Liana Zavo is the Founder & CEO of ZavoMedia Group a NYC-based full service public relations, and digital marketing agency.
In a span of six years, I transitioned from being a celebrity stylist and designer to the CEO of my own public relations and digital marketing agency. It wasn’t easy, but throughout my life, I have learned many valuable lessons on grit, determination and passion that helped get me to where I am today and that I believe can help other entrepreneurs.
Below are my top four business lessons for new entrepreneurs:
Overcome adversities with self-acceptance.
When I was a child, my family fled from the Soviet Union and settled as refugees in Vienna, Austria, for five years. I became fascinated with the diverse European culture, and it was there that I discovered my true love for art and design. I then discovered my dream to be in the world of beauty, couture and fashion.
After immigrating to the U.S. when I was older, my father sustained the family as a restaurateur. I looked up to my father and aspired to follow in his footsteps someday. Soon, I became a parent myself at 19 years old, and after going through a divorce, I had to raise my son as a single parent. I strived to be a good role model for him. As a college dropout and a single mother, I was juggling freelance jobs while dealing with failures and financial problems.
But one day, I decided to end this misery and took small, consistent steps to change and improve myself. I reinvented myself by reading self-development books and listening to groundbreaking and motivational speakers. I learned to practice gratitude every single day, meditate and let go of my past, and I began to see life in a new light.
As an entrepreneur, your story might not be the same as mine, but we all must overcome adversity. Accept your weaknesses and find ways to develop yourself in order to move forward.
Find your mission.
Over time, I gained victories and made my name in showbusiness as a stylist and designer. I was living the dream: I hosted fashion brunches with top designers at my family’s restaurant, I attended fashion shows around the world, and my luxury accessory designs were featured in high-end fashion showrooms in Paris and New York.
However, I soon started feeling like I was entangled in a superficial world. One day, while in the midst of styling a client, another client’s daughter came in and was devastated because her parents were in the way of her ambitions. This moment changed my whole perspective. Although this career brought me joy and opportunities to work with diverse women, I realized that it didn’t bring the vulnerability I wanted to express; the fulfillment was no longer there. I decided to change direction and pursue a higher purpose.
From my perspective, stagnancy impedes growth. Everyone has the ability to grow and create bigger results for the greater good. If you feel that something is missing, look inside yourself and find out why. You might discover another new meaning to your life, and finding that mission could be your path to ultimate happiness.
Own your influence.
As a young girl, I didn’t have enough confidence and mentors to guide me through life. Once I had the resources, I decided to address this dilemma through my podcast. I envisioned a platform where successful female entrepreneurs could pass down their knowledge, share stories and inspire fellow women.
One of the most impactful experiences I’ve had so far was when I dedicated a month on my podcast to Black Lives Matter and highlighting Black women entrepreneurs who are disruptors. I was able to use my role to help empower other women, regardless of background. Through this experience, I felt I was able to impact others’ lives and support women who might not have had the opportunity to share their stories previously. Everyone should embrace their rich heritage, and become fearless in entering the arena. This is what I believe to be the true power of a strong woman.
I encourage entrepreneurs to use their platforms to uplift other voices and create circumstances that give others chances to propel forward. From my perspective, a person’s greatest achievement is when you believe in someone with all that you have and help amplify their voice so that they can use it bold and free.
Always be professional.
Earlier this year, the world’s economy dwindled because of Covid-19. Businesses were affected and forced to furlough employees or declare bankruptcy, leaving millions of people jobless. I was fortunate enough to be able to continue paying my team, taking on more women freelancers and guiding entrepreneurs on how they can approach marketing today.
However, it’s tough to navigate times of uncertainty as a business leader, and it can be especially challenging to respond to negative feedback when facing such a difficult time. Through my time in the PR space, I know that as an entrepreneur, it’s important to always learn from negative feedback, rather than taking it personally and letting your emotions get in the way. Let that criticism inform how your company will evolve in the future. Apologize to your customer for their experience, and take steps to improve.
A New Chapter Unfolds
As long as entrepreneurs continue to evolve, I believe more opportunities will come knocking at the door. Don’t be afraid to pursue new roles because the world is ever-changing. This is the time to become more confident and be proud of your achievements — big or small. Accept your vulnerabilities, and use your confidence to overcome difficulties in life. As for me, I will persist in inspiring women to strive for success, hoping that this will create more ripples to prepare the next generation of successful women entrepreneurs. We are all meant for greatness.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?