There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: AdaPia d’Errico, the Chief Marketing Officer of leading real estate crowdfunding platform Patch of Land. AdaPia has had a storied career. She started her career in banking and then transitioned to entertainment branding and licensing. AdaPia is the cofounder of two businesses. She’s coached entrepreneurs and startups, taught and mentored business students, and is a member of several groups and organizations that encourage women in business and match women-led businesses with investors.
As the very first hire at Patch of Land, AdaPia has helped strengthen the brand to be the market leader in its industry. You can find her on Twitter @adapia.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
AdaPia d’Errico: I wanted to be many things growing up. When I was around 5 years old, I wanted to be a paleontologist because I loved dinosaurs. Then, I became obsessed with sea animals and decided I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I was 10, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and beyond that age I decided that no matter the career, I wanted to be a successful businesswoman, making an impact in my job and company and climbing to great career heights.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
D’Errico: During the financial collapse of 2008, I was working for a hedge fund in Switzerland. At the time I didn’t know it, but I had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, which would often get me in trouble because I wasn’t an “obey the rules, do as you’re told” employee. I was always seeking ways to improve upon existing processes, and to find opportunities to leverage efficiencies, technologies and social trends to gain a better understanding of the underlying business.
After the deepest and darkest days of the fund’s struggle, when we knew we had made it through to the other side safely, I decided to go rogue. My sister, who is an artist, needed help setting up a company structure. I saw the limitless potential of her art, so we went into business together. We started with zero marketing budget, a MySpace page, a 20-person email list and got our first licensing contract for a journal with her art on the cover. During this time I dove headfirst into the entertainment, publishing, licensing, gaming and consumer brands industries and realized my passion for change, improvement and progress had been in my blood all along. I embraced these qualities to continue pushing ahead with new career goals.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
D’Errico: I’m very fortunate to have had a wide variety of life experiences—some bad and some amazing—including traveling around the world and living abroad for 11 years. My overall experience has opened my mind, giving me a much better understanding of people and the interconnectedness of everything and everyone.
I don’t think there was one pivotal moment on my way to success. It was a combination of everything I’ve experienced in life. If I had to choose something, I would say it was when I embraced my inner entrepreneur and started a business with my sister. It forced me to go out of my comfort zone and truly embrace myself for who I am.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
D’Errico: The best advice I’ve ever received and given is: Go for it. After reading Richard Branson’s biography, this line stuck out and sticks with me to this day: “Screw it, let’s do it!” I’ll add a caveat—make sure you’ve done some preliminary research. I’m all about jumping in headfirst, but without background research, a basic plan and goals, you can quickly feel overwhelmed. With that said, persistence and determination are extremely important; if you reach a bump in the road, keep going. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve your goals.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
D’Errico: Believe in yourself and value what you have to offer in skills and qualities. Highlight the assets and traits that make you who you are, and hire people who have the skills and traits your businesses needs, but that may not be your strongest. Surrounding yourself with others whose talents and experience and skills enhance your own means you’ve built a supercharged team. No one achieves success on their own; those who achieve success do so by having a team of people that work like a honed, synchronistic machine.
On a practical level, being organized and task-oriented really helps. You have to mix the vision with the operations—especially at first because you most likely have to be everyone, every role, every department, in your new venture. There are so many software applications out there today to help with organization and productivity—use them! They make a huge difference to every part of your life.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?
D’Errico: Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy. It’s inspiring to hear the statistics around how many people have started their own businesses in the last several years and how that has helped America regain a leadership position in technology, innovation and even manufacturing. My prediction is we’ll continue to see a rise in small businesses, especially in the technology industry, and that we’ll begin to see these companies raise their equity capital through the crowdfunding regulations of the JOBS Act thanks to Title IV. This year  will be remembered for opening the floodgates to capital raising online for all investors.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
D’Errico: I read a lot of books and have been an avid reader since I was a child so I’ll go with one of my recent favorites: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I also recommend an eye-opening look at modern media with his book Trust Me, I’m Lying.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
D’Errico: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” —Earl Nightingale
I love that quote because you only have one life to live, so don’t waste it. Even if you won’t reach your goal for months or years, you should still strive for it. The time will pass anyway, so make the most of it and accomplish something—even if it seems unattainable. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve if you never give up.
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