Athena Oanessian of You Squared: “Find your purpose and vision”

I’d define a great company as one who does something innovative and inspiring! They have a team of employees who are also passionate and inspired and connect with the vision! The company policies, workplace rules, and compensation package would be out the box and creative too. Great companies take choose great people, and compensate in […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

I’d define a great company as one who does something innovative and inspiring! They have a team of employees who are also passionate and inspired and connect with the vision! The company policies, workplace rules, and compensation package would be out the box and creative too. Great companies take choose great people, and compensate in great ways.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Athena Oanessian.

Athena Oanessian is a young entrepreneur and thought leader who inspires people to reach their greatest potential! She’s also the creator of the You Squared motivational goal planner. You can get her planners or access her guide on setting meaningful goals by visiting her website,!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Iwas just 9.5 years old. My aunt was an exhibitor at the huge ASD trade show in Las Vegas, NV and she took me along with her. Instead of just sitting there and observing, unannounced, I got straight to work. I helped set up the booth display and products, and as vendors stopped by, I wouldn’t be shy to talk to them. I confidently talked about our products, answered any questions, and if I didn’t know an answer, I’d look over to my aunt and she’d answer for me. I was a natural born saleswoman. I still remember making my first $100!

At this show, we had family friends who own a huge jewelry business in Italy who were also exhibiting and they were swamped, disorganized, and needed help. My aunt offered to help so we went home with boxes and boxes of jewelry, a lengthy spreadsheet and labels. I decided I wanted to help organize it all, so my aunt gave me all the responsibility. I didn’t even need to be told what to do. I intuitively knew how to do it. I organized hundreds of pieces in a single day and they were impressed! We never ended up telling them that I was the one who did it!

This initiative and intuition has carried me throughout my whole life, and it’s been the reason why once I know an end goal, I get to work and make it happen. When I was about 19 years old, my aunt wanted to start her own trade show, mainly focused on the food and dessert market. After heavy discussion, I told her to leave me alone, and I got straight to work. It took a year and a half of planning, and I did 95% of the work. I somehow knew what to do without much direction, but I learned an important lesson: working with family is very difficult, especially in times of disagreement, and especially if they’re the ones that control the money. That’s when I knew I wanted to work on my own if I were to ever own my own business.

Since I’ve always been a self starter and capable of enormous things, it was very fitting for me to start my own business after graduating Magna Cum Laude from university last year. The pandemic made me self reflect a ton, and instead of pursuing a career in law, I decided to start my own business.

At first, I didn’t know what that was going to be. So I decided to find my purpose first: inspiring more than 1 million people to reach their greatest potential! Then, I had to decide how I was going to do it. More reading and self-reflection later, I decided to reimagine a tool I had been using for a few years, but was always unsatisfied with: a planner. I got straight to work, started an inspirational blog, crafted a business plan, created my motivational goal planner and launched my purpose-driven business in only 4 short months!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The hardest point I faced when I first started my journey was after spending almost $20,000 on a marketing company to launch my product with, I only got 1 sale. The planners were dated, which made it substantially harder to sell. So, I decided to fire the marketing company, and had to figure out what to do. I took several courses that taught me about e-commerce, marketing, sales, copywriting, etc, and worked with coaches, and I came up with new strategies. I had to take matters into my own hands, so I did.

Giving up is never an option. Even though I was so disappointed, what kept me going was the impact I knew I had to make in people’s lives. I knew how amazing what I created was, and I couldn’t just stop because things got hard. I would do a disservice to people if I didn’t persevere and continue.

I had also overcome huge traumas in my life and knew if I could push through those and become a stronger individual, I could overcome any challenge in my life.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I still don’t find this funny, but the most “laughable” mistake I made when starting was thinking I had to hire a marketing agency to help me do my marketing. I learned that you can’t put your faith in them, and solely count on them to help do the marketing and bring in the sales. I learned that you can and perhaps should learn how to do marketing on your own first. I learned that even if you do hire an agency, to not expect the ROI’s they promise. I learned marketing agencies aren’t created equal and most of them produce measly results. I especially learned that not all marketing agencies know how to do product launches.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes my company stand out is that everything we do is to truly impact people’s lives. We care about the journey and growth of our customers and people in general, whether they buy from us or not.

That’s why I constantly create motivational content, whether it be on my blogs, social media posts, and in all products.

I take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. All I create is geared towards that.

The planners themselves also stand out because they’re full of motivation, self-reflection and accountability so people can believe in themselves, and be motivated to set and achieve their goals, with the structure to support them to do so. They’re also made and manufactured in the U.S. with quality materials and they come at an affordable price. I’ve also created awesome planner stickers to encourage and uplift others.

It’s all about changing the lives of customers, and fulfilling my life’s purpose.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Burn out is real and happens to all of us. Here are my tips to help:

  1. Find your purpose and vision. If you haven’t done so already, you are holding yourself and company behind immensely. Solidify these into a plan and take action. When your purpose is bigger than you, you realize you’d let people down if you don’t continue. That’s a powerful motivator.
  2. Take breaks. Sometimes constant work is draining, especially if it requires use of mental power and energy. The biggest tip is to take a break, and do something relaxing, preferably one that takes up less mental energy. I normally watch BBC Earth or play the piano.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’d have to say that looking back, I’m grateful for the marketing agency who deeply let me down. If it wasn’t for that enormous setback, I wouldn’t have taken the reigns and invested in the multiple courses, that have helped me propel leaps and bounds, and go farther than I would otherwise.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

I’d define a good company as one with amazing customer service. Nowadays, we all know that subpar or bad customer service is ALL around, unfortunately. I consider companies with amazing customer service as good companies, if they’re fulfilling a need. Amazing customer service is frankly so rare that I get pleasantly shocked when I receive it, no matter how nice I always am. I’m thinking of a nice boutique clothes store near me that has nice pieces and consistently amazing customer service!

I’d define a great company as one who does something innovative and inspiring! They have a team of employees who are also passionate and inspired and connect with the vision! The company policies, workplace rules, and compensation package would be out the box and creative too. Great companies take choose great people, and compensate in great ways.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Have a well defined purpose. Know your why. Having a purpose is integral to guide your business in a meaningful way. Blindly doing business without defining it will hold you back.
  2. Create something that provides value. Make it your mission to provide value, and you can stand out from the crowd.
  3. Change the way you operate certain areas of your business if you have to and do something that is meaningful. If you have to re-invent how certain departments operate, don’t be afraid of that change. Realize change is good, and stepping back a bit to leap 10x out farther is a step you shouldn’t be afraid of taking. Staying in the comfort zone will set you back.
  4. Treat customers even better than they expect. Become a company that inspires others and give powerful guarantees and incredible customer service. Bombas socks inspires me a ton!
  5. Foster relationships with your vendors that are built with kindness and integrity. People like doing business with people who are likable. Be mindful of this. I like building relationships with vendors and sticking with the great ones long term, rather than being on a purely transactional basis.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Yes, yes, yes!! Becoming a purpose driven business means that you don’t just sell something to make money. It means you sell something to serve a purpose and make money.

As humans, we’re most fulfilled when we’re able to help people. We feel the most human and we feel like a meaningful part of society when we can selflessly help others. Why not integrate this into your business model? Even if you own a women’s clothing store for example, you could do something that makes your customers feel beautiful. The possibilities are endless!

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Do something different. Don’t be afraid to rethink your products, services, policies, customer service practices, employee benefits, work environment, etc. Stop letting fear of change hold you back.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Don’t stop. Keep pushing forward. A lot of successful companies started in times of crisis, especially since the bigger companies became scared and held on tightly to their resources. This paved a bigger path for new companies to take part of the market share. Don’t quit when things get tough.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

When you’re starting out, you have to do EVERYTHING alone. If you do have a partner and you can split the work, you still need to be able to know how to do everything, even if you don’t do it.

As a business owner, in the beginning you’re going to have to wear lots of hats and be able to run every single department. Even if you outsource, you’ll still have to oversee your projects to make sure that they’re being done up to your standards.

Even if you know you have to wear all hats for a while, and work long hours, when time comes to do it, you’ll see it’s more exhausting then you anticipated. It’s important to focus, prioritize, organize yourself, create processes to maintain efficiency, and remember that you can do this.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

  1. Invest in copywriting.Don’t underestimate the power of this. Whether you take a course to learn how to do the copywriting yourself, or you hire an expert to do the copywriting for you, you need to be able to talk to your ideal customers in the way they resonate with. They need to feel understood.
  2. Don’t market to everyone. If you market to everyone, you market to no one. You need to do your research of your ideal customers, find out everything about their wants, fears, etc, and ideally, speak to them! Not everybody needs your product. If you try to talk to everyone, your message will be too generic and won’t resonate with, and subsequently convert with people.
  3. Invest in good website design/development. Your website is likely someone’s first impression of you. Make it count! Your website should make sense and offer an easy buying experience. Far too often I see new companies whose websites have a whole host of issues which immediately makes me not want to buy because I lose trust and I notice that they don’t pay attention to what they put forth. Other times, there are companies who have been around for a long time, but whose websites are stuck in the year 2000, which also makes me distrust them and immediately exit the website. Maybe you’ve had similar experiences.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

  1. Be transparent and honest. People are human, and they know that companies are driven by the money customers generate. There’s somewhat of an automatic hesitancy and caution, so when you lie and make fake promises (even something such as saying a bonus or sale will be available only until a certain date, then extending it, or allowing people to get the bonus or sale either way, then it shows them you don’t mean what you say, and boom, they won’t trust you.)
  2. Offer a powerful guarantee. This helps makes the purchase decision easier.
  3. Be available and answer questions or inquiries promptly. Stop taking several business days to answer. The faster you can respond, the better. The more you make your customer wait for a response, the more they’re get frustrated and look elsewhere.
  4. Do something inspiring.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Put the customer first! Put yourself in their shoes. Treat them how you’d like to be treated! Train your customer service team to provide excellent service, and empower them. Have inspiring policies. Genuinely care about customers, rather than just treating them as a sale.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

I believe companies should be cautious of what they put on social media and not speak in a way that’s controversial. If what they’re saying is not controversial, genuine, kind, and connects with people, that’s a better route.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistakes I find are:

  1. Not knowing the numbers/a lack of budgeting. You need to know the basis of accounting. You need to be able to properly budget for every foreseeable expense and also have a cushion for unforeseeable expenses. It’s better to over anticipate and have more more cushioned away then under anticipate and be stuck without money when you need it.
  2. Letting emotion cloud their judgement. One of my business coaches told me a story about a woman who believed in her idea so much, she put her house as collateral to take out a several hundred thousand dollar loan to open a clothing company in one of the most expensive parts of town. In 6 months, she was no longer able to fund her business, she lost all that money and she lost her house. Her emotions of “knowing” her business would work clouded her judgement to the point where she lost everything she had. It’s important to think logically and not solely emotionally.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d inspire people to spread kindness every single day!!

How can our readers further follow you online?

By visiting my website,!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.