Meet Vivian K. Gomez, an entrepreneur who parlayed her understanding of branding and the promotional world of people, places, and things into creating multiple streams of revenue for herself and her clients. Some might say that Gomez is one of the entertainment industry’s best-kept secrets.
Gomez has a diversified business background but started her career in the celebrity media and public relations world. With TMZ on speed dial, Gomez has cleaned up some of pop-cultures biggest scandals and partnered celebrities with brands that have become household names — all beginning back when the tabloids were our bibles. Today, this means of promotion is considered “influencer marketing,” which she’s still active in.
We chatted with her about her start and got some entrepreneurial tips along the way.
ONE37pm: Explain to me what you do and how you got started? How is it now that you’re more established versus when you began?
Vivian K. Gomez: It’s hard to explain what I do in one simple soundbite because I do a few different things. I guess people mostly know me for working in the marketing, media, branding, crisis management, and PR world. I got into that field when I was around 20 years old. Back then there was a super popular PR firm run by Lizzie Grubman who had previously had a show on MTV and was known for working with the biggest names in entertainment. They had what almost felt like auditions for aspiring publicists. These were highly coveted intern positions. A close friend at the time encouraged me to go in and interview knowing I had fantasized about potentially working in the industry. I genuinely did not think I was going to get one of the about three slots available out of what seemed like hundreds of girls. Long story short, after a challenging process, serendipity was on my side. I got the job!
From that first hands-on experience, I officially fell in love with the business. When I began, I knew absolutely nothing about the politics of media, I just had my gut, instincts, and creativity. I really relied on more established people seeing something in me and giving me a shot. Luckily, about two years after my first internship, I’d grinded so hard that I found myself as the Director of PR & Brand Development at one of the top celebrity agencies in the U.S.
By 25 I started my own company The Maven Firm and have been hustling independently ever since. I also pursue additional entrepreneurial ventures and invest in companies and projects I believe in. Currently, I’m co-owner of HoneyWater with my partners Jas Prince and Chris Kotz. We have been successfully selling our healthy and naturally sweetened water in Canada, and are gearing up for our U.S launch in 2021. Through my ownership in HoneyWater I’ve found a passion for bees, they are dying and critical to our existence, its insane how many people are unaware of that.
Describe your brand building strategy in one sentence.
Gomez: Approach everything from the consumers perspective first.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you give to most of your clients?
Gomez: Everything has a solution – if you’re feeling overwhelmed step back for a day or two and you’ll be able to reassess whatever is in front of you with a fresh mind-set. Burnout is real, it clouds creativity and potential. Our emotions also play a big role in our decision making, so I definitely ask for clients to pause when I think they may momentarily be driven by ego over logic.
If you were pitching your business on “Shark Tank,” what would you say?
Gomez: I’m a huge fan of a fastpitch, I think hitting all your key points in under three minutes or less is key. Hook them first and then elaborate through their questions after, filling in any other secondary details you may have missed. With that said, If I was pitching HoneyWater, for example, I’d say:
HoneyWater not only hydrates the mind and body, but it also provides the enjoyment of consuming sweet beverages without the health risks of soft drinks. Sweetened with natural honey and infused with real fruit flavors, HoneyWater has a lower glycemic index than drinks sweetened with sugar — honey has vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, B3, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, etc. it also provides probiotics, and antimicrobial/antiseptic properties.
And last, but certainly not least, the bees are dying. If all bees disappeared from the earth, studies estimate that man would only have 4 years left to live. If bee’s become extinct, so does the human race. Through pollinator partnerships and proceed donations HoneyWater is not only working to provide healthy, naturally sweetened beverages but also committed to doing its part to save the world!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a founder?
Gomez: I used to get really worked up internally about what others were saying or thinking about me. When you’re a founder you oftentimes have to be the person that opens up or leads conversations. When you’re young, a woman of color, and opinionated this can rub a lot of people the wrong way, even if what you’re saying is right.
Unfortunately, you’ll be stereotypically typecast (especially as a Latina), as “too much” or “not enough” of everything.
I would often replay in my head a lot of what I said or did in meetings etc., and ask myself, what I could have done or said differently? I now realize the answer to that is, nothing. All I did by doing that was waste my own time which instead could have been used being productive. You learn quickly, you can’t control how other people feel or act. As long as you lead with honesty and kindness, there’s nothing to worry about.
What’s one aspect of your job that you knew nothing about? How did you adapt?
Gomez: In regards to being an entrepreneur, I didn’t truly learn about cap tables, company evaluations, and vesting structures or the specifics of share ownership and their stipulations until I started to diversify and create additional streams of income for myself. I naively thought, oh I own x percent of this company and that’s that until we sell or I decide to step away. That’s definitely not the case! I suggest anyone thinking about investing or starting a partnership educate themselves on the big picture financial aspects of running a business.
How do you take your coffee?
Gomez: I have a Nespresso machine and love trying their new regional blends all the time. I have always been a big latte person, but recently while on a trip back home to the Dominican Republic, I fell in love with Cafe Santo Domingo, a ground coffee brand made on the island. I now love freshly french pressed coffee every morning, no milk, and two stevia packets. On occasion, if I want to switch it up, I’ll add a splash of creme brûlée sugar-free syrup.
What is your number one way to inspire positive company or client morale?
Gomez: At the risk of sounding cliche, I like to treat my clients and assistants like family. I always tell everyone once we’re working together, we’re a reflection of one another. If they are doing poorly, then I’m doing poorly. The best advertisement for anything I’m involved in is a happy client, customer, or employee. That speaks volumes, and also makes doing my job more pleasant.
How can a candidate impress you in a job interview?
Gomez: I’m more impressed by a person’s natural abilities than a resume.
First, I like to get a feel of their energy; a person’s vibe is essential. Then I want to see if they can offer ideas, perspectives I may be lacking or unaware of, that shows me they are in the know and can contribute assets we don’t already have. You never want to pay for what you already have access to. Lastly, as a Virgo, I key into details and questions that tell me if the person is organized. An organized person is always an educated person, so that tells me they take time to become knowledgable in what they are pursuing. People with attention to detail never skip steps and rarely turn in half-assed work.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to launch a business?
Gomez: Ask yourself, am I filling a void, am I innovating?
If not, am I changing the space I’m trying to enter with something that feels new? Always have a few talks with yourself about your venture before you speak to anyone else about it. Notes, research, and revisions are your best friends. The more you analyze and revise something, the better it will become.