Featured: Marta Michelle Colon
We're thrilled to introduce Marta Michelle Colon, founder of Buena Gente and Co-Founder of the recently launched AccessLatina, which helps Latinas emerge in their entrepreneurial ventures.
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I am Marta Michelle, a Chief Attitude Strategist, entrepreneur, psychologist, and social innovator from Puerto Rico. Creator of Buena Gente, an action-oriented platform that promotes positive attitude and social skills, as an optimizer for success and to achieve higher competitive advantage. I am also the co-founder of AccessLatina, the first multi-market accelerator for Latinas in New York, Washington, DC, Florida, and Puerto Rico. It is a 501(c)3 created to enable Latinas reach their economic potential in the agriculture, social innovation and STEAM.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
I can encompass my greatest challenge in three elements: learn to be brave, speak up, and deal with mediocrity in a very efficient and effective way.
I started my real professional career as a federal government agent. I later went to work with the Mayor of San Juan and Governor of Puerto Rico, so my first professional endeavors were usually surrounded by men, even though the Mayor and Governor were women. The men were taller, bigger, and at the time more experienced than I was.
Thankfully, after locating some extraordinary sponsors and mentors – most of them men – I was able to beat these challenges. I learned to be an excellent passive communicator (to be powerful and heard, there is no need to be aggressive), mastered speaking things as they are and as I feel them, always with respect and validity and to celebrate silent winnings – gloaters only like themselves!
What was your biggest career breakthrough moment?
My biggest career breakthrough moment was when I decided to be an entrepreneur, and especially after changing majors from business management to psychology because I was afraid of accounting!
I opted to cancel the negative “noise” around me, and “shut down” the constant unsolicited advice. So many people told me that doing new things was extremely difficult, that on occasions I self-doubted myself.
I have always been a believer that we should have the opportunity to do what we like, enjoy our professional endeavor, work with enthusiasm and even feel our careers as our favorite hobby. So that “let’s do it” mindset drove me to start my business, and years later I still celebrate the decision to do take the risk and do it.
Finish this sentence, "I knew I had ‘made it’ when…"
I knew I had made it when I decided to give a 100% of my time to my business. I felt liberated, at ease, knowing that my positive attitude, my principles and values were to run my days into the future.
It was a great learning experience. Many sleepless nights, that optimized my potential, and reminded me the importance of being true to myself, listen to my gut, and only be surrounded with people that add some positive value – joy, happiness, inspiration, aspiration, illusion, empathy, sincerity, and amazing experience.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self (before your career really began), what professional advice would you give her?
To do what you love; to look for opportunities, since they do not come knocking on our doors; to be humble - after all, at that age we have many more years and experiences to live; to be well-rounded (learn and know about many things, the more the merrier); to be passionate; to speak up with respect; to never eliminate yourself; to make a difference; and to go from intention to action, since days are long, but life is short.
Share your two cents about money. What lessons have you learned about money along the way?
That you do not need to buy everything you see! Financial security and stability should always be a first. When I was twenty-five years old, while studying for my doctoral degree and working for the federal government, I decided to buy an apartment, rented it to pay the mortgage and lived with my parents (my boyfriend at the time certainly did not like it!). I figured it was a simple and practical way to save for my future.
When possible, we should invest at least 10% of our salary, not spend more than we can monthly and keep credit cards to zero.
I have spent cycles of two and three years without buying clothes, bringing lunch to work, and strategizing on my holiday purchases. It is always better to spend money on experiences and the things that add value to your life and knowledge.
What is your secret to success?
I have four key ingredients:
Passion - I always putting my heart and soul on everything I do.
Organization - It’s the best way to give the best of me to myself, my husband and kids, my friends, my business, and the causes I support. My husband calls me the “time bender” because I can do my magic with little time. I call it having a to do list, learning to prioritize, focus on the important tasks, prepare for the expected and unexpected. In my calendar, I separate time to exercise, to think, for my husband, for the kids, for my clients, my friends and even for professional and personal emergencies – those usually happen at the end of the day!
Humility - By always running in other people’s shoes and listening 80% of the time, only talking 20% of the time, it’s a great way to learn and be successful.
Learning - I'm always reading books, articles and transformative journalism, while keeping myself mindful on what I see and feel, taking courses on unknown matters, and taking every opportunity available to feed my brain.
Why are you a member of Ellevate?
I see Ellevate as a great opportunity to connect with different women, learn from their knowledge and experiences, and best of all, to be part of an ecosystem that supports women. We need to invest on ourselves, optimize our opportunities and be our biggest supporters, advisors, and mentors. We could definitely keep opening doors to ourselves, and to our younger selves with actions that speak louder than words.