder but he also worked at a male entertainment revue called “ESCAPES” in Long Island. We hit it off and Joey introduced me to the world of male revue shows.

I was working part-time as a bouncer at the time but this job put me in many dangerous situations and I knew it was a job I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Once I started working at ESCAPES, I began making more money in two hours of dancing than I did working eight hours as security at a nightclub. I quickly left the security job and danced Fridays and Saturday nights and did side-gigs for three to four other entertainment agencies during the week. After finishing my education, I became a freelance architect renderer while working at ESCAPES on the weekends. Eventually, I made more working part-time as a male entertainer than working full-time as an architect. I saved up my earnings and started my own company in 1998.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

I am constantly pushing and educating myself-

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

Yes, it does work but SEO (search engine optimization) works much better…

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers?

My main tactic is to show people via social media posts and customer reviews how much fun my clubs are; Hunk-O-Mania nightclubs continue to receive acclaim as the largest and most successful male revue nightclubs in the world from various news and media outlets. I founded the first Hunk-O-Mania nightclub show in 1998 in New York City and the show has now expanded to over 25 cities including Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlantic City, Orlando, Tampa, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, and New Orleans.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

To lay people off due to COVID 19.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Reinvesting most of my profit instead of only a portion!

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I would believe in myself more and I would not waste any time getting started!

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Never Quit on yourself and your dreams.

Can you tell us more about your latest book?

Absolutely, the purpose of my book is to give back to society and inspire someone to pursue his or her dream as I did! Throughout my journey of becoming successful, I made a lot of mistakes but learned a lot with each setback and I am trying to prevent my followers and readers to avoid these same mistakes I made.

What kind of research did you do for this book, and how long did you spend researching before beginning this book?

The book is based on my personal experiences dating back to my teenage years – the journey I made to achieve my success made this book possible. I wanted to write a book that was short and to the point.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Bring value and originality to the marketplace and your success will be undeniable.

For more details about Armand please visit his website on www.armandperi.com. You can also follow Armand Peri on social media via these links:

Instagram:  lifeperiway
Facebook: ArmandPeriBodybuilder
Twitter: armandperi
Website: armandperi.com
TikTok: armandperi

4 Essential Ways Mentally Strong People Deal With Rejection

As an entrepreneur you are going to run into rejection, it’s inevitable. You might turn in a proposal that gets denied or try to sell your services and get denied. Either way, it’s important to remember your goals and keep pushing towards them. Don’t let a simple no stop you from achieving your goals. Some of the most successful people have been denied multiple times before reaching their spotlight. Just keep that in mind on this journey of entrepreneurship.

Never take it personally. Most rejections are based on the wellbeing of the other company. If you get rejected it’s simply because they don’t think it’s a good fit. It’s not because you suck and your company sucks. It’s literally just business. Let business be business, and don’t take it to your heart. Don’t let it affect your motivation, or ability to market yourself.

You should use rejection as a tool to figure out what your next step is or even how you could present yourself better next time. Take it as a learning opportunity and figure out what needs to change in order to land that next deal. Your goal is to be successful and grow your company, so use rejection as a tool to guide you in a better direction. Just because one person denied you doesn’t mean there’s not someone else out there that has been looking for someone just like you.

Never be afraid of rejection. Rejection is part of the growth process, and without it, you wouldn’t know where to begin, or even where you should go next. You should never fear being denied because a denial is all it is. It doesn’t affect you negatively to be rejected. If anything, you and the person that denied you are the only ones that are even aware of the rejection. You don’t have to showcase how many rejections it took until you succeeded. Just remember that each rejection leads to another possible deal. Don’t hesitate to put yourself out there in fear of being rejected. Just live for the moment and if you get denied then that’s all that has happened is you got denied. You are still an entrepreneur and you are still striving.

Another thing is don’t give your hopes up to soon. Just keep in mind that rejection is inevitable, and it’s bound to happen to you at some point while venturing as an entrepreneur. Stop hesitating to put yourself out there, because, in the end, it will be nothing but beneficial. You can’t land deals, without putting yourself out there. Regardless of rejection, you are still an entrepreneur and you still need to get your services out there. You can’t wait around and expect something to come to you because that is not realistic. Like I said, rejection is bound to happen on your journey, just don’t let it stop you from marketing your services or company. Use it as a tool to succeed.

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Entrepreneurial Risk This 2020

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The day to day activities of an entrepreneur has many challenges and lack of courage to overcome them may lead to failure. There are a lot of sacrifices you need when entering an unfamiliar business. However, you have to take the risks to ensure your effort is worthy and you can secure your family’s future. Risk management can be learned through your willingness and optimism.

Looking for the resolutions of these common risks will definitely help you run your business smoothly in the future.

Building your brand and credibility

Trust is the primary value you can gain from the customer before he purchases your service. However, building his trust to an unfamiliar business without a record of good credibility is hard to achieve. This is why marketing strategy through the use of social media and press releases is very important in building your audience awareness. Following the next guidelines will help you build the trust of your potential customers in the long run.

Meeting the demand of your target market

Unable to meet the needs of your customers will lead to their bad impression to your company. Make sure you give attention to every detail your customer wants such as delivering the right quantity of product at the requested place and time. They also need to arrive in a good condition to avoid dispute. Meeting these simple needs will result to a repeat customer.

Learning effective marketing strategies

Different marketing strategies that are tested and proven to be effective are content marketing, social media, video marketing, and loyalty programs. Another advantage of using these tools is its ability to access a large number of potential customers in a day. People have been using the internet for their daily activities and it is not impossible to gain audiences in a day most especially if you are able to produce an attractive offer, compelling content, and attention-striking demographics of your products and services.

Hiring the right team to handle each area of your business

One of these teams is the customer service because they are the primary contributor of sales and production. One improper way of serving your customer could lead to the destruction of your credibility. It is very easy to access social media and this could be used by the customers to express either their frustration or satisfaction with the service they receive. Therefore, ensure you hire the right employees who will be assigned to this important area of your company. They served as front liners so they should be well-trained in handling customer’s concerns.

Keeping a long-lasting relationship with your customers

Aside from using the internet as a marketing platform, another marketing strategy which has started even before social media exists are brand promotion and loyalty programs. This are useful to show how you value your customer for being an avid user of your products and services. Offering discounts and loyalty rewards will not only help the company increase the chance to maintain their customers, but they can also gain additional buyers through the word of mouth.

One On One Interview With Frankie Russo: The CEO Of Potenza

potenza

This entrepreneur confessed that when he started his business he had no idea what he was doing, fast forward to today and his business is now an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company for four straight years.

Frankie Russo was raised in a family of entrepreneurs. His father owned a fashion clothing store for many years before deciding to change direction and going into inner-city work with the homeless. He started his entrepreneurial journey by selling t-shirts to his high school friends, afterward, he became a server at a restaurant after high school. After a chance meeting with a mortgage broker at a table, he was serving in the restaurant he used to work for, he became a part-time mortgage originator. This gave him an early jump start on his real estate career which lasted eight years and included starting her own brokerage firm with 15 salespeople.

When the mortgage crisis came in 2008, his business went down, but luckily one year before the crisis he already started a small company with his brother who just graduated graphic design – that company was Potenza. Initially, they had no idea what they were doing so they had to rely on the needs of their clients to guide them to the direction they need to take their company to. It took them five years to even figure out what Potenza really was and now it’s a leading full-service 360 marketing firm, and an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company for four straight years.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Frankie to find out more about his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I was raised in a family of self-starters. My dad had his own fashion clothing store for many years before changing directions and going into inner-city work with the homeless. Our family started homeless shelters and ran those for two decades. When I got out of high school and went to college, I quickly learned that a part-time mortgage originator would be the best gig I could do with the limited hours I had available after the commitments for college. This gave me an early jump start on my real estate career which lasted eight years and included starting my own brokerage firm with 15 salespeople. That all came to a screeching halt in 2008 with the mortgage crisis. Luckily, one year before the crisis I decided to start a small company with my little brother who just graduated graphic design. That company was called Potenza.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I started out selling t-shirts at my high school then I became a server at a restaurant after high school. After meeting a mortgage broker at a table I was serving in the restaurant, I became a part-time mortgage originator which was the best gig I could do with the limited hours I had available after the commitments for college. This gave me an early jump start on my real estate career which lasted eight years and included starting my own brokerage firm with 15 salespeople. That all came to a screeching halt in 2008 with the mortgage crisis. Luckily one year before the crisis I decided to start a small company with my little brother who just graduated graphic design. That company was called Potenza. The truth is, we had no idea what we were doing…. which was the best thing that ever happened to us. We had to rely on the needs of our clients to tell us what direction we will take our company. And since we were in the middle of a recession and for the first time local businesses were starting to use online media; it was the perfect dust storm for us to emerge from. We would get a client and give that client everything we had. Then get another client, and we continued to provide that client the same treatment. It took us five years to even figure out what Potenza was. And I spent the next five years reinventing that definition.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

Reinventing the ad agency model by continuing to enhance our marketing automation and attribution software “ReturnFlight.” We have also created a wholesale division that allows for other ad agencies and media companies to reinvent themselves by white labeling our software to give them a competitive edge as well in their markets. At this stage in the game, if you’re not using data and technology to fuel your marketing decisions and create your highly personalized marketing messaging, you aren’t going to be able to compete.

Writing a book and doing talks to business communities has also been a very effective way to stand out in an overcrowded industry.

Lastly, having content generated and published constantly about the problems you are solving in your industry is a great way to attract the right type of customers to your business. I believe attraction is better than promotion when it comes to business. I always try and make sure I have something that “they” want to stay attractive. This creates a magnet for your business that attracts new customers.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

We always thought differently. We positioned ourselves as an outlier that was not a traditional version of our company (ad agency). We built things in-house that other companies outsourced. Early on we were one of the only ad agencies in the area that had her own internal video production department. A few years later we were the only add agency that had an internal digital advertising department. And eventually, we created our own software product that gave us a huge proprietary niche. This enabled us to build a business that helps other ad agencies and media companies to conquer the niche in their market.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The toughest decision I’ve had to make in the past few months is allowing my company to evolve by getting out of the way. Last year I hired some important executive staff including a chief operating officer. I learned several years ago at one of the first Inc 5000 conferences I attended that founders make crappy CEO’s. Well, this is very hard to hear, this is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. As a founder, I can only take the company so far before I start ramming into a glass ceiling. Today I realize that it is my thought leadership and vision that is most valuable to the company since we are now too big for me to run it as we did at the beginning. This hard decision to let go and not micromanage has opened up the next chapter of our business for even more immense growth then we have already seen.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

I’m very grateful that I never had to take investment capital or get large lines of credit from banks. However, if I did it over again, I would strategically have partners that could bring investment money to the table earlier in the process as well as offer strategic business opportunities to grow our business faster. I also learned that I could never have too many business mentors who had gone before me and made money mistakes that I can avoid by letting them mentor me as I grow.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

Never stop reinvesting into yourself. I made a decision early on to not divert any profits from my business into other investments like real estate and the stock market until I had fully invested in my own companies and products. As the primary shareholder of my companies, I am most important Investor.

What new business would you love to start?

I would say a music record label, but I just started one of those. I I think my next frontier will be a new business for capital ventures. I would love to be a mentor and Investor in many companies as a minority shareholder to be a part of a lot of different innovation and industries without having to be the main driver of the business.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently? What advice would you give yourself?

Don’t flinch. Never stop going all out and fail fast because your failures will bring out your highest value to your stakeholders, employees, and customers.

One On One With Successful Entrepreneur Cynthia Johnson

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Cynthia Johnson is an entrepreneur, marketing professional, author and international speaker. She previously worked as a receptionist at an acting agency; she was also a server at Tender Greens and The Cheesecake Factory and she was even an event planner in Las Vegas. When she turned 25, she decided to sell all her things to find a new meaning in life through travelling the world. It was through her adventures across Asia and Australia, where she eventually found her niche skill in storytelling and helping others with marketing strategies and creating their brand image.

Fast forward to today, and now she’s a business advisor, keynote speaker, and CEO of a successful agency (Bell + Ivy) as well as an author. She is an Advisory Board member for The Millennium Alliance and GetGlobal which are leading technology, business, and educational advisory event companies serving fortune 1000 executives. She has been involved in campaigns for Outerknown, HereMedia, West Management, Chevy’s, PETA, and several other leading brands. She is also a contributing columnist to Entrepreneur, Success, Forbes, and several other industry-specific publications. Her first book will be published in early 2019 by Penguin Random House.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Cynthia to find out more about her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I never really did anything the same way others did so my entrepreneurial journey is a bit of a rollercoaster. However, though my journey separates myself from others who took a more conventional route, I can proudly say that I’m a prime example of not really knowing what I wanted to do, to finding my “calling” when I was most vulnerable. Before co-finding Bell + Ivy, a digital marketing and personal branding agency in Santa Monica, CA with my co-founder Zach Binder, I worked as a receptionist at an acting agency, was a server at Tender Greens and The Cheesecake Factory, an event planner in Vegas, and digital marketing director for a rehab center. At 25 I decided to sell all my things and turned to find a new meaning in life through traveling the world. It was through my adventures across Asia and Australia, where I eventually found my niche skill in storytelling and helping others with marketing strategies and creating their brand image. Sometimes as a form of currency, I would share my knowledge in the communications field for room and board and made countless friends along the way. I then started speaking at more events, joining more panels and began moderating discussions. Bell + Ivy was created through the magical discovery of passion and persistence of just living and letting life take its course. Today, I am a business advisor, keynote speaker, CEO of a great agency and an author. I am honored to have been listed by Inc. Magazine as a top digital marketing person to follow, top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable and top female entrepreneurs that inspire by Darling Magazine.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We constantly strive to uphold Bell + Ivy’s brand to the same, utmost quality, as we deliver to our clients. With the tools of digital marketing, personal branding, and storytelling, our office is comprised of the boldest and the brightest who not only deliver these aspects professionally but also in their personal lives, reflecting the power and stamina of our agency. We are humbled to say that we are in a place where a lot of business comes to us and we then get to choose who and what is the best fit at the time. Shoot us a message – our doors, and inboxes, are always open!

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Storytelling using digital marketing, of course. Business owners and marketers should focus their social media efforts on creating a cohesive community with their followers and to improve the interoperability of information between all their channels. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have such a massive following and the potential to be an impressive channel to sell and promote a product, message and/or brand. Relatable, relevant and timely content throughout these platforms will create a genuine community of followers that enhances their brand identity which then creates more brand loyalty.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

Again, storytelling. Never underestimate the power of telling an impactful story to the right audience and at the right time. When you know exactly who you’re working with and how to proliferate influence, you’re golden.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Setting a wedding date and then coordinating everything that goes into the wedding. Nobody warns you about this kind of stuff!

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

I wouldn’t say this is a mistake but more something to be aware of money. Money is a tricky subject, and yes, money helps when first creating a business. However, you decided to start a business, and that is an investment. Therefore, you must wholeheartedly invest in your company and your team and provide the necessary tools and resources to best equip your team to produce the best work they can. It’ll be worth the investment and the opportunity cost is exponential!

What new business would you love to start?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you! Totally joking of course. However, I do have some ideas up my sleeves that I can’t share quite yet. It’s a secret for now but stay tuned for more.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing. Getting lost and being vulnerable in my early 20’s is how I got to be where I am today. Sounds cliche but it’s true. But if I had to choose, maybe stay in China longer? China is an incredible country with so much to offer. However, as an international speaker, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to travel, to countries like China, and experience work and play.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

Drink less coffee and start drinking more tea.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

Plenty! “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” by Mark Manson, is a classic, “Leaders Eat Last,” by Simon Sinek, and “Talking to Crazy,” by Mark Goulston. These three selections are actually from my book club, where we dissect each book to fully understand the meaning and how it can impact our daily professional lives in a positive way. Join the conversation, today!

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Just try it – what’s the worst that can happen? If you fail, that’s okay. If you fail again, that’s also okay. But next time, fail better.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

No matter how much you think you can handle everything on your own, you can’t and you won’t; and that’s 100% okay. Be realistic, stay optimistic and ask for help when you need it. Do research online, engage with your community and see who could bring value to your team. You’re going to want to do it all by yourself, but at the end of the day, the best way a company can grow is through steller leadership and a transparent team.

One On One Interview With Nicole: The CEO Of ROF Industries Inc

Nicole Staab 1

Nicole started her career in printing 15 years ago with her father, a legend in the printing industry, Robert Pittman. She began her career at Trend Offset Printing, was Executive Vice President of SMP Inc. and is now President and CEO of ROF Industries Inc. – a company that provides video production, photography, and printing services. She helps clients achieve their goals with various marketing platforms. She started her current business in 2013, and their sales have grown to numbers she never imagined.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Nicole to find out more about her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I learned about business from my father, who was an entrepreneur. I was lucky enough to work with him for 12 years before starting a business with my husband, Chris. My Dad taught me to always focus on marketing and sales. You can have the best product/ service in the world, but if no one knows about it, it won’t do you much good. While working with him, I also had a side business that specialized in photography.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

My journey has had highs and lows, like everyone I’m sure. I started my current business in 2013, and our sales have grown to numbers I never imagined. When I was in my early 20’s, I felt too young and inexperienced to have much confidence in my sales ability. After many years, I have learned that people buy from who they like and if you are your true self, people will buy from you. When my clients see that I really care about helping them and their business, a true relationship begins.

What is your main source of income?

Our primary source of income is from our video production, photography, and printing services. We help clients achieve their goals with various marketing platforms.

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What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Some may say it’s dead, but for me old fashioned cold calling has worked wonders. Recently I’ve had a lot of luck sending customized video emails. For me, happy clients have always led to repeat business and referrals, which have both been the key to our success.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

I believe our brand has stood out because my business partner/ husband Chris is amazing at what he does. Video production is his true passion, and you can see it in his videos. Clients are always so impressed with what Chris can accomplish. He is so easy to work with and tailors each video to fit our client’s specific brand/ style.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The decision to redesign our website. We are still finalizing the details, but it was hard to make such a big change. When we first started our company we weren’t 100% sure who our main client would be. Now we know the majority of our clients are corporate and our website needs to reflect that. It was a big decision for us but important to change.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Before hiring anyone to help with SEO and social media, be sure to do your homework. Many companies promise huge rewards and then don’t deliver. I have learned to be more selective with many of my vendors.

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What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

Always trust your gut. Sometimes when you want something or like someone you will try to con yourself into decisions, even though your gut is warning you. Don’t ignore it.

What new business would you love to start?

I have a real passion for travel. I would love to create a business that focuses on how to travel to unique locations with children. We have taken our kids to unique locations like Galapagos, Costa Rica, Ireland, Norway and Turks & Caicos. We have learned so much from our travels.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t have spent so much time on small dollar ideas. I would’ve focused on larger, corporate clients and longterm contracts.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

Have more confidence in your abilities! Trust when others tell you how much they love working with you. Fight that negative voice inside your head that tries to hold you back. We all have it; the key is to tell it to go away.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

“The Sell” by Fredrik Eklund, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D. and Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Try to live in the now. It’s easy to regret things in the past and worry about the future but make sure you’re not missing the amazing things that are happening right in front of you. Take time to stop and focus on the positive things happening at this exact moment, no matter how small they might seem.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Find a mentor to help you along the way. Be ready to work extremely hard. When you own your own business, it is constantly on your mind. You never really check out. That’s why travel can be so important to help you focus on something other than your business.

One On One With Millionaire Entrepreneur: Ilene Davis

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Ilene Davis put herself through college and eventually received a degree in Math in 1971. For several years after graduation, she worked as a mathematician then she got married and worked in her husband’s business. She became a stockbroker in 1982 and ended up opening her own office in 1986 when the broker she worked for had significant ethical issues. Fast forward to today, her current net worth is sitting at a cool $4 million.

We recently caught up with Ilene Davis and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started making money?

I received a degree in Math in 1971. I actually put myself through college and started saving even then. By graduation, I had enough to buy myself a car. Once graduated, I worked to save enough in a couple of years to take a two month trip to Europe before I seriously got down to working for the future. For several years after graduation, I worked as a mathematician. Then got married and worked in my husband’s business. During that time I also earned a degree in Accounting, went to another company for several years until an opportunity came along (1982) to become a stockbroker. Having been investing for years, that was my true passion (and still is).

How did you get started in business? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I became a stockbroker (which is really a personal business even if you work for a Wirehouse because you are strictly on commission) in 1982 and opened my own office in 1986 when the broker I worked for had major ethical issues. As for imagining if I would become this successful financially: my first goal was to get to $1 million. Then to $2 million. Once I reached $2 million in investments, I continued to invest. Much of the wealth comes from those initial millions “doing their thing.”

What is your primary source of income?

I don’t really count my investment income because it remains invested, so my primary source of income is commissioning from being a financial professional.

Would you be willing to tell us your current net worth? How did you accumulate your net worth?

It hit $4 million before the recent market drop, but I expect it will be up and down for a while. I accumulated it by doing what I tell clients. Invest a portion of your income and leave it working.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your net worth?

I maximize my solo-K each year and otherwise do some trading but mostly leave the management to the mutual fund companies that I invest in and leave my own stocks to ride, sometimes buying on dips and then writing options to generate extra income.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The only thing of any challenge was last year when the Obama administration “Fiduciary Rule” was implemented and I asked clients if they were willing to stick with me if I stuck to a commission because the math I did said THAT was in their best interests, not fee-based. Fortunately, Trump won, and I’ve had a wonderful year.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

PLAYING the market instead of investing long-term. I sold my Microsoft stocks too soon (I call that my $2 million loss), same with AOL. I still see stocks I owned years ago that have gone up significantly, but I really can’t complain. My other mistake was trusting a friend with a loan. Now I’m working to at least write it off as a loss.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

The key, as Warren Buffet said, is time IN the market, not time OF the market. And to have a plan, don’t worry about what others THINK you should do. I tell clients the most expensive thing they can buy is “friendship”. Be happy with who you are, find contentment, even happiness, in living within your budget and building wealth. Believe you are worthy of being wealthy so you don’t sabotage yourself.

What new business would you love to start?

Already working with a new partner (with similar ethical perspective) on wealthliteracyinstitute.com and choosingwealth.com. My goal is to teach financial literacy and provide a tool that virtually anyone can use to create a path to wealth.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I would have gotten my CPA and done more networking.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

I have DOZENS: Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) / Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) / The richest man in babylon (George Clason) / The Millionaire Next Door (Dr. Thomas Stanley) / The Millionaire Mind / Stop acting rich and start living like a real millionaire / The E Myth Revisited / Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth / my own book “Wealthy by Choice: Choosing your way to a wealthier future” / 10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the middle class / Think like a Billionaire (Donald Trump) / The Purple Cow / any of Tom Peters Books / Any of the Spencer Johnson or Ken Blanchard (particularly “the One minute Manager”) and DOZENS more.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

You can do anything you set your mind to if you are willing to work for it (my dad, and mom)