Do you dream of owning your own agency one day? What about the future of your blog/YouTube channel/Instagram account, and where it will lead you to? Do your goals include a business that goes way beyond content creation for your own personal channels?
For so long my one and only goal was to be able to work for myself and work on my blog full-time. Ever since I achieved that goal and quit my 9 to 5 job (going on 2.5 years ago now!) my brain has naturally started to think about, and focus on, how to keep growing my business, my team and career goals.
Admittedly, I don’t have all of the answers (or even all of my goals) fully in place, but I’ll tell you it has been inspiring as hell to learn about our latest featured founder, Amanda Riva of THP. Still under 30 years old, Amanda turned her popular online cooking show that she started in university into a content agency that includes offices in multiple cities and a staff of over 70 people. Keep reading to learn more about Amanda Riva of THP!
Business Name: THP
Name & Title: Amanda Riva, CEO & Founder
Education: McGill University
Edit Seven: Tell us about your business, what do you do?
Amanda Riva: THP is the world’s leading provider of on-demand content and social media services. Basically, we give marketers the flexibility to create custom programs by selecting from our a la carte menu of services. Today, we have over 150 services that specialize in video, photo, recipe development, content strategy and social media. Last year, we produced over 4000 recipes – so we also eat a lot!
E7: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
AR: THP started as The Hot Plate, a little online cooking show at McGill University. I wasn’t a huge fan of residence food so when I moved into my first apartment I started teaching my friends and roommates how to cook. From there we won a few business awards and earned enough money to keep the show going while we figured out what we wanted THP to be. The switch to developing a company versus a show was really driven by my experience when I moved to Toronto. Working as a freelance food stylist I learned that the way marketers were buying content didn’t fit their needs. I spent about two years developing the model and then started the business right out of a condo.
E7: Tell us about your past work experience and how it helped you create your company?
AR: The best experience I had before starting THP was working Inside Sales for a technology company in the summer after my undergraduate year. I was responsible for calling small to medium sized IT companies all over the US and Canada to sell managed services software (try saying that 5 times fast). It taught me about sales, tenacity, drive, commitment and that it takes 9 no’s to get a yes. That summer will also be a big driving force behind my success getting THP off the ground.
E7: What makes your business special?
AR: THP is a very unique and special place. We saw an opportunity to revolutionize a very traditional retainer-driven industry into something nimble. We saw the opportunity to embrace that marketers needs are rapidly evolving and to offer them solutions that fit their unique needs and budgets without sacrificing on quality of deliverables or the experience. A lot of people don’t realize this but THP works with more food and beverage brands than any other independent marketing shop in the world.
As of April 2018, we are expanding again to include our third office. We now have three international offices in Toronto, New York and London.
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your own business and agency?
AR: There are so many, but I often find that they tie back to a common theme of having the right people. As an entrepreneur, people love to talk about the risks “I” took. I look around me and see the 70+ amazing team members who’ve trusted me and THP with their careers and professional development. It is imperative to treat your people well, listen and empower them. Without them, there would be no THP.
E7: You impressively grew your team from 4 employees to over 80 in just 5 years, what advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to expand their business and team?
AR: The biggest lesson was to trust and empower our team in the hiring process. Our team gets veto power over all new hires. Our team needs to be excited by each new hire and want to work with them every single day.
E7: What lessons have you learned from working with and managing a growing team?
AR: 1 – Clarity is the key to empowerment. If your team is clear on the services each team member delivers and the common goals of the company I’ve always found that great people will thrive!
2- Listen to your team. Their feedback is so valuable and often opens your eyes to new opportunities for improvement.
3- Stop making excuses for ‘no people’. It’s always hard, but having the right people is critical. Get ‘no’ and ‘cant’ people off the bus quickly and keep looking for team members that best mirror behaviours from your top people.
E7: What advice would you give to anyone looking start their own business or agency?
AR: Know your customer, know your customer, know your customer. The best advice I could give someone looking to join the service industry is not to worry about what or how ‘typical’ shops do things. Focus on your customers and creating solutions and a service model that fit their unique needs. The more tailored the solution, the happier the customer!
E7: What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is looking to expand their agency?
AR: Manage the metrics. Growth is exciting, but obtaining and sustaining growth starts by measuring every aspect of your company (good, bad and ugly). Use metrics to unlock patterns, forecast growth and keep your team focused on the right activities.
E7: What are some of the pros and cons of agency life that you think people should know about?
AR: PROs – You get to work with great people and amazing brands/customers. At THP the food is a definite bonus. Dynamic, collaborative work environments.
CONs – Need to like open concept offices (most are these days), and be open to change. In the service industry change is frequent and necessary to evolve with customer needs.
E7: Is there a certain personality type that you think is best suited for agency life and culture?
AR: That really depends on the type of role you are looking for. There are so many different positions. Overall, I think that it comes down to finding great, positive people who want to be part of a team but can also put their head down and own the task at hand.
E7: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
AR: I come from a family of entrepreneurs so I was pretty familiar with the lifestyle I was taking on by starting a business.
E7: What is one thing you wouldn’t be able to live without for running and managing your company successfully?
AR: Lame answer – Excel! I love excel. I taught myself to use it the first year I started THP, and it has been the best tool for developing forecasts and models. Second to that would be Salesforce (Salesforce, and skim lattes).
E7: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs to prepare for?
AR: In the beginning, it is knowing when it is time to hire your first employee. It takes a while to let go of the misconception that ‘doing it yourself is easier.’
E7: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
AR: Organization – > calendar blocking and a ‘stop doing list’
Balance – > prioritizing a good night sleep and early morning workout over a late night Netflix binge
Motivation – > seeing our team kick butt every single day!
E7: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
AR: My mentor is my dad. He is a fellow entrepreneur and has been our strategic advisor at THP since day one. He has provided me with the most incredible guidance and pushes me hard to outperform targets and expectations.
E7: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
AR: Weather permitting; I love getting outside for a quick lunch time walk. I find the fresh air really clears my head.
E7: What advice would you give for how to find or maintain a work/life balance when running your own company, especially with kids?
AR: Developing a routine that is consistent but still flexible has been key. Having Hugo (my son) was the motivation I needed to create work/life balance and prioritize quality time before and after work. Knowing Hugo is waiting for me really keeps me focused during the day.
E7: What is one of your favourite ways to unwind and shut off from work?
AR: Playing with Hugo, competitive games of backgammon with the hubby and red wine!
For more information on THP please click HERE!
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)