Business Plan Challenge

Their business partnership won the Business Plan Challenge. Then they split up

Michelle Villalobos and Jessica Kizorek at 2012 The Women's Success Summit. Their business, Make Them Beg, later dissolved.
Michelle Villalobos and Jessica Kizorek at 2012 The Women's Success Summit. Their business, Make Them Beg, later dissolved. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Like several previous winners, Make Them BEG founders Jessica Kizorek and Michelle Villalobos decided success lay on separate paths.

When it won the 2013 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, their small-business coaching and branding business had started losing steam, said Villalobos. Winning the challenge reinvigorated their efforts to help women learn how to make themselves so valued that customers would “beg” for their products.

“We found out things that were right with the business plan and what was wrong,” said Kizorek. The business model called for a big time investment by each of the founders, but without the same promise of return.

Their complimentary approaches and dynamic personalities made them a starring team. But differing interests pulled them apart.

For Kizorek, the ideas and lessons of Make them BEG have created the foundation for a venture with a dual purpose: create online teaching materials for nonprofits while teaching video and marketing skills to students in underserved communities through paid apprenticeships. partners include Florida International University, Knight Foundation, the Center for Social Change and other foundations.

Kizorek also has maintained her longstanding video business, Two Parrot Productions, that has worked with nonprofits including AARP Foundation, Planned Parenthood and United Nations.

For her part, Villalobos continued offering business coaching, focusing on one-to-ones with clients. But in 2014 the workload led to burnout. “I got sick because I was spread too thin,” she said. “I was burning the candle at both ends. My doctor told me I was not in good shape.”

She reshaped her business to make more time for taking care of herself through yoga, meditation and healthy eating. Her current company, SuperStar Activator, offers small events, retreats and group mentoring that, critically, creates recurring monthly revenue.

It’s a strategy that has benefited her personally and professionally. In the past 14 months, her business has grown from $300,000 in annual revenue to more than $1 million.

“I realized I was trying to make my business around what I thought people wanted instead of what my talents were,” she said. “I forgot what really drove me. I didn’t even know what my values were.” She realized, “I’d rather have freedom than have a beautiful home.”

2013 Winner: Make them BEG

Founders: Jessica Kizorek and Michelle Villalobos

Winning the Challenge: It enabled us to get clarity about where we were going. We had to ask the important questions about what we wanted, which led us to greater alignment with our individual visions. — Villalobos

Kizorek: Continues to run her longstanding video business, Two Parrot Productions, which caters to nonprofits, and also runs a nonprofit enterprise, Eyes on Your Mission Academy.

Villalobos: Runs her own longstanding consulting and personal branding business Superstar Activator.

Advice to others: “Do work that lights you up from the inside out. The common definition of ‘success’ — money, status, achievement — is a distraction from what really matters. Deep down, what we all desire is connection, fulfillment and passion. When you honor and focus on that, everything else follows.” — Villalobos