Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amilya Antonetti – Serial Entrepreneur Interview

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with a prolific female entrepreneur, Amilya Antonetti, whose bio on Twitter (@amilya) lists her as an “Award Winning Entrepreneur, Green Pioneer Bestselling Author, Media Personality, Advocate and Mom.” She is one of the few people I know who is even more impressive in person than her bio. Here are some highlights from Amilya:

Marty: Welcome to Startup Professionals interviews. Tell us what you do.

Amilya: I have to chuckle at this first question - as a mom, business owner, and entrepreneur, it might be easier to ask what I don’t do. In a nutshell, I have been a serial entrepreneur since the age of 17, with my first business exit before I could buy a drink. I went on to participate in several other ventures, including founding and growing Soapworks, two years as a business expert on CNBC, publishing a book, founding AMA Productions, and co-founding Lucky Napkin. I am also a mom of a teen and a tot, so I’m always on the move.

Marty: When and why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

Amilya: I am not so sure I chose this path, it’s more like that’s who I have always been. From my earliest memories, I was the one who saw new ways of doing everyday tasks. I naturally gathered people, identified talents, and had a knack for not just motivating, but moving a group to one common goal. I didn’t attach the word entrepreneur with my being until I began winning “Company to Watch,” “Fastest Under 40,” and all those new headlines years after I had already ventured turning my passions into a profitable company.

Marty: Was your first business venture a positive and learning experience?

Amilya: I see everything as positive and an opportunity to learn, even the parts of my journey that you may need to break out a tissue for. I would not change a thing. My best of times and my worst of times have allowed me to look in the mirror and check, validate, or test who I am. If you can’t tell yet, I wake up smiling and have yet to find something that doesn’t have a bright side. Challenging? You bet! Frustrating? Yep, that too, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Marty: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a woman entrepreneur from your perspective?

Amilya: That’s easy, I don’t have an amazing wife to help me…smiling. For me, as a successful business woman I have had the pleasure of meeting so many of the “women to watch” and female success stories, and in so many cases we have to build or hire extra helping hands to handle that list of “to do’s.” The role of a woman in business combined with the blessing of children is still an artful balance we are learning to have in our lives. For me, because I am a woman, I have introduced very unique ideas into my businesses, from having groceries ready to go home with my team on Fridays, laundry and dry cleaning pick-ups during the work day, house cleaning and yard mending as monthly motivators, and so on.

Marty: How has the business world changed since you first started?

Amilya: The business world has changed so much in many respects and then again not at all in others. I am the master of guerilla marketing and without those skills, I would never have competed and won against industry giants. What had to be done door-by-door and person-by-person, now can go viral on Facebook and Twitter. When birthing my first companies I spent hours in libraries and in research centers gathering tons of information. Now with a click of a button so much is at our fingertips. What was so true then and remains in play today are the basics of business. People buy from people they like and trust. Your team is critical in any success, and so often it’s more who you know than what you know.

Marty: What is a key personal attribute you see in successful entrepreneurs?

Amilya: There are so many. I think in order to be a successful entrepreneur you need to have your passion and your purpose aligned. So often these two ingredients are out of sync and it’s a clear indicator to me that the venture is not going to work. Next, I think you have to have tenacity, determination, and a belief system that cannot be shaken, ever. Last, but definitely not least, is focus. All too often I meet people who do not have the crystal clear focus needed to be successful as an entrepreneur.

Marty: Any advice you would like to give to someone contemplating a startup?

Amilya: My advice would be that experience is worth millions, while advice is worth a dime. Never confuse advice and real time experience especially in a startup phase. As an entrepreneur, you need to be okay with marching to a different tune. When I’m inside my bubble, my world makes complete sense to me. It may not be them, but it’s ME! And if you choose this road, know it’s YOU! They are the norm and you are not.

Marty: Amilya, thanks for the time and the insightful comments. You have had an amazing career so far, but somehow I expect that the best is yet to come!

Marty Zwilling