Ambra Schillirò – CEO Interview
When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
It was the beginning of 2013. I was managing different clients for one company and I figured I should open a company since I was already able to manage so many clients.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus and why)?
I’m a journalist, so it was only natural that I start a PR + Marketing company. I haven’t switched focus in all these years, but I recently diversified by opening an ice cream shop and a murder mystery dinner event company.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
It took me a few years to realize I could do it. I have to thank my entire family, most of all my dad. I was scared to take the leap, but they supported me and they pushed me a lot. My dad told me a few months before passing away from cancer that I had to chase my dream, that it was time and I shouldn’t be afraid because we have only one life, and we need to pursue our dreams with passion.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
My family, and especially my dad. Also my former colleagues in Italy. There’s also one I consider my mentor, Giuseppe Attardi. He keeps telling me to go ahead even now, to reach the best that I can. Every time I see his messages it reminds me of my dad and I start crying. And of course my business partner, without him believing in the project we couldn’t have done it.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
I would say my dad and my mum. My dad taught me how to chase my dreams, how not to give up and how to fight with everything that I have for justice and for what is right. My mum kept me going with smiling and, also when everything was and is wrong, she keeps repeating me that I’m stronger than that. Of course I cannot forget my brother. Also him, in the worst period of my life, reminded me that I could do it.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
When I left the big company I was working for everything changed. Everybody was listening to me and open their door for me. Then, all of a sudden, everybody disappeared. I was no longer Ambra working for the biggest independent food and beverage company in Asia, I was one of the billions people pushing hard to succeed. I struggled in the beginning, mentally, to find clients, because it was almost like everything I had done in the past had happened, no one remembered what I had done, they didn’t know my team. I chose on purpose to hire a young team who were willing to learn and to chase their dreams, but they didn’t have polished CVs or big networks. I kept going, I didn’t give up. I woke up everyday working more and more.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
When people need you, you are their best friend, but if you ask them to something you need help with, they disappear.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
Being chosen to work with Ferrero even though we were a super small company.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?
I think the weirdest experience was always hiring people. I received really weird CVs, like people that wanted to work in marketing and they sent me a CV with a pole dancing experience, or a woman sending me the CV with her picture and she had a shoe in her hand. I just laughed. Those situation in some cases can actually make your day better because you at least have a good laugh.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
Treating this company as a family and cultivate young people as employees.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
Too much trust and hiring family members. I was incredibly naive and let several clients be incredibly pissed off with my company because I had too much trust at some points in some employees. Not everyone is able to accept and deserve your trust. It was lack of judgment from my side.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
For the first months from January to March we struggled a lot. The majority of the clients were not interested in doing marketing and PR as they had to cut costs. Plus our main office is in China, and we were the country where everything started, so a lack of trust in Chinese companies didn’t help.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
Exploring everything that is new and changing everyday in the marketing and social media area. In China everything is so fast and you always need to learn everyday something new and something more than the others to make it.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?
I’m not a “daily routine person” I’m afraid. The only things I’m always able to do as routine are my Korean 10 steps beauty routine day and night and meditation. Reading books and watching dramas help me to relax a lot, but I cannot consider them a “routine.”
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
Never give up. As long as you have a dream, as long as you are willing to work for it, with not just your mind but also your soul and your heart you will succeed. It can take time, years, but it will work in the end.
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About the Community
On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.
Discover through these amazing episodes the courage to open your mind, heart, and soul to the world so you can be the best entrepreneur possible, respect the people you work with, and improve the world with your company while not hurting others or yourself in the process.
Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.