Marketing a message Social Vibes Media CEO Llerena says millennials need to learn partnerships are key to success

Jessica Perry//January 23, 2017

Marketing a message Social Vibes Media CEO Llerena says millennials need to learn partnerships are key to success

Jessica Perry//January 23, 2017

Vicky Llerena didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur.

“As a single mother at the age of 19, I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would launch my own business,” she said.

Yet, nearly a decade later, Llerena is the founder and CEO of Social Vibes Media, a digital marketing agency in Jersey City. And she is thriving by taking pride in her status as a millennial and a minority woman in order to influence others.

“My advice for any small business, and especially women entrepreneurs, is to establish strong partnerships,” she said. “Partnerships can be a key strategy for growth.”

Llerena began her career working with media companies such as Univision Communications and PRNewswire.

“I learned the ins and outs of marketing and the emerging trends of multimedia assets,” she said.

To make ends meet, she also began freelancing for friends and family, helping them to gain publicity on local and regional levels, and teaching college courses in writing and speech.

That is when Llerena caught the bug.

“I thought if I could save enough money to afford to quit my day job, I could be doing this full-time,” she said.

Llerena increased her hours as an adjunct professor at Saint Peter’s University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Hudson County Community College to nearly 20 hours a week in addition to her full-time career for one year.

“I then took the financial risk of leaving my job to launch my business,” she said.

So you want to be an entrepreneur…
Vicky Llerena founded Social Vibes Media at the age of 28.
But entrepreneurship at that age, she said, is not for everyone.
“Every millennial at some point wants to try to become an entrepreneur,” Llerena said. “But it can sometimes be made to seem like that is an overnight process.”
As universities grow their entrepreneurial curriculums and self-employed YouTubers continue to make millions of dollars, Llerena worries that younger generations may develop the wrong idea.
“The brutal reality is that it is incredibly difficult to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “It is even more difficult to be a millennial just out of college with $50,000 in debt thinking that you can do this all on your own without any savings.”
Llerena said she does not want to discourage millennials from seeking entrepreneurial opportunities, as those who do also often want to stay connected to greater causes.
However, she has some advice based on her experience.
“Save for an entire year,” Llerena said. “Reduce costs as much as possible. Partner with other individuals, subcontractors and freelancers who can complement your services. Join organizations that you know your clients belong to, such as your local chamber of commerce or industry associations.
“It is possible to build your network and gain your first clients while saving and freelancing while keeping your full-time job.”

Llerena started Social Vibes Media in her basement apartment in early 2016.

Though she was offering highly sought-after digital marketing services, including content creation and video production, she said the isolation and pressure to succeed on her own prevented her from securing the clients that she needed.

“So, I moved into the Business Development Incubator at New Jersey City University,” Llerena said. “It is one of the more affordable coworking spaces in Hudson County.”

There, she began working with the Small Business Development Center to learn more about her market — and how to capitalize on her strengths.

First, she certified Social Vibes Media as a woman- and minority-owned small business.

Then, she got involved in a big way.

Today, Llerena is a social media ambassador for the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey; a business mentor for Rising Tide Capital, an entrepreneurial resource in Jersey City; and a participant in Lead Hudson County, a 10-month program for emerging business leaders recently launched by Hudson County Community College in partnership with the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and the Guarini Institute at Saint Peter’s University.

“In the beginning, I learned to work with these organizations in order to gain clients,” Llerena said. “Now, when clients work with us, they are also able to leverage the connections that we have and continue to establish.”


Social Vibes Media currently has two part-time employees and a number of contractors.

That soon may change.

Social Vibes Media began partnering with Novofex, a marketing agency focused on website and graphic design, three months ago.

Novofex, founded in 2013, is run by a dozen millennial and minority entrepreneurs, also at the Business Development Incubator in Jersey City. Together, both businesses are growing.

“I needed to learn, as an entrepreneur, how to try not to feel like I was responsible for everything, how to delegate work to others and share in the success,” Llerena said. “My advice to other entrepreneurs would be to partner with organizations that can help give you more exposure, or partner with a company that can provide similar services.

“This will allow you to grow your client base, your resources and your staff.”

For Social Vibes Media, that has amounted to six figures in annual revenue.

For Novofex, according to CEO Freddy Carrera, the company is on track to surpass $1 million in revenue this year due in part to its collaboration with Social Vibes Media.

“Our clients love that they can get the same service from marketing agencies with New Jersey price tags versus hiring an expensive marketing agency in New York City,” Llerena said.

Social Vibes Media and Novofex have worked with clients such as Jersey Bound Latino Magazine, Greater Newark Enterprise Corp., the Jersey City “Make It Yours” campaign and the Jersey City Office of Innovation.

Llerena and Carrera now have plans to target bigger brands.

“Bigger brands have been trying to tap into the Hispanic market by working with agencies that understand that specific demographic,” Llerena said. “We are both Hispanic-owned businesses, and we work with various clients in the Hispanic community.”

Helping Hispanics thrive in Hudson county
Vicky Llerena, born and raised in Hudson County, said it was a strategic move to keep her business local.
“There is a big push for small business and entrepreneurship in New Jersey, and specifically, in Hudson County,” she said.
The market already is there.  As one of the most densely populated and fastest-growing counties in New Jersey, Hudson County residents also represent more than 90 nationalities, including a large Hispanic population of more than 40 percent.
“This incentivizes us to stay within Hudson County,” Llerena said. “That, and the fact that up to 30 percent of government contracts in the county are awarded to small businesses, including those owned by women, minorities and veterans.”
Llerena said she has worked closely with Rafael Mata, deputy director of the Hudson County Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprise, to access such procurement opportunities.
“That could take a business from $150,000 in revenue to $1.5 million, possibly with just one or two contracts,” she said.
However, Llerena learned that there are many hurdles when accessing such opportunities.
“You first have to be made aware, and understanding how to qualify for them via a rather confusing process can be cumbersome for small businesses,” she said.
Realizing that a business owner’s native language may not be English, simplifying the jargon and the process, and plainly listing what certifications and references are required could help make such procurement opportunities much more accessible, Llerena said.

For example, she said, Social Vibes Media and Novofex recently created a marketing video for New Jersey City University.

“They are trying to attract students from Latin America, so we created that video in both English and Spanish,” Llerena said. “Google Translation alone will not do that.”

It also helps that Social Vibes Media and Novofex employees belong to the same generation.

“Millennials are a growing age bracket that is spending money, watching YouTube and shopping online,” Llerena said. “Big brands and marketing agencies need to understand that generation’s consumer behavioral habits. We are millennials; how could we not understand it?

“We grew up using cell phones, communicating through social media, constantly checking our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and staying up to date with all of the latest technologies and trends.”


Being a millennial and minority woman entrepreneur has not held Llerena back, she said. In fact, it has provided her with incredible opportunity.

“We have all of the resources and tools; we just need to learn how to access them,” she said.

Since founding Social Vibes Media, Llerena has become a thought leader for various workshops and seminars on women’s entrepreneurship, marketing and social media. Her blogs have even been featured on Huffington Post and CEO Blog Nation.

“I want to be an inspiration for other women who feel like they have too many responsibilities, especially single or stay-at-home mothers, who want to launch businesses in order to have something of their own,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done. I am not the exception to the rule.

“If there is one thing that I admire most about women entrepreneurs, it is their tenacious attitude to move forward.”

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On Twitter: @megfry3