Rocketlane CEO

 Founder Spotlight

Debra Pivko of Intrigue Creative Copywriting and Female Power Players

Want to know what it is really like to start a company? In our Founder Spotlight series we have candid conversations with real founders about the good, bad and ugly of getting your hands dirty and building a business.

Meet Debra Pivko of Intrigue Creative Copywriting and Female Power Players. Her businesses both empower and inspire. We had the opportunity to speak with Debra to learn more about her journey, her passions and her favorite high fiber beverage. 

What’s your story? How did you get here?

I have always had a passion for inspiring people and finding incredible products and services, along with an obsession for learning and growing. Though I knew I was always one of the rare people who loved commercials and advertising, I still kind of fell into copywriting.

My dad, who was a pediatrician, thought I’d make a fantastic pharma rep. While looking into that, I ended up taking my first job through a recruiter to fill in for someone on maternity leave at the GRAMMYs. I ended up staying for 5 years, because who wouldn’t want to go to tons of private concerts and get backstage access? It was amazing to work on marketing and copywriting with creative people from 12 chapters across the US, go to fun events, and decide and communicate the rules for incredible musicians to win GRAMMYS. During this time, I was obsessed with beauty products and wrote a lot of reviews. This led to being asked to work in the editorial department at a startup called Total Beauty. I LOVED being around all the products and creating stories and getting free skincare treatments at work while working with the team to bring e-commerce to their website.  

My next adventure was working for a start-up called Global Fitness Media, a Body by Jake sister company. While there I developed the first personal training virtual app and healthy food locator app and recruited over a thousand trainers with some fun tricks I conceived with a developer. As one often does at a small 10 person company,I also learned a lot from performing many roles including marketing and copywriting. I was then recruited by and went to fitness company Beachbody! Over 8 years at Beachbody, I learned about creating everything from infomercials to sales scripts, to writing in trainer’s voices, to launching countless Beachbody Live programs, developing messaging for the trainers and customers, and working with really incredible smart people I just adored.

We got to work out during the day and have fun events like a week-long color wars tournament, Halloween Parade and more but my overachiever mentality urged me to bring on additional clients for projects I would work on during nights and weekends as I felt this rush to expand my services. After several rounds of layoffs at the company, it was finally my turn which happened during a big launch and I found out the next day I had breast cancer in 2017. While lining up my treatments and feeling all the side effects and pain, I continued to work with clients as it felt like progress rather than a set back and I still had to pay bills. I had to learn to create boundaries and make shifts like outsourcing and scaling and specializing that would keep me able to continue to provide excellent work and service for clients while still being able to function on debilitating cancer meds.

Everyone deals with something and we have to figure it out. Through always providing copy that converts like crazy and being a joy to work with, I was able to work with countless brands big and small from Dermalogica, Dermstore, Proactiv (now Alchemee), Dr, Scholls, AARP, Branded Offers, Scale Media & 1MD, Conversion Systems, Proctor and Gamble, GNC, Inogen, Doctor Sears, Solawave, Supergut, 310 Nutrition, tons of affiliate offers like rent to own, and countless nutracuticals and direct-to-consumer brands and some B2B, too!

During the pandemic, instead of baking bread, I took on a challenging role managing 22 writers writing review articles for Amazon while I worked with developers to figure out Amazon’s algorithm so that we could target the highest selling and paying products for the articles. Over the years, I even helped run an SMS biz with my fiance Darren Blatt of the Affiliate Ball and AFFY Expo and AFFY Awards!

Female Power Players was a domain name I bought about a decade ago and I knew I always wanted to support and inspire women and be a voice for visibility of the kind of incredibly smart and savvy women I have been blessed to work with and be friends with.

Though it’s just beginning, I already see the whole thing unfolding and blossoming in my mind with who I want to interview and what info I want to impart – and it’s such a fun way for me to reach out and connect with lovely ladies while I’m stuck at home often not feeling well and having FOMO. 

What problem are you trying to solve?

With Intrigue Creative, the challenges are different for each client depending on their expertise and amount of staff. I love that I can hop in to the smallest or largest company and see the marketing and messaging holes instantly and without any direction, crank through a strategy then write to it. I have learned so much from all the different clients I have worked with over the decades that I have a treasure trove of copy to pull from like a menu of what the client needs whether it’s long form, short form, ads, landing pages, blogs, video scripts, web sites, site links, email acquisition and welcome series, upsells, prelanders, and so much more!

I have always loved brainstorming as well and my mind works so fast, that now with AI, I’m unstoppable. A bit scared, but more excited for all its capabilities. So basically, I help brands clarify their messaging including their unique selling proposition, voice, benefits, branding, user experience and more with a focus on selling product over anything else which comes from my ability to understand all types of people along with their challenges and motivations.

For Female Power Players, it started as a passion and way for me to shine the light and visibility on incredibly smart and savvy women so that we can not only bring them more leads and connect them to others that might help them scale their biz or uplevel their lives, but also help those starting out or transitioning into a new field by learning from their interviews and our articles. As a sister company of my fiance’s Affiliate Ball, it’s a fun way for us to spotlight accomplished women as many get to be featured to over 85,000 (audience of business owners, performance marketers, networks, brands, call centers, and more) of those who registered for the legendary Affiliate Ball!

When you went out for initial funding, how many pitches did you have to give?

I’m lucky that my businesses don’t require funding. Just my laptop and a Squarespace account, domain name and lots of energy and time.

What keeps you up at night?

I don’t sleep much or well because I’m constantly brainstorming how else I can serve my copywriting clients, Female Power Players, and Darren’s endeavors.

I have so many ideas for courses and books and businesses and who to connect to who that Darren just got me a recorder to track it all with my eyes closed. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What is your favorite beverage?

As someone who has written for countless beverage brands including energy drinks and water, my current favorite is a brand I haven’t worked for called Olipop because it’s yummy, bubbly, has only 3 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of fiber. And, the flavors remind me of childhood ice-cream truck fun.

Would you consider yourself a risk taker or how did you learn to embrace risk taking?

I’m more of a visionary and opportunist than a risk-taker. I’m risk averse because I prefer stability, at least financially. And though I wasn’t the type to throw a bunch of money at something as a risk, I often risk my time as I know I can count on myself. I used to only work on things that paid me well to work on them.

After my dad dying early, me getting cancer, Darren getting a life-threatening illness from saving a bird, and seeing how fast time really goes, my end primary goal is no longer just money. Now I want to serve people with all my gifts, discover more gifts, enjoy the process, mentor others, and live a fulfilling life.

Have you had to pivot since your initial solution?

I have had to pivot many times in life in various businesses and endeavors. I’m currently pivoting post artificial intelligence creation as I took a ton of time to learn it, play with how I can best use it for my clients and passion projects, and how to discuss it so that I can still convince those who don’t understand that humans are still needed. My current clients think I’m a wizard as I give them well over a week’s worth of work in one day.

What is something that fits into the “If I knew then what I know now” category?

I think that I would have pursued more passion projects earlier even though they may not have made money. Growing up in Beverly Hills and being taught to be very strict with myself, self-sufficient and do as well as ,if not better, than the super bright people around me was a tough race to be in so I always followed the money. I started a babysitting service for my pediatrician dad’s office when I was 13 and employed half my classroom at the time.

I’m glad that I was raised this way as through my hard work I set myself financially. It gave me some breathing room so I can take some time off and slow down if needed, as it’s hard to work on debilitating cancer meds. 

I also wrote a dating advice book for women and a live call dating advice site for men.  There are so many things I didn’t spend time on however, because I was most concerned with the bottom line at the time. I didn’t realize that exploring passions more deeply could have allowed me to grow as a person and drive additional success through the years.

What are your passions and interests outside of work? 

I have so many passions and interests outside of work. I am the biggest cheerleader for my fiance Darren Blatt as he has so many incredible endeavors that I LOVE chatting about daily and nightly at our place and getting involved with. I have been a kickboxer for most of my life.

I love pool time. I LOVE comedy and laughing more than anything. I love connecting with people and connecting them to each other and inspiring them to become their best selves and take action on their dreams. I love fashion and beauty and art. I love business books and self-help books and audios. I love walking through gardens. I love exploring new places. I love art fairs and events, especially ones with givaways. I love teaching and taught at UCLA and Pepperdine at night for an advertising class.

I love seeing what the kids these days are up to through being with Darren’s son Hayden, who lives with us but is about to go off to college. I adore my family and my nephews. I love healthy food that’s actually yummy. I love getting and giving gifts and actually keep a cabinet full of cards and gifts for people just in case. I love sci-fi futuristic shows. And I LOVE brainstorming ideas for businesses – and fun!

Do you have any pets?

We have our doggie Bella, who is such a fun snuggler and source of fun!

What do you think is a misconception about being a founder? 

I think one misconception people have about being a founder is that everything is going super well! We spend so much time putting messaging and promotion out about what we offer and how wonderful it will be for the clients and customers, but they have no clue about the behind-the-scenes challenges.

I try to think of them like a game where I know I can figure out the best ways to proceed but I and possibly some other founders, need to learn to lean on others for help whether it’s partnering for a percentage, outsourcing, or finding help the biz can currently afford. As I say in Female Power Players, we rise faster together!

What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

There is so much advice I would give to someone starting their own business – but the advice would be different depending on the person. For someone hesitant about starting, I would tell them to just think of the first step and get clear on their purpose and just start, rather than figuring it all out first because that can hold many people back from ever starting and sometimes you figure out tiny tweaks as you go.

For someone who likes to shoot then aim, I would encourage this but tell them to do things on a small level at first to get it right and profitable before scaling. I also think it’s important to look at what others are doing as it often gives you ideas of how to do it your own way and can even give you a template to work from to save time.

I recommend joining LinkedIn and Facebook groups for the topics you love, finding out who your ideal audience is and what they crave, and offering some things free or traded to get things off the ground and help spread the word. And know, that flowers are working on blooming from seeds planted, even if you can’t see them yet!

The Founder Spotlight Series focuses on the entrepreneurial journey. At Buzzy Rocket we are passionate about helping entrepreneurs share their vision. Interested in participating in the Founder Spotlight Series? Contact the Buzzy Rocket team. 

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