Violette de Ayala is a Cuban American serial and Social Entrepreneur, Founder of FemCity®, and the International Best-Selling Author of The Self-Guided Guru© Life Lessons for the Everyday Huma n.
Violette has been quoted in Success, Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Fast Company, Thrive Global, Medium, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Small Business, Authority, and Business Insider News as a small business expert and in MarieClaire.
Violette has also been seen in featured campaigns in People, InStyle, Real Simple magazines in addition to bareMinerals “Women We Love” Series.
She served as part of The White House: Women Environmental Leaders Program and was a commissioned Keynote speaker for Accenture’s International Women’s Month Event, the SBA Regional Women’s Conference, and Luxury Brand Partners.
FemCity has been seen in Gilt, Vogue, Forbes, AP, Mashable, and Fast Company and has over 100 locations in the US, Canada, and the Islands.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I am a first-generation American with parents born in Cuba. My entire childhood was filled with stories of Cubans that arrived in the US and starting businesses and building wealth. I knew when I was very young that I would most likely be running a business. Though I graduated with a liberal arts degree, and not having taken a business class, I started my first business at the age of 22. I went on to create and launch more businesses and step by step, became a serial and social entrepreneur.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had moved back home to Miami from Raleigh NC and had owned a Pilates studio for just about a decade. I knew I didn’t want to open another Pilates studio and was pulled at the time to launch a marketing agency that was solely focused on community and environmental initiatives and working as a consultant to the City of Miami Mayor’s Office. While running this business, I was inspired to create a small community for professional women, and this led me to launch FemCity. I started FemCity as a side hustle of my full-time business and little by little it started to grow and grow. A year later, I let all my contracts end and went full time to running FemCity in multiple markets.
Where is your business based?
Miami, FL [technically the suburbs of Coral Gables].
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
Since I started it as a side hustle, I didn’t have a business model or the monetization component though out. At the start, I envisioned a casual monthly get together with 20 female founder friends. It wasn’t until month nine that women started to request a FemCity chapter in their backyard that I even thought of creating it as an official organization with scalability. The first step I took as far as marketing was to create a basic website and social media platforms. I created a focus group, asked questions, and started to step forward in creating a way to launch FemCity in multiple communities around the world. Every year since our inception, I paused and review operations, procedures, curriculum, and our programming. The success of FemCity I always share is listening to the women in our community and how we can serve them more.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Partnerships and social media were the two most impactful ways for us to get others to know about us. From the start, we had great partnerships with Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Google, Yelp, and various non-profits. I am a big believer in forming win-win collaborations.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge we had was low cash flow and lack of startup funds when we started. Years later, as we were growing organically, we had a few competitors launch with multi-million-dollar funding and bring celebs promoting their activities. It was so deflating because we were doing great work on the ground but not being recognized. I overcame them but staying focused on the great work we were doing and staying in my lane of my alignment and service to those women in our community.
As my mind would drift away, I would redirect it back to being of service and making sure we were doing all we could with what we had, and it made a big difference. I learned and now tell those I mentor, “it’s wise to see what others are doing, but stick to your authenticity, and how you can make a great positive impact in the world”. You can’t go wrong when you come from that perspective and belief.
How do you stay focused?
Every morning, after I meditate, I ask myself “what can I do today to help women and make a big positive difference in the community?”. That directs my action, my focus, and re-confirms my purpose. There is no obstacle I can’t overcome when I remind myself of the purpose and mission of the work we do.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We are incredibly unique with a blend of business, gratitude, and a touch of spirituality. All of our programming is curated carefully for our members and combines a robust offering for women in business that are also looking to have balance and harmony. We embrace and focus on diversity, interconnectedness, and the responsibility we each have to help one another.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business? Our affiliate program was a great component to add to that helped our growth exponentially. Our affiliates make a few hundred dollars by sharing FemCity and that has helped spread our community around the US and Canada. It was the best marketing strategy and I encourage everyone that I mentor and coach to consider creating one for their brand.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Know your numbers, make sure your daily activities are in alignment with your goals, and delegate everything you can so you can focus on development and growth. Also, surround yourself with like-minded people that lift you up and give you a bigger vision of what you can create. Lastly, think big from the start so you ensure scalability.
What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I am old school and still love Marianne Williamson’s “A Woman’s Worth”. This book changed my world when I read it at the age of 19.
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Google Drive is my favorite. I love that I can create various ways of collecting and holding data. It’s so easy to use and connects to other apps I use. I also love Squarespace. Years ago, we were spending so much money on our website. I recreated our site on Squarespace and now we are in complete control of our site and the many platforms integrated. They don’t pay me to say that I really do love them both.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Joan Barnes, the Founder of Gymboree is a dear friend, role model, and mentor to me. She gave me such amazing advice years ago and changed the trajectory of FemCity and my vision for what we could create. Of course, Oprah Winfrey but I am sure that is just about every woman’s role model as well.
How do you balance work and life?
This took me years to figure out and my health was starting to suffer because I lacked it in my life while raising the three kids and launching businesses. I now take off every Friday and disconnect all weekend long. I use time-blocks in my schedule and take the time each and every day to take on self-care and spiritual practices. When I start to feel stress or anxiety, I stop, step outside, and spend time in nature to re-group and re-focus on what’s important. I finally obtained balance three-four years ago and it’s so wonderful. I thought prior that if I worked every day and, on the weekends, and around the clock that it would mean I was serious about business. I now realize that the best ideas, solutions and pure clarity shows up when I take the time to recharge and relax.
What’s your favorite way to decompress?
I do Pilates every morning and ride my Peleton and these are my “go-to” activities to decompress. I also incorporate spending time with family and dear friends on a daily basis. Focusing on my fitness and the moments that bring me joy keep me really happy and in check with a zenful life.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are looking to launch into more communities and have formed great partnerships with other organizations. I am so excited to help more women and bring women together in our community of business and gratitude.
How can our readers connect with you?
They can visit www.femcity.com and follow us on every platform @femcity.
Personally, you can follow me on IG, Twitter, and FB @violettedeayala. I look forward to meeting your readers.