After 20 years in the corporate world, just over a year ago in perhaps the most unlikely time, Samantha Woolf and Hilla Narov took the leap and founded their own marketing & entertainment agency. Not only do they make authentic connections between brands and talent, but they have a unique instinct for what’s next and what’s newsworthy that allows them to put their clients at the center of pop culture moments.
Official Partner Agency’s Website – We work with best-in-class brands to create maximum impact campaigns and partnerships that drive growth.
3 Value Bombs
1) Nice guys do get ahead in the end.
2) Part of every success is learning along the way.
3) You have to understand who your consumers are and ensure that you put the right face out there that will resonate.
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Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: How to Start Your Own Business During a Global Pandemic
[1:32] – Samantha and Hilla share something that they believes about becoming successful that most people disagree with.
- Sam: Nice people finish last. Nice guys do get ahead in the end.
- Hilla: We built our business with 20 years of relationships – that’s our secret to our success.
[2:40] – Hilla, first off, what is Official Partner Agency and why did you start it?
- Official Partner is an entertainment marketing agency. We work with companies to connect them to pop culture, entertainment, and fashion industries.
- I started it because I saw a need – the business I was in was transactional. There’s was no strategy for marketing, PR, etc. I realized that this is something I can do.
[4:11] – Samantha, what were some challenges you faced during the pandemic?
- A lot of people/businesses were paralyzed early on in the pandemic, and we needed to help them think in a different way.
- We explained new opportunities to our clients.
- We need to be creative when it comes to thinking of new ways to do our job.
[6:54] – What you would have done differently knowing what you know now?
- We probably would have created a rule book early on.
- Part of the success is learning along the way.
[7:55] – Hilla, let’s talk about priorities in starting a business… What did you prioritize when first starting your company?
- We chose clients who had our shared values.
- Being able to say ‘no’ to certain things allowed us to be able to focus on the projects that we really wanted to work on.
[8:55] – Samantha, what is something that you prioritized that, looking back, you realize now it shouldn’t have been a priority at that time?
- We prioritized how to earn money during the start of the pandemic.
- We didn’t have the luxury of being able to build relationships and network during the pandemic. We just had to go and start.
[14:00] – Samantha, share the best strategies you know of for choosing the right talent for your brand
- It always starts with looking at the big picture – where do you want your business to go and what are you trying to achieve?
- The most important thing is to ensure you have the means, for both team and staff, budget, resources, media… to support the face you are putting there.
- You have to understand who your consumers are and ensure that you’re putting the right face out there that will resonate.
- The best you can do is get the talent excited for your product so they really like it and it feels authentic.
[16:47] – Hilla, Samantha, what have been your greatest lessons from your first year as founders?
- Hilla: As a founder you are accountable for everything. I have to make sure that I am delivering.
- Sam: We always want to over-deliver for clients. But there is also a time and place to say ‘no’. There’s a power in saying ‘no’.
[20:05] – Samantha and Hilla share their key takeaway and call to action for Fire Nation!
- Sam: Don’t let fear stop you from going after your dreams.
- Hilla: Stay focused. Do what you know how to do and everything else will fall into place.
- Official Partner Agency’s Instagram
- Official Partner Agency’s Website – We work with best-in-class brands to create maximum impact campaigns and partnerships that drive growth.
Who's ready to rock today, Fire Nation. JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like business infrastructure. Today, we'll be breaking down how to start your own business during hate global pandemic to drop these value bombs. I brought Samantha Woolf and Hilla Narov and the EOFire studios after 20 years in the corporate world, just over a year ago. And perhaps the most unlikely time Samantha and Hilla took the leap and founded their own marketing and entertainment agency. Not only do they make authentic connections between brands and talents, but they have a unique instinct for what's next and what's newsworthy that allow them to put their clients at the center of pop culture moments.
And we'll talk about official partner today, Fire Nation. We'll talk about the challenges they face the priorities when it comes to starting a business that we need to be focused on Fire Nation, the best strategies for choosing the right talent for our own personal brands, some lessons that are learned during your first year in business, and so much more. When we get back from thanking our sponsors, according to a survey over two thirds of Americans are planning to travel in the upcoming months. This means that airlines restaurants and more have been ramping up their hiring, who do they turn to ZipRecruiter, ZipRecruiter technology finds qualified candidates for your job, and you can easily invite your top choices to apply. And right now you can try ZipRecruiter for free at ziprecruiter.com/fire.
0 (1m 28s):
Samantha Hilla say what's up to Fire Nation and share something that you believe about becoming successful that most people disagree with.
1 (1m 39s):
What's up Fire Nation. This is Sam. I think that, you know what I think that becoming successful that most people disagree with is that nice people finish last. I think that our business is so much based on relationships and cultivating those relationships and having really good partners and really good people to count on. And, and you get there by being kind. And I, I really think that nice guys do get ahead in the end.
0 (2m 10s):
Awesome. What about you?
2 (2m 12s):
I agree. I think that, you know, we built this business on 20 years of relationships and it makes a difference people, you know, when you call them and they want to help you. So being, you know, even though a lot of our businesses negotiating and doing deals, we try to do it with a way that's a win-win for everyone. And I think that, you know, that's been the secret to a lot of our success.
0 (2m 38s):
I've talked a little bit about what you two have done during the pandemic with official partner and all of that jazz. So tell us a little more, now that we have you on the microphone, what is official partner and why did you start it?
2 (2m 54s):
Partner is an entertainment marketing agency. We work with companies to connect them, to pop culture and the entertainment and fashion industries. And I started it because, you know, we started it together. First. I started it a year before, and then Samantha joined as a partner right before the pandemic. But we, you know, I started it because I saw a need where the business that I was in was generally transactional. And there was no thought to the strategy, to the PR, the marketing, the rollout, and all of that. Even just connecting brands that are had brand parody, whether it was a talent and a brand or a brand and another brand.
2 (3m 38s):
So, you know, people started coming to me for that. We were, you know, so I just decided, Hey, this is something that we can service for our clients, but beyond just doing the deals and getting the people, you know, connected, we build out full marketing strategies around it, PR strategies. We help them amplify what they're looking to do. And it makes, you know, I think it makes a big difference.
0 (4m 6s):
Samantha, what we're going to kind of move into next is challenges like challenges that you faced during the pandemic. Because as I mentioned during the introduction, you guys actually launched this during a global pandemic, and that's why we're going to be getting Fire Nation, our listeners here today, some insights on how you can start your own business during a global pandemic, which depending on when you're listening to this Fire Nation, it's still happening with all these variants and all this craziness going on in the world. So this is going to be very valuable and important information for a long, long time. Like obviously hopefully not a global pandemic for a long time, but this is going to be great information to have. So tell us your stories.
0 (4m 46s):
What were some challenges? What did you face with the launch?
1 (4m 50s):
Obviously, initially it was very scary that first month where everyone shut down, nobody knew what was going on. What is the world going to look like? And here we were like newly formed partnership, all these big ideas. And we really just, all of a sudden were kind of handcuffed. And I think a lot of people were paralyzed for the first month, but the, but we really took a long, hard look at it and decided to make any, to make it an opportunity. And I think that's true for most things in life, right? Look at a challenge as an opportunity. And we were able to see that our clients still really needed to go on with their business, but we needed to help them think about it in a different way.
1 (5m 33s):
You know, the benefits of course, or that we didn't need office space. There was a lot of overhead that we did not need to take on right away that enabled us to put our minds and our resources into finding new opportunities for our clients and being able to really think about the landscape, whether that was different talent, that was now open to doing stuff online that never had done that before having brands rethink their approach to working with influencers or different platforms. So much of our business was based on shoots and, you know, in-person interviews or entertainment experiences like onsite activations and all of that was gone.
1 (6m 14s):
So we had to really get creative and think about what were the new ways of doing that and being able to be on the forefront of that and being able to think about that in a different way, allowed us to build a business that was very solid. And it also enabled us to be really strong as partners to have to really rely on one another. I think so much of, COVID also taught you about yourself and about how you approach the world. And we were able to take that thinking and really translate that into success for our,
0 (6m 50s):
So maybe before it lets you go on this topic, just give us one quick thing. Like looking back hindsight is 2020. We all make mistakes. What's something that you would have done differently. Knowing what you know. Now
1 (7m 1s):
I would say that we would probably have created a little bit more of a rule book early on. We both have 20 plus years experience in this industry and VR and variations of the industry, whether it's law PR, marketing publishing advertising, we, we we've touched all of it. And being able to, we probably would have created a bit more of a rule book, a playbook if you will earlier on, instead of learning some of these things along the way, but also part of the success is learning along the way and finding, finding our way through some of it
0 (7m 38s):
Dialed in early Fire Nation. But as Samantha mentioned, you know, be flexible, know that things are gonna come up, you might not expect. So you need to be agile and be willing to make moves, adjust pivots, Hilla. Let's talk about priorities when starting a business. You guys obviously had a lot of things to do overall, but what were like the things that you really prioritize when you first got official partner running?
2 (8m 4s):
We chose to work with, we wanted to have clients that had our shared values. And I think that because we're small and we're building, you know, it's easy to get bogged down in things that take your time. That might not be, you know, where you want to go. And really being able to say no to certain things and really just focus on the things that we wanted to work on, you know, was one of our priorities starting out and, and continues to be, you know, we, we like look at every client that comes through is can we add value? You know, can you execute on the mission that we put together, put, put together for you?
2 (8m 46s):
And you know, if the answer is yes, then, you know, we're ready to go
0 (8m 50s):
Looking back kind of the similar question that I asked Samantha, what's something that maybe prioritized where now you look back and you're like, you know what, that didn't have to be a priority. Like it was obviously something that we did. And at some point we had to do, but maybe didn't have to be a top priority. Was there something that fits that bill
2 (9m 11s):
Starting the business in the pandemic really took a lot of that stuff out of the mix because we had to prioritize, you know, figuring out how we're going to make money during this pandemic and keep the business going. And we didn't really have time to get bogged down in other things that were not necessary. You know, we wanted to make sure that we were servicing people, getting them what they needed during this time, because our clients also were not sure about where things were going and what they were going to be doing. So we were always a member of, you know, a big part of their team. So we just, you know, we had to sort of pivot and I don't think, I think that starting the business right before the pandemic didn't give us that luxury.
2 (9m 59s):
Yeah. We really didn't have time to think about it. We just sort of had to go.
1 (10m 4s):
I think one of the challenges that we had was like with networking, right? Because the, our ways of networking, we're going out to events, meeting people, lunches, breakfast, whatever, what have you. And those that all went away. So as Hilla said, we didn't really have the luxury of thinking about certain minutia. We had to really roll up our sleeves and say, okay, we physically can't be together. We physically can't be with our clients. How do we ensure that we're getting the best information possible, the best Intel possible, the best, you know, relationship building among people that, that matter for our clients, how do we continue to do that?
1 (10m 47s):
And it was kind of a blessing in a way, because we didn't have to worry about certain things. It was like, let's make sure we got a website up and let's make sure that we have all of the proper, you know, paperwork and what have you figured out. But for the most part, I think it helped us really think through growing our business and jiving
0 (11m 9s):
By our nation. We're going to talk about the best strategies for choosing the right talent for your brand. We're gonna talk about the greatest lessons that these two ladies learned from their first year as founders and so much more when we get back from thanking our sponsors, if you're a startup founder, you know, early decisions can be the difference between success and failure. One decision that thousands of successful founders have made is choosing Stripe as their payments platform. Over the past decade, Stripe has made processing payments, simple and borderless, enabling ambitious businesses like Shopify, Lyft, and Kickstarter to grow revenue and expand to new markets quickly. By partnering with Stripe, you can free up your team to focus on other areas of your business.
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0 (12m 33s):
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1 (13m 40s):
It always starts with looking at the big picture of where do you want your business to go? What are you trying to achieve? And depending on the investment of the talent, whether that's an expert in influencer or celebrity is really understanding what can you do to support this initiative and how do you ensure that you're building a long-standing relationship with the right person, you know, tree, the digital era. It was very much like TV and print, and you slapped a celebrity in there and you let it go. And it, and it worked for the most part, but as media evolved in the media landscape evolved, so did leveraging, you know, experts, celebrities, or influencers.
1 (14m 26s):
And to me, the most important thing is to ensure that you have the means both from a teaming staff, staff standpoint, budget standpoint, resources, standpoint, media standpoint, to support the face that you're putting in there. So, you know, people don't just watch network TV anymore and see the same commercial consumers are constantly getting their information and their entertainment through different channels. So you have to really understand who your consumer is, what they're interested in and ensure that you put the right face there. That's going to resonate there and it doesn't feel fake or forced, but also at the same time, we always tell our clients, you have to manage those relationships.
1 (15m 10s):
You can't just assume you throw up one social post without any support around it, that it's going to do anything for your business. And that's, I think that's really critical when picking talent or relationships or partnerships, however, that is, and it has to work within the bigger picture of where your business is going. Otherwise it feels very disjointed and it won't do anything for you.
2 (15m 32s):
Yeah. I agree with that. And I also think that, you know what Samantha said about managing the talent and continuing with the relationship, the best thing you can do is get the talent excited about your product so that they really like it and it feels authentic. So it doesn't, it doesn't feel like, you know, it's a, it's a job. It, it, again, they get invested in it and then sometimes maybe create long-term relationships.
0 (15m 55s):
I think one thing that a lot of entrepreneurs do forgets is keeping their finger on the pulse of that big picture. So I love that you brought that up and you're really talking about that, you know, when it comes to choosing the right talent and really the right strategies for everything you're doing. So Fire Nation absorb this, understand this, make sure you're always stepping back from time to time and looking at that overall big picture. Now, Hilla, I want to stay with you for a second here. And have you share your greatest lesson from your first year as a founder and Samantha you're coming up next?
2 (16m 29s):
I think the most interesting thing is the idea that now as a founder, you're accountable for everything in the company. And, you know, I always had someone else to sort of have my back or lean on or someone else that was accountable. If, if, you know, if it went there, but you know, now, you know, the buck stops here. So I, you know, I have to make sure that I'm delivering. And I think that it was a great lesson and it was something that I really enjoy doing this year, you know, really digging in, managing my time, getting results for the clients during the pandemic, seeing the results in real time, because that's one thing that's great about our business is that we do things that you see in the media, in the press, in the news.
2 (17m 16s):
So I will be at a dinner party and someone will say, oh, I saw this thing. And I knew that I had a hand in it, which, you know, that's really exciting and fun that you can actually see it in real time. But I think, you know, having, you know, having this feeling that everything, there's no one I can sort of turn around and say, Hey, what's going on. It's really all about, you know, doing the job. And I thought that was, I think that's sort of a big lesson that I learned this year.
1 (17m 45s):
Well, we're all about the S and I to have a similar experience to where I worked, you know, for someone else, for many different people for over 20 years, some big corporations in some small, and while we're always about the yes, and we always want to over deliver for clients, there's also an time and a place to say no, and that's okay. And that if people really aren't aligned with what you can do for them and have, you know, truly believe in you, and then it's okay to say, I just don't think this is the right time. And I think so often we're so scared to say no, or we're so scared to take a big risk that we feel like, you know, back to your point before that's so sh could be so short term when, when you take a step back and look at the big picture and you realize, and remember why you're doing what you're doing, whatever business it is, whatever the, the main goal is.
1 (18m 40s):
You know, it's really important to have confidence in the power of a no, as well as the yes. And I think that's critically important for all businesses.
0 (18m 52s):
So Fire Nation, I really hope you're taking in this really interesting conversation that we're having about actually starting a business during a very difficult time. And if you look back over the decades and the generations, some of the strongest and best businesses were built during the toughest times, I mean, you go back and you look at the Airbnbs of the world, the Amazons of the world during the.com burst. I mean, these companies learn to be antifragile, which is a fantastic book, highly recommend it. And this is kind of the stuff that hill and Samantha are talking about here as to why they're not necessarily looking back at their launch during this time that we're in right now is a bad thing, but Hey, this is really having them grow this anti-fragile type business.
0 (19m 34s):
So give us one key takeaway, Samantha, like what's one thing that you really want to make sure our listeners get from everything that we talked about here today. Just one clear crystal concise thing, and then we'll pass it to you Hilla for the same question, one key takeaway, then we'll say goodbye.
1 (19m 54s):
Don't let fear stop you from going after your dreams.
2 (19m 59s):
One key takeaway is that's lose focus. You can get distracted by a lot of noise, things that other people are saying or talking about or panic or things, especially during, you know, the last two years. And I think that you just have to keep focusing on doing what you do. You, we, you know, and you know, I always say to people, you know what you do just do it. And don't, it goes back to Samantha's point about fear. I mean, fear plays a part in it, but keep focused, do what you know, how to do and everything else will fall into place
0 (20m 35s):
While we have you. Why don't you share the best ways that Fire Nation can connect with you, Samantha, your company, your brands, any call to action you have for our listeners. And then we'll say goodbye.
2 (20m 46s):
We're on official partner agency on Instagram. And we often post
0 (20m 51s):
Our projects and we have a website official dash.com Fire Nation. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You've been hanging out with SW, HN and JLD today. So keep up the heats head over to eofire.com type Samantha or Hilla that's H I L L A in the search bar, the showman's page will pop up with links to everything and Samantha Hilla. Thank you for sharing your truth, knowledge value with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side. Hey, Fire Nation today's value bombs were brought to you by Samantha and Hilla and Fire Nation. Do you have an online store idea?
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0 (22m 14s):
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