This week we're in New York with Tanya Alvarez, founder of OwnersUp. Tanya was so dynamic and passionate about her mission it was infectious! Tanya gives some interesting insight into her business as well as the previous businesses she has built & grown.
Tell me about your journey so far.
I started my first company at 25 years old. When I graduated in 2000, the stock market just dropped and everyone was staying away from startups but I still wanted to go into startups. I worked at 4 different startups for about 6 months each and learned so much. It was an intense time. Then at 25 I decided to do my first company, which was BlinkAds. I was fortunate enough for it to grow, gross over $1 million in the first year and then from there I invested in two other companies and raised money for a fourth. It’s continued to be an incredible journey since then.
When I was about to start the first company, I went to my Mom and said “I think I might start a company but I’m really scared”. She said, “What are you scared of?”. I was worried about what would happen if I failed, I was concerned that no-one would hire me afterwards if it didn’t work out. She then said, “well if someone isn’t going to hire you because you failed while setting up your own company, then you wouldn’t want to work at that company anyway. Even if you fail, you’ll still be at the same situation you could be in now, needing to look for another opportunity”. Of course she was right, so I jumped in and it was the best situation ever. It’s better actually for me not to know as much because you’re able to be creative, break some rules and start making your own rules in some sense.
Tell me about the businesses you ran prior to OwnersUp.
My first company, I took from bootstrapping it to having it acquired (BlinkAds - a performance based online marketing agency). Then my second company (LaCosmopoLatina) was more about reaching, and understanding, my Latin roots; I was targeting that audience and giving them a voice. The other business was just a xml search service, helping companies to get more visits to their websites. Then the fourth company (Spokesmoms) was really about helping Moms choose the best products for their lifestyle. At Spokesmoms, Moms can find reviews on products from like-minded moms to aid in the quest for finding the best product for mom and baby.
OwnersUp - The story so far
Why did you start OwnersUp?
I can't see another solopreneur struggle or quit their dream because they didn't have resources or directions. OwnersUP was started to empower solopreneurs to grow their business via peer group & expert facilitators, to have peace of mind and not feel alone pursuing their dream and making positive impact. I have been an athlete all my life and I realized why not take the structure of what team sport athletes have been doing for ages and implement it for service based small businesses. Like athletes, our entrepreneurs are: working towards similar goals and encouraging one another; reviewing & reflecting on their performances; logging & tracking their daily activities; and receiving guidance and helpful nudges by coaches to get them out of their comfort zone. We make this all feasible with special blend of weekly video calls and powerful and easy to use software to keep entrepreneurs engaged.
How has OwnersUp progressed so far?
We only started a year ago. I definitely believe in the lean method so what I did immediately was reach out to some friends. I reached out to those that wanted to help with marketing and I said “Why don’t you join this group?” – its five people who can help you and it’s cheaper than my hourly rate. They all jumped in and learned so much; since then we’ve developed a whole format and our beta software was released this month.
Final Thoughts & Advice
What is your advice for those who are starting their business now?
I would say stop reading so much online about starting a new business, stop taking online classes and just do it. The best experience is on the ground, interacting with the customers and getting out there. Everyone is always really hard on themselves and you’re never going to get past that, you just have to be confident and get on with it.
Where do you see OwnersUp going in the future?
OwnersUP future is to: grow the community to over 800 solopreneurs and license our software to organisations that coach people to be better. We also want to offer scholarships to underprivileged who want to start their own business or non-profits who empower entrepreneurs.