Olenka Cullinan is the Founder of Rising Tycoons and #iStartFirst Bossbabes Bootcamps. Moving to the US at the age of 20, Olenka is truly an inspiration. She now shares her knowledge with youth and other women, motivating and uplifting them to find success in their lives as well. Learn more Olenka…
Hometown: Tula, Russia
First job: Interpreter/Translator for my mother’s wine making company. I was 14 years old translating paperwork, negotiating million dollar contracts and spending time at her factory. I took it for granted for the longest time, as I thought all teenagers lived like that. While I was missing time with my mother due to her grueling “die-hard” entrepreneur work schedule, I owe her my work ethic and you-can-make-anything-happen attitude.
Favorite AZ restaurant: Virtu Honest Craft. I love clean yummy food and the intimate setting. I’m a big supporter of anything non-chain and unique and local, so they match these parameters. I think that food should inspire you, much like ambiance and conversations.
Person who has impacted your life the most: Watching my mother, a die-hard-entrepreneur, go out on a limb every day of her existence taught me that anything could be made possible. She was an is my biggest inspiration. Since I was little, she would say, “Whatever you will, happens.” I always wondered if borrowing $450 from my uncle and moving to another country was willful enough by her standards. When I was 7, she hired me an English tutor, and when I was 14, for my birthday, she bought me a card that said, “Always Play by Your Own Rules.” I still have the card on my desk today, as I’m filled with gratitude for my mother who fostered these beliefs in me. The very reason I started to use the hashtag, now turned brand, #iStartFirst was due to the attitude that my mom inspired. Because you can talk about changing the world, or you can actually start and change the world.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes: Always Starting. It’s the reason behind anything I do. I believe with all my heart that we cannot teach youth the end result of success, the “go become that approach.” We need to teach them the skills, the failure and the step by step process. So I started a company, Rising Tycoons around that. I believe that women, and young girls who are brilliant and execute exceptionally well, often shy away from leadership roles and shining at the forefront, so I joined Passionistas – the 39 incredible girl bosses to inspire a whole new generation to turn their dreams into dream jobs and businesses. I believe that Millennial women like myself get stereotyped, often unfairly, for being entitled and looking for easy way out, so I’ve expanded to be that leader to encourage Bossbabes to start first. Truth is, you can start first every day. You don’t need to be of certain age, in a certain life position, or with specific circumstances to live your passion. You just need to start.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: At the age of 20, after the most drawn out and devastating divorce between my parents, I moved to the US with $450 in my pocket. While I grew up in a fairly well to do family, by 16 I went through a ‘reversed princess syndrome’ when my dad started drinking heavily and sold most of our belongings for booze. Working 3 jobs just to pay for my private college and basic existence was never my idea of fun. I remember vividly living off one bag of chips for about 3 days. I also remember how my roommate and I broke into a hysterical laughter when my mother, who was visiting at a time, offered to make us an omelette. Poor woman did not know that we were worried about turning into chickens since we’d been eating mostly eggs for about 2 months prior to her arrival.
Someone who inspires you: The Sparkle Tribe – the Bossbabes who go through the #iStartFirst Bootcamps every month. Seeing their stories and transformation and struggles reminds me of why I do what I do. Their courage, determination and ability to overcome obstacles are absolutely the fuel to my passion. And also my Rising Tycoons, the teens I’ve been able to touch along this journey. It’s pretty incredible to meet them years after they’ve gone through the program.
Favorite quote: “If skills are learnable, success is learnable too.”
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Authenticity trumps everything. If you are willing to go for the impact vs. spotlight to operate from the most raw and real place, you will attract all the right people to your path. More than that, the timeline will not matter any more. You will be driven by the journey not the end result.
What makes someone fabulous: Sparkle from within. You can be the best looking, best dressed and best accomplished person in the world, but unless you have internal beauty & charisma to match that and to draw people with, it’s just “Hello, Pretty Face!”