Jordana Guimarães is a serial entrepreneur and public relations expert who has worked with Porsche Design, Nina Ricci and Lanvin to name a few brands. She co-founded FASHINNOVATION, the premier multimedia platform bridging the gap between fashion and technology. Jordana’s superpower is convening executives from organizations like Levi Strauss, NASA, Pinterest, and the United Nations to spark innovation. She’s also an activist bringing the issue of homelessness into the spotlight and will publish a book about it next month titled, “It Can Be You”.
Entrepreneurship can sometimes be over-glamorized.
The picture-perfect social media feeds.
Photos of beach-lounging with laptops or showing off sports car.
But what does it take to get there, how is the foundation set, and what really goes on behind-the-scenes even after one “makes it”? I sat down with serial entrepreneur Jordana Guimarães to learn about her story.
After finishing high school at 18, instead of going to college, Jordana worked numerous jobs from being a bank teller to retail manager to Blockbuster Video store clerk.
She went to Barnes and Nobles at age 23 and read an encyclopedia on careers to learn about possible job options. Jordana read the description of a publicist and knew in her gut that was her calling.
“I went on Craigslist and applied to publicist jobs,” she recounts.
Most of the opportunities Jordana applied to required a college degree. She didn’t have one. But that didn’t stop her. Jordana emailed the CEO of one company and told him, “I don’t have the credentials but read ‘PR for Dummies’ and know I can do this job.”
“I don’t have the credentials but read ‘PR for Dummies’ and know I can do this job.”
The CEO was impressed by Jordana’s tenacity and offered her a position with no pay for 3 months. He also told Jordana he’s not going to teach her how to do the job. She needed to figure it out herself.
Within those 3 months, Jordana successfully executed a campaign for Porsche Design accessories and the CEO offered her a job, this time, with a salary.
Jordana declined the offer and became the CEO of her own PR company instead at 23 years old. This was 15 years ago and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I never liked people telling me what to do,” Jordana says, “I was eating Velveeta cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many months when I first started but I was determined to make it happen.”
“I was eating Velveeta cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many months when I first started but I was determined to make it happen.”
Kay Makishi: I love that you’re a self-made woman. Can you tell me about what led you to start FASHINNOVATION?
Jordana Guimarães: Giving back and inspiring has always been important to my career so everything I did with PR always included giving back to community and inspirational talks. My FASHINNOVATION co-founder, who is also my husband, was always involved in the tech entrepreneurial ecosystems so we started talking one day about how we can make a difference combining his tech experience and my fashion background. That’s when we thought about organizing a CEO Summit – like TED talks for CEOs – with tech and fashion industry leaders. This was at the end of July 2018 and we launched our inaugural event 2 months later.
Kay Makishi: Wow, so you took an idea from conception to reality in 2 months. You convened speakers such as Havaianas’ CEO, Google’s Director of Engineering, Pinterest’s Head of Market Development and had executives from NASA and the United Nations in the audience all discussing fashion and tech. Can you walk us through how you pulled this off?
Jordana Guimarães: It definitely wasn’t easy. I have two kids under the age of 2, so I would put the kids to sleep at 8PM. My husband and I would wake up at 3AM and work until 8PM everyday for 2 months straight. I put my PR work on hold while I laid the foundation for FASHINNOVATION. It was our mission that kept me going. Inclusivity, women empowerment, giving back – all my values came together so it made sense. Everything I wanted to do was in a package.
Kay Makishi: You’re also publishing a book called “It Can Be You”, can you talk more about that and your work raising awareness about homelessness? What inspired that?
Jordana Guimarães: Growing up in Brasil, I saw extreme poverty and wealth. I just felt empathetic toward the homeless I saw from a very young age. I knew I always wanted to do something about that. In 2016, I brought in the fashion industry to give a voice to the homeless through the Nylon Project by having celebrities and influencers tell stories of how individuals ended up homeless. I wanted to humanize homelessness and raise awareness about this issue. We’ll be launching the book at FASHINNOVATION this February.
Kay Makishi: What qualities do you think are needed to be an entrepreneur?
Jordana Guimarães: You need to have a lot of passion behind what you’re doing and if you don’t believe 150,000% in what you’re doing, you might as well not do it.
You also need a lot of discipline and perseverance. Things are going to go wrong ALL the time. Even if you have been doing something for 15 years, things will still go wrong. You have to push through the mistakes and if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not doing the right things to grow and evolve.
Kay Makishi: How do you structure and approach your time and goals?
Jordana Guimarães: I’ve learned to set realistic goals and expectations and to not do too many things at once, making sure we can walk before we run.
I focus on one thing each day. For example, this Monday is my event production day so I’ll do focused work on that. I won’t even look at emails or social media because then half my day is gone.
I spend 4 hours everyday with my two daughters. Between 6AM and 8AM, I give my daughters their bath and breakfast and be with them until they go to school at 8AM. They’re home again between 6PM and 8PM so I spend time with them before putting them to bed at 8PM. 4 hours of my day are about being present with them.
Kay Makishi: You truly are an unstoppable superwoman. How do you maintain self-care with owning a business, launching a new one, publishing a book AND raising 2 kids?
Jordana Guimarães: It’s really hard nowadays especially because women have this expectation to be everything – the perfect mother, wife and professional. I take hour-long showers to completely shut off my mind. Maybe that sounds weird but it’s my getaway. Also, all my ideas for projects or businesses have always come while I was in the shower when my mind was completely shut off.
When it comes to kids, I stopped planning. You have to pick your battles, you can’t be perfect. If a child is screaming for potato chips, sometimes you have to give in and let her have that potato chip. I’ve learned to let go and not be so controlling in life to maintain a balance.
Kay Makishi: What’s your advice for women wanting to start their own thing be it a business, book, nonprofit or otherwise?
Jordana Guimarães: Ask for help. When I participated in an MBA program at Dartmouth, we had a self-made billionaire come and present to us. I went up to him after his presentation and asked for his email so I could ask for advice later. He gave me his email and was really generous with advice.
A lot of people don’t ask for help because they think they’ll bother someone or they’re afraid someone will say no. But why recreate the wheel if you’re doing something that someone else already did really well? The worst they can say is no.
Also, don’t try to do everything yourself. You must delegate and have faith in others that they’ll get it done.