Episode 139: Confidence and Stepping into the Role of CEO with Angelica Suarez

Stepping into the Role of CEO

2018 has been quite the year for today’s guest, Angelica Suarez, and I can’t wait to dive into this interview where we talk about growth, hiring, confidence, learning about entrepreneurship from her mom and so much more. Let’s do this.

Over the years, Angelica Suarez has morphed and evolved her businesses, her offerings and more. And in that time, she’s learned a lot of lessons that she shares in a very real way with us in this interview. One of the reasons I wanted to have Angelica on the show is that this year she’s really stepped up to be the leader of her business, and she’s got a new level of confidence that’s inspiring.

Angelica Suarez is a brand strategist focused on helping brands connect with their customers through better, more effective content and systems. With over a decade of print manufacturing experience, she is always aiming for smart solutions that incorporate both design and function. When she’s not doodling a customer experience map, creating content, or working one-on-one with business owners, you can find her spending time with her four kiddos and her husband, Jorge, who works as their company’s Director of Operations.

 

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you make money.

  • Our business is called Cultiva + Co, and we’re going through a rebrand right now, so by the time this airs, it should be live, and ready to go.
  • I started out as an independent freelancer, doing graphic design and added services on from there.
  • Right now, we work on retainers with clients doing their marketing and content creation, and we sometimes do project work.

 

What kind of services do you offer?

  • We offer graphic design, video production and editing, illustration — anything related to content or anything related to creating fun and engaging content is what we offer.
  • We also do some project management and systems work depending on where the small business owner is at.

 

How did you start your business?

  • I never thought of myself as someone who could start a business just because I had no real desire to do so.
  • Growing up, I saw my mom, who is a crafter, do her own thing, and it always seemed to work out.
  • My mom encouraged me to start my own business.
  • So, I just started an e-commerce business.
  • Once that closed, I knew I needed to do something else, but I wasn’t sure what.
  • Since I had done all the illustration work for my stamp company, I started offering logos for people.
  • When I started, I did this promo for 20 logos for $20.
  • I worked with a lot of clients really fast, and I learned a lot.
  • I had already worked in account services and customer service, so I had the etiquette down.
  • Those 20 logos were key for me to get my systems down and then evolving from there by adding services.
  • Anything that I had done for my e-commerce business, I just assumed I’d figure it out.
  • For me, it was: Do I have the skills? Do I have the experience? Then I’ll offer it.

 

How do you find clients? I know you’re working with a number of locally-based businesses now.

  • This year has taught me that you have to be realistic about your family time and your personal life.
  • As a business owner, you tend to want to jump all in or out, so we’ve worked off of referrals for the past six years.
  • It’s never a problem finding clients until it’s a problem.
  • I realize I can’t work off of referrals forever unless you have a strategy to do it.
  • Right now, we mostly get them through client referrals.

 

A lot has evolved for you and the business in 2018. Can you share how your brand and offerings have changed and what you’ve learned from this process?

  • I started off the year working with a number of ongoing retainer clients, and it showed me that my time is finite, and I can’t pack it all in.
  • It was trying to figure out how I could make this model work without sacrificing any more of my time.
  • So we brought on someone else to help us, which was great.
  • However, the process of handing things over wasn’t easy — and it still isn’t.
  • I have to be mindful of things I don’t want to do anymore so that I can show someone else how to do it, so I can hand it off to them.
  • Sometimes it’s just not the best use of my time.

 

How did you know it was time to hire, and how did you get out of your own way to do that?

  • I was so afraid of disappointing someone by not having enough work for them or it not being a good fit.
  • But my kids were not with me as much as I wanted them to be. It was summertime, and I was just done.
  • I was either going to forget everything or figure something out.
  • I felt like I was up against a wall.
  • Anytime I feel like I’m up against a wall, I realize that I don’t have to fight it and know there’s a better way that I have to figure out.
  • That’s how hiring was for me.

 

You work with your husband. How do you navigate working with your partner?

  • I don’t know if I would recommend it to just anybody.
  • I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is hard.
  • You are basically with this person all the time.
  • It’s not that you get sick of each other, it’s just that you get to see all the little things that bug you about this person.
  • I have a hard time switching between work role and home role, and I think the office has helped with that.
  • I’m my husband’s boss, and that’s really weird.
  • Make the commitment before you go into business together.
  • Our marriage comes first. If it ever comes down to the business vs our marriage, I’m always picking my husband over the business.
  • If you don’t give yourself an out, it helps you a little bit in those hard moments where you’re wondering how you’re going to figure this out.
  • Be honest if there’s not a place for your partner, and don’t try to force it.
  • It’s not easy because of health insurance and pensions and such since my husband left all of that.

 

You’re part of the Double It Mastermind, and I would love to know how this experience has contributed to everything you’ve been through and the growth you’ve had this year.

  • I was on the fence for a couple of years.
  • It felt like it was an investment in myself, and I didn’t feel like I was worth it. I didn’t feel like my ideas were worth investing like that.
  • When I finally was able to take the plunge and do it, I’m so glad because I had someone (Maggie) who I could bounce ideas off of and who understood what I was talking about.
  • Even though sometimes it’s hard for me to log in to Facebook and be a part of the community, just knowing that those people were there and that I could read what they were talking about and what they were struggling through and know that I had similar struggles as well.
  • Working virtually is totally unique to any business model that’s out there — especially when you’re working with a services business.
  • It’s a lot of one-on-one, but you’re not working in person with the client all the time.
  • I feel like you need to know about online systems, you have to know a lot about services, and I felt you were the best mentor for me in that regard because you already had all that experience.
  • When I came to you, I didn’t have to explain everything — you already knew what I was talking about.
  • It helped me grow by giving me the confirmation and the confidence to keep pushing forward and working through some of those hard questions that I had along the way.

 

What has been the most valuable part of Double It?

  • The mentorship was key for me this year.
  • Next year, I think it’s going to be more of the community aspect and networking as I’ve come out of my shell.
  • Even working in a co-working space has forced me to talk to people about my business, what I do, and how I help people.
  • Having that support system is critical for any business owner — especially if you’re a virtual business owner.
  • You need to have a strong community, and you need to have a strong mentor guiding it.

Lessons:

  1. Angelica talked candidly about hiring a team and what it took to get herself to that point but that handing things off hasn’t been easy. I don’t know about you, but I can definitely relate! I appreciate how she said she actively works on being mindful and doing the work to get them off her plate.
  2. She talked about how the best decisions come when she feels up against the wall and then she’s at peace. Knowing what will force you into making the decision and taking action is incredibly powerful as a business owner, and it can help you identify that feeling before a complete meltdown happens.
  3. Finally, Angelica made the point that leads aren’t a problem until it’s a problem and that while they work on referrals, they’re actively working on cultivating other sources as referrals may not last forever. She’s 100% right, and getting proactive so you’re in control of your leads is key!

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