Olivia Y. Hollaus is the Founder and Creative Director of Protect My Shoe by Windsor Avenue. While growing up, Olivia lived with her family in New York City, Nice, Beijing, Bangkok, and Boca Raton, Florida. She fluently speaks three languages including English, French, and Mandarin Chinese.
Olivia started designing jewelry for herself and her mom. Her hobby turned into a passion, which then led to the creation of her very own jewelry line. After years of designing jewelry and creating her own jewelry brand Windsor Avenue, she decided to broaden her product lineup by addressing an issue that she personally found frustrating, the paper stuffers that wrinkle and shred up soon after each shoe purchase.
We have Olivia with us today to share her thoughts on equality and advice for women entrepreneurs.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE YOUR OWN JEWELRY AND NOW PATENT PENDING PROTECT MY SHOES?
"The jewelry was kind of accidental. My mom and I have been designing jewelry for ourselves for a long time. One day, we were at dinner with friends and my mom literally left the restaurant with no more jewelry on her because her friends wanted the pieces she was wearing. From that point on, we started to develop a more cohesive collection of jewelry to sell. However, we both had real day jobs – my mom is an interior designer and I was running a research institute affiliated with Peking University at the time – so the jewelry was more of a creative outlet we could do together.
Protect My Shoes is a different story. I’m a self-proclaimed shoe addict and frequent flyer. I was personally frustrated with the tissue paper stuffers that come with my expensive shoe purchases and, on top of it, tired of opening the suitcase and finding squished shoes while traveling. It dawned on me that if I’m having these issues, I’m certainly not the only one out there. After speaking to many other women, I find out that my hypothesis was right… they also had the same issue as myself. I set out to develop a long-term solution with a product that works and that is pretty too. My philosophy is that everyday items can be both functional and fashionable at the very same time."
WHY DO YOU THINK WE NEED WOMEN EMPOWERMENT MORE THAN BEFORE? AND HOW CAN WE PARTICIPATE IN IT?
"I can’t remember where I heard this from, but not too long ago, someone said that we are stronger in numbers. Women working and supporting each other is the best empowerment there is. We are unbeatable as a collective. There is no room for jealousy or cattiness because we are all different with different purposes, goals, visions, and priorities. I find it incredibly empowering when we help each other, whether it be on a personal or professional level. Personally, as a mom, it’s nice to talk to my friends who are also moms. Voicing our concerns, thoughts, and funny stories is a great outlet and way to support one another because you realize you’re not alone. Professionally speaking, someone who’s willing to make an introduction that may be worthwhile is just wonderful. My business mentor Luanne is a great voice of reason and resource. For her, helping other women out in their career is one of her joys. Women helping women is contagious so let’s all get on board!"
Do you think it’s important to give women an equal voice in decision making both at the company and home? Why?
"Without hesitation, yes… absolutely! But ultimately, I think it’s really not about women versus men, but about everyone as individuals having an equal voice. I say that because we all have different experiences and upbringings that shape the people that we become as adults. Bringing those different perspectives to discussions at work and at home makes the decision making process more whole and collaborative. Let’s face it, many minds coming together for the greater good is better than one. A common theme I hear from inspiring leaders is that they surround themselves with people that are smarter than they are. I think that says a lot. The word “collaboration” is a favorite of mine in the workplace. Let’s put ego aside, collaborate and be productive together. There is plenty to go around for everyone to grow and succeed."
How can you teach our girls to be independent and confident from an early age?
"I was lucky to have my mom instill confidence in me with all the love and support that she gave me while growing up. Quite frankly, she still gives me the strength I need to continue when I feel like I’m hitting a wall. Empowering young girls to be themselves is important. Allowing them to express their personalities openly without judgement will give them the confidence they need to pursuit their dreams, and in turn, be independent. I do think that confidence and independence go hand-in-hand. Another important issue that needs to stop is bullying. It is hard for kids who are bullied in school to become confident. It’s a problem that needs to stop. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate to have a loving home environment to instill confidence, strength and independence. Programs that cater to empowering girls, such as your initiative, are incredibly useful, especially to offset less than favorable family ties. You are re-asserting their worth, which is priceless."
What is your advice for women in the leadership position?
"Listen, gather information, but ultimately follow your instincts. There is a wealth of information out there and ideas will come from every direction. But, at at the end of the day, as a leader, follow your gut, rally your team, and go for it as a cohesive unit."
What has been your greatest challenge and how do you overcome it?
"Running a business has its challenges on a regular basis, from dealing with manufacturing to marketing our product. I always find that remaining positive, optimistic, and resolute in my decisions turns roadblocks into stepping stones. Good news always surfaces after a few days or even weeks of no major developments. One way I overcome any issues is by exercising regularly and meditating for a few minutes each day. I also try to disconnect from my phone for at least one hour everyday (I know, it’s crazy how we have become so reliant on our handheld devices) and focus on my son and his evening routine before bedtime. But, it’s hard to fully shut down – I don’t think I ever really do because my mind is still unconsciously thinking about all aspects of my business… all the time."
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO OUR NEXT GENERATION READERS?
"In this digital age, it’s easy to compare oneself to others, especially with social media. Stay true to you, your goals, your dreams, and most importantly, your values. The path isn’t always easy (most often than not), but it’s those individuals who persevere, remain positive, clearly see their vision, and believe in their abilities, who will find success and become leaders. Don’t expect perfection, it doesn’t exist. You will make mistakes, but the number one thing that’s key to starting a business is action. Act with a plan, but realize that the real world is different from how you internalized it when you conceived your concept. Act, listen, adapt, and repeat the pattern. Oh, and one more piece of advice, don’t give into the “No’s” you will hear a lot… instead, think of them as New Opportunities. Self-doubt will get you no where – you have to forge ahead."