Helenna is a multi-passionate creative entrepreneur who runs the leading online magazine for women in the entertainment industry.
When did you fall in love with entrepreneurship?
Man, that’s a good question. I honestly don’t know that I’m in love with it as much as it’s just a necessity in this day and age. I think in order to accomplish the things I want to accomplish in this life, it still took me a bit to realize that the only way to get myself closer to my goals was by taking matters into my own hands and creating opportunities.
How do you define a successful brand?
Not sure if this is really how I define “success” for a brand, but I love brands that are instantly recognizable and evoke a particular emotion. I usually associate colors with a brand as well. Also, I often have a memory or a type of fantasy that pops up.
A great example of this is my girlfriend’s company “The Little Black Coffee Cup.” Every time I see the logo I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s meets hipsters in Silverlake. I’m all at once feeling classy and hip at the same time like I’m walking through a funky part of town with smart artsy well-dressed people, and I’m thirsty!
What does a typical day for you look like?
Always busy but never the same. The only constants are getting up to workout at about 7 or 8am. Green smoothie. Shower. Protein shake. Catching up on emails and social media. And then every day is different.
Some days I’ll have conference calls, auditions, meetings etc… I’m often working on a plethora of projects at one time whether that be the films/digital series that I’m producing, or Ms. In The Biz.
Right now I’m in post production on an experimental short film, development for a neo-noir heist comedy, and have a number of other projects in development, plus the daily Ms. In The Biz duties and promoting the “Thriving in Hollywood!” book. And then around 4pm I start my side job that pays the bills so that I can have the freedom to be pursuing all of these things right now.
I’ll get home at about midnight, catch up on more emails, and hopefully have about an hour of time unwinding on the couch with my husband and our cat, and an episode of Hannibal, Game of Thrones, or Banshee. I’m obsessed with Breaking Bad though…might have to start that series all over again…
How long have you been an entrepreneur?
As an actor? The last 10 years.
As an indie producer in digital? The last 7.
As an indie film producer? The last year.
And as the founder and CEO of Ms. In The Biz? The last 2 years.
If you weren’t with your current brand what would your occupation be?
Well…Ms. In The Biz is an offshoot of my brand which is really Helenna Santos the actor/writer/producer who loves sharing information, creating great networks of people, and just generally jamming with awesome humans…so I suppose that’s kind of a trick question because I can’t get away from myself.
How did you take your leap of faith into solopreneurship? What has the journey been like?
Well….it’s been hard. Grueling at times, and yet totally rewarding. How did I take the leap? A bit blindly, but in a good way. I didn’t let my doubts and fears stop me from moving forward and that’s the key really. Just putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that if the little windy staircase I’m on is missing a step or two, I’ll be able to navigate my way around that obstacle.
In 10 years, what do you envision your life (work and personal) to look like?
I love envisioning my life in the future! So fun! My husband and I will have a small house with room for an airstream in the backyard which doubles as my office. We’ll have a garden and a lime tree and an avocado tree. We’ll have a big picnic table in the backyard for our many get-togethers with friends that include lots of wine while playing records and talking till the sun comes up, and our dog will be running around the yard.
I’ll be producing films that I also act in (much like now but on a higher budget scale) and those films will be UBER successful. Ms. In The Biz will be continuing to thrive and help women in entertainment reach their goals! Plus….I’ll be taking trips to Hawaii a lot and will have finally done a cross country trip to New Orleans. But the New Orleans trip is happening this year…no matter what. I’m making that one a priority ASAP.
What is the most important lesson you’ve had to learn as a solopreneur that made you a better person?
No one is going to care about your project as much as you do, nor should you expect them to, therefore work freaking hard and undoubtedly help will follow. Basically, everyone I know is rockin’ it on their own projects and the thing is that we all need to support one another in our endeavors, but the key is to not expect that support.
I’ll help promote a friend or refer her to someone, not needing it to be reciprocated. If you don’t feel you are “owed” a helping hand, when it happens it is so incredible and makes you truly appreciate the favor and makes you want to keep paying it forward, and to me paying it forward is what it’s all about!
What has been your biggest challenge in life and work?
Taking time off and relaxing. Like, REALLY relaxing not just saying I’m relaxing and then opening up my computer or checking my phone. My husband and I make a point of having “date day” one day a week where we make sure to unplug and really connect with each other so that our lives don’t just speed past us. That being said it always takes a bit to decompress, but we are getting better at it.
How do you overcome, or try to overcome these challenges?
I actually left my phone at home for a day. 12 whole hours without technology. It felt amazing until I got home and had a zillion emails and tweets waiting for me. But it was pure bliss for those 12 hours!
What has been your most prized accomplishment?
Not giving up. I go through an “I want to give up” period every 6 months or so and I just keep pushing through it. I think every creative and entrepreneur deals with this. The key is to keep moving forward even when exhaustion and doubt start to creep in.
What is your most favorite quote?
“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe
I have “begin it” tattooed on my foot to remind me.
What is your personal style like?
Hippie meets casual chic. On days I don’t have meetings or events my wardrobe tends to consist of a big floppy hat, boots or flip flops, jeans with holes in the knees, and a flowy shirt. On more professional days I’ll break out the heels with a pencil skirt but there will always be a hint of “a creative” whether that be in the earrings I’m wearing, or the shirt I decide to pair with the outfit.
If you could go back to your 9 year old self, what would you tell her?
Take money management and business classes ASAP. And DO NOT get a credit card, and especially don’t use a credit card to buy clothes. You will be paying those jeans off forever and ever and ever.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’m a people pleaser and this gives me some anxiety at times. I’d want myself to still be aware of how other people feel and what they think, but in a way that affects me less. I work on this every single day.