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Ernest Sturm: “DON’T GIVE UP!”

First and foremost, knowing that everything is not going to always work out and that’s OK. It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you set a goal and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, but we have to remind ourselves that resiliency and flexibility is key! As part of my series […]

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First and foremost, knowing that everything is not going to always work out and that’s OK. It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you set a goal and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, but we have to remind ourselves that resiliency and flexibility is key!


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ernest Sturm.

Ernest Sturm is the Founder and CEO of Runway Influence- a marketing agency based in Los Angeles.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

About 5 years ago, I started Runway Influence after noticing how models were transitioning out of making their money through runway and editorials to making money with social media campaigns. Instagram became a marketing tool that is in everyone’s pockets and so it was truly a no-brainer! Friends of mine in the apparel industry were no longer just coming to me for event production and staffing, but were reaching out to find model influencers that would post photos of their clothing to Instagram. Our models are on social media all day anyway posting content, so it was a perfect transition for everyone.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

With every new journey, comes a great deal of doubt and adversity. When I originally started, I ran all of my business myself and was constantly being told “no” — I worked hard to get a “yes” and learned to not take rejection personally- Just move forward and continuously grow from the no’s. Then with more success, I had to learn how people use others to get ahead in their careers. I was young and hopeful, so I had been taken advantage of a lot by people I had trusted, so I’ve had to learn to set boundaries and to have a team of people that I feel confident working with that have one another’s back.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I wasn’t born in the United States, so coming here and being integrated into a culture with endless opportunities made me feel like I could accomplish anything! Moving to Los Angeles and meeting other creative entrepreneurs through networking has given me the tools to be confident in knowing that what I am doing is worth something — It’s so important to turn your dreams into goals and work hard towards conquering them. It’s even more important to do all that with a great team that works well together and continues to move onward and upward together.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

To be honest, things are going really well with our social media and influencer clientele. The pandemic has forced a mindset shift and we’ve worked hard to be flexible and creative during these trying times. I think that’s the key to success — Being flexible and pivoting rather than throwing in the towel when times get tough. If you can turn a problematic situation into an opportunity for yourself and others to grow, then success will surely follow.

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

Runway Influence stands out because at our core, we don’t just have agency-signed models and high end influencers, we have a group of people that we love to collaborate with. We hire people that we also love to work with because we want to ensure that everyone has a great experience when partnering with us, whether it be our clientele or our influencers. We personally curate every piece for every single campaign/ project as we know marketing isn’t just a “one size fits all” for any entity. We are creativity collaborators with an incredibly special team that you won’t find anywhere else.

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?

Ok, so when I first started curating influencer marketing I didn’t understand how you REALLY needed to personalize everything, including personalities. I had hired influencers for an event and didn’t realize how badly their personalities clashed and essentially was a mediator the entirety of the Instagram campaign. I essentially had a reality show on my hands in the worst way possible. I had to constantly soften situations and worked harder dealing with keeping things “nice” than anything else. Probably the longest week of my life, but I learned how crucial it is to know your influencers on a personal level and understand their personalities on a deeper level to know who would work well together… It’s all a balancing act.

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?

My mom has had a major impact in helping me succeed with my companies. We moved to the states together and have been a team every step of the way, she’s even my company’s personal accountant. She keeps me in line from a numbers and money standpoint while my creative side runs wild. Not everyone can work with their mothers, but I’m grateful to have mine by my side in all my life endeavors.

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

DON’T GIVE UP! I know that’s cliche, but things are always going to be tough, so would you rather have things be tough while you work towards achieving your goals or have life be tough because you are bitterly not doing what you want? It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so you really need to prepare yourself for downfalls and not be hard on yourself when those things happen. Continue to be better. Continue to grow from your own mistakes. Continue to understand your own strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level, so you can ask the right people for help with things you struggle with. You’re not going to get to the top by yourself and that’s ok — Build a team and trudge through the hardships together step by step. Success tastes sweeter with the right people by your side.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Having the chance to witness not only a company’s growth, but a fellow entrepreneur’s growth over the years from our marketing efforts has been really amazing. I see myself in others when they’re starting up a company and wanting to do all that they can to ensure a successful start-up, so getting to be a part of someone else’s success story in that sense is a great feeling. Then on top of that, being able to partner with companies that do incredible charitable outreach for the world and getting the opportunity to see how our partnered marketing efforts have the ability to really transform an entire philanthropic foundation is a remarkable feeling.

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. 🙂

Creating a platform with more networking opportunities for amateur entrepreneurs would be really cool! Networking in general is difficult, but networking during a pandemic is incredibly difficult to do and I have seen a lot of starter companies unfortunately give up their company’s success because of the daunting effects of what is going on in the world. Having a way to bridge the gap between starter companies and their potential consumers would be great! Also, being able to somehow network those in need of jobs and those in need of the right employees during these trying times in a more personalized virtual approach that is not only fun, but lucrative to all involved, would be truly dynamic for the future of beginner entrepreneurs.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

First and foremost, knowing that everything is not going to always work out and that’s OK. It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you set a goal and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, but we have to remind ourselves that resiliency and flexibility is key!

Secondly, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses is crucial. Oftentimes I would put all of the pressure on myself to do EVERYTHING and I needed a few reminders that I can’t do everything and that that is where a team comes into play. Don’t be hard on yourself — You weren’t meant to be amazing at everything… Olympians focus on one sport and excel at that sport, they don’t try to get gold in every category.

Third, shake every hand you meet. You don’t understand the power of networking until you’re a few years in and realize that everyone is looking for ways to be better and to grow from other’s knowledge and abilities. Shake every hand and don’t ever take a conversation for granted.

The fourth tidbit I wish I had known is bringing it back to understanding personalities that you have working together. Our marketing strategies through social media and events are much more personal than just a few people working in an office together, so being able to know each person’s character and knowing who they work well with is a strangely important factor in the success of a project.

Last but certainly not least, take time for yourself. It’s easy to drown yourself in work and the highs of success, but success comes in many forms — One of which is your own wellness. “If you don’t take time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to take care of your illness”.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Of course we are on Instagram @runwayinfluence Instagram as well as have been published in some amazing articles along our journey these past few months:

Forbes- Runway Influence

USA Today- Runway Influence

Runway Influence Website

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