Well before unicorns were running loose in the fields of Silicon Valley and on the sands of Silicon Beach, Mariya Palanjian was showing how it’s done.
After earning an undergraduate business degree at Woodbury in 2002 and an MBA in 2004 — and getting married along the way — she began to put theory into practice. “I was very eager to take the leap and launch my own tech startup,” she recalls. “I saw the bridal industry as a great opportunity because my own experience as a bride was still so fresh in my mind. I aimed to come up with solutions to problems I encountered as a bride-to-be; solutions I could make available to others in similar situations.”
Her first venture, weddingish.com, eliminated the middleman and sold to brides directly — everything from t-shirts to custom cookies. “We achieved our goal of saving brides’ money and time without sacrificing choice,” Mariya says. Her second bridal startup, Lanalia.com, solved the vexing problem of finding custom, comfortable high-heeled wedding shoes. “Within the first year, I opened my own manufacturing facility, once again removing the middleman from the shopping process.”
The market, and the media, took notice. Both ventures made Brides, The Knot, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and, and TLC’s “Brides of Beverly Hills.” That in turn led to an exclusive deal with TLC, which featured Lanalia shoes on the show. And with television fame came such celebrity clients as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eva LaRue and Joely Fisher.
While navigating her way through growing her startups, Mariya put her MBA training to work. “While the first years were incredibly exciting, they were also very challenging,” she says. “As I soon learned, planning will only get you so far — it’s flexibility and being able to adapt to any curve balls thrown your way that really set you up for success. My first two startups taught me that marketing is my favorite thing — other than launching a startup.”
So, in 2017, she launched another. “Helping disruptive tech companies with performance marketing proved to be the foundation on which I built Globalfly, my newest startup,” she says. “Globalfly is a marketing agency spreading influence one city at a time. Our strategy harnesses the power of influencers’ ability to engage their followers and build brand presence.” The agency’s first client, The New York Times, trusted the concept and saw results double.
Ever the marketing trendspotter, Mariya is now bullish on podcasting. “I see the vast world of podcasts as a great advertising platform,” she says. “Podcast is a curious hybrid, stemming from the Internet but consumed as an offline file. The platform is cost effective and provides unskippable ads.”
All of which brings her full circle, to Woodbury. She recalls the university as the place where she was “inspired to create change beyond the four walls of the classroom — I was attracted to the diversity, the multicultural environment, the intimate class sizes.” She was so enamored of her undergraduate experience, she decided to return for her master’s degree.
“While what you bring with you from your education is unparalleled, the most useful skills are marketing, accounting, finance, and of course, the ability to present successfully,” Mariya says, noting how Globalfly’s mantra – “globally minded, locally connected” – mirrors Woodbury’s own mission.