Lola & Leone's Olga Litvinenko: The right place, right time and “the right idea"
Olga Litvinenko’s motto is “live every moment to its fullest,” and this describes her well. A woman who looks at every day as an opportunity to grow and create, she turns even the darkest moment into something beautiful and renewed.
Olga is founder — and scent creator — of perfume Lola & Leone. While on a school business trip to France, she found opportunity to craft her own perfume scent. This bottle sat on her shelf for some time until, one night, she decided to wear this scent to a gala. This was one of the first events she attended after the loss of her close friend Leone, the eventual product’s namesake. After receiving many compliments on her scent that evening, Olga knew she would launch a business to produce and sell this perfume, and honor Leone.
Olga’s previous experience could be deemed “start up grad school,” adding to the list of examples in the Fast Company article ‘Save Your Money, Skip The MBA, And Go To Startup Grad School Instead.’ Olga worked a full-time marketing job while developing Lola & Leone, moving into her own “Olga & Co.” Without realizing it, she was testing the waters, using tactics from the playbook of Jen Rubio, formerly of Warby Parker, to gain attention on social media. She encouraged people (and influencers) to post photos alongside her new perfume, which she then shared to the Lola & Leone platform.
Many people attribute good business to luck — but luck is just an openness to opportunity. Like many other entrepreneurs, she happened to be at the right place and right time with “the right idea.”
Olga was serving as area President of the T.J. Martell Foundation and met the “right person” at a women’s lunch event. This “right person” introduced her to the individual she would later use as her product vendor. Olga’s drive to be involved in so many different communities enabled her to be in a position where opportunity lay.
Putting herself out there served her yet again — first, by attending the gala that sparked the idea and, now, by attending an event that led to the production of her scent. It takes great skill, energy and drive to get to the point of perceived “luck” and more self-motivation to move forward and launch your own business.
Being open to future opportunity is one thing, but it takes great skill to look to leverage the past. Her eyes open, Olga looked to her past to inspire her future. Tactics she used from her time with Miss America Teen USA pageant in 2007 came into play with pre-sales promotion of her scent. Grassroots marketing at its finest, Olga would walk into hotels or outside stores, and greet people with her scent.
Greeting people in person, shaking hands and showing interest allows people to feel like they’ve been given individualized attention, and will increase reciprocity. Your time for hers and, eventually, her product.
Olga, like many entrepreneurs, had several “aha!” moments. She revealed her second “aha” moment: going full-time with her own business. It was fortuitous that this epiphany coincided with the loss of her job; her employer no longer had money in the budget to support her position.
So many entrepreneurs are thrust into a make-or-break position with their business; through doubt, loss and anxiety, they either go full-time — or quit. Self-motivation is key to moving from a sense of loss to a renewed sense of purpose, and Olga experienced loss two-fold: first with Leone and, then, with her job. I believe “everything happens for a reason” and, while Olga never intended to launch a company, these events culminated at the right place and right time into a path she followed.
She seemed to discount her first entrepreneurial endeavor working as a consultant under the name “Olga & Co.” Many people don’t realize a skill almost innate to them is difficult for others. I, too, do many things to which others respond with fear — freelance consulting, starting businesses and communities. In that sense, I resonate with Olga’s feeling that “things you fear are things you should face and overcome.” I thought I was alone in my fear of success, but I’ve come to realize many entrepreneurs fear success. In the end, this all comes down to fear of failure. Many know they can succeed, but with this comes responsibility to self and, ultimately, to others.
It’s exciting to see someone — a woman just one year ahead of me — launching her business and embracing this success.