Petia A. Abdur-Razzaaq of The Stylista Group: “A successful executive requires grit, open-mindedness, and the ability to respect every member of your team no matter how junior they are”

Dr. William Seeds
Jul 10, 2020 · 8 min read

In order to be a successful executive, I think it takes…GRIT, a open-mindedness, the ability to respect every member of your team no matter how junior they are, vision and approachability. I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from aspiring to be an executive, but if you like to sleep a lot then the position may not be for you…LOL!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Petia A. Abdur-Razzaaq, a Branding/Digital Marketing Strategist and Principal of The Stylista Group, a boutique digital marketing firm located in New York City, with over 20 years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience. She began her career during the launch of The Boston Globe’s website boston.com, where she developed effective online marketing campaigns for major clients such as Dunkin Donuts and Fleet Bank.

While pursuing her MBA some years later, she was selected by the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation Small Business Initiative to be a student participant on a team of seasoned consultants from Booz Allen. Petia went on to work for Ralph Lauren, where she successfully steered the transition of their off-price product line management from the United States to Asia.

For the past 10+ years as Principal of The Stylista Group, Petia and her team have developed and implemented digital marketing plans that have produced outstanding measurable results. The firm has a niche focus that helps legacy lifestyle and luxury brands to connect with present-day customers by harnessing the power of their brand stories and collaborating with micro-influencers. Their legacy brand clients over the years have included Vera Moore Cosmetics, Isoplus Hair Products, and Castro Convertibles, to name a few.

As a former member of email service provider Constant Contact’s Authorized Local Expert team, she delivered best practice presentations on email and social media marketing in the NY Metro Area for several years. Ms. Abdur-Razzaaq has also been an Adjunct Instructor in the Continuing Education Department at The City College of New York as well as a guest lecturer at NYU.

She holds an MBA in Marketing Management from The Lubin School of Business at Pace University as well as a BA in Management/Marketing from Simmons College, Boston, MA.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I got downsized at the end of 2008 like just about every other person that I knew, and after going on multiple rounds of interviews for 4 months and not being hired, I decided that I might have better luck striking out on my own and offering my services as a contractor. Before I knew it I was starting to get more work than I could handle myself, so that is when I decided to hang my shingle up and go for it!

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

Yes! About a year into my official company launch( I am now at year 10) I got recruited to be a paid speaker for Constant Contact in the NY Metro Area. It was a great opportunity for establishing brand awareness and credibility as you can imagine. However one Saturday afternoon I was in a local department store… baseball cap on…trying to keep a low profile while shopping for vacation attire and this woman comes out of nowhere calling me “the Constant Contact Lady”…to say that I was spoked is putting it mildly, but that is when it really struck me that that people were taking note and that I was becoming “recognizable” in New York City which was a bit weird.

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?

Sure! In the beginning I was very enthusiastic about working with the start-up small business market. My thinking was that these business has an overwhelming need for my services so I would be all set. However, while this is true..there is a huge disconnect between the needs of these businesses and their ability to pay for the services, so I had to learn very quickly to change course. Today I still work with what are considered to be small businesses, but they are more established.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

As I said before, I kind of fell into being a CEO. However I will say that they thing that I enjoy the most is being able to empower my team members to think outside the box and become the best versions of themselves professionally.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

I would say that the burden of the success of an entire company lies on the shoulders of the CEO, especially if it is a smaller company. I have found that while since I am the primary face of my business that my clients expect me to be involved in the day to day handling of their accounts far more than I should be and this can be a tricky situation to balance at times.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

Being able to gather with and “talk shop” with counterparts about how they are handling various business issues.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

There are times when the level of responsibility can be overwhelming.

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

I think the main myth is that you don’t actually have to do much work and that you can delegate everything. In many cases being a good leader requires that you actually do the work to demonstrate how it needs to be done…at least in a smaller company.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Definitely work/family balance….my husband owns an IT Firm and his professional life is pretty much unaffected by the fact that we have a 4 year old daughter. Not so much for me…not only do I have to be the CEO of my business, but also the CEO of our home life.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I somehow naively thought that things would get easier as the years go on, but instead there is always a new challenge to overcome

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

In order to be a successful executive, I think it takes…GRIT, a open-mindedness, the ability to respect every member of your team no matter how junior they are, vision and approachability. I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from aspiring to be an executive, but if you like to sleep a lot then the position may not be for you…LOL!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I’ve learned so much from simply listening to my team …I think that once team members feel like they have a voice that is heard, they feel appreciated and work harder.

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?

There are so many people who have propelled me along the way that it would take forever to list them all, but if I had to choose one person I would say Wendi Caplan Carroll who was the Former Director of the Authorized Local Expert Team for Constant Contact. As I described previously, once I became associated with an Constant Contact which was a respected organization bigger than myself, it gave me a platform and the credibility I needed as a new business owner to succeed.

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

Over the years I have been a part of several pro-bono ventures where I’ve l shared my expertise. However the organization that I support on an on-going basis is called Lend a Hand Uganda-USA. The organization supports sustainable projects that provide food and income to the over 3 million orphans in Uganda. The US arm is the funding source, so for the last four years I have been working with them to promote their fundraising events both online and offline.

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 waste time in folks who don’t understand the value of your services

· Seek mentorship from Day #1

· Raising your prices actually gets you better clients in the long run

· Be very specific with boundaries when doing pro-bono work

· Don’t waste time of proposals that are overly detailed

(I need to do the individual stories for each of these)

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.

It always horrifies me how ignorant most people are to issues of diversity in 2019. If I could somehow start a movement that forces the most clueless or prejudiced people to become educated on the issues that they were most ignorant about I think it would have a domino effect for the better on the entire world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” — Ava DuVernay

I love this quote because it describes the evolution of my current business from myself and a consultant to setting up a company with a team, and then now a new venture that I am working on with two other amazing women. I can’t say too much about it because it is still in its’ infancy but we are definitely unto something and we have already decided that we are going to go BIG or go home!

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

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Dr. William Seeds

Written by

Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and physician, with over 22 years of experience, specializing in all aspects of sports medicine and total joint treatments

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.