Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia Creative on creating experiences that spark curiosity, joy, and connection

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Describe your business in a few words?

East Olivia is a boutique creative agency that specializes in large-scale floral installations.

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

I have been starting businesses since I was a child, selling my crafts and babysitting. As an adult, I had an innate desire to create beautiful spaces and experiences in the world that spark curiosity, joy and connection. From there, I was further driven by being able to offer quality career opportunities, at a liveable wage, for talented creatives.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I spent the first decade of my professional career working in the music industry in L.A., specifically in marketing, artist and tour management. I wanted to do something more creative, while still utilizing my business acumen and that is when I transitioned into the aesthetic retail landscape. I spent the next five years working for Anthropologie and BHLDN in N.Y.C., where I learned and gained experience in visuals, events, social media and of course, flowers!

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I have always loved working, creating and connecting with people. From sweeping the hair at my mom’s salon to working the front desk making appointments to selling my own crafts and babysitting, I was born enjoying and having a blast while working.

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?

When I first launched as a solopreneur, I was supported largely by a small internal team. My strategy at that time was somewhat unpolished but always centered around networking, creating excellent work and sharing it on social media. And that is still our strategy today, with a bit more polish 😉

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?

The biggest mistakes I have made are almost always in misguided judgements in hiring or even partnering with the people that I did not do my due diligence in researching. You have to be really mindful of who you are putting your trust in, so now contacting references is a must. 

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Keeping my entire staff employed during the pandemic. It is important to note, that this did require salary cuts across the board and that we had to make some roles temporarily part-time, while launching a direct to consumer Forever Florals Shop. We lost all of our event business last year and this was a huge feat—but we did it!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

My go-to interview question is always ‘what lights you up about this work?’ or ‘what are your deepest interests?’ Passion is key to what we do and crucial to what we create so this answer is huge for me. My #1 tip is to always check references, even if your gut tells you the person is the right fit. It just doesn’t hurt to check them.

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

Before the pandemic hit, we were slated to go into our most profitable season of 2020, with over a half a million dollars in work booked and it evaporated overnight. Events disappeared and it forced EO to successfully pivot stat.

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

Next for EO is just to continue to recover and heal from the pandemic fallout. Events are beginning to come back and things look really exciting and busy over the next few months. It will be a longer road, as there was a lot of loss that we still need to recoup from but our team is re-energized and driven to keep growing our Forever Florals Shop and to get back into the events world.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

This too shall pass.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

That people are always your biggest asset and your greatest challenge.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Community, pure grit and determination.

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

I hope to believe in work-life balance more once we recover from 2020. I believe that it is different for every person. For me, I love to work and it is threaded in every moment of my day. But that brings me joy and that is not true for everyone. Self-regulation is really important for each person individually on our team.

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

That I am a pretty *decent* singer and can definitely carry a tune.

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

The first way I stay productive each day is by tackling the least desirable thing I have to do first and getting it out of the way. The second is being intentional with my delegation to staff, including giving consideration to each person’s strengths and challenges. And lastly, no surprise to my team here, making sure I have a fully charged backup phone battery at all times.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means creating beautiful products, meaningful career opportunities and a vibrant company culture.

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