Originally from Los Angeles, Olivia Perez is an entrepreneur and journalist based in New York City. She is the founder and host of the podcast Friend Of A Friend and she is a co-founder of System Of Service, an organization that encourages people to physically come together and make change in their own community. She is a contributing writer to Forbes, and she has partnered with brands like Chanel, Kith, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Nike, Calvin Klein and as a brand ambassador for Outdoor Voices and Coach. The Power Thread had the pleasure to sit with Olivia Perez to discuss the impact of storytelling, her story behind creating Friend Of A Friend, the mission behind System Of Service, and her valuable advice to entrepreneurs.
Where are you from?
I am from Los Angeles, but I moved to New York when I was eighteen to attend NYU, and I’ve been living here for nine years, and now I’m between NYC and LA.
What made you want to pursue a career in journalism and entrepreneurship?
Storytelling has always been a huge part of my life. I was a dancer up until I was 17 years old so I was very familiar with being on stage. As a performer, you want to make the audience come into your world and make them feel something. That experience stuck with me into my adult life so when I quit dancing, I decided I was still really hungry for that ability to storytell. I went to NYU for Journalism and during that time, I was really ambitious for every experience I could possibly have. During my studies, I worked for Teen Vogue for a long time, worked in PR, worked with Ryan Seacrest, and Glossier. As I dived into all of these experiences, they gave me this unique skill set that allowed me to storytell, whether it was from a brand, fashion, entertainment, or media perspective. While that was going on, I launched Friend Of A Friend, which was a blog that covered fashion, beauty, and travel from my lens as a college student. As of 2019, it’s now a podcast where we cover the same topics but through conversations with really inspiring entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to create the podcast Friend Of A Friend? What can listeners expect from this podcast? What is the overall message for listeners?
I’ve always wanted to storytell in a very personal, intimate setting. For the overall message, I wanted to break down the barrier to entry of what people feel entrepreneurship and business means. There’s a misconception that people see as a power. Power to me is how you connect with yourself and share that with other people to help them feel connected to themselves as well. Making people feel seen and feel they can be in a safe space to talk about what they want to talk about. They’re all relatable conversations on the show where you feel empowered to do the same thing. I want to welcome people in and leave feeling like they had this amazing conversation where they felt inspired, felt seen and healed,and I wanted to bring that on a whole new level. Some guests on the show are globally known and some are building something awesome that I didn’t feel like people knew enough about and I wanted to give a platform to that. I wanted to use the platform to let people elevate their voices.
What was behind creating System Of Service? What is the mission of this organization?
I co-founded System of Service with my best friend Joe Holder (@ochosystem) back in 2018. It’s meant to be a community where we encourage people to physically come together and make change. We really want people to get off their devices and instead of passively donate, we want people to actually go out in their own communities, investigate their own power on what they can do and achieve real change through something. We have incredible events, and we’ve had partnerships with Nike, Dyson, and SmartWater. It’s really fun to work with these companies and help them bring to light what their community missions are. We bring big corporations to small communities and we see how they can make a difference.
What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career so far?
Starting the podcast has definitely been the highlight. I am most proud of manifesting Friend Of A Friend. You have to put yourself in a position to succeed and manifest the things that you want. Acknowledging what you want, putting in the work and having patience means you really want something. It took me a year to launch Friend Of A Friend and taking that time to do it and put it into real life is something I’m really proud of, and I encourage people to do the same.
What’s a challenge you faced, and what did you learn from that experience?
The biggest challenge was always working against the idea of being labeled for something. This applies to any industry. I think people can get caught up in titles in the workplace that actually hold us back from just accomplishing the work that we want to accomplish. That was really difficult mentally because I knew I was working on more and knew I could be more. It wasn’t about the label, it was about finding my passion and figuring out my strengths. I got really caught up in that for a couple of years, but at the end of the day the label doesn’t matter, just do the work.
What has your journey been like to get to where you are now?
Journeys are never a straight line. Throughout my career, I ended up doing so many random things to get to the point where I want to be. I am still on that journey, learning, figuring out how to grow the show and attract new audiences. It’s a never ending product evolution of honing on my skill set and finding ways to create a larger community of people that feel impacted and empowered by what I do.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
Keep your blinders on. Although I firmly believe in doing field research, R&D, understanding your competitors, and understanding the landscape that you’re trying to enter into. We live in such a noisy culture there is so much access to brand space, entrepreneur space, especially on social media – there’s a lot going on and it’s really easy to get distracted and see what other people are doing, and it can make you feel disheartened quickly. I always want to be the person that has a clear path that I’ve set out for myself, keep my head down and just keep going.
What does being powerful mean to you?
I really intertwine the idea of power and purpose a lot. It should be about how you connect with yourself. My power and my purpose is so much about how I can create spaces for other people to also get in touch with their power and purpose. That happens on the show all the time. There are these really amazing moments where I see my guests make that connection in their head and to me, that’s when I feel most in my purpose. I’m creating this space for people to see themselves, be seen, and feel like they’re in a place where they can feel validated by whatever conversation we’re having. I hope that penetrates into my audience as well and they feel that way. That’s when I feel most powerful and most in my purpose.
Why do you use your platform to empower other people?
I want to help someone acknowledge their own power. Everybody has that in them but some people haven’t been able to find it yet, and that’s totally okay. It’s hard with everything going on in the world, and it’s hard to be in touch with ourselves. I want to help people find their own power and, for me, that’s the most powerful thing as a woman. Whether it’s amplifying the voice of entrepreneurs, or amplifying marginalized voices, it’s about helping that person find what it is about them that makes them feel their own power.