Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business solutions but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Victoria Zavyalova, Co-Founder & Partner of V Startup Agency, located in New York, NY, USA.
What’s your business, and who are your customers?
I run a boutique P.R. agency focusing primarily on tech and innovation. Most of our clients are later-stage startups, V.C. funds, accelerators, as well as book authors and artists who innovate. But we deal with any business that finds our approach and experience useful and effective. For example, we have worked with one of the world’s biggest diamond mining companies on their sustainability and blockchain projects. Also, at the height of the pandemic, we helped Masks4all, the movement for the widespread use of homemade masks, to run their global awareness campaign. I’d say the range of our clients changes depending on the innovation curve. When we started in New York six years ago, we worked with a lot of voice recognition and mixed reality (A.R. and V.R.) companies. During the crypto boom, we helped to launch a few fantastic NFT projects and an Art+Tech accelerator. Nowadays, it’s mostly about A.I. and the Creator Economy. I also have another business that is my soul project, The Vertical. It’s a media platform focusing on immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. and unrelated to my P.R. agency. Nearly 80% of America’s unicorn, billion-dollar companies have foreign-born co-founders, CEOs, or V.P.s. They are driven and contribute tremendously to the economy. This project was born during COVID out of a desire to inform, connect, and support immigrant tech entrepreneurs.
Tell us about yourself
I was a science and technology journalist for many years, and I absolutely loved it. That was one of the happiest periods of my life because I was meeting brilliant scientists and tech entrepreneurs. I had a great time traveling to international events in Europe, the U.S., and Asia, from Helsinki to Seoul. However, I always felt that as a journalist, I wasn’t making anyone’s life better. I simply reported on an issue, new technology, or scientific research and moved to another topic. I soon realized that most startups and V.C. funds had issues communicating their projects. The quality of their pitches and press releases, as well as those from their P.R. agents, were very much substandard. It was especially the case with international startups that were trying to generate buzz in the very competitive English-language media in the U.S. and the U.K. I felt that this service would be a great niche to fill. Later, when the multimedia project I worked for merged with a bigger group that didn’t correspond to my principles, the choice was obvious. I moved to New York, the primary destination for global businesses, and co-founded an agency. We immediately landed one of the city’s biggest accelerators as a client and haven’t looked back since then. People and ideas are still my biggest motivation to date, and I enjoy working with so many driven individuals and exciting projects.
What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I’ve been pretty good at building a high-quality network. There are founders who are constantly out there, at every event and on social media, promoting themselves non-stop. Our sales process has been very easy: my former clients and connections refer us to other companies.
What’s one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Navigating the unknown. Sometimes you have to pivot, introduce an entirely new strategy or completely change your focus. And you have to do so fast to survive and thrive. Since 2020, we have gone through a few transitions. For me, it wasn’t easy. My brain is resistant to change, I appreciate traditions, and I have loved working with people or projects for a long time. But we had to adapt to the changing market conditions. We live in a disruptive world, so business owners have to be agile and embrace the turbulence.
What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- First, you have to fall in love with what you do. If you believe your idea will bring a lot of money, but you aren’t passionate about it, you might be able to succeed in the short term. But you won’t be able to deal with the tough times that all businesses inevitably face, so eventually, you’ll crack and give up.
- Secondly, don’t overthink. So many people are perfecting their business plans, procrastinating, and delaying implementation. Organizing is awesome, but the problem is that life has a habit of interfering with your perfect plans, and things might go south pretty quickly. Start doing something, even baby steps, if you aren’t ready to launch yet. You’ll be surprised by how fast people and resources will come.
- Finally, you simply have to focus and allocate a certain number of hours each day while avoiding burnout. If you are often distracted, watching Netflix while sending emails or treating yourself to a glass of wine at 3 pm, the results will be obvious. Another extreme is working non-stop and being available 24/7, which is the easiest path to burnout. And as a business owner, you can’t afford this.
- Integrate productivity tools into your day. For example, I use the Pomodoro Technique, the time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It breaks work into intervals. But what works for me might not work for you. Just be mindful of your time, the events you attend, the people you let into your life, and all other resources.
First published in Go Solo