In Conversation with Lara Schmoisman, On The Entrepreneur Experience as an Immigrant

Looking at female entrepreneurship through a variety of lenses and perspectives has long been a mission of mine here at Caro’s City. There’s an intersectionality to being a womxn business owner that we all contribute to as individuals, and sharing our stories and our unique perspectives makes us all consistently better as a whole.

When I first connected with Lara Schmoisman, founder and CEO of The Darl Agency, it was when I was featured on her podcast in 2020. We quickly discovered that we could talk for approximately 150,000 hours about marketing, about content, and about social media, and in truth we haven’t stopped talking since then. What makes her perspective incredibly unique is that not only is she a powerhouse female founder of a boutique marketing agency, but she is originally from Argentina and immigrated to the US in her twenties. She not only overcame all of the usual hurdles that we entrepreneurs go through – the inconsistent income, the failed ideas, the scaling challenges, and SO many more – but she came here not even speaking fluent English. 

Her success story as a female entrepreneur who is also an immigrant to our country really serves to underscore that we are, all of us, facing our own unique challenges. When we can come together and listen to and support one another, we are all better, stronger, and more empowered. There is enough here (and everywhere) for us all. 

You are a runaway success story of female entrepreneurship, and I’d love to hear more about your journey to get where you are today, as the founder of The Darl Boutique Agency and an all-around marketing and branding guru.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I spent much of my time listening to the radio and watching TV. Even as a little girl, I knew that the world was full of possibilities, and I was the type of person who could make things happen. At just 14 years old, I started working at a local radio station learning the ropes. 

From there, I went to school to earn a certificate in screenwriting and a BA in radio and TV production. But as most of us probably know, life after college wasn’t exactly easy. And life after college in the entertainment industry? That was rough…so, unsurprisingly, I was not able to find a job.

Later that year, I came to the US to learn English. One thing led to another, and as fate would have it, doors started opening. I was taking as many jobs as I could and sleeping very little, but even so—somehow life was starting to fall into place. I worked in TV, film distribution, digital, marketing, and advertising. Later on, I was even giving lectures at CALPOLY Pomona—I was living my dream, or what I thought was my dream at the time.

After flirting for a while with each industry, I realized that I didn’t want to settle down with any of them because each one was equally important. They truly complement each other. And, as I was taking a step back and evaluating where I was going, that was the core idea that prompted me to start my own agency, The Darl. 

Building a wildly successful agency, The Darl, is no small feat. I’d love to hear about how you took your business concept and scaled it to the point of overseeing a massive full-time team. What surprised you along the way?

I truly believe in authenticity, so I designed an environment that I call an “ecosystem” where each part of the puzzle connects with another. Why? Because one element cannot be isolated from the big picture of the digital jungle. Everything is balanced by teamwork, kindness, creativity, and collaboration while staying true to a brand’s unique story. 

I took everything I’ve learned from my past leaders and workplaces and designed my own culture for the agency. You have to design the culture you want in your company, the same as a brand; it’s not something that happens overnight or happens on its own automatically. It actually requires a lot of work.

There are currently 40 of us at The Darl scattered around the world. The key is being constant and having everyone understand the process and logistics. The team also has to share the company’s philosophy and values, that way they feel like they are part of something they believe in. 

What surprised me along the way is something that never ceases to surprise me: people. I’ve realized that I had to rely on people to grow. I’ve learned to empathize and be patient. 

I’ve learned to value loyalty and hard work more than ever. Not only that, but I understood that it is no longer about me or my personal connections to people. 

The Darl has become its own living, breathing entity,, and as things shift, people and logistics have to fit into what the company has become. As the winds of change blow, I, as CEO, and we, as a team, need to be able to evolve, adapt, and keep moving forward. 

As someone who was born in Argentina and later immigrated to the United States (settling in LA), I know that you have a unique perspective on the immigrant experience and I’d love to have you share more about your experience. 

Everyone has their own idea of the “American Dream.” When I was younger, I imagined a Beach Boys song playing in the background while driving a red convertible, top down, and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway. In my mind it was a beautiful, sunny day and my long hair was flowing in the wind while I was singing at the top of my lungs, feeling completely carefree. 

But, when I initially moved to LA, the picture wasn’t so pretty.

I was living in an apartment which wasn’t on the best side of town, sleeping on a hand-me-down mattress flat on the floor, driving a beat-up car, and taking any and all odd jobs that crossed my path. But, most importantly, I was making ends meet, and I was independent. 

Being an immigrant is not easy at all. The understanding of a culture is not only speaking  and understanding the common language, or living in the same city for a period of time. To me, it means being able to comprehend the little idiosyncrasies that make that culture unique.

I had to learn how to do things that I had never done before, like helping with my kids’ homework which involves English grammar, English math, and English science. 

Not only that, but I have had to deal with not looking Latina “enough” because of my skin color. For example, at school my son was labeled as a “white boy” even though he is half Latino. Once, his teacher told me that he was not allowed to say certain things to Latin people because he is not one of them, so I had to explain to her that what she was saying was not true, and he is in fact one of them. 

What was it like building your business in a new place, and in a language other than your native tongue? How has the experience of being an immigrant shaped your experience as an entrepreneur here?

When I moved here, I was only 24 years old. I was not an entrepreneur, I was just young and lost in the world. 

Being an immigrant, I feel like I am a lot more empathetic and open to understand the world and my client’s needs. As a marketer, being able to understand your client is essential because you need to acknowledge the core values of each of your clients, which will be a lot harder if you are close-minded. 

Having a multi-ethnic background allowed me to identify with my clients and build unique relationships with them. With my diverse skill sets and a bit of grit, I learned how to better understand what people need, how they need it delivered, and how to automate systems to provide the best results.

Maybe it is my Latin upbringing, the Jewish traditions, or even my Russian blood, but I believe that  finding a passion is the biggest motivation of all—just look at me now as the example.

The missing element of the perfect equation is having excellence in anything you do. Once you combine motivation, hard work, and excellence you are set to accomplish anything you want in this world.

What has it felt like trying to both stay true to your Argentine roots and to assimilate in some ways to American culture? Has this been challenging at all for you?

I realized when I came here to the US that in order to learn English—because remember I didn’t speak a word—I had to exclude myself from the Latin world. I made friends with people from all over the world except Hispanics, because that’s the only way that I could force myself to practice English. That’s how I learned, which eventually led to this amazing accent I have. Now nobody knows where I’m really from! 

Nowadays, I still have a relationship with my people back in Argentina. I drink mate once in a while, and there are two things that I’m ABSOLUTELY addicted to that I can’t stop buying which are Argentinean salt and Savora, which is an Argentinean brand of mustard. 

Not being physically close to my family has been really difficult for me. I travel back to Argentina once a year, so that my kids can stay with their grandparents. They eat the local food, listen to the Argentine slang, and get to see where their mother was born and raised. Argentinians take their slang very seriously, so I bought my kids a book called Che Boludo, which explains all the Argentinean expressions. 

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