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Knuckle Down with Entrepreneur Martin Solorzano

Knuckle Down with Entrepreneur Martin Solorzano


From start-up incubator to business owner, get the tea on starting your own company from this NYC heavyweight.

Martin Solorzano walks a tightrope every day. As the sole proprietor of a burgeoning, small staffing group, quite a bit of pressure rests on his shoulders. And with past clients like Louis Vuitton, Samsung, GILT Groupe, American Express, and Parton Spirits, quite a bit of opportunity lies ahead. We caught up with Solorzano about recent changes with his business, what it takes to achieve a work-life balance in such a DIY position, and how he got to be where he is today.

Q: To start off, when did you get the idea to create your staffing agency, Staffed Inc.?
A: I grew up in Miami and went to school for business and marketing at Florida International University. I worked as a nightclub promoter to make money and recognized I had a natural talent for rallying groups of people--friends and strangers--and getting them to go out five nights a week. Sometimes, I'd walk in with over a hundred people for some of the parties!

It helped that I was extremely active in my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and that I was VP of Programming where I had to plan all the events for the chapter and establish relationships with the sororities on campus. A lot of my college friends would join me in the crazy Miami nightlife scene week after week. One day, a friend reached out to me and informed me that the GILT City pop-up shop was coming to Miami and he needed 40 people to work it. He asked if I knew anyone who'd be interested. I sent a few text messages out, staffed the entire thing within two hours and even worked it myself. I learned it was a national pop-up that was touring in some of my favorite cities around the country and began freelancing for the staffing agency that had partnered with GILT.

I was eventually hired on full time and relocated to New York for the opportunity to build that start up agency. I did that for 2 years and was involved with every single aspect of building a business: recruitment, marketing, account management, business development, legal, insurance, finance, strategy, etc. One day I thought to myself, I'm already building this company for someone else utilizing my experience and resources (and doing well at it), why not do it for myself? So I took the risk and STAFFED INC was created!

Q: You mentioned that Staffed recently hit its 1-year mark. Congratulations! What's one prominent facet of business ownership that stands out to you after a year?
A: Time management. You start off thinking you're going to have a sense of freedom and flexibility (which in some ways you do), but you quickly realize that what you put into your work is what you're going to get out of it, especially in the starting years. You are responsible for your own success and learning to manage your time efficiently is crucial to being a business owner.

Q: How has your experience with Staffed differed from other businesses you've helped grow?
A: This one is mine to make all the executive decisions, and no one can take that away from me. It has its pros and cons, as sometimes I make decisions that benefit the company and our team--like recently relocating our entire operations to New York for a more efficient work flow instead of having a split office in Miami. But sometimes I don't make the best decisions, and it can have a negative impact on our team and our growth, like taking on too many clients and spreading ourselves way too thin.

Q: In the last year, what are some of your favorite events that you've staffed? What about them makes for an exceptional experience?
A: We've partnered with GILT Groupe as their exclusive staffing vendor for their national Sample Sales through all of 2017; we provide all staff and management to produce and execute the event. It's basically a giant shopping party with heavily discounted designer merchandise for men, women, kids, home & accessories, and there's a DJ, open bar, partner activations, etc. This is my sixth year working with them (going into my second year with STAFFED INC) and we just kicked off the fall tour in Brooklyn. We're also going to pop-up in Chicago, DC, New York City and LA through December.

The event is extremely demanding both physically and mentally, as we hire and manage 40 brand ambassadors to build and operate the retail pop-up over the course of 48 to 72 hours. We always bond with our team over the hard work and time we spend together, and this year my client surpassed their financial projections and made the highest revenue on their program to date in just their kick-off. A successful launch always makes me, my team and my clients (of course) extremely happy and sets the standard for the rest of the program.

We work with PMK*BNC a ton. They're an experiential marketing agency that represents Samsung on their marketing initiatives, and we just provided brand ambassadors for a series of Note 8 launch parties and events around the country. My agency had to book professional, reliable, and high-energy brand ambassadors in 11 different cities for promotions dedicated to engaging and educating consumers on the new devices. They're usually really high energy events in high traffic areas like New York Fashion Week or music festivals (we just did The Meadows music festival in NY) and the staff love getting to be a part of these exciting events. It's great to be able to offer exciting new projects each week for our staff, and it keeps us and the work we do interesting.

Q: What do you see in the cards for year two at Staffed?
A: We're in total growth mode right now. It's exciting and every day, I wake up ready to take on the new challenges and make things happen. We're hiring a lot of new support to manage the growth, and I'm working hard to ensure the individuals I hire blend well with the current team in place. Company culture is very important to me; I thrive in an environment of like-minded individuals who work hard and share my passion for building STAFFED INC. We've got some really exciting client partnerships coming up, and having the right team makes all the difference for us, my clients and the staff we're working with nationally.

Q: What are some ways you find balance between the demanding pace of business ownership and necessary free time?
A: Finding balance between work and play has been one of the biggest challenges for me personally and it's something I'm much more aware of. I'm always working (even if I'm away in another country) and at the moment I'm 1,000 percent ok with that. I'm building my dream and will never jeopardize my business for a personal matter. I try to maximize my time based on a routine when I'm home in New York: wake up and make breakfast, catch up on news, hit the gym, get into the office and get work done with lunches and dinners sprinkled throughout the week. I like to take my clients out for dinner and drinks, events, concerts, Broadway shows, etc. They're relationships I've built over the years so a lot of my clients are personal friends of mine which makes working together even more enjoyable. If I'm not being social and/or working--I really enjoy spending time alone with my head phones on playing my favorite playlists. I go for several walks throughout the day to take a mental break from some of the high level stress that we deal with on the daily.

Q: What would you advise young entrepreneurs looking to star their own businesses?
A: Expect to work very hard, and don't expect to sleep much!

Q: You also mentioned music is a huge part of your life. Give us a breakdown of some of your artists you play based on mood.
A: I'm completely obsessed with music and Spotify. I usually listen to slower paced more melancholic songs, and when I fall in love with a song I have it on repeat for hours a day. Don't ever ask me to play music at a party--most of my friends know my taste and I've learned the hard way that it's not the most mood boosting music for others! Haha.

Martin's "On Repeat" Spotify Playlist:

Arcade Fire: Recently saw them on tour in NYC, and loved how creative the show was. I listen to Arcade Fire when I'm working out.
Favorite Tracks: Everything Now, Creature Comfort, Sprawl II, Electric Blue, We Don't Deserve Love

Miley Cyrus: I became a huge fan of Miley after seeing her live during Art Basel in 2015. I love how talented and authentic she is to her passion. The "Dead Petz" album is one of my all-time favorites--very different from all of her commercial stuff and I listen to Something About Space Dude whenever I need to chill out.
Favorite Tracks: Something About Space Dude, Space Bootz, Fweaky, Lighter, Slab of Butter.

Haelos: I have their entire album on repeat in the background when I'm laser focused with work.

Goldfrapp: Their new music is great and has an eclectic mix of songs that vary in pace. I love to listen to these tracks when I'm going for a walk on my own in the city.
Favorite Tracks: Systemagic, Tigerman, Become The One, Beast That Never Was, Everything Is Never Enough, Moon In Your Mouth.

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