Becki Silverstein, 30, of Solon, Ohio, practiced her sales skills early, offering pencils to family members for 10 cents each as a 10-year-old. But despite her entrepreneurial spirit, she didn’t start her first business until a few years after earning her degree in Communications from John Carroll University.
Once she started, though, she took off. Today, she’s the owner of Rebecca Adele PR & Events, Avant-Garde Art & Craft Shows and BeccaBee Photography. She’s also the co-owner of Bump to Bows: A Mommy Boutique Show and the owner and inventor at Little Iguana Mama. Read on to find out how she unconventionally made the leap from corporate employee to entrepreneurial firecracker.
Let’s start from the beginning. What was your first job after school? Or did you immediately dive into business ownership?
My first job after school was as a public relations coordinator for Keathley Advertising. I started as a PR coordinator and advanced to Account Coordinator and Traffic Manager. While there, I wore several hats as we were a small advertising agency, so I became well versed in PR, social media, account work, event planning — and the list goes on!
What prompted you to start your first business, Avant-Garde Art & Craft Shows? How did everything go down?
Never would I have imagined going into business for myself at the age of 25.
Growing up, I attended a variety of art and craft events with my mother on the weekends. After college, while I worked in advertising, I began taking cake-decorating classes at a local craft store to feed my creative energy.
Upon completing the courses, I came up with the idea to sell my crafts at local arts and craft shows for fun. As I started to attend these shows, I noticed there was a large generation gap between what appealed to me versus the veteran craft scene attendees and crafters. It was only a matter of time before the entrepreneurial wheels in my head began to turn. I began to toy with the idea of starting a new generation of art and craft events, focusing on unconventional, funkier and out-of-the box items. Basically, this would be a show that would wipe away the stereotypical stigma of arts and craft shows being focused on potholders, stockings and doilies. Thus, I launched my first show, known as the Avant-Garde Art & Craft Show, shortly after my 25th birthday in June 2011.
I quickly began to realize there definitely was a market for this, and I was excited. It was also thrilling to be able to combine my love of the arts with my event planning, social media and public relations background. Because of that, I was able to take these shows and begin to transform the local arts scene in my community. While the process was exciting, moonlighting as an entrepreneur while working a full-time job during the week was definitely trying. My family would actually joke that I worked two full-time jobs, which actually was pretty true. Eventually something had to give.
Soon after landing the cover of a major local magazine for its arts and entertainment issue, I was brought into the office at my current job and told by the owners that they needed someone 100 percent committed to the agency. It was their fear that I wasn’t that person, as my side job was taking off and, at times, taking time away from my full-time job. I was fired on April 24, 2012 after growing my career and having one idea of a future in my head. At the time, I was devastated, especially never having been fired from a job and because I wasn’t planning on losing my job or going solo for at least a few years, if at all.
Looking back on it, losing my job was the push I needed to fly from the nest and spread my wings. Without that, I could have missed one of the greatest life adventures and opportunities I’ve experienced to date.
What steps did you take to prepare for your business launches, and how did you know you were ready?
To be honest, I didn’t prepare; I just took each day as it came in figuring out the process. It may have been more of a learning curve, but it definitely taught me a lot along the way on what works and what doesn’t work. There was a lot of tweaking and many lessons to be learned, but it was all hands-on, which gave me, at the end of a day, a true and in-depth understanding of my businesses and how they worked.
You’ve had so much success in the greater Cleveland market. When did you realize your side project was more than a hobby and could be a solid career path?
I was actually on vacation at a friend’s wedding in Jamaica when I was still working at my ad agency job. I remember thinking that I would love to be able to do this — “this” being travel and still work and dictate my life and my own choices when it came to my career. I wasn’t ready quite then to quit my day job (although the day I came back from that trip was the day I was let go from my job), but I knew that I was onto something. I figured I’d give it a year or two before thinking or going full-time, but it was on that vacation in the computer lobby in Jamaica answering business emails that I realized I had a business that was profitable and that I could run anytime and from anywhere. It was then I decided that eventually my art show business may and could really be something I could do full-time.
You recently became a mom! How has little Jake changed the way you approach business?
He’s the light of my life! Jake has definitely made me rethink what is worth my time and what isn’t. I don’t live to work; I work to live. That means saying no sometimes, whether that looks like passing on a photoshoot, moving an art show around, closing the computer down early or taking a day off work (I don’t work on Fridays, so I can spend the whole day with him). Having my son has really made me try to be more aware and line up my priorities. By all means, I haven’t mastered it yet, and it’s a constant struggle to balance being an entrepreneur, wife and mom, but it’s nice at the end of the day that I decide what I want to do with my time. So if a project isn’t something I’m in 100 percent, then I won’t take it on. Family is first.
You’re clearly a master at multitasking and confidently wear a variety of hats. As a PR professional, event planner and photographer, what has been the most challenging part of running your own companies? Any secret sauce you want to share to future lady bosses considering making their side hustle dream their full-time reality?
Again, it’s a life-work balance. That’s something I don’t have, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grasp it! When I was actually in the hospital after I had my son, I had my laptop with me and was getting work done while my son slept! That’s how crazy it can be — if I don’t work, then the business doesn’t work. There is no true vacation; I’m always connected. So I definitely struggle with that balance of finding “me time” and working. When my office is right down the hall from my family room, it’s easy to work the night away. Sometimes you just have to shut everything off and walk away for the night, which is VERY difficult for me to do!
I wouldn’t say there is a secret sauce. Don’t expect results overnight. A lot of people want immediate results, and if they don’t get them fast enough, they quit. I had to work for quite some time juggling a full-time job during the day and working on my dream job at night. So I put in the hours. Don’t skimp, don’t skip steps, don’t give up and don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Set yourself a goal or a deadline, a tangible for when you want to go full-time. Will it be a year from today? A dollar amount in the bank? Whatever it is, set yourself a goal. This will keep you from fear of flying (leaving your 9 to 5 for safety), and it will keep you focused because you have a goal to meet. Either way, setting your sights on when you can go off on your own will either force you to do it (so you don’t get cold feet) or keep you in line so you don’t leave your 9 to 5 too prematurely.
We absolutely love the way you styled your Body Bark piece. How would you describe your overall look and style?
My style is definitely trendy and sparkly! Dare I say gaudy mixed with class? I love classic designers, but I like to pair them with trendy items to make my look my own. In the picture of me, I’m actually wearing a vest that is an original design by one of my vendors, plus a resin-based cicada glitz wing necklace paired with my Body Bark shirt. I really love mixing unusual pieces that are one of a kind with classic pieces like the Body Bark shirt. I love a little bit of bling in almost every outfit!
Vest by Sew Chicky by Sai
Necklace by Terra Artistry
What’s one thing about you that may surprise people?
I don’t like to think big picture. It overwhelms me. I literally take each piece of all my business ventures, and my life in general, piece by piece. Because my mind is racing with ideas and to-do’s, if I try to think of a five-year plan or even a five-month plan, it overwhelms me. If I can break each task down to a to-do list and check it off as I go, I can accomplish almost anything I set my mind to. If you ask me to write a business plan or anticipate my year coming up and what my goals are, chances are I won’t be able to, or I’ll lose interest. I love to plan, but I hate planning for long term what-ifs. It’s just not me. Two of my businesses I actually launched within a month because I dived head first and never looked back. When I get an idea, I run with it and have tunnel vision. I’m not one to wait, write it out and overthink it. If I think I have a winner, I’ll go with it. Oh, and I absolutely hate meetings, or meetings to plan meetings! Let’s just get it done and stop talking about it!
And a fun fact? I had a petting zoo in my backyard for my 30th birthday. Yep. It included llamas, chickens, rabbits, goats, a mini pig and a mini horse. It was the best idea I’ve ever had, and everyone had a blast. We live on a golf course, so we had to get it approved by the homeowner’s association. Seeing golfers drive by looking at us like, “What the heck?” was worth it all on its own!
What’s your favorite way to spend the day in Cleveland?
I really enjoy visiting local fairs and festivals during the summer and being outdoors. In the summer, I really love attending concerts all over the Cleveland and Akron area and being out with friends. On a weekend, I love to go to my favorite karaoke bar, Nitros, with friends. The company is great, and the entertainment is priceless!
Who’s your all-time favorite boss-lady mentor?
I find Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank to be amazing. I read her life story book and was truly inspired by her drive and tenacity. I really admire someone who is self-made and, no matter what, is determined to make it happen. I’m a firm believer that motivation isn’t something you can be taught. You either have it or you don’t, and she has it.
Thanks for spending this time with us, Becki! You can learn more about Becki on the Rebecca Adele PR & Events website and shop the staples from her Body Bark look here. Join us again soon for another chat with a boss lady who shines!
Contact Becki through any of her amazing businesses: