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Wondering how marketing agency founder Babba C. Rivera has time to manage all the projects she’s involved in? Her skill set is as unique as her name.
The multi-hyphenate agency founder already has a proven track record at startups like Uber, where she launched the ride-share company in Stockholm (and made the Swedish capital the fastest-growing launch city at the time) and at direct-to-consumer luggage darling Away, where she worked her magic as Director of Brand Marketing in New York City.
Passionate about direct to consumer brands, the future of experiential marketing, and the power of networking, Rivera is recognized as an innovator and thought leader in the realm of brand marketing. Named as a Forbes‘ “30 Under 30” in the “Marketing & Advertising” category at age 25, Rivera felt the entrepreneurial itch and launched her own branding agency, By.Babba, in 2017, which is based in New York City and recently expanded to Europe with a Stockholm outpost in Rivera’s native country.
It’s no surprise that Rivera went the entrepreneurial route; she was telling people she was going to be her own boss as early as eight years old and demonstrated a strong work ethic while working in retail at Mykita eyewear as a teenager.
Rivera’s joie de vivre, signature style and marketing savvy translate perfectly as an influential female voice and personality to her more than 90K Instagram followers. She is also an advisor for Bumble Nordics, and since female empowerment is one of her missions, she launched the women’s networking community HER USA in 2015.
Find out how Rivera is writing her own playbook as an agency founder and lifestyle influencer, and why her unique spirit lends itself to simply going by her first name: Babba.
Karin Eldor: You had great success when you launched Uber in Stockholm, and made it the fastest-growing launch city at the time. What was the most important lesson you learned while in that role?
Babba C. Rivera: I think the most important thing is the people you surround yourself with. At Uber, I learned how to move fast, how to fail, and how to not get stuck in perfection, and more importantly, how to always iterate. I feel like it was a great school that also paid me a salary and gave me really smart friends!
Eldor: What led you to launch your own brand marketing agency, By.Babba, in May 2017?
Rivera: That answer is two-fold. One part is me personally, and the other part is the business opportunity. After leaving Uber and then joining Away, I realized that my job at Uber had been very entrepreneurial, especially seeing Sweden launch the service there. When I realized that, I also came to terms with the fact that I’m not really made to fit a mold. I need my freedom to create, and I started to get this itch to finally start something on my own.
At the same time, from a business standpoint, I had this idea of building an agency model that functioned like an extension of an in-house team. Basically like an agency that was as nimble as an in-house team, and as efficient, but with a greater network effect. I wanted to challenge the status quo of the “one size fits all” agency model.
Eldor: I love that you believe in experiential activations! Can you tell me about the pop-up you created, The Bathroom?
Rivera: The Bathroom is such a dear project to me! The Bathroom’s concept was part of Showfields, which is a client of ours, and they are redefining retail. They have this big space in NoHo, where brands are able to do their own branded pop-ups within their space, meaning you get to do your own branded experience but at the same time, you’re gaining from each other’s network effects and foot traffic.
Eldor: I feel like brands today have to have an experiential component, because it’s so much about storytelling and creating experiences. What’s your take on why experiential is so critical today?
Rivera: I think it’s because we are experiencing a digital overload. Everyone is online and when you are online, you’re competing with everything — with Instagram, Snapchat, etc. — you’re not just competing with other brands. And I think that a way to cut through the noise is to be active in multiple channels, and that’s where experiential retail comes in.
Eldor: Tell me about your current role as a cultural advisor for Bumble Nordics!
Rivera: Both myself and Aida Vrazalica, who is our Swedish CEO and based in Sweden, are serving as cultural advisors for Bumble. Our role there is to advise on how to support women in the Nordics to go after what they want and make that first move in every aspect of their life.
I feel super honored to be part of the Bumble Global Advisory Committee, which includes big names like actress and philanthropist, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Serena Williams. So when we were asked to join them for the Nordics, it was a no-brainer.
Eldor: Tell me more about the community and movement, HER NYC.
Rivera: I actually cofounded HER USA in Fall 2016 with Marika Frumes, and New York is our biggest chapter. It was our first chapter in the U.S., but we are also in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami, which is exciting.
We have our special HER format where we empower women to put out an “ask,” because we really want these events to be an opportunity for women to get help on whatever they’re struggling with, whether it’s professional or personal.
Eldor: You also collaborate with brands as an influencer. How would you describe “brand Babba”?
Rivera: Big question! It’s really important to showcase that you don’t have to fit the mold to be a businesswoman. We come in different shapes and colors and forms, and I inspire women to really be their most authentic selves. As women, we have tried to fit into that “male dominated” mold. Listen, I love a power suit but I don’t mind wearing it with heels or having it be bold and colorful, or wearing a lavender dress if that’s what I’m feeling. And I use my social media platform to inspire others to be their most authentic self too because that’s when we’re most successful. We are not successful when we’re trying to imitate others.
Eldor: What is your mantra?
Rivera: To enjoy the ride. We tend to get too stuck and fixated with the “so-called destination” that we forget to live. I feel there’s a shift happening and I want to be part of portraying that. For the longest time, we have been trained to think that you have to have your whole life mapped out for the next two, five, 10 years, you have to have monthly KPIs. No — that’s not how I live my life and that’s not how I want to live my life either.
June 6, 2019 at 10:44AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs