From “street thug” to entrepreneur, Nilton Serva proves that even those in the worst of circumstances can find freedom in entrepreneurship.
At 20 years old, Nilton has made a name for himself as the CEO of SERVAMEDIA, a fast-growing tech and media company. Through his story, he hopes to teach millennials and others how to build their business and personal development skills.
“Entrepreneurship saved my life, because there’s nothing else in the world that I would have ever saw myself doing other than being out in the streets”.
Exclusive Interview with Nilton Serva, CEO of ServaMedia
TrueToast Magazine decided to interview Nilton in order for him to tell his backstory and explain how he overcame his troubled past to become the thriving businessman he is today. Through his website and YouTube channel, he inspires people to pursue entrepreneurship and grow their businesses. Nilton created the below video for TrueToast Magazine.
TrueToast: On your website you go into detail about what drove you to become an entrepreneur. Can you tell our readers a bit about your backstory and what made you want to start your own business?
Nilton: Well, I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship growing up. I just knew I was a hard worker. I started working when I was 10 years old for my godfather who owned an auto repair shop. I would wash cars, clean tools, and assist in some repairs. I did this for a few years on the weekends and during the summer. But I got tired of even working for my godfather. I didn’t like getting told what to do all the time and not feel like I’m getting paid my worth.
This was around the time that I was messing up in middle school. I got involved in the streets and started selling drugs because I noticed the supply and demand for it. That’s how I became what I call a “streetprenuer”. I didn’t know it then but I was learning the basics of entrepreneurship. Now fast forward to my second incarceration. I read a book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki that talked about entrepreneurship. This is when I got interested in becoming an entrepreneur. I realized I wanted to be financially free so that I can help my family and others, too. With this I am able to give back, create innovative product/services, and mentor those in need of it like when I was in need of it back then.
TrueToast: How did you finally decide what business you wanted to go into? Was this an easy or difficult decision for you?
Nilton: When I was released from my recent incarceration, I was full of entrepreneurial spirit. But the BIG question was what kind of company would I start? I didn’t know the answer at all. I set aside that question and just became a sponge for information. I went to many networking events and participated in events like Startup Weekend: Latinx in Tech at the Kapor Center where my team and I won third place. That was my first encounter with technology based start-ups. We created a mock up design for a mentorship platform. I was nervous because I spoke in front of many people and one of the judges was Mitch Kapor.
“After this I knew I wanted to focus on technology because of the advancement that can be created with it.”
I later found the importance of media because of my public speaking and creation of videos. I started using the Adobe Creative Cloud Apps and learned to use a few of them. I saw that the quality of content was poor even though there is so much content out there. I wanted to create quality content that tells a story, drives engagement, and establishes brand leadership. So, that’s how i got interested in Media/Tech. Understanding what I wanted to start was a long journey. I noticed the problem in media and wanted to use tech to amplify the solution. I sought out my brothers to start our company called SERVAMEDIA.
TrueToast: Once you decided to become an entrepreneur, what were the next moves you made to make it happen?
TrueToast: What is your favorite medium to use to reach people and share your message?
Nilton: I really enjoy creating videos and posting it on Instagram and Facebook. I want to use LinkedIn more since you can now upload videos too. But If I had to choose only one app to use, I would choose Instagram because I can post photos, videos, and stories. Plus, I can write short or long context to go with my photos and videos. I don’t like to write because I thought I sucked but lately I’ve been writing a lot. I didn’t know how to type up until a few months ago. I taught myself at home because I knew I’d be typing a lot in the future.
TrueToast: We are really inspired by how authentic you are with your followers. How do you continue to ‘keep it real’ with people?
Nilton: Well, I don’t think it’s hard to keep it real. I think it’s much harder to be fake and keep up the lies. I was always a straight-forward person. I want people to keep it real with me and vice versa. There’s so much fake out there and I didn’t like what I saw.
“I noticed that I would mainly see the successes of entrepreneurs but not their struggles and mistakes.”
So, I want to display the struggles and prove that anything is possible. I think of it as a journey that my followers can go through with me on my mission for success. I think my life will connect to others who have gone through similar things or for those who don’t want to go through it and get inspired to do better. I believe being authentic creates a stronger relationship with your followers. I myself would not like to look up to someone who doesn’t keep it real.
TrueToast: Being a Latinx male is an important part of your identity as an entrepreneur. Can you talk more about how that has played a role in who you are today?
Nilton: Well I found out last year that the term “Latinx” is the gender neutral term for Latino and Latina. So I adopted the term to show that I stand for gender inclusivity. For me it doesn’t matter if you like Latinx or Latino, I use Latinx to identify my cultural ties with Latin America because both of my parents are from Peru. Being Latinx is important to me because I want to show the world that Latinx entrepreneurs can be successful and create positive impacts too.
TrueToast: For people that are experiencing struggles similar to what you experienced, what advice would you give them?
Nilton: I would tell them to dream big, don’t let others tell you you can’t do something, and execute! If you’re going through similar struggles or worse then you know what your rock bottom is. Dreaming big is the only thing you should be thinking of because of your predicament. Most of the times there will be people telling you to “slow down” or “that’s impossible”. Don’t listen to them, because anything is better than the situation you’re in now. Don’t just dream all day either. Go out and execute on those dreams. Most people just talk but never even try because they’re afraid to fail. Fail quick so you can learn fast then pivot if you have to.
TrueToast: What is one thing you continue to work on to make you better in your business?
Nilton: I’m always working on personal development. I want to be a great leader and create great leaders in our business. The way to do this is by working on oneself and improving on a daily. I always aim to learn something new everyday too. I made it a goal to only watch informational and how-to videos. This constant learning habit I’ve developed let’s me stay on top of my game. I don’t just depend on my professors, mentors, or whoever to educate me.
“I hold myself accountable to learn on my own as much as I can.”