How One BD Pro Went From Art School to Business Development

Jeff White October 11, 2021

Jeff White

Jeff is a small business expert focused on marketing, finance, sales, business development, and legal work. He's been featured in a number of publications such as USNews, Forbes, The Week, The Street, Investopedia, and CNBC.

As part of our spotlight series on career journeys in business development and partnerships, today we’re sharing an interview with Ivan Silva, who works in Business Development for Virid. We will walk through what Ivan has done throughout his career and how he was able to break into BD. Then we’ll get his advice that he feels is important for people looking to advance their BD career today. 

Virid is a team of ecommerce experts that aim to help growing retail businesses. The company provides an enterprise-grade hosted platform with 24/7 monitoring that helps ecommerce businesses by taking the worry and frustrations out of hosting their online shelves. Its mantra for customers is that Virid “makes ecommerce work (like it’s supposed to).” 

All responses that you’ll find below are completely provided by our interviewee, Ivan, and are his personal thoughts and feelings on each topic area. 

Describe your background before you broke into Business Development & Partnerships

“I started off in the cycling industry and moonlighted as a graphic designer while attending art school. I later realized that I enjoyed leading teams, so joined the NAVY and led search and rescue teams, along with vessel Boarding Search and Seizure teams during the Iraqi conflicts. My next step was to become a student of business, so I picked up a degree in Business Management and rolled right into a director role for a white box server manufacturing company, led seven departments to develop faster and more custom servers. 

I then migrated to Virginia, worked as an advisor in the education industry, and decided to get my MBA. They moved into the eCommerce software development industry, where I worked as a project manager helping brands like Journeys, Tori Birch, Kangol, Johnston & Murphy and The National Wildlife Federation. It was during this time that I realized that our team was at the mercy of so many other systems. 

Our team develops the core of eCommerce sites, marketAgility, this platform is a content management system, it connects to everything in an eCommerce operation.  This meant that we were on the hook for every issue that could arise, so I made it a point to create relationships with every integration provider, to assure that we had a reliable point of contact if their system had any unannounced changes that could crash our clients’ websites. 

From here I created our company’s partner program, which enabled us to create more educational content and also became a source for organic referrals. I now manage business development, strategic partnerships, partner marketing and sit in as an SE when needed.” 

What made you want to break into BD & Partnerships? 

“It was more of a need to protect our clients. I then realized my strength was in storytelling and relationship building.”

What are 2-3 lessons you learned early on in your career that you still rely on today? 

“Be honest and open. Keep learning and reaching out to new people, keep reaching out farther than the last time, beyond your city, state and even industry. Stay curious about how things work and enjoy the stories you receive from everyone you meet.”

What was a major pitfall or challenge you faced early on in your BD & Partnerships career and how did you overcome it? 

“The numbers that other companies were focused on, I got a little put out by partners who would stoke me for leads. If I had no introduction I would offer to create a piece of content to introduce their service, vis social or blog.”

What education or training did you receive to get a job in the field? 

“Loads of education and training. I believe having a clear understanding of how businesses start, work and grow is a key to building your education in this field. After you have a strong grasp of business, you then need to understand how to manage projects, then later manage full scale programs. 

Next is marketing, you will need to learn how to market a product and know tools to make the job easier. Negotiation is next along with some understanding of legal documentation, partnerships include binding contracts that require commitment and trust, you will need to understand the details to protect both parties. 

Lastly, you will need to know your partner’s product, what it does, how to implement and troubleshoot to later support your clients as needed. Rack up certifications if they are available for each partner. Also, learn how to perfect storytelling and speaking in public.”

What is your favorite part about working in Business Development? 

“The human connections and the strategies that are created. Finding new routes to create a new product or generate new business is exciting, and being able to invent something that everyone uses has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”

Where do you see yourself going in your career long-term?

“I see myself rolling into a VP of partnerships or CEO of a company and I also plan to give back as an adjunct professor at a University.”

Bottom Line

As we’ve mentioned before, there’s no clear path for breaking into business development. If you’re looking for help in either breaking into the field or in figuring out your next move, Firneo can help. Become part of our platform community to learn from those who have been where you are now.