Today we’d like to introduce you to Akvile DeFazio.
Hi Akvile, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Thank you so much for having me to share my story with your readers. I was born in Lithuania, emigrated to Canada during the Cold War, and have been moving west and south where I felt drawn to since childhood until I landed in the LA area, where I have truly called home for the last decade.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science as I initially pursued a career in physical therapy but realized that it was not what I wanted to do and I sensed I would fine fulfillment in my work elsewhere. I always felt a desire to work in something more creative as I grew up in an artistic household and you would most always find me painting, playing music, or creating. When it came to my time working at PT clinics, I found myself jumping on every marketing related task. Since age 10, I began exhibiting entrepreneurial behaviors as we didn’t have much when I was younger, so I collected rocks, used crayons to draw nature scenes and designs on them, and sold them on the curb of our apartment complex – most for $0.05-$0.25 but one person gave me $20!
I officially began working in online marketing 14 years ago by fighting to get a highly coveted internship at the time and I to this day, am so grateful they took a chance on me as I was the only of thirty applicants that did not have a business, communications, or marketing degree. This internship then turned into a full-time position doing ecommerce for an outdoor/sports gear and apparel company in Seattle called evo. After several years, I moved to a pet health insurance startup where I learned how to do online advertising and built their campaigns from the ground up. Next, I moved to Long Beach where I worked remotely for a global marketing conference and publication company as a marketing manager for several years. I yearned for more responsibility and authority in my work, wanted to help more brands, so I took the leap to start my own advertising agency to help ecommerce brands, mobile apps, events, and entertainment industry clients. I had no experience running my own business, let alone an agency, so after hesitating for nine months to ask one of my closest friends that has been running her own agency for over a decade if I could shadow her for a day, I finally did. She did me one better and said she’s taken on too much work, wants to scale back, so she can have more time again and begin building an unrelated business. She gave me half of her clients and taught me everything she knew to help me get started. It’s incredible how a small question like that can have an enormously rewarding response. Don’t ever think a question you have is of no significance. It’s worth asking. While I’m not sure I can ever properly thank her for her gesture, I now help pass the baton whenever I can through career mentoring high school and college students, share resources, tools, and contacts. Next month, we celebrate our seven years in business.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a linear or smooth journey, but it has certainly been exciting, challenging, invigorating, adventurous, fulfilling, and worthwhile. The challenges are formative experiences that are uncomfortable as they happen, but are worth having some gratitude for in hindsight.
Switching my career trajectory after completing my education to something I had little formal knowledge or experience with was intimidating, but I was young and sensed I had time to course correct as I was finding myself and what was the right fit. I had to prove myself to my family and my new employers I wanted to make everyone proud and pleased that they hired me to be a part of their team. I wanted to do good work and be successful someday.
Later in my career, taking the leap to work for myself was risky, but I was optimistic that this is what I was meant to do. When has anyone ever said, “I shouldn’t have trusted my gut?” Right? Follow your intuition. One significant challenge early on in business is learning how to do business development and overcoming my public speaking fears. I was on stage since I was a child as I played various musical instruments, but I was so nervous and not present. A few years ago, I began attending Toastmasters with the goal of becoming a better and present speaker. After not missing a single weekly meeting for one year, I was invited to my first speaking engagement…which turned out to be a keynote in Salt Lake City at the Adobe campus. I was very nervous but was ready and felt more present than ever. What a rush! Getting out of my comfort zone and facing this fear helped me grow professionally and has benefited business tremendously as I have now traveled internationally to speak at events, on podcasts, and on the radio.
Seven years in, no regrets, only experience gained and lessons learned, and while my journey hasn’t been easy, has had many losses, it’s always had wins, too. Taking calculated risks may not always pay off, but when they do and you truly give them everything you have, the successes you have are invaluable.
As you know, we’re big fans of AKvertise. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Certainly! We are a social media advertising agency that specializes in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and TikTok Ads. We work with ecommerce brands, mobile apps, events, and entertainment industry clients to help them achieve their various goals. We provide ad account management services where we develop strategies, set up campaigns, and manage them so clients get the best return on their investment. We also provide consulting services if brands want to do the account management themselves but need education, training, or support when it comes to developing strategy, troubleshooting issues, or have questions related to advertising.
Over the years, we’ve expanded our services to also include agency training where we train teams on how to advertise using various social media channels.
We embed ourselves as an extension of our client’s teams and we aren’t the set it and forget it type. We are diligent with our work and treat every account as if it were our own. When our clients win, we win, too.
The service that we are most proud of and stands out from other agencies is our parental leave coverage. After I was preparing to go on maternity leave a few years ago, I was looking for ways to have someone as seasoned, reliable, and trustworthy to temporarily handle my work, clients, and accounts so I could spend this new, limited, and precious time with our baby and to recover. Realizing that there weren’t options like this out there – or that I could find – I assembled a team of my trusted colleagues, friends, and peers and began offering this new service to other agency owners, account managers, and freelancers in advertising that were expectant parents. It’s been a great success over the last two years since inception and we’re grateful to be able to help others and give them peace of mind about their business and continue their livelihood during this time.
What do you like and dislike about the city?
I may be biased since I call it home, but Los Angeles is a gem. It’s filled with colors, cultures, flavors, and juxtapositions of every sort, which I adore. You can immerse yourself instantly in the bustling bits of the city or you can take a step back and catch your breath on the coast or in the mountains nearby. The people here come from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe, and the stories you hear and can share with others are incredible. It’s anything but stagnant and it’s the epitome of what I personally want my life to be – exciting and eventful. There are opportunities for every seeker and if there aren’t, there are so many creative, innovative, and brilliant minds that someone will create them and share with others. I’ve lived in many continents, countries, states, cities, and neighborhoods in my 30-some years of life and by far, LA feels like home and people tend to smile and say hello here to familiar faces and strangers alike in comparison. What’s not to love? Plus, I’m a sucker for good food and there’s so much of it here.
What I like least is the smog. I hope that one day, too, as a city, we can execute viable solutions to our homeless communities and be able to provide them with better support. Traffic isn’t great, but thankfully, my remote work allows for me to be strategic about when I need to be in the car or going across town to reduce time.