Eva Hughes didn’t think she’d become an entrepreneur. But after fifteen years with Condé Nast—ten years as the editor-in-chief of Vogue México y Latinoamérica (known as Vogue en Español when she started) and five years as the CEO of Condé Nast México y Latinoamérica— she decided it was time for a change.
In January, she founded Adira Consulting, providing clients with brand strategy advice, including advice regarding content and other media. Adira mainly focuses on the luxury space, an area Hughes is quite familiar with thanks to her many years working for high-end magazines. (Before her time with Condé Nast, she worked at Selecta magazine in Miami.) In addition, Hughes does public speaking engagements and mentoring, and she has her own podcast, Eva Talks. It’s a very personal and rewarding project for Hughes.
Adira is a Hebrew name that means strong, noble, and powerful. She won’t say that she herself embodies these things, but they are very important concepts for her. “It takes a lot of inner strength to go after your dreams and to get things done,” Hughes said.
Life and work today are very different from what Hughes had when she worked at Condé Nast. Gone are the days of working with a full slate of magazine executives. Instead, she now works on a team of two, with one person joining her venture to do her company’s public relations and business strategy. It’s a very different setting, and Hughes finds it invigorating.
In an interview with The Alumni Society, Hughes talked about personal branding, the journey to where she is today, and adapting to new situations.
How did you come to start Adira Consulting?
It’s an idea that I had that I never thought I was going to do. When you work for a company for so long, you don’t think you’re someone that should be an entrepreneur. I don’t know why we are given that indication that you cannot be an entrepreneur if you have worked in corporate for a long time. I was developing what would be the essence of the concept. I decided that it was time for me to quit Condé Nast, to become an entrepreneur, to leave that comfort zone, that stability, and to push myself into something quite different.
What are you especially proud of from your time with Condé Nast?
One of the most endearing to me was the first Fashion’s Night Out in Mexico City. Meeting with our readers at such an extraordinary event and creating a truly unique experience was humbling. It was also something wonderful for the city. The energy that night was really unforgettable. The other experience that stands out is working with people who were very passionate and very talented and dedicated. We were pushing ourselves together and creating that bond. There are many moments that really stand out, but those two really define the work I did because I did it through the incredible people around me.
How have you had to reinvent yourself throughout your career?
It’s very tricky, the word “reinvent.” I don’t think that I’ve been reinventing myself, necessarily. I have faced new paths and new challenges. I’ve had to really set myself with enormous responsibility. When I first started working at Selecta when I was 24, I didn’t know anything about journalism or magazines. Then, I went to Vogue. I didn’t have many years of experience. And then, I started my own company. So instead of reinventing myself, I’ve had to sit down and ask myself, “Do I really want this?” and “Can I really do this?” Sometimes, you don’t have clear answers. Those are the moments when you really have to push the hardest, not only into your knowledge but also into your drive, and what you are willing to sacrifice, what you are willing to do to make things happen.
How have your mentoring and leadership styles evolved?
When you are young and you are in a position of power, you can make a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes, but I always took away lessons on how I could improve. With my mentoring style, I started to put myself in other people’s shoes. I don’t try to tell people what to do because the journey is different for everybody. You have to be more grounded, and you have to understand what the person really needs at that moment. When I was the CEO, my mentoring style was very different. I was always the person who had their door open to everybody. I’ve always been a person that people come to for advice. That also takes a lot of energy because you have to really pay attention to what somebody is truly saying and guide them in the best direction possible while giving them the truth of what they need to make their own decision.
What have you enjoyed most so far about starting your own consulting business?
I’ve enjoyed doing a lot of soul searching of what I want to do, what I want to build and have in five years, in ten years, and where I want to be. Building that roadmap and doing it for yourself—not for another company—is also a discovery. You can always create beautiful presentations that have a lot of branding and keywords and everything sounds so great, but what can you really do to make a difference in another business in another situation for another person? Helping clients develop their companies, who they are, what they want to achieve—I think that has been very rewarding.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?
Hard work, definitely. Being able to listen to somebody who has something to say that I might not like but I still have to listen and understand where they’re coming from. And being coherent with what I do. Those are the three very important traits.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
Everything. I wish I would have known everything. The most important thing: You can fall and you can get up and it’s okay; nothing happens and life’s not going to change. I wish I would have known that. I wish I would have known that the most important person that should be happy is yourself and not everybody else, about the way you are, or what you achieve. It’s very hard when you start and things don’t work out as you expect and you give up. You can never give up. Learn from everything that happens to you.
Nowadays people are concerned with their personal brand. What personal brand advice do you have for young executives, particularly young Latinas?
It depends where you work, but you always should strive to present yourself in the best way possible. You have to see yourself as a brand if you want to be successful. It took me many years to really understand what my style was, what I was comfortable with, and how I wanted to dress without sacrificing my own style. You have to also be authentic; don’t push yourself to become something that you’re not. There’s also a huge part that nobody talks about: your attitude. At the end of the day, you can have the best style but your attitude will be what defines you. And never forget that a smile is extremely important. We Latinas have a beautiful smile and beautiful laughter, and we better embrace that.
What are some of the greatest simple pleasures for you?
I love to walk, and I love to talk to people. Random people. I love to walk around my neighborhood. Even if it’s hot in Miami. I put my backpack on, and I just enjoy it. It’s so important to find something where you can really take your mind off of things and find perspective.
Listen to Eva Hughes on the final episode of The New Majority podcast, The Culture Connectors.