Some people are dreamers, some are doers, while some like CEO Ilaria Niccolini are both. Within the last fifteen years, Ilaria has single handedly created a PR empire. From Milano to Los Angeles, her PR firm spans around the globe and helps promote some of the biggest names in entertainment and business such as F. Murray Abraham, Burt Young, and her collaboration with director Renzo Martinelli.
Her life, as would be expected, is a whirlwind of VIPS, long days delegating and managing her staff in four different time zones, and a to do list which includes overseeing part of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and cultural weeks in Miami. Somewhat daunting for some, but just another day for Ilaria. Despite all the famous celebrity names, and being a globetrotter herself, Ilaria remains a humble, hardworking businesswoman who treasures her family, faith, and Italian roots.
Recently, the Florentine born go-getter sat down with me to discuss her life, her family, and her job. Though we did talk business, we also talked about what makes her tick, how she searched for the Marvel in Marvelous in her work, and how she created a PR empire from scratch. And while she may be at the pinnacle of her career, her road to success has had bumps along the way-- one major setback came in 2009 when she was diagnosed with the debilitating Graves disease. For several years, Ilaria was near death as she went through iodine ablation radiation treatments.
But though her body was weak, her spirit remained resilient, and Ilaria turned to her faith and family and fought back. Today, she is as she says, “almost perfect.” For seven years, she struggled with the disease, while maintaining both her family and her business. No easy feat. But that is what Ilaria is all about. Instead of being remorseful, Ilaria remains grateful. “I am grateful every day because I could live and enjoy my family.” And that gratitude along with faith is her secret to her success. No matter what, she abides by this mantra: People first. Career second.
Gaya Lynn: Welcome to l’Italo-americano. Tell me about yourself.
Ilaria Niccolini: I was born in Florence, Tuscany..I am married to a scientist, Alberto. I have been honored in having such a man next to me. He inspires me constantly…He was at Harvard for several years and then moved to the University of Florida in 2006. We have two daughters who are seventeen and ten years old. Amazing girls.
GL: Wonderful. Tell me about the initial stages of your career.
IN: I studied economics, Italian arts and literature while running the family business. My family owned a manufacturing company which produced high end furniture complements for interiors. During my job, <between 1987 till 2005> I worked first as an assistant…and then, I did the entire ‘escalation’ until I became CEO of our company. I learned a lot about he combination between art/enterprise and the way that fashion, art and business could interact.
GL: From running a family business to creating your own. A big and gutsy transition. How did your company begin?
IN: In 2001, I opened the first representative office of our company in Boston in order to bring the Italian Excellence found in brands that were proudly made in Italy to the US…. I started Novimari, the first Made in Tuscany brand that represented the excellence of the Tuscan region….
GL: From there, you also went into fashion.
IN: With Novimari, I started producing events in the fashion field and in the contemporary arts department. In 2007. I started FTL Moda and Euart, my two most recognized platforms and I opened Ilaria Niccolini Production to handle them and to begin the production and PR activities that would lead to what would become my group today.
GL: When you started, I bet there were very few females in this business.
IN: Your question about being a woman and building a corporation is a good one. It was indeed difficult. Sometime it still is. Especially if you are 5’2” with green eyes, and always (or most of the time) smiling. As you well know…people tend to take men more seriously when it comes to business.
GL: I am sure. But we need trailblazers like you. I bet you have a mighty staff. Describe yourself as a boss.
IL: I have amazing collaborators in several parts of the world. Erik Rosete in Los Angeles who is my co-producer in Fashion, FTL Moda and Art Hearts Fashion partner to build a fashion journey for amazing designers all over the world. And RED LIGHT PR Showroom in NY and Los Angeles, they are our showroom partners working in the development of all marketing strategies for our brands. Hellen C in Milan, our office for the Italian market. Katya Marletta, our Press Office in London. Trish Hanson is my right arm in Florida; my father Santi is a great support in Italy, and Fabrizio Bartoccioni with Vertical Foundation just became our partner for a special fashion spin off.
It’s hard to answer about myself: what they say about me is that I am too generous and I should be a little more demanding…. I tend to trust people a lot because I was raised with a huge sense of responsibility and honesty, and I assume everyone else did and does too. …Generally speaking I trust my skin and guts a lot.
GL: Well, a big heart is better than a big ego.
IN: Sometimes, I begin a collaboration just because I look at a person in his/her eyes and I see real honesty and transparency. I don’t mind doing the hard work of training my collaborators even if they don’t have a strong expertise in certain areas. And this, generally, pays off nicely. I consider my team as a my family. If I had one thing I strongly recommend is not to stop studying, researching, improving, implementing, perfecting. This can be draining and exhausting, but I believe success arrives if you keep your focus on what you can improve versus what you can gain.
GL: Sounds like you don’t chase the dollar, what do you chase then?
IN: I chase marvel. I chase excellence…
GL: Your enterprise is huge, many sectors, but if you had to give me a job description of what you do…
IN: We are a production company, producing events and PR to allow talents and companies to be appreciated all over the world. To become discovered or to reinforce their image around the world. We also assist with each aspect from legal agreements to trademark registration and all commercial developments to penetrate new markets or reinforce a brand’s presence in certain markets.
I have had the honor to partner with Luciano Barbera, Lorenzo Riva, Renato Balestra, Enrico Coveri, Giada Curti and many others. We also “adopted Nino Lettieri” when he was still unknown at the international level and we led him to his journey in Alta Roma, where he is now considered one of the top coultiers. But in other areas…we partnered with a huge groups as A2A Energia or Fondazione Caripol. As well as all most important Italian institutions (from the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri to the Ministero dei Beni Culturali to several regions in Italy…
GL: So tell me Ilaria, your day must never be typical. Do you work 20 hour days?
IL: Mainly Yes, I work twenty hours day in three different time zones, sometimes four. My days are never dull.. But I fight with myself because I am very Italian mom, very attached to my family both in Italy and here.
GL: What do you have going on now?
IN: Right now in October, with the Italian American Heritage Month in Florida, we are producing a major art/activation along with the City of Miami and Consultant General of Italy and the Cultural department of the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC. It will be Italy-Miami, including mural art contribution by OZMO (number1 graffiti italian artist in the world) and Dario Ballantini. At the beginning of October, we will launch in Milano, FTL Moda Loving you, a spin-off project which will bring the world the first top runway open to disabled models from all over the world. This is something really unique, special, dear to my heart.
GL: Any secret to not getting overwhelmed?
IN: My mother and father inspired me every day, from Florence with support and vision. They help me to keep things in perspective and not to lose my vision. And yes, I have a secret: My faith, and my family here. Alberto, Virginia, and Ginevra: …they allow me to never forget this is a journey including difficulties and happiness.
GL: Any words of inspiration?
IA: Dream about what you believe and what you real want, but also keep your focus on good things and don’t let loudness to replace talent. I believe anyone should simply follow the authentic self without chasing the ghost of being somebody else.
GL: Wise words from a wise businesswoman. Grazie cara.
IA: Many thanks to Press Agent, Katya Marletta: she is one of our latest additions, a great mind with a great heart as you can see…a perfect match.
After living in the Tuscan regions for many years, Gaya now resides in California. www.about.me/Gayalynn