mitzi figueroa | founder
we're so excited for you to get to know mitzi! we love everything she's doing at waves social. We asked her about social media, her motivations, and her hopes for 2017. enjoy!
interview: corina esquivel
portraits 📷: Josh Yong
Hi Mitzi thank you for being with us! Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about you.
Hi! Thanks so much for having me and for including me in this cool series! My name is Mitzi Figueroa and I currently live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta (a smaller city in central Canada) and I moved to Miami, Florida when I was 18. I studied Journalism at Palm Beach University in West Palm Beach, Florida and moved to Vancouver in 2010 after graduating.
What is your favorite thing about living in Vancouver?
This might be kind of cheesy, but I think the best part of Vancouver is the people. I’ve been lucky enough to live in some pretty cool places, but Vancouver stands out to me because of the amazing, creative people in it. The mountains and the ocean are pretty spectacular too and something I probably take for granted. It’s pretty amazing how you can enjoy the perks of living in a vibrant city and also bask in the most beautiful, natural scenery in the world!
What motivated you to start WAVES Social?
I’ve always dreamed of working for myself. I’ve worked in different social media-related roles over the past seven years and have always gravitated towards small to medium-sized companies. I really liked having direct access to the owner of the company, so I could watch and learn how they run their business. Oftentimes I’d put myself in their shoes and consider what I would do if I was running the show.
I was working at a tech startup a year ago and unfortunately, we had some bumps on the fundraising side, which meant that we had to delay pay roll. This forced me to look for freelance work on the side, so I could supplement my lost income. It was really hard at the time to face the financial reality of not getting paid, but I was so taken care of by friends and former colleagues who pointed me in the direction of people who were looking for freelancers. When I look back at that time, I’m so glad that I was forced to jump-start my freelance career, even though it was financially stressful, because I don’t think I would have found the courage to work for myself had it not been forced upon me. I ended up getting enough freelance work to match my full-time salary, so I quit my job and never looked back.
It didn’t take me very long to realize that although I love working for myself, I don’t love working by myself. I knew I needed to create some sort of brand that would allow me to work with others and also allow my friends/collaborators to champion our work together. That’s when I came up with WAVES!
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face?
There are soooooo many challenges to owning your own business or working for yourself. I think all of my challenges come down to fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of not getting enough clients, etc. So I’d say overcoming my fear is probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to face and I’m still facing. I’ve spoken to a few entrepreneurs about this and unfortunately, that fear doesn’t go away and you just have to learn to “dance with the lizard”. I’m learning to embrace the unknown a bit and thrive in the face of these challenges instead of being frightened away. Fighting fear with faith is a daily battle for me.
What does a normal day at work look like?
I travel a lot so it depends on what city I’m in. If I’m home in Vancouver, I usually take a slow morning and start working a bit later (I’m not a morning person). My first alarm usually goes off around 8:45 am and I lay in my bed scrolling through Instagram until around 9:30 am. I’m hopelessly unproductive when I work from home, so I usually walk to my neighbourhood coffee shops to get my brain going. By the time my laptop battery dies, it’s time for lunch so I’ll walk home and make myself something to eat. Sometimes I go out, but I try to eat at home as much as possible when I’m not traveling.
In the afternoon, I’ll meet up with some freelancer friends at a different coffee shop and work for the rest of the day. I usually work until around 6 pm and then I’ll figure out what to have for dinner and/or head to the gym. Being home is the only time I can really stick to a healthy eating and workout schedule, so I try to prioritize that when I can. After dinner, I usually open up my laptop again and work for a few more hours before calling it a night. I’ve discovered that I’m most productive in the evenings, so I don’t mind working late. Before bed, I’ll watch an episode of the Office (I’ve probably seen every episode at least six times) or read a book to wind down. I used to scroll through Instagram and look at Snaps before bed, but I realized that when I do, I have weird dreams, so I’m trying to make a rule for myself to put away my phone 30 minutes before I fall asleep, which is usually around 1 am.
We know you’re very excited about the Internet. Why do you think it’s such a powerful tool?
I should clarify that I love the Internet, but I’m most passionate about social media and the potential it has to create whatever life that you want! I feel so lucky to live in this era where I can create a new career path and connect with anyone in the world by just lifting a finger. It’s quite remarkable.
I know social media can be abused and distract us from real life events happening in front of us, but at best social media can unite like-minded people around a cause or niche, create new jobs (HELLO!), jump-start friendships (I’ve met some of my closest friends through Instagram), and even save lives. You can be entertained, educated, start a business, sell a product, fundraise for a cause, and even learn new skills all through social media and the Internet.
Those of us with access to information can easily take it for granted, but the opposite would be so devastating. I traveled to North Korea a few summers ago where I saw that the general public has no access to information or the internet at all. There’s no potential for growth, dreams, aspirations beyond what’s in front of them. And I know the Internet isn’t the solution to that, but access to information is crucial for a forward moving society. Social media amplifies communication, for better or for worse. And I’m choosing to look and use the tool for better.
Some people think 2016 wasn’t the best year, but we have big hopes for 2017! What are you dreaming for this year, both personally and for your business?
Actually, I don’t think 2016 was the worst year! Yes, there were some disappointments and scary things happening, but I think some hardships are necessary for growth and sometimes we need it to reinforce our beliefs and commitments. That’s probably what I’m most hopeful for in 2017 actually. That any hardships, whether at work or in relationships or in our political systems, would turn into opportunities to grow and learn from.
On a personal level, I’m getting married to the most wonderful man in 2017 (!!!) so I’m pretty pumped about that. We’re long distance, so I’m really excited to finally live in the same city as him soon! I’m also excited to work on new projects with friends and take my business to new heights. There’s so many great entrepreneurs who are doing awesome things and I’d love to partner with them to help them share their stories to online audiences in a fun, engaging way.
Other than the Internet where do find inspiration?
I’m inspired by the awesome, creative people around me. I’m a super-extrovert so being with people and meeting new people energizes me. I feel so lucky to know some of the people that I do and getting the chance to visit them and learn about what they’re working on is awesome. My fiance is one of those people who inspires me everyday to push myself harder and find new ways to communicate what I do.
I’m also inspired by new spaces. I love visiting new boutiques, event spaces, restaurants, and coffee shops whenever I can. Whether they’re local or in different cities, physically transporting myself to a new space really resets my brain. It’s also a dream of mine to one day open up my own space, but I won’t get into that right now. :)
How does faith play a role in what you do?
My faith plays into everything I do. Time and time again, I’ve seen God provide people, finances, and opportunities that align with my deepest desires. It’s so evident that He cares about my dreams, both personal and professional.
I started WAVES with the desire to co-partner with God on a new endeavor where I called the shots, with Him. I’m aware that the social media landscape is noisy and oftentimes negative, but I really hope that my approach to business is an encouragement and positive force for my clients and anyone I collaborate with.
On a deeper level, I’ve learned that there is little to no distinction between digital life and things taking place IRL. What happens online trickles into our offline lives and vice versa. I believe God cares about what we say and the messages we share both online and offline. My desire is that those of us who understand this concept would not shy away or lurk silently, but instead use social media to encourage, empower, connect, and love others. I believe that we’re strategically born into this generation with access to technology and platforms so I’m trusting that God would show me, and all of us, how to use them to impact others.
What is most important to you in life?
People. People. People. I’m most proud of the relationships I have in my life and the people I get to cheer on. If I could get paid to build relationships and support the people around me, I’d be so happy!
Thank you for sharing with us today! Lastly what was the last book you read, or album you bought?
The last book I read was “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. Even if you’re not getting married soon, I highly recommend it. It’s so beautiful, I cried during several chapters.
The last album I actually bought (who buys when you can stream?!) is Lemonade by Beyonce.