Interview with entrepreneur Shay Olivarria, founder of Bigger Than Your Block

What was your background prior to starting Bigger Than Your Block, LLC?

Shay Olivarria

Shay Olivarria

I grew up really poor and emancipated from foster care. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in business management at California State University Dominguez Hills, work on a master’s degree at theUniversityofNorth Texas, and travel to nine countries. I made financial mistakes the whole way and I wanted students to learn from my mistakes.


What inspired you to start your business?

I had worked with youth for about ten years at that point. I was running a truancy program in Philly when I began my speaking career. The curriculum was about helping students that were chronically truant make different choices, but the students inSouth Philadelphiahave some immediate issues of food, clothing, and shelter to worry about. I started incorporating financial education points with the students. The students loved it and I was asked to update the curriculum. I saw that students really connected to me and my way of explaining things.


How did any outside advisors make a difference in your company?

I was really fortunate to have Anya Hall-Flores and Corey Nobles offering suggestions, honest opinions, and feedback. I have also taken advantage of many free webinars, and articles from others in my field. Joining LinkedIn might have been the best decision I ever made; I have received so much good advice from others in my profession.


Tell us about the products and services you offer

Bigger Than Your Block, LLC offers speaking services (keynotes, workshops, hosting) and books. High schools, colleges, and non-profits have welcomed me in to speak to groups across the country. Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook was an Best Seller and 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money has been used to train TRIO staff inConnecticut.


Could you share what were the most difficult challenges you faced as you began to grow? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I had was overcoming my own feeling that I wasn’t good enough. I had to overcome it one small step at a time. Every lecture is a step. Every time I am asked for my autograph is a step. Even getting my business cards printed up with my name and “CEO” under it was a step. I’m sure we’ve all heard it said that you have to, “Fake it ‘til you make it”. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.  I look really confident on stage, but most people don’t get to see me in the green room shaking like a leaf. It sounds corny, but you have to believe that you are worth it; that you can do it. Celebrate every little step and let it move you forward to the next little step.


What are your plans for the future?

Expanding my empire, of course! I love my work, but I’m ready to do more. Immediate goals include: speaking in a foreign country, selling my books in bulk to youth organizations across the country, and increasing the number of presentations I give every year.


What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur interested in starting a financial consulting business?

First, be yourself. There is nothing new under the sun. Of course you need to stay abreast of changes in thinking, laws, and information relating to your profession but it’s also really important to define your brand and stand behind that. People will have to trust you and to trust you they have to know who you are.

Second, build a network of people that you can ask questions. No one knows everything and things change all the time. Having people that you can turn to and ask questions about everything from marketing and selling to the correct way to approach a cold call is going to be very important.

Third, believe that you have something valuable to offer customers and then work towards increasing that value every day.

Lastly, make sure to ask for referrals and testimonials. People that have benefited from your work bring in new customers in two ways: they provide contact information for new potential clients and the testimonials they provide will assure other potential clients that you will add value for them.


Are there any other questions you wished I had asked, from which you feel Women and Biz’s readers could learn valuable lessons?

Make sure that your family is on-board with your decision to build a business. It takes a lot of time and effort. Your business will thrive if you have people that are willing to support you when you can’t make the family dinners and when you are too tired to return their calls. Having the support of loved ones will help you find strength you didn’t know you had when the check from a client didn’t come and when a huge potential deal is on the verge of coming together but you’re not sure if you’re more afraid that it will or if you’re more scared that it won’t.

For more information, please visit Shay Olivarria’s website:


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