Manuel Villalba

Remind yourself that it will succeed. Self-affirming thoughts over the negative thoughts – each time.

California native Manuel Villalba is the founder and chief executive of White Village Digital Media and creator of Born and raised in southern California, Manuel joined the U.S Army at age 18 to forge out on his own and serve his country, and over the course of his military career, has been fortunate enough to travel extensively to numerous destinations worldwide. His position as a warrant officer in the field has provided him with unique knowledge and experience which aided in the development of his entrepreneurial vision and encouraged him to participate as business owner in the mobile app market.

Manuel has augmented his military education with his own research and is an avid proponent of hands on learning and self improvement. His decision to start his own business stems from both a long standing passion for advancing creative innovation in constantly evolving world market and a personal desire to provide a high quality of life for his family. He ultimately created several business ideas but finally decided on creating a mobile app for personal photography. Within two years his vision grew and solidified and is finally nearing completion, with a goal of going live on Google Play by January 2019.

Manuel is married to fellow So-Cal native Johna Villalba, a veterinary technician and aspiring novelist. He has a son, Evan, from his first marriage and a stepson, Phoenix. His current stationing in Europe is coming to a close and by spring the couple will have temporarily relocated to D.C where he will serve the remainder of his active military duty before permanently settling in their home state. When he has free time, Manuel can be found working out at the nearest gym, walking the family dogs with his wife, and planning adventures around the world.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

My position in the military requires frequent travel, so I find myself in some pretty interesting places, both for work and for recreation with my wife or other family and friends. Like everyone else, we try to take a good amount of pictures, but selfies always have such a generic look and it is awkward asking strangers to take our photo, so the only alternative is to have a member of our party be excluded from the picture while they take it. This issue became more noticeable when it was just my wife and I, we ended up taking a lot of bland or badly framed selfies. The locations we were visiting were often tourist attractions, so of course, there were plenty of other people around that we could have asked to help us out by taking our picture for us, but I don’t like handing my phone or camera over to strangers, and neither of us is a fan of approaching total strangers to ask for favors. Obviously traditional professional or formal photography isn’t available at every location, and even when it is, we, like most people, can’t afford to use it everywhere we go, so I thought, hey, why not incentive casual photography? I decided to approach the idea from a capitalist perspective and build on the idea of making it possible for any traveler to get a great photo while can empowering vendors or fellow tourists to make simple, secure, and small individual sales.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I have begun to plan out my days, and in doing so, I’ve managed to address specific objectives and identify effective methods for achieving intermediate and ultimate goals that will hopefully yield the intended results. I’m not a machine, I don’t schedule every little thing. I wake up and go to work and usually dedicate time to the business project towards the end of the day, but I try to fit in other things as well, like fitness and time to talk to my wife, and I think it is important for everyone, myself included, to give their mind and body a rest from time to time so neither get exhausted or overwhelmed.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I revert back to my training in military planning. Military service has instilled a useful formula for getting things done, so I rely on that to a degree. I essentially look at what I want the completed product or end state to be and then mentally and sometimes visually outline the steps necessary to get to that point in something close to chronological order. I also rely a lot on observation and I turn to the world around and the creativity and successes I see there for inspiration. I take the time to consider different styles and find out what they have in common, then try to apply my ideas to the central or common theme.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Wellness improvement. I don’t know if it is a trend or just common sense, but the increase and availability of affordable wellness options are great. I think of wellness in a lot of different ways; first there is nutrition. It has probably the largest impact on how your body feels. The second is mindfulness, because without self-awareness and introspection, personal growth can’t happen. Last but certainly not least is productivity, and what we produce, the mark we make in the world, is important. I think these health and wellness trends, all of the new things available or up and coming intended to help each individual achieve their personal best are really exciting and encouraging, and some of them have helped me stay on track with personal goals.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Exercise and fitness. Making the gym and fitness a habit allows me to stress less about my health. Additionally, spending time on the treadmill allows me to either clear my mind or take the time to consider aspects of what I’m trying to achieve. It lets my brain open up a bit more than it does at other times and think about becoming an entrepreneur. I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be impulsive. I don’t how much I would have listened to that advice. I think that we all make mistakes and our mistakes guide us just as much if not more than our accomplishments. But I must admit I don’t like giving advice, it just feels foreign to me.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I honestly can’t think of anything. Vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate?

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Remind yourself that it will succeed. Self-affirming thoughts over the negative thoughts – each time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Outsourcing. There is only so much you can do. Only so many hours in the day. You can’t do everything by yourself and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be able to.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Personalizing and internalizing everything and feeling an inordinate amount of empathy for competitors. I am a generally empathetic person and I usually try to be as helpful as I can to others, but when making business decisions, helping others out isn’t always the way to advance your own objectives. I would struggle with choosing one business over another and feel guilty for depriving either of their opportunity. This made me slow to cut loose ideas that weren’t working. I now realize that it’s just business and we are all going to keep going to get a leg up. It isn’t worth it to end up with something sub-standard in order to avoid hurting feelings.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Renewable/ “Green” anything. I have had the idea of developing an eco friendly water delivery company. The focus would be on using fully recyclable glass bottles to deliver water to households- The way milk was delivered. It could be delivered using electric or hybrid vehicles and would limit the impact of plastic bottles created. It’s a start and every little bit helps.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I don’t know, I usually don’t spend hundred dollars at a time. I am 30.00 dollar or less person. I will spend that a lot. Ten years ago I bought Ray Ban Sunglasses, The ones in the photo. I think they were like 90.00 – 120.00.
They only recently broke. I dropped them way too many times – I’m surprised they lasted that long.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Notepad on my laptop. I think about things very sporadically and sometimes it doesn’t fit with what I am doing at the moment. In these instances I just simply type up a quick Notepad .text file and save it put in my google drive. I have a few organization programs I use, but the truth is I am still very much unorganized and I just have to take the time at the end of the week to put things in there place.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I think the ability to dissect and look at the underlying reasons for phenomena is incredibly important for people to do, especially an entrepreneur. I think seeing the branches of how something happened, its origins, is important for approaching complex problems that are faced daily by people in my current business and in entrepreneurial endeavors.

What is your favorite quote?

Do not attempt, or carry it out thoroughly.

Key Learnings:

  • Introspection is important. Recognizing what it is that drives you towards your goals helps you discern what things are working and what things are not
  • Take time to unwind; realizing that you spend all your time on a singular mission can be unhealthy – for mind, body, and soul
  • Read more, find the time to read a book – its one thing to go running into the fray but books can provide insight on how others experienced before you
  • Follow your own advice. I see there is a lot of information that I know to be true but I am not practicing it as much as I can everyday.


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