Coffee Talk with Olivia Perez
Olivia Perez is a very busy gal. From creating everyone’s favorite millennial Yellow Pages (as Olivia herself calls it) site Friend of a Friend to sitting in at fashion week shows globally to collaborating with brands we love (Outdoor Voice and Tory Burch anyone?) and contributing culturally relevant stories for Forbes.com, Olivia is certainly the jet-setting entrepreneur you’ve come to know her as and why we tapped her as the second feature in our Women We Love series.
While we may have sat down with our favorite multitasker on a particularly gloomy October morning, her shining personality definitely made up for the weather outside. With a casual mention of feeding Rick Ross chicken tenders the night before our shoot, Olivia got down to the nitty-gritty of the future of the editorial industry, the importance of #content and why age is truly just a number.
1. What fuels you for your day? (whether it be your favorite place to work out, morning rituals, etc.)
My mornings! I’m a huge proponent of a morning ritual and getting up early. NYC is so crazy and fast-paced that it’s imperative for me to have quiet time for me after I wake up. I’m usually awake at 7am so I can get most of my busy work done when the Internet is quiet. I love to workout so I’ll hit SLT or Y7 to clear my mind and then dive into the day. And of course, a lot of coffee in my mug from The Setting.
2. Give us the rundown of what a typical day of work looks like for you.
I wake up early and go through the news, Instagram, and emails just to get caught up to speed. I usually spend time writing until about noon. The rest of the day is spent out of the office taking meetings, shooting content, or testing new places. If I’m lucky I’ll get a workout in around 5pm either at SLT or Y7. Since a lot of my job involves going to events at night, I’m usually working around dinner time. I love a good nightcap with friends, either at Bar Pitti or the Bowery Hotel. Then I’m in bed, ice mask on my face (I do this every night to reduce my inflammation), with hot water and lemon around 11pm.
3. What inspired you to create Friend of a Friend?
During my junior year at NYU, I met so many talented students who were passionate about getting the most they could out of their NYU experience. They had nothing to lose and neither did I. We had access to information because we were living in New York City, interning and learning, and living a rather adult life at a young age. I found that perspective really unique—we weren’t influenced by the professional world or by a paycheck at the end of the day, but we were exposed to everything. I decided to create a space where people could talk about these discoveries and experiences—to create more of a millennial, highly-curated Yellow Pages. Friend of a Friend is just that – a community of people telling their stories in an intimate, authentic, and intentional space as if you’re hearing it from a friend. We launched the site in May 2015 with Gigi Hadid as our first guest editor. Two years later, we’ve established ourselves as cultural archaeologists with readers from around the world, contributors, and collaborations with brands like Chanel, Topshop, Tory Burch, and Maybelline.
4. Proudest moment of your career so far? Biggest challenge(s) you’ve encountered?
Any moment where I’m able to bring my online community offline is a proud one for me. I think people are craving that right now - moments where we’re interacting with people in real life and not through our screens. I’ve seen most of our success through these moments, whether it’s hosting a panel or an event where we’re the creative in a community and acting as the catalyst for new conversations and relationships.
The biggest challenge is that there’s no roadmap or title to what I do. Besides my site, I’m also a contributor for Forbes.com, a co-founder of System of Service (a non-profit organization I started this year with Joe Holder), an Outdoor Voices ambassador, and a creative consultant to a few startups in New York City. I’ve always considered myself a Swiss Army knife. I’m a mix between an editor, content creator, consultant, activist, writer… I could go on. That’s what I love most about my job and am so grateful that I’m in an industry that allows me to wear multiple hats. I’ve forced myself to take an analytical approach with everything we do, whether it’s what I’m posting on social media, the companies we consult with, or articles we focus on, to make sure that I’m delivering content that our audience is engaged with, can relate to, and tells a larger story about the community we want to build.
5. Who is a woman (or women) in business that you look up to?
Olivia Pope. Do fictional characters count?
6. What is something you wish someone had told you before you embarked on your career?
Don’t let your age define you. I started my company when I was 20 years old and shied away from experiences out of fear. I felt like I wouldn’t be respected or listened to because I was always the youngest person in the room. Let your age give you a unique perspective and make that perspective your strongest tool.
7. If you could describe your entrepreneur style in three words, what would they be?
Collaborative, driven, (over) ambitious
8. What is your ultimate career goal?
I never have an answer for this. Keeps me on my toes. :)
9. What does the future of the editorial and fashion industries look like in your eyes?
I’ve always said that content is king. Both industries are seeing more voices than ever before through the Internet, and I think it’s those content creators who will be the faces of the industry moving forward. I’m excited to hear from new perspectives that are inclusive and innovative and go beyond the mold we’ve been accustomed to.
10. Favorite outfit that makes you feel like a true boss?
Something along the lines of what I’m wearing today (in photography)! It’s versatile so I can be out working all day and go out at night. I’m usually in jeans for comfort but pair it with a standout jacket or top. It's my modern take on the work suit.
11. How do you like to unwind after a busy work week?
To be honest, I feel like I never really wind down, and I like it that way! I feel my job relies on me constantly being on and aware of what people are paying attention to. Even going to a new restaurant on a Friday night with friends can turn into a story. But when I’m not working, I love cooking at home or reading a really good book.
12. Any advice for the future girl bosses of the world, particularly those who want to work in the editorial sector?
Collaborate, don’t compete. Meet as many people as you can, network, and find ways to grow with the people around you. I consider some of my closest friends today to be people who I’ve met through work, and I’m so grateful to be able to collaborate with them professionally and personally. The finish line is better if you get there with friends!