Alicia Navarro, the CEO and founder of content monetization platform Skimlinks, was bitten by the Business bug when she was just 16 years old. A native of Sydney, Australia, her company was borne out of more than 10 years’ work in internet applications, designing and launching mobile app technology in Australia and the UK.
This decade of expertise-building has been the creative crucible for Alicia Navarro’s business, which helps thousands of digital publishers around the world to earn money from the content, without the technical and administrative complexities that can create seemingly insurmountable obstacles in this area.
In 2014, Alicia Navarro was named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards, sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent. Leading up to this auspicious milestone, Skimlinks had more than 200,000 customer websites, and was connecting them with 18,000 merchants and partners, powering more than $500m in e-commerce sales and leading to millions of dollars in commission for Skimlinks customers.
12 Questions for Alicia Navarro
Alicia Navarro took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with AGENT about her business story to date, about the people and things that inspire her, the challenges of leading her own business, and the advice that she would pass on to other young entrepreneurs who are setting out on a life in business.
1. Briefly tell us about your business and your business goals.
Skimlinks is a content-to-commerce platform that helps publishers monetize and gain insights from their shopping-related editorial content. We monetize through affiliate marketing and through licensing audience data. Our platform drove nearly $1bn (USD) of ecommerce transactions in 2016 resulting in a 38% year-over-year increase in revenue. We work with 54% of the top 100 US and UK content publishers and are the largest global source of declared shopping intent data available to marketers in the platform of their choice. We work every day to help publishers monetize their editorial content and connect marketers with consumers who want to buy their products.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I wanted to be a ‘business woman’ from a young age. However, it was doing Young Achievers (Australian version of Junior Achievers or Young Enterprise) when I was 16 years old that really inspired me to want to be an entrepreneur. I was Managing Director of my company, and we made lipgloss called Pout. We ended up winning the national championships, and from then on, I was hooked.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
It is hard not to be inspired by the likes of Elon Musk, who used the wealth he made from PayPal to tackle genuinely important societal challenges. I hope I can one day do the same thing.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
It is a very lonely profession, in many ways. There is a level of distance you need to maintain as a leader, which can be very isolating. And then if you travel as much as I do, you are away from home and friends/family for long periods. And then as a woman you become hardened and used to taking charge, which can make relationships more difficult. You don’t necessarily surmount it, you just strive to find balance, to be an active member in a community that understands what you are going through, and you try to be self-aware enough to soften the edges that may make you unapproachable. It’s a constant effort.
5. What gives you the most satisfaction in business?
I’ve been lucky to have found the most incredible people who have wanted to join me on this journey, and seeing them grow up over the years, become confident leaders with their own teams, to have had an impact on their lives… that is what lasts beyond the business.
6. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
In the early years, it is harder… as you grow, that pace can’t be maintained, and it is hard to be motivating as a leader if you are tired and lacking in human connection. So a ‘work/life’ balance becomes an important part of being better at the ‘work’ bit. I achieve it consciously: when I travel for work I make time to see friends in foreign cities or to enjoy a nice meal; when I work late at night I balance it by not working weekends; when I have a stressful day at work, I find a pleasant diversion that evening. You have to consciously do this, in the same way that you maintain a healthy life by being conscious of what you eat and how much you exercise, and balancing indulgences with goodness. Work is the same.
7. What is the first thing you do every day?
I try and maintain a discipline of doing daily yoga and cardio in my living room, it keeps me toned and mentally stable. I even maintain it while travelling for work: I just whip out a towel on my hotel room floor and use my iPad to run through my routine. It has been transformative for me, physically and mentally.
8. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
Just the time
9. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
I love TripIt, it consolidates all my travel plans and schedules making it easy to coordinate my movements. As a foreigner in the UK and US, it is also useful for tracking my days in and out of each country, which makes tax season easier!
10. What is the last thing you Googled?
Swing dancing classes. I went to a festival called Shambala in the English countryside, and spent a lot of time dancing (badly) to swing and brass band music. I want to dance better to it!
11. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
Earphones. You never know when you will want to listen to music.
12. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
“Don’t panic, it will be fine”. I think if I just knew it would turn out all right in the end, it would remove a ton of stress and worry, and let me just be confident and happy. So much time is wasted worrying about the bad things. So if I could tell my younger self that this was pointless, I’d be giving myself a wonderful gift.
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