Could you provide a brief recap of your career since graduating from Owen?
I pursued my degree at Owen with the ultimate goal of becoming an entrepreneur, but when I graduated, I hadn’t yet figured out a solid plan for what my own business might look like. Luckily, I was recruited to work for Amazon in Seattle just a few months later. I figured the job would be a valuable experience (and a great notch on my resume), so I moved across the country and worked on their music team as a Product Manager. After about two years, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant to work for a major company. I’m an entrepreneur. And as much as I’ve learned over the years from working with and for other companies, I thrive the most when I’m the one in charge. I’m not the type to check off boxes from someone else’s to-do list.
Near the end of my time in Seattle, some talented friends of mine from Nashville were in a band that was just starting to pick up momentum and asked if I wanted to manage them. This was the moment I realized what business I wanted to start. I’ve always loved pulling the strings behind-the-scenes and putting on a show. (You should see my home movies from childhood). I missed Nashville deeply– it’s the city that feels most like home and has since my first day as a freshman at Belmont. And I realized that throughout my life, I’ve consistently chosen to surround myself with artists and creative minds. In hindsight, that single conversation with that band felt like the start of my mission: I wanted to manage artists, and help them navigate the business side of the music industry. It was clear, and it felt right.
To be a successful artist manager, there are a few major credentials that provide a leg up: First, an MBA, and/or the confidence to bet on yourself and take calculated risks. (This is where the education and tools I gained at Owen came into play.) Second, you need hands-on experience working in the music industry, either at a record label or an artist management company. (I worked at Universal Records for a few years between undergrad and grad school.) And third, you need some understanding of how music technology works: how music is sold, packaged, distributed, and shared with the world (which was perhaps the biggest benefit of my years at Amazon). So in 2012 I returned to Nashville, started Olivia Management, and never looked back. We just celebrated our ten-year company anniversary this April.
What is your company and where did the idea come from? What served as the biggest motivator or influence in starting your company?
I named my company Olivia Management after my great-grandmother. It was her first name, it’s my middle name, and it’s a name I’ve always loved. I knew I wasn’t having kids immediately after graduating, so instead of using it for my first child, I decided my first business deserved the name. My great-grandmother was an entrepreneur in the thirties and forties, at a time when very few women had businesses of their own. She ran several retail stores and was a landlord, earning a living for herself and her family while building the company by herself. That part of our family history has always inspired me, and I wanted to pay homage to her tenacity and success with my company name.
Olivia Management is an artist management and consulting company based here in Nashville. We consider it our company mission to protect, support, and encourage artists pursuing the dream of earning a successful living from their art. We work primarily with musicians in the Americana sphere, managing their careers and helping them build their businesses, audiences, and incomes. Our current full-time artist roster includes nine artists/acts and one music producer. In addition to full-time music management for specific artists, I also offer consulting with newer, less established artists on an hourly basis. It’s a way to keep my finger on the pulse of the new music scene, and a chance to help artists who aren’t yet at the level of success where they require full-time management. I’m currently consulting with about twenty artists.
What drives me to do what I do is simple: I love it. I have enormous respect for artists and what they offer the world, and I have a wealth of experience and education regarding the thing that most artists struggle with most: business (i.e. making money). My work brings together the two biggest joys in my life–entrepreneurship and music. I get to help people who make the world a better place. It’s about showing artists how to monetize their work so that they can keep making those valuable contributions to the world. And so they can afford to feed their children and build the kind of futures they deserve. I don’t believe in starving artists.
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur and how have you worked to overcome this challenge?
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of running a business is maintaining focus. I love what I do, and I get excited about new ideas and projects. That’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit– always looking for the next great idea– but when you’ve dedicated your time and energy to building a business, you have to learn when to let those new ideas warm on the back burner while you focus on the main goals.
I’m always reminding myself that there are finite hours in a day, and bringing my focus back to the most pressing, relevant priorities: What is the best way to move forward with my business? What have I added to my plate that doesn’t serve my ultimate goal? What’s the best next step for supporting my artists? I’ve learned to vet opportunities according to a thorough checklist. These days, I don’t take on new projects unless they meet specific criteria designed to keep my focus on what’s most important for the company and for me as an entrepreneur. I don’t say yes to everything anymore.
What qualities are most important to possess as an entrepreneur?
I’d say the most important quality is something between bravery and perseverance. You have to be willing to take risks. You have to trust yourself enough to bet on yourself. And you have to be willing and able to keep going, even if it doesn’t work out perfectly at first.
It’s also important to have a strategic vision– to think through your ideas thoroughly and work them out step-by-step. A positive attitude helps (I tend to be “cautiously optimistic” more often than not). And ideally, the best entrepreneurs are the ones who are willing to keep learning. There will always be a better way of doing things, and keeping yourself open to new ideas and improvements, trying and failing, gives you a big advantage.
What are you most proud of about your business?
I’ve been in a unique position to employ, train, and mentor a lot of women in the entertainment industry. It didn’t start out as an intentional choice– many women are drawn to this type of business and this kind of management role– but it became one of the things I’m most proud of in my professional life. Over the course of ten years running Olivia Management, I’ve employed at least a dozen talented, dedicated, brilliant women who have evolved and moved on to build amazing careers in the music industry. It’s been both inspiring and incredibly fulfilling to help create a path for other women.
The other thing I’m most proud of is that my company supports what the world needs most: art that makes people feel less alone. The world needs music, and the people who make music are incredibly, incredibly important, though often underpaid and undervalued. My work helps those artists and bands find more fans, helps them earn more for their hard work, and helps their music touch more listeners. That’s why I do this.
What advice do you have for students as they launch their business? Are there any tools you consistently use as an entrepreneur?
My advice would be to start now. Start as soon as humanly possible. Don’t wait until you feel ready to take a leap, because you might never feel truly ready. That’s okay. Those first few years are your time to make mistakes and learn from them. The faster you get going, the faster you’ll make mistakes, and the faster you’ll get to a place where your business is sustainable and profitable. If you wait too long, you might never get there.
As far as tools, I think time management is a challenge for most entrepreneurs, so anything that helps streamline and organize your hours is important. We use Asana for project management, youcanbookme for scheduling calls and Zoom meetings, and filters for Gmail.
What do you do to live a balanced life? Do you have any interesting or fun hobbies?
I love cooking and baking. I got much better at baking in 2020 because I stopped being afraid to try new, more daunting recipes. I baked a special birthday cake last year that took four days to make. I just wanted to see if I could do it.
Cooking is a source of stress relief for me when I get home at night. As an artist manager, my job is never done– it’s a constant commitment– so there are precious few moments throughout the day where I don’t feel on-call or in problem-solving mode. Cooking is my excuse to close the computer and change gears. When you follow a recipe, you give up control for a while: There’s a clear process, a way to move through tasks step by step, and there’s a finished product. You know when you’re done. I clean the kitchen at night and feel proud of my finished product. Also, since my hands are occupied, I can’t read or reply to emails!