Nina Ojeda is the founder & CEO of The Avenue West, a Los-Angeles based agency that works at the intersection of design, technology, social impact and lifestyle. With a strong focus on social enterprise and the convergence of lifestyle and technology, The Avenue West works with clients (from alcohol-delivery service Saucy to online interior design marketplace Laurel & Wolf) to build leadership and awareness, through communication-based impact and growth strategies.
Nina is also the founder of beauty startup PRÊTE, an Inc columnist, Founding Member of the Forbes Agency Council and an active member of the Young Entrepreneurs Council. If she isn’t at The Avenue West HQ, she’s probably hanging out with her three rescue dogs – or attempting to adopt another one.
Company: The Avenue West
Education: Went to college for about 5 minutes.
Twitter: @ninaojeda // @theavenuewest
How did you get started in PR?
I was working in retail while attending community college and applying to various internships in the area. My first internship came along because I helped the owner of The Rose Group in the store and mentioned that I wanted to work in PR. Right there, on the spot she gave me her info and the rest is history. It goes to show; you can be anywhere and be speaking with anyone who might change your future.
How did you get the job you have now?
I started my company after leaving an agency that focused around entertainment. It wasn’t my passion and I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing absolutely nothing to help society.
What are your primary responsibilities?
Anything and everything! I’m the CEO & Janitor!
What are you working on right now?
We’re dog friendly and a close-knit group. There is barely a hierarchy. We are all members of one team and that one team gets the credit for success – not only individuals. We’re working on a variety of tech startups and more!
The Avenue West Office
Most memorable moment in your career thus far?
I think it was the day I pitched my first client, 1 Face. We had been put in touch by a mutual friend and I called the founder who was also a young entrepreneur, let him know I was quitting my job and asked him if he wanted to work with me knowing it was JUST me. The long pause on the other end started getting my mind racing, “WHAT did I just do?! I probably sound like such an idiot!” and then he just said, “Yes! Good for you!” And that was that. Client #1 and friend for life.
What type of person thrives at The Avenue West?
Self-starters and out of the box thinkers. I think people say this pretty often, but I’m dead serious. Our motto is to be bold, take risks and always learn. You will never craft a traditional pitch, press release, strategy or anything here. Our approach varies from each client and if it’s been done before, we don’t do it. Innovation doesn’t come from following templates.
Our approach varies from each client and if it’s been done before, we don’t do it. Innovation doesn’t come from following templates.
What are three must-haves essential to your job?
This is an easy one! I cannot live without Slack, Asana or Google Drive & Analytics. The last one is tied with Mention – we love it for social listening.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
Conferences and reading the news! The sad truth is that not all PR people read the news or outlets they pitch. It’s horrifying when we interview candidates unaware of the industry they are hoping to enter. I also am a part of an incredible organization called YEC (Young Entrepreneurs Council) and the Forbes Agency Council. Both of those organizations are incredibly powerful and offer so much insight. We’re all about helping each other, not competing!
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
The stress usually comes from when someone doesn’t have the full picture of what they are doing. We try really hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Also, at The Avenue West we give unlimited vacation days. Even though I’m the worst example in the world and never stop working, I want my employees to have the freedom to have lives. You cannot be creative while burned out.
What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?
It’s less of a story and more of a moment. When I quit my job at the last agency, I was standing in line at Starbucks and realized I only had $29 in my bank account. The proud moment was the day we hit the million-dollar mark. I think that was the first time I felt like patting myself on the back. I was also proud of us as a company for getting there without any outside investment and virtually no credit. We just celebrated our 3rd year anniversary on April 1!
The Avenue West always welcomes furry friends
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
This is a really tough one because even through the horrible experiences I’ve had (like checking in people to an event for 5 hours in negative weather) I’ve enjoyed every bit. I like to joke with my friends that I’ll always be the CEO & Janitor. I can’t help it.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
I think being recognized for accomplishments. It’s sometimes hard for people when they’re in the trenches so long to look up and see what they’ve built. I get excited to come to work every morning because as silly as it sounds, my office reminds me of how far we’ve come!
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
That placements alone DO NOT equal sales.
What are the biggest challenges facing fashion communicators right now?
Specifically for fashion/lifestyle the biggest problem we see is that the brand work hasn’t been nailed down before the client is ready for PR. Who are you, what do you want to say to the world? What is your target? All of those things then help translate the message to your digital footprint. A common mistake many companies make is to hire a PR person “to get sales.” That’s not how PR works and as agents it’s our responsibility to look at the full picture and tell our clients. If you are pitching something just for the sake of pitching it, it won’t go anywhere. A lame product with a lame story can be seen by millions in an Instagram post by a major celeb or influencer, but what happens next? How are you capturing those leads? Is that influencer following your target demo? Many times I get blank stares when I ask these questions. We tackle the entire brand and look at everything from clients digital marketing plans to their cap tables. If you don’t, it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.
A common mistake many companies make is to hire a PR person “to get sales.” That’s not how PR works and as agents it’s our responsibility to look at the full picture and tell our clients.
What are you really good at?
I like to think I’m really good at my job! But that aside, I love to come up with creative campaigns. I think my lack of corporate knowledge helped me begin thinking about things as a person and not as a corporate robot. It’s lead us to some really amazing and successful activations!
What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?
Don’t be me! Be you. Growing into the most successful version of you includes identifying your own unique superpowers. Everyone’s are different – find yours and use it! A few of my own golden rules: never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, practice what you preach and never be afraid to fail – because you will. A lot.