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In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Spark & Riot
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Ana de Diego and I’m the founder and Executive Producer of Spark & Riot, a globally-minded production and management company in Los Angeles.
What inspired you to create this business?
In 2010, after graduating from USC, I had already spent a year interning in the commercial production world and I saw a niche gap in the market — budgets were decreasing rapidly and traditional commercial companies were passing on those jobs. That’s when I decided to start a small, nimble production company that would service that niche for larger businesses that were too bulky or too busy to bid. That experience led me to a more significant gap in the global entertainment market: international content. Being a Spanish female, I noticed a significant rise in the market needs, but a dearth in the talent to supply it. That’s when I started a management company, Spark & Riot, to represent, develop and produce cross-cultural, international content. S&R represents directors from all over the world that collaborate with foreign language writers to create scripted projects and commercials.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you pivot to overcome it?
In 2020, I leaned into building a roster of directors and writers that align with a common goal – to create impact through the intersectionality of art and commerce. Directors like Justin Baldoni, Elisha Smith-Leverock and Gabrielle Gorman — leaders who promote impact in their personal and professional lives — are now part of the Spark & Riot team where creativity and consciousness are given the platform to collide and spark.
When production paused in 2020, I didn’t stop building and working internationally. I used the year to strengthen and build another facet of the company, foreign language film and television. Always globally-minded, I mined universal stories from around the world to cultivate under the new development arm of Spark & Riot, aptly named, Cinder.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
I started my company by investing all of my own savings to get it started. If you don’t believe in your business, who will? Evaluating how much starting capital you need to get started and assessing if it’s an investment you can make yourself, is a very important first step. It gives you control over your business and allows you the freedom (and pressure) to think about where to best spend your money. Other than that, it’s really about your commitment and passion for your business. What makes you a unicorn?
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
The word “entrepreneur” means that you’re both crazy and bold — crazy enough to start it, and bold enough to make it work. An entrepreneur is forged in the philosophy that you will be the first one in and the last one out no matter what adversity stands in your way.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
Lots of money. Obviously, this depends on your business, but I strongly believe most successful businesses are born with passion, not capital. The money will come, but only after you’ve shown investors your fire.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” — FDR
I grew up on boats, and the truth is, in the toughest seas you learn everything you need to know about yourself and those around you. You learn to be a leader and you also learn when to be led. You learn to work as a team. You learn how to make quick decisions and when to course correct. You learn about timing. You learn about the importance of luck; being at the right time and place, and when to grab a line, adjust the sails and start cutting your own path.