Elvira Grau – CEO and Founder of SpaceOdysseyUSA.com
Elvira Grau’s BIO
Elvira Grau is a Russian immigrant who built her business from scratch starting in Englewood, New Jersey. A happily married mother of 4, Elvira proves that women really can have it all and is a firm believer that hard work can lead to the “American Dream.” She founded Space Odyssey USA in 2005 when she discovered an empty, 26,000 square foot warehouse and envisioned a one-of-a-kind, fantastical entertainment and private events space. Entering into its 7th anniversary this September, Elvira has hosted over 7,200 events at Space since its inception. The destination for some of the biggest and most outrageous celebrity events, birthday parties and celebrations, Space Odyssey USA is run by Elvira with her husband, Emmy award winning television producer Jim. Prior to creating Space Odyssey USA and launching her entertaining career, Elvira was a successful marketing and public relations executive, handling Fortune 500 clients. More information about Elvira Grau can be found here:
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. Please share with us what prompted you to create SpaceOdysseyUSA.com?
Elvira: As a mother first and foremost, it was initially for my own personal need and my desire to create a safe, clean and controlled environment for my own children. Having 4 kids who ranged, at the time, from 4-12 years old, I wanted to design an entertainment space filled with a diverse array games and attractions that would appeal to all age groups. Space Odyssey USA is a 26,000 sq. ft. galaxy filled with the most high-tech video games, laser tag, paintless paintball, glow in the dark bowling, a 3 level indoor playground, a train ride and even a Studio 54-like nightclub.
Space Odyssey USA combines the best aspects of a catering hall, a nightclub, and a gaming arcade; it’s conducive for both kids and adults. We’ve created endless fun for kids and an elegant venue for adults.
2. There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.
Elvira: People often say to me “Elvira, you work so hard. You put in so many hours,” etc. I always tell them that if you really love what you do, you don’t consider it work and you certainly don’t count the hours. An entrepreneur is someone who thrives on creativity, and who takes pleasure in launching a product or service that others will benefit from.
When I came up with the concept for Space Odyssey USA, it was an original and organic development. I didn’t buy a franchise, so no one told me how to do anything or how the business model was going to work out. I had to figure it all out on my own. Trial and error was the way I learned what worked and what didn’t.
I grew my business one party at a time, treating each event as if it was for my own family. It’s how I plan every party to this day; I operate with pure intentions and high integrity.
I wake up every day and ask myself, “What can I do today to make my business better? What more can I do?” As an entrepreneur, it’s always about what’s next. You have to be on top of your game.
3. What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?
Elvira: I can’t live without my iPhone. For a while, I couldn’t live without my Blackberry. For years I wouldn’t give up the keyboard- I write a lot so I was a “crack berry” user. When I finally switched to an iPhone, it became my most valuable tool for business. I’m able to do everything on it! It’s my office on the go!
4. What are your tricks for time management?
Elvira: Luckily I’m in a creative industry so whenever I have an idea or thought, I share instantly with my staff. I’m big on texting and emails; communication is everything! I’m not one for “once a week meetings.” I have a million ideas every day, so I need to communicate frequently. Instead of waiting on scheduled times to handle different aspects of business, I manage my time best by communicating an idea or concern as soon as it comes to me or is brought to my attention.
5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?
Elvira: This will sound like a cliché, but honestly I tell all my young staff “find something that you truly enjoy doing, and then figure out how to make money doing it.” It’s something we’ve all heard at one time or another, but it’s true and it’s what worked for me.
When I was younger, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew that I was very creative, but it took awhile for me to figure out how to capitalize on it. Another key piece of advice that influenced me when I was starting my career was to “just stick to it.” Eventually it will find its way. When people jump around too much, they never accomplish anything. It’s like a relationship… You have to invest time into anything that you want to grow and accomplish.
6. Given the current economic climate, what has been your strategy for building awareness of SpaceOdysseyUSA.com for short-term and long-term growth?
Elvira: Reputation is everything! You’re only as good as you last party. I tell all my staff, there are no second chances, and we only have one time to get it right. It’s like a Broadway play- the curtain opens and we’re live. As long as we continue to give our clients everything they want and more, we will do well. Happy clients refer business, and whether the economy is up or down, people still need to celebrate the milestones in life. I also work with clients on their own budgets.
7. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished entrepreneur?
Elvira: Repeat business! I’m now hosting parties for the siblings, friends, and other family members of my current clients. I love when families come back to me for parties for their second and third child after a birthday, bar/bat mitzvah or sweet sixteen. It’s the biggest form of a compliment to me. They trust me, and that’s priceless!
8. How do you achieve balance in your life?
Elvira: It’s not easy; I try to be the best that I can be at everything I do. If I’m home, it’s all about the kids and my family. When I’m at work, it’s all about my staff and my clients. I’m a wife, mom, daughter, friend and boss. I balance it all by prioritizing each at the right time.
9. Your top 3 book recommendations?
Elvira: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of spare time to read! I started 50 Shades of Grey, but didn’t finish it.
10. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?
Elvira: American Cancer Society, Chrons & Colitis, UJA & Kabbalah Centre of NY.
11. Who has influenced your career the most?
Elvira: My husband. I adore him. He’s the most supportive husband and my best friend. I couldn’t do it without him. He’s my ROCK!
12. What is your advice for someone interested in entrepreneurship?
Elvira: Never give up! If you have tenacity, perseverance, a true desire to succeed and passion for what you do, you will go far. I was told many times to give up when I first started. People said my idea wouldn’t work. Space Odyssey USA is celebrating its 7th Anniversary this September. I didn’t listen and I didn’t give up….it works.