Marketing master goes with the flow
Zamawa Arenas branches off on her own with Flowetik
“Being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a plane without a parachute,” says Zamawa Arenas, who recently launched Flowetik, a new branding and marketing consultancy.
To assemble that parachute with limited instructions and push through successfully, she explains to attendees at a recent forum for Latina entrepreneurs, you need “an indestructible will to accomplish.”
On the web
The Venezuelan-born serial entrepreneur previously spent 20 years with the full-service marketing firm Argus — 15 of those as co-owner — before hanging her own shingle in June.
With Flowetik, Arenas will offer strategic and consultative services to startups, small businesses and social enterprises poised for growth but lacking the resources to bring on a full-service agency. Her target clients are entrepreneurs with a social purpose.
One of Flowetik’s first clients is the Teacher Collaborative, a nonprofit startup building a community of teachers for collaborative problem-solving. Another is Advoqt, a Latino-owned for-profit technology company that’s working to develop a multicultural pipeline of tech talent.
Clients will learn to maximize “inbound marketing,” employing online strategies like search engine optimization, relevant content creation, social media engagement and email marketing to build trust and attract the interest of potential customers, as opposed to traditional “outbound” tactics like TV, radio and banner ads.
“The way I see it, our job is to uncomplicate the complicated so clients can take big and bold steps forward,” Arenas explains in a recent blog entry on her firm’s website.
Arenas didn’t grow up planning to be an entrepreneur, though she confesses that she was making bracelets and selling them in school at age 13. She came to the U.S. for graduate studies at Boston University and planned to return to Venezuela to continue her television management career there. But when she graduated in 1996, something new was coming into view — the World Wide Web. She decided to remain in the U.S. and learn more about it.
First she joined a startup design firm selling websites. That effort floundered. “People in 1996 were saying, ‘No way. What is this?’” she explains.
She helped start an online film company that streamed art house films. In the era of slow dial-up modem connections, that effort, too, was ahead of its time. She notes the irony of being told by a technology reporter, “That’s not going to work — people are never going to watch movies on a PC.” History proved him wrong, but their early business model proved unsustainable.
Then in 1997 she met Lucas Guerra, who had just started Argus. The two partnered to grow Argus into today’s multi-million dollar full-service marketing agency with a dozen employees and some 500 clients. With the tagline “Work that Matters,” Arenas and her Argus colleagues directed their services toward organizations with mission and purpose.
Time for a change
Outside of work, serving as a mentor at the MassChallenge business accelerator, Arenas got to know entrepreneurs who understood the need for branding intuitively, but didn’t have the time or resources to focus on it. The relationships she built there kindled a desire to serve a new set of clients in a new way.
A life milestone — her 50th birthday earlier this year — helped spur her to act.
“I thought, if I wanted to do something different, this was the time to do so,” she says. She sold her stake in Argus and launched Flowetik in June.
She is running Flowetik as a low-overhead operation, more virtual than brick-and-mortar. Rather than hiring staff, Arenas has formed what she calls a “confederate of collaborators,” a team of independent consultants who bring diverse expertise and viewpoints to Flowetik’s projects. This fall, the firm will set up shop at Impact Hub in downtown Boston, a business incubator space and social entrepreneur community.
Speaking on a panel at the “Latina Entrepreneurs Making a Difference” forum organized by LatInc July 18 at WeWork South Station, Arenas emphasizes the importance of a supportive network.
“When I started with Argus, we didn’t know many people or how to run a business. I have such a robust network of people now.”
She adds, “I’ve never met an entrepreneur that wanted another entrepreneur to fail. Offer help when you can, and ask for help when needed. I think there is a big community that we can all tap into, because we all want to see all of us succeed.”
Balance, flow and wisdom
Her new firm’s name evokes Arenas’ dedication to maintaining “flow” in her life and work, as well as giving a subtle nod to ética, the Spanish word for ethics.
“I practice yoga,” she says, “and part of my practice is this concept of flow that applies both on and off the mat. To manage people and business you need to think about flow — structuring your work so everything flows seamlessly.”
She learned the hard way to remember to have fun and maintain a work-life balance.
“There’s a period of my life that’s a blur,” she says. “You get so immersed in your business that you lose yourself. Taking care of yourself is important.”
Now she makes room for yoga, hanging out with her husband and “being a goof” whenever she feels like it.
With her accumulated knowledge and wisdom, diving into a new venture feels a little less scary.
“I have a parachute now, a pretty good one,” she tells the Banner. “I learned a lot of things and I carry those lessons with me to this next venture. I feel very calm and grounded with what I’m doing right now.”