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Female Founders: Isabel Echeverry of Kontakto On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Keep overhead down. No fancy offices in the beginning. Channeling a sense of humility and being humble are the best. I found myself spending way too much on networking. It’s worth it but also a balance.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Isabel Echeverry.

Isabel Echeverry is the founder of Kontakto. She started her career in representation at ICM working with Jeff Berg and went on to become a respected director’s representative of A-list talent in the industry. In 2009, recognizing the vast potential in the Hispanic market, Echeverry opened Kontakto Talent Management and Entertainment Company. Now she is established as the market leader in Latinx Entertainment with an impressive roster composed of award-winning directors, actors, and powerhouse production companies. As a big believer in the concept of giving back and ‘paying it forward,’ her ability to navigate the Hispanic and global market has proved invaluable to all her clientele.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

First of all, thank you for having me! I was born in Queens, New York to Colombian immigrant parents. I grew up between New York Miami and Columbia. I started dreaming of being an actress in my teenage years watching Jessica Lange, Maryl Streep, Victoria Vaccaro, and Mexican star Veronica Castro. I dreamt of being a movie star. I didn’t know how to go about it and for years I looked up acting classes in the yellow pages everywhere I lived. I attended all that I found but still did not know what I needed to do to be on the big screen. When I moved to Miami in my early 20s, the same thing, I went to all the acting schools there. Then when I was 25 I met a real actress that told me I needed to move to New York. I was at Stella Adler then went to William Esper. So moving to Los Angeles as an actress helped me learn the trial and error back in the 1990s / the early 2000s about what being Latina in Hollywood was like. I was then given an opportunity to work as an agent trainee in one of the biggest talent agencies. So I left acting and instead became a talent manager helping Latinos in Hollywood.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was able to book a series regular for a Latin Colombian actor who always played the drug dealer roles. And now he was playing a detective opposite, Bill Pullman. A role that had nothing to do with being Latin He was just playing an American detective. That was a big interesting Breakthrough for his career and I think Latinos in Hollywood

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was that I had long nails and I had to quickly write a letter for the CEO of the company where I was an agent trainee. I didn’t even have time to look at it and notice it didn’t make any sense. Everybody was laughing. A big producer read it and couldn’t believe it. Of course, that has always reminded me to check my work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So many people have helped me. I wish I could name them all. I think my family and my parents have helped me by believing in me and supporting me. Especially with my kids as I was building my business. I really appreciate the support and faith my parents have for me. My family as a whole and my parents, my sister, my brother. They would take care of my kids while I would travel for screenings, seeing clients, business meetings while I traveled around the country and world. They were always there to help with my kids. And the kids always loved the homemade soups. A family win-win.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I think what may be holding women back is the fear of making the big leap and letting go of the comfort zone that they live in.

It’s important to have confidence in your experience, work ethic, and time and effort you put into your line of profession and career. Then you know that you have all the tools to have a successful business.

It may also be the fear of the unknown. But it’s also important to have a good support system and have people cheering you on. It takes a village. I would encourage any woman who wants to, to take the leap. If I can do it, you can do it.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Yes, I think there should be a forum for small business owners for women. An organization to help provide tools and support. For example, provide help with necessary documents, and checklists. It is essential that the government have programs to offer to women and others on entrepreneurial ventures.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

More women should become founders to inspire the younger generation that gender equality is important. That women are capable of reaching tremendous goals. It shows that being a business owner gives independence and the power to control your life. You don’t want to underestimate a woman’s perspective.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I’ve heard that with any business, you either make it or break it in the first year. The truth is, if it doesn’t work one way, find a different strategy to reach your goal. This is why keeping your business open and successful is important. If it doesn’t work one way, then change your strategy. That is the equation of success. Change your strategy over and over until you reach your goal. That is a success. Your goals are different than mine. Another person’s business goals are different from mine. It’s your own personal business goals that are the focus.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder, and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe that a person that loves people, shares their experience, can motivate and encourage people could make a good leader. The trick is to find the best in every person. When people are given encouragement, It can give them the power to take the leap they have always wanted to take.

It’s OK if people decide to just have a 9-to-5 job. and just observe leaders and admire them. I mean not everyone is meant to run a company or be a leader. They can be leaders in other ways. A leader in the home or being a parent. Maybe someone prefers to work 9 to 5 and not have to be stressed out because of their company. It is demanding to run your own company. But I love the challenge. I also love to expand and give opportunities to Latinos in Hollywood. That is my main goal. That will be my legacy. For example, today an actress that I helped book a lead role for a short film, Is now part of a film nominated for an Academy Award. That is what it means to be a leader. Helping others. That’s what I like to do with people’s careers. Help them reach their goals and achieve their dreams.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t be scared! (Giggling).

But seriously, do your due diligence when hiring staff. My experience was hiring a disgruntled employee for example. The association can be a problem. I wish someone would have told me not to hire just because someone was referred.

Keep overhead down. No fancy offices in the beginning. Channeling a sense of humility and being humble are the best. I found myself spending way too much on networking. It’s worth it but also a balance.

It’s never too late to start and the time is always now. I had always wanted to do what I am doing now and wish I would have started sooner. That advice would have been helpful because I was insecure. It’s true, the time is now.

I wish someone would have told me to see my value at a company I was working for before I went on my own. To notice how much income I was generating earlier than when I did. I wish I would have heard Tony Robbins say that work should be seamless with your life.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I have spoken on panels, love being a mentor to young people and I have sponsored lots of organizations for Latinos in Hollywood that help further their careers. For example, right now I am helping a young filmmaker, he’s 17 years old, to shadow a director on a big advertising campaign. Every day is an opportunity to help others and inspire them with my story. Share the notion that anything is possible. If I can do it, you can do it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To empower kids with the idea that they can be business owners. Teaching kids how to be conscious of money, and to start that education early. Education is very important but it’s also important to start dreaming early in life. For example, if it’s in the visual arts if it’s acting or athletics. Children should be able to understand that their dream could be a business. In other words, to help children discover their passion early and not wait until college. For example, I have my 13-year-old son who’s passion is art, and is with private art teachers and mentors. He now has one of his paintings in a museum in Norway. I would never pressure him but it is his dream and it would be amazing to see these types of opportunities for all children. Encouragement is very important.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Ari Emmanuel. He is a visionary, who has made a huge impact in the entertainment business. And that’s why I would love to sit down and ask him for lots of advice based on some of my bigger ideas. I admire his leadership and expansion successes. companies. It’s his success in the entertainment business that I admire. His ability to manage success and integrity at the same time.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thank you for having me.



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