This week I am excited to introduce you to Olivia Hollaus, a fellow American Cancer Society ResearcHERS ambassador, CEO of Protect My Shoes, mother of two gorgeous boys, and so much more!
ZOE: Tell us a little about yourself and why you chose the business you’re in.
OLIVIA: Oh my, where do I begin?! :) I was born in Montreal, although I’ve never lived there because my dad was in the hotel industry so we lived in other parts of the world, including Bangkok where I spent 7 years of my early childhood. We moved to Boca Raton when I was 9 though, so Florida is home and I’m a proud UF Gator. While at UF, I majored in Political Science and Mandarin Chinese, studying abroad in Beijing my entire Junior year. I loved my experience so much that upon graduating, I randomly selected a date to fly back to Beijing in search of a job. What was supposed to be a one year adventure turned into 10 years. Fast forward to today, I’m back in Boca raising my two boys, running a business, and actively volunteering.
I didn’t really choose my business because it was truly an organic process. It’s no secret that I LOVE shoes, so in wanting to solve a problem, both from a practical and sustainable approach, I invented the patented shoe stuffer. It amazes me that this happened 5 years ago and that I officially launched Protect My Shoes in November of 2016. And fun fact, I got the original funding to start by business by selling a Birkin that I luckily had sitting in my closet. I used the funds from that sale to get my website up and to file the patent.
ZOE: Who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
OLIVIA: That’s a great question because I’m truly blessed to be surrounded by several amazing businesswomen, such as you Zoe, who influence and cheer me on every step of the way. But I will say that if I have to pick one person, that would be my mom, Micheline, and for so many reasons. My mom hasn’t had it easy, but the way she handles obstacles that life throws at her with so much grace, poise, persistence, and optimism never fails to inspire and amaze me. On a business/organizational level, when we lived in Bangkok, my mom founded a nonprofit called the International Support Group Foundation in 1988 that to this day is still going strong, helping so many children and adults in need. I got to accompany her on several trips to orphanages and hill tribes, seeing firsthand how poverty affects way too many people in our world. Aside from her philanthropy work, my mom has always been entrepreneurial, owning her own interior design firm as well as other ventures.
ZOE: What is the best advice you’ve received in business?
OLIVIA: There is this saying that I love and it keeps me motivated because we all know that the entrepreneurial journey is not easy. I equate it to a wild roller coaster ride.
- If you FAIL, never give up because F.A.I.L means “First Attempt in
- END is not the end. In fact, E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies.”
- If you get NO as an answer, remember NO means “Next
ZOE: What is one characteristic you believe every woman leader should possess?
OLIVIA: Zoe, your questions are so good! I think one characteristic that is key, especially these days, is being supportive. I say this because we live in an increasingly collaborative world and when women support each other, there is no limit to what we are able to achieve together.
ZOE: If you were to author a book, what would it be about?
OLIVIA: I actually think I would author a children’s book, specifically for young girls to inspire and encourage them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams. Perhaps a series following a group of friends who are making an impact at a young age. After all, why wait to adulthood!? I love the imagination and creativity that comes from young kids. My 6 year old is so free-spirited and we tend to lose some of that as we get older.
ZOE: Why have you chosen ResearcHers as your philanthropy?
OLIVIA: That answer is two-fold. On a personal deep level, I lost my father to cancer when I was 8. That’s a loss that will never go away, so I’m doing this in his memory. On a different note, I’ve been wanting to create a Giving Back mission with my brand Protect My Shoes, but it took me awhile to find a cause that resonated with me. I love that ResearcHERS is funding female-led cancer research and that it’s being
spearheaded by women ambassadors throughout the country. This is the ultimate example of women supporting women.
ZOE: How have you chosen to give back to ResearcHERS?
OLIVIA: I’ve been giving back in various ways. Firstly, I’m honored to be a ResearcHERS ambassador and mainly alongside you and other great women that made up the Southeast Florida team. Thanks to you, Zoe, and The Addison, we also organized fabulous event fundraisers. We may have ended in 2nd place in terms of the total amount of money raised ($160K+), but our outreach was immense.
ResearcHERS. We also donate 10% of online sale proceeds to the cause.