In Conversation with Amanda Cey DeMonaco of beLeaf Retreat

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Describe your business in a few words?

My new venture is called beLeaf Retreat, and it’s an immersive and virtual plant-based weekend experience that will take place on Jan 9 & 10, 2021. We’ve built a custom, animated platform and have 20 amazing leaders on board that will be guiding our participants through some really important activities and discussions. Once the pandemic is over and live events return, it will likely morph into some other things!

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I started my 1st company at age 30, and I just really wanted to work for myself, doing something that I am passionate about, and using my creativity.  I didn’t have a ton of event planning experience at the time, but I figured I’d give it a shot.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I worked a variety of jobs in PR and marketing early on, and then for some big agents in LA, and finally ended up working as a Litigation Paralegal for a bunch of years, as I thought I wanted to go to law school. I got a good mix of experience that led me to where I am now. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

When I was 7 years old, I collected golf balls around our home in Arizona. I then cleaned them in the bathtub and sold them back to the pro shop at the golf club. I think that was a good sign. I also never really liked having  to go into an office every day, so entrepreneurial life and pandemic life work well for me:)

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I had a consultant early on that told me to cold call like 100 people a day, or some silly number of targets. It was horrible and terrifying. Somewhere around my 30th call I spoke to a woman at Adobe that was in the midst of planning an event but needed help. They were one of my very first clients! I do think I gave up cold calling after that, as Facebook had just really started taking off. I was so excited that I could just share what I did online and hope for people to see it. I also invested in SEO pretty early on, so started to get people reaching out to me which was just amazing. Then it was just a matter of time before it started really taking off.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Oh, wow… there have been quite a few. Owning your own business is filled with constant challenges and mistakes, so those are common occurrences. At least they have been for me;) I think the hardest part is always not knowing what’s going to happen next, so you have to get comfortable with that and make sure that you account for periods of feast and famine.

What is the accomplishment you are the proudest of to date?

I’m most proud of my current venture, beLeaf Retreat. It’s my first event of my own, of this scale at least. All of my events prior were for big companies, so it was super fun creating something that has a lot of personal meaning behind it. beLeaf Retreat stemmed from my frustration with the pandemic and my love for all things plant-based.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The live event industry has been completely decimated. It’s very sad and I think it’s still going to be quite some time until we see large scale live events return. Many are hoping for a comeback around April of 2021, so we’ll see what happens with the vaccine. Everyone’s had to just figure out an entirely new plan, which is really hard. Pivoting to virtual is not just like this super easy thing that you do overnight either…there are a ton of complexities to it as well. A lot of planners are just kind of getting left in the dust.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I think we’ll have to see how the launch of beLeaf Retreat goes in January 2021, and if that’s a success – I think we’ll be able to start fleshing out more of a plan for the year. I think that the next ones will be a lot easier now that we’ve built a custom platform and kind of have things in place, so could do a few virtual events per year and then hopefully move back into a variety of live events. My original idea was actually a 2-day live summit and veg fest here in SF, so would like to start thinking about that soon. I think we’ll also do some fun plant-based retreats as well once we return to traveling as well. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Well, it’s not over yet…haha 😉 I think the word of the year is pivot, which I’m sure everyone is super sick of hearing. But 2020 has taught me to be resilient and to fight back. It’s allowed me the opportunity to create something of my own with true meaning and purpose. 

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I have two little girls and they often remind me that what I’m doing is not nearly as important as them.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Oh man, this is a hard one. I do believe in it but sometimes it’s incredibly impossible to maintain. I have a peloton bike literally next to my desk and I haven’t been on it in a LONG time 😉 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m actually not a huge fan of public speaking. It makes me super nervous, but I know it’s something I need to do 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Get a workout in, make sure to eat lunch (at some point ;), and turn off slack;) Totally guilty of not doing the last one!

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means taking big risks and constantly putting yourself in uncomfortable positions 😉 You can easily fold into yourself when things don’t go your way, but you’ve got to keep going. It doesn’t always work out, but there’s always lessons there. 

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