Winning the Brillante Award from Prospanica

A few weeks ago I was honored to win the 2021 Brillante Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence from Prospanica. As I prepared my acceptance speech to share during the conference, it got me thinking about where my entrepreneurial spirit began.

Selling Pizzas and Dreams

It started on a cold Ohio day selling pizzas door to door. I was an 8th grader and had been making good money (for a kid in the early ’90s) selling magazine subscriptions door to door through my school. After magazine subscription season, the next challenge was selling pizzas and subs to houses in my neighborhood which would benefit our school. I was excited about the task but remember that sales had started slower than I had expected for the comfort food which would be delivered to each customer at a later date. On a particularly low-sales day near the end of my route near the Ohio State campus, two college students answered the door. They asked me a simple, but unexpected, question. “Is the pizza good?”

I panicked and replied that I did not know. I had never eaten it, how could I know? Smugly, the two undergrads explained to me that I needed to be more confident in what I was selling if I was ever going to have success. Even if I hadn’t eaten it personally, I should know more about the quality of the pizza in order to sell it to anyone. Was this the best pizza ever made? Maybe…

The students bought a pizza and several subs but most importantly left me with a valuable entrepreneurial lesson about having confidence in what I am selling.

King of the Throne

In 2009 I had moved back to Ohio in order to start my small business consulting company which would evolve to become Nativa. I attended a dozen networking events each month and was hoping to learn as much as I could about how to successfully launch my small company’s services. At one afternoon event with the Central Ohio Minority Business Administration, I met Antonio Robinson from King John’s Portable Toilets. As I met Antonio, I introduced myself as I always did by saying that I was thinking about launching my small business consulting services…He cut me off and gave me a disgusted look that I didn’t understand. He asserted, ‘You either are in business, or you’re not.”

Antonio’s message was clear – you can’t be thinking about going into business – people don’t have time for that. I needed to make a decision to go into business. And then I needed to own it and represent my company going forward.

Funding my MBA with a Prospanica Scholarship

In addition to the mentors’ lessons along the way, much of my entrepreneurial success has been derived from the education I received during my MBA program at Northeastern University. In 2005 I was interested in going to grad school, but the money factor was daunting. I was risk-averse so was very focused on obtaining a scholarship. I found about the NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs – which is now known as Prospanica) scholarship and was very intrigued.

I lived in Boston at the time and became a student member of the Prospanica local chapter. From networking with senior members of Prospanica, I learned how impactful the scholarship had been on their own careers and decided that this would be a necessary step in my own path. I applied for each of the Boston-area schools that had the full-ride Prospanica scholarship available and was overjoyed when my award letter allowing me to bypass the $65,000 tuition fee came in from Northeastern University.

winning the brillante award from prospanica
Advertisement I was featured in after winning the $65,000 Prospanica (NSHMBA) scholarship.

Becoming a True Entrepreneur

With these early lessons, and armed with the knowledge from my MBA, I was ready to take on the world. I have realized over the past few years that the part of my work I enjoy the most is mentoring young entrepreneurs and professionals to get their start. I personally have had the pleasure to mentor over 85 interns at Nativa since 2009. I am proud that graduates from the Nativa marketing internship have gone on to work for reputable companies such as Carvana, American Licorice Company, Havas, Progressive Insurance, and more. Finally, I shared this quote with the Prospanica audience during my acceptance.

“I am extremely grateful for this award. I have preached the value of Prospanica/NSHMBA since 2005 and will continue to do this so that other young Hispanic professionals may have the same opportunities they have helped me achieve.”