Building value is the foundation of a marketable business in the 21st century. Eduard Soponar, a Romanian immigrant that currently lives in Calgary, Canada is a very passionate and goal-driven entrepreneur that founded three reputable companies – Monica Model Management, Strawberry Agency, and UNKNOWN Entertainment.
We are going to dive inside the story and learn more about how Eduard was able to build the best modelling agency in Alberta in less than 3 years, how he hosted Canada’s biggest fashion and music festival, and impressive marketing, branding, and advertising agency.
Determination, willpower, and grit are just a few of the qualities that can describe Eduard Soponar.
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
My name is Eduard Soponar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor. I was raised by a single mom who worked 16 hours a day to be able to raise me. My parents (stepdad and mom) immigrated to Canada about 15 years ago. Two years later, my sister and I came to Canada as well.
I currently manage three businesses and working on another one. Before the pandemic, I started doing a few investments here & there that helped me keep a good cash flow.
I love keeping myself busy, learning new things every day and I love every side of the business.
Aside from my professional engagement, I used to be a competitive swimmer. I broke a Canadian record and almost represented the country at the 2016 Olympics. This sportsmanship built my competitive spirit and ability to set achievable goals.
Where did the idea for “The modelling agency” come from?
The modelling agency, I named it after my mom’s name Monica. I was raised by a single mom that worked up to 16-18 hours a day to be able to raise me. I know there’s a lot of moms out there that would do anything for their kids and I hope my story can inspire a few, to never give up and always look for that light at the end of the tunnel.
When we named UNKNOWN, we wanted something different, a name that would excite people, a name that would make people curious. That’s how we came up with UNKNOWN (“get ready to know the UNKNOWN”).
When I named Strawberry Agency, I did some research and I saw that most of the marketing agencies out there have some fancy names that you will easily forget or you won’t remember it. I wanted an easy name that people will remember.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
I would say that the biggest challenges that I faced were being an immigrant and having people telling me all the time that I can’t do this and I can’t do that.
I’m the type of person that gets fired up by having people telling me those things. The more they tell me the more I have to get it done.
Another challenge I had to overcome was finding the right people to do business with because a lot of my ex-business partners were in the game for themselves and always putting themselves first. But in business is not about us, but about the customers.
Plus, a lot of people nowadays get into business or want to be entrepreneurs because of the money but many of them are not ready for it, they are far from ready and when they hit a wall, they don’t know what to do anymore and they end up giving up.
Business is not for everyone that’s the reality. It takes A LOT of effort, hard work, CONSISTENCY, time alone, and dedication to making it through.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that actually motivates and drives you?
There are three things that motivate me the most: the first one is my mom & my family (stepdad, sister & grandma). A lot of the things I do are for them not just for me.
The 2nd thing that motivates me is my haters (I like to call them my fans because I know that they’re watching me closely but they won’t say it).
Last thing but not least thing that motivates me is all my goals and dreams. I want to accomplish ALL of them and more!
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness and why?
I heavily use Instagram to increase our brand awareness and during the last few years, we had great results with that. We also use Facebook and we put a lot of effort into LinkedIn as well because it has helped us a lot in the past to sign deals with other businesses and brands.
No matter what social media platforms we use, at the end of the day it’s all about consistency and keep building good content.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
We have done a lot of paid advertising for UNKNOWN and for Monica Model Management. I can strongly say that it does work but you must know your target audience and your niche as well. A lot of people invest a lot of money into marketing & advertising and they end up losing it all.
We also have clients coming to Strawberry Agency telling us all the time that they invested over 10k into advertising and marketing and nothing really happened. That’s because the branding behind their company is far from good. Without strong branding, you can spend as much as you want on marketing and you will not get a dime back.
I always focus on branding before I focus on marketing. With strong branding, you will be able to compete against the best in your industry and not let money go to waste when you start doing the advertising.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
I think the last few months have been hard for all of us, especially business owners & entrepreneurs. I’m sure it made us all realize a lot of things during this pandemic. What I personally realized is that at the end of the day, you are in this alone and nobody really cares if you can make it through or not.
The government let us down big time, I never really relied on the government but I just thought they would be here for us, but they proved otherwise. I know that many people out there that are not entrepreneurs or business owners don’t really realize what we actually had to go through, our expenses, stress, and much more that we had to face during this time.
The toughest decision for me to make was finding ways and different avenues to be able to earn a monthly income to at least cover my expenses, and thank God that he was there for me and I got a few opportunities that came in for me at the right time.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Be careful who you trust with your money. I had to learn that the hard way. “Money doesn’t change people, it shows their true colors” – I hear people saying that “money changed them” but in reality, it did not! It just showed us their true colors.
Because when you don’t have money, you don’t feel like you have any power, but once you get it, the power gets to your head and your true self comes out. I’ve seen this with a lot of people I used to work with or do business with. Be good and be kind. Remember that the goal is not money but freedom.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
It’s not going to be easy! But it’s going to be worth it!
The only person you really need to achieve anything in life is you. Trust yourself and remember that you have to go through all the storms to be able to get to the rainbow. Don’t let distractions get in your way.
I see this all the time with people, they let distraction get in their way to success and a lot of them can’t keep their focus & consistency because of that. Be all in or don’t be in at all!
What is one piece of advice you still remember and that has practically changed your life?
“Ignoring people when they expect a reaction is a skill. Stay silent when they want you to react.”
Reacting to other people and their drama will always attract more drama in your life. Instead of reacting to every comment or message, just stay laser-focused on what you have to do. Don’t be emotionally weak.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
If I could go back in a time machine to the time when I got started I would have probably got rid of a lot of people from my life much sooner. I don’t think that a lot of people nowadays realize how much of an impact the people around you and the people you surround yourself with can actually have on your success.
I know that it can be hard to let them go but in the end, you will realize that in order for you to grow and be where you want to be, you have to let go of the weight that it keeps dragging you down.
What’s your daily routine? How do you achieve work-life balance?
I believe that it’s very important to have that work-life balance but to be honest, at the very beginning of your journey, that would be almost impossible.
I currently work 7 days a week but it doesn’t feel like work to me because everything I do I LOVE IT. And I have some big goals I want to achieve in the next few years.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would always recommend the book “Relentless” by Tim Grover. I’ve been reading this book about 4 times and I can’t get enough. Every time I read it again, I catch another valuable thing that can help me.
This book shows what it truly takes to be the best in what you do and it doesn’t take it easy on you. You either want it or you don’t.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Don’t let someone’s opinion on you or your dreams stop you from going after everything you have ever wanted. You can accomplish anything and everything you want.
Make sure you find the right people to work with, write down your goals, keep yourself accountable, and always be the hardest working person in the room.