Don’t let fear conquer your dreams because you never know what may end up happening if you don’t try. Worst case you will learn important lessons and show yourself you had the courage to try.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ana Pelucarte, CEO, and Rita Tabet, COO of Pop Up Mob. Ana is Co-founder and Head of Strategy and Business Development at Pop Up Mob, a pop up experiential agency with headquarters in New York City. It was through Ana’s innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit that this vision of disrupting and evolving the retail industry in New York City came to life before anyone even knew what a pop up was. In 4 short years Pop Up Mob has grown to 25 employees. Totaling a hefty 200 pop ups executed throughout the world it has attracted big clients in various industries — Samsung, LVMH, Heineken, Target and Mini Cooper to name a few — rightfully gaining a respectful reputation for executing some out-of-the-box pop ups. Ana graduated from Boston University with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and holds a Masters Degree in Product Design from Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. Although currently an official resident of New York, Ana’s projects and client portfolio take her around the world giving her that sharp eye for new ideas that makes Pop Up Mob stand out from the rest. Rita is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Pop Up Mob, a pop up experiential agency with headquarters in New York City. Rita’s ability to think outside of the box, and her outstanding managing and organizational skills got her to leave her native Lebanon and move to New York in 2015 to venture into the experiential marketing industry through pop up experiences. Her leadership skills and creative thinking have allowed for the company to grow and develop. In 4 short years Pop Up Mob has grown and executed pop up throughout different countries. Pop Up Mob attracted big clients in various industries — Samsung, LVMH, Target and Mini Cooper to name a few — rightfully gaining a respectful reputation for executing some out-of-the-box pop ups. Rita graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) with a degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. Although based in New York, Rita’s projects and client portfolio take her around the world, which allows for her to develop a sharp eye when it comes to spotting what customers will want next before they even know it.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ana — It was a surprising coincidence. Coming from an Engineering background I would have never imagined I would end up in experiential marketing, but it came down to being a young, curious, driven woman in NYC [the coolest city in the world] and being very bored with the retail offering in the States. Having seen a blogger’s post on a cool Australian brand [a girl who later in life I met and now we’re good friends] this crazy idea came to life. I also was inspired by the markets in Milan I would pass on my daily commute to Domus Academy where I was studying for my master’s degree in Product Design at Domus Academy. I was intrigued that these markets never featured the same brand twice and the “here today/gone tomorrow” concept.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Ana — There have been so many! But, if I had to choose one I would go with my new found love for power tools and pop-ups that sometimes have left me hanging from a ladder. On a cold winter night right before Christmas, I was helping the team breakdown a pop up in Soho when this curious man walked by and started peaking in wondering what was going on. We talked for a bit and he mentioned he worked for a French brand and they wanted to do a pop up. Rita and I on a whim decided to go to Paris to convince them to sign a contract for a pop up. We ended up signing our first LVMH brand and within a year we have 5 under our belt.
Rita — Thinking about being so young in our early twenties and in such a thriving city I always thought the mistakes would be made from our end. But after convincing the president of a big American company that we were the agency they needed to work with and landing a project — it was all going great and we worked extremely hard to ensure all t’s were crossed and i’s dotted- but less that 48 hours before the pop up we got a 911 email from the client canceling the pop up because their next collaboration wasn’t happy with the fact they were doing an activation so out of the box. It was definitely a lesson that even big companies make huge mistakes and miss out on the next big thing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Ana — Oh wow — I remember when we were about to land our first client and they asked me for a capabilities deck for credibility purposes and I mistakenly mentioned in the email out of the brands we were working with and mentioned them. Of course I noticed after I had pressed sent and back then you could not unsend… I learned the hard way to proof read EVERYTHING I send.
Rita — I can confidently say that when I moved to the US from Lebanon for this internship 4 years ago my English wasn’t the best. So, you can only imagine my typos while writing emails to clients. A funny one for reference that still makes me cringe was- “Let’s get the ballS rolling.” I quickly made it a goal to spruce up on my English business jargon.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Ana — I definitely think it’s our resourcefulness and attitude in letting the client know anything is possible. A couple of years ago a client asked for 125 pop ups when we only had 10 under our belt. We stepped up our game as an agency and actually ended up executing the 125 pop ups for them.
Rita — A couple of things make us stand out, but I feel us being millennials and really being able to put ourselves in our client’s consumer’s shoes is what allows us to ideate experiences and perspectives that are very well received by their target audience.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Ana — Yes — we’re working on a couple of very exciting projects. One specifically I truly believe will help young women in finding their journey in a generation where so many hazy lines are present daily regarding our careers, future and relationships.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Ana — Don’t be scared to be approachable and caring but also tough. Being women leaders, we have the incredible power of being endearing and supportive, which goes a long way, but also guiding people to be the best version of themselves while being strict and expecting success and results.
Rita — Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each person on your team. This way you will be able to see how they complement each other and empower them to be the best versions of themselves by embracing their weaknesses and amplifying their strengths.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Ana — I would say 2 things: 1. Try to leave your emotions at the door and 2. Try to put yourself in your team’s shoes. We’re all fighting battles and leaders need to be empathetic, while also seeing what the best way to influence the team in order to keep succeeding.
Rita — One day at a time. Set goals and make clear plans so everyone is on the same page. Most importantly communication is key.
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 about that?
Ana — Definitely my parents — they’ve believed in me since day one and have always encouraged me to roam free- even at the age of 6 when I wanted to go to summer camp 5 countries away by myself. My parents are both entrepreneurs and have worked together my whole life, and I have luckily gained different skills from each of them. My dad has taught me incredible optimism, to always take risks and not fear the outcome and has showed me that every problem has a solution. My mom has taught me immense discipline and a regimented thought process for problem solving.
Rita — My dad! I am where I am today because of him. My dad is the one that pushed me to do my study abroad in NYC instead of Europe. He has inspired me ever since I was a kid with his business acumen and perseverance.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Ana — I’ve realized that I very much enjoy empowering and encouraging others to be adventurous in their careers. I love it when close friends, colleagues and even acquaintances ask for advice and practices. Even though I feel I have not accomplished much yet, it is empowering for them to trust and want my advice
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Ana — 1. The journey is as important or sometimes even more important than the destination. This seems true to our line of business where planning is everything and also what’s learned from the journey for every project.
2. Think fast and slow — As important as it is to act fast and move at the speed of light in this fast work environment, it is also true that taking our time for certain decisions and for strategic purposes always brings the best results.
3. Lead by example. Pop Up Mob continues to grow thanks to us teaching our employees to have a resourceful and positive attitude- that really does go a long way.
4. Two heads think better than one. This always proves true for Rita and me. I may think I have the answer to a problem or situation and when I talk to Rita about it, the solution gets optimized for the best as she may have a different perspective than me.
5.Do not give in to emotions. Even though emotions can be let into the workplace sometimes, by consciously keeping emotions at home, Rita and I have a very healthy relationship. After all we see each other more than our boyfriends!
You are a people of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Ana — Don’t let fear conquer your dreams because you never know what may end up happening if you don’t try. Worst case you will learn important lessons and show yourself you had the courage to try.
Rita — Speak up. Don’t let your age, gender or nationality keep you from giving your opinion.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Ana — “Let the pieces fall where they may.” Patience is definitely an art and a gift — one that is definitely not innate to me that I’ve had to learn through the years. My hyperactive personality is always anxious to see results and not wait for life to unfold itself. This quote has been extremely helpful when I can’t keep my cool and it always shows me that everything has a purpose and happens at the right time
Rita — “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” This quote especially rings true in this industry where a lot of mistakes are made. These mistakes have personally made me stronger in problem solving for better outcomes.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Ana — Oh yes — Richard Branson any day. I would love to pick that whimsical brain of his and learn about his thought process and life perspective. Who knows, maybe we can even collaborate one day in doing pop ups in the air or in space!
Rita — I would say Warren Buffet. I admire his leadership and his perspective on business. I also admire Whitney Wolf because she started Bumble at a younger age by not letting anyone stop her and has empowered so may women around the globe.