Behind every Canadian in the entertainment industry is an overwhelming amount of support...or, at least, that’s what what we’ll be able to say in the future if Amira de Vera gets her way!
Like many of us, Amira never imagined being an entrepreneur. However, what started as a way to keep herself busy after quitting her 9-5, evolved into a fruitful career within the entertainment PR industry. After realizing the lack of support for Canadian talent (unless, of course, they have a big break south of the border), Amira saw a unique opportunity for her PR expertise to solve this problem.
As the Owner/Founder of Project Four Public Relations, Amira represents a diverse roster of talent, supporting them through publicity with everything from media relations to charitable partnerships. (In fact, we’ve had the chance to share the stories of a number of her incredible clients like Dr. Nekessa Remy, Kat Stefankiewicz, Vanessa Gianfrancesco, Bahar Niramwalla and more!) With a natural ability to develop strategic relationships, Amira is putting Canadian talent on the world’s radar, one piece of press coverage at a time - a mission we can totally get behind.
Here’s Amira on how cold e-mailing, mentors and a valuable network are key to growing your biz:
Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade?
Absolutely! The birth of my business came from that exact concept. Just days before my 30th birthday, I had quit a full-time job and at the time, after being an employee for all of my 20s, the idea of being an entrepreneur was completely foreign to me. Having no job opportunities lined up, I explored the idea of working freelance as a way to keep myself occupied. One client turned to two, which turned to four, which turned to eight and before I knew it I had a full roster of talent in my hands. I took this as a sign that it was something I needed to pursue full time and a year and a half later, I haven’t looked back.
After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?
People are often surprised that a lot of my clients have come through from cold e-mailing. When you own your own business and you’re essentially the only person responsible for its growth, you can’t be afraid to take risks. If you see something and, in your gut, feels like the right decision for your business, trust that instinct. For me, I knew the best way to grow my business was to go after the talent I wanted to represent – even if it means at first, they say no – and you’d be surprised how many yeses you do actually get!
I am also extremely lucky because I have incredible clients and people within the industry that support me. Referrals and word-of-mouth has been integral to the growth of my business. They say as a public relations professional; your value is in your network. This is 100% true. I continue to foster and cultivate these valuable relationships I have made in the last decade as well as grow my network, which has in turn helped my business expand.
“One client turned to two, which turned to four, which turned to eight and before I knew it I had a full roster of talent in my hands.”
How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?
I don’t believe in playing it safe. Not in life or in business. Ever since I can remember, any major life decision I have ever made has come from fear. The good kind of fear that is actually disguised as excitement. I think it’s important to calculate your risks of course, but at the end of the day, I believe the more you hesitate on a decision the more you actually risk because you can potentially lose out on so much. Everything I have done so far as an entrepreneur has been risky. Some decisions have led to success and of course some have not. To me though, nothing is ever permanent, and everything happens for a reason. So, although a decision may have led to a less than ideal situation, it was a great lesson learned and I can never look back in regret.
How do you measure success in your career?
It’s super cliché, but to me success lies in your happiness. Are you waking up every day fueled with passion and fire for the things you are working on? Is this something that you could see yourself doing for the rest your life? If the answer is yes to those questions, then I’m succeeding. The minute it feels otherwise then I know it’s time to re-evaluate.
If you could attend a dinner party with 3 women of your choice - past or present - who would they be?
Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Anna Wintour. Not only are these women incredible business people but they have completely revolutionized their industries. What I would give to pick their brain and just listen to them speak!
You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?
I don’t have a particular ritual to get myself in a specific headspace, instead, I take the time to do research on the person I’m meeting with. Not only does it arm you with the information you need to have a successful meeting, but it’s also respect to the person who is giving you time out of their day. My biggest pet peeve is when the person knows nothing about me or my company. In this day and age, it takes less than 10 minutes to go online and find out about someone and their business. Everyone’s time is a precious resource, honour that by being educated and informed before walking into the meeting. It goes a very long way.
Do you have a mentor? What role have they played in your success?
I don’t have one particular mentor, but I am incredibly blessed to have people in the industry who support me and have been crucial to my growth. Two particular women I want to give a shout-out to are Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski of rock-it promotions and Valerie Stachurski of Charming Media. I am so grateful to have these amazing women who not only have given me so much valuable advice when it comes to growing my business, but they have been amazing role models. Their successes are something I have admired for years and I am very lucky to have their guidance. That kind of mentorship is invaluable.
What impact are you making through your work?
I always tell people that one of the main reasons I do what I do is because the minute I started working in this industry, I was, and still am, amazed by all the incredible talent that this country has. What really baffled me was how little support there was for them. This country breeds some of the world’s most talented actors, musicians, tv personalities, directors, producers and more – you name it, we got it! But for some reason, when it comes to bragging about them, we wait till they make it big in the States or we completely dismiss them and instead, talk about the stars that Americans breed. We lack a Canadian Star System and hopefully doing what I do, we can slowly change that. Thanks to people like Drake, we are on our way there and have progressed quite exponentially since I began my career in entertainment PR, but we still have a long way to go. The more I get my clients out there talking proudly about their work and their Canadian roots, then the more impact I hope I am making.
What is one book and/or podcast that you believe every woman should read or listen to?
I am currently making my way through “200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World.” It is inspiring, empowering and incredible to hear these women’s stories.
What is something on your bucket list?
I am a huge animal lover and advocate and one day I hope to own a sanctuary where rescue animals can live their best lives. I also want to visit and stay at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya!
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