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I have SOMETHING to say!
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I have SOMETHING to say!

Author: Sami Haiman-Marrero

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Welcome to “I have SOMETHING to say,” where subject matter experts are unafraid and unapologetic about sharing their perspectives regarding issues that impact our lives. They speak up because they give a shit. If you’re tired of canned answers and want to FINALLY hear real people cut through the B.S. and talk about real issues, this podcast is for you.
177 Episodes
“The real question is are you positioned now to be work optional later?”, was the question Michelle Gordon, Founder and CEO of Investably posed that hit me like a brick on the forehead in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. When I shared my desire to continue to work only on passion projects and advocacy when I reach retirement age, she explained that I can do that as long as I fully understand what I have to work with now and learn how to protect and build upon it. As a mom and business owner who identifies as Latina, Michelle launched Investably, a registered investment advisory firm to help women-led households with financial planning and investment management after working 18 years in the Corporate sector. “Working in Wall Street, I realized that there was a need for guidance among women who look like me on how to be purposeful, strategic, and tax-efficient with their money,” Michelle states. “The end goal is to shift from working for the money and to get the money to work for you, and that requires knowing how the system works,” she adds. Michelle grew up under the watchful eye of her hard-working immigrant parents. She understands firsthand what it means to not have the benefits of generational wealth, of passed-down knowledge, and objective advice on financial planning and investments. So, she became 'that' teenager who created cashflow budgets, traded stocks, mapped out early retirement and real estate acquisition strategies, and opened a retirement account at 19. It’s no surprise that she pursued a career in investments and wealth planning. Today Michelle is a Stevie Award for her fiduciary work with clients, and has developed a 4-week Financial Vitals Masterclass to help guide women who are heads of household in assessing their current financial status and create a roadmap to safeguard and grow the wealth they are creating, effectively and efficiently. See details here: BTW, men are welcome, too! Something I learned in the conversation with Michelle is that wages earned by working for others are the highest taxed form of income. Since Latinas experience the largest pay gap when compared to White men (57 cents to their $1 for doing the same jobs) it’s no surprise that before the pandemic, Latinas were creating businesses at a rate six times faster than all other groups, and some data suggests that trend has continued. This said it’s just as important to learn the ropes with regards to running a business as what to do with the revenues you make. Asi que yo me voy a apuntar para tomar el curso de Investably.
The education system is broken. Once designed to standardize humans to become a workforce pipeline that met the demands of industrialization, it just doesn’t work anymore the way it is. Thankfully, Adam Mangana, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder of OptimaEd has developed a solution currently being implemented in Florida, and he joins me in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY to talk about it in detail. He shares how he became a pioneer in creating Education Experiences using 3D immersive spaces, solving challenges presented by using 20th Century teaching methods in a 21st Century world. The biggest challenge is making sure our kids are Future Ready because the future is now. Adam is an educator with almost two decades of experience in education technology and creating teaching standards aligned with virtual reality curriculum, culminating with the launch of Optima Academy Online. It’s a tuition-free online school serving students grades K-9 in the Sunshine State with over 4,000 highly interactive modules that provide learning experiences in 3D environments where students can learn (meaning inside it, virtually) with either the real-time guidance of a real teacher as an avatar or in a self-paced format. Optima has also secured funding to provide the hardware to all students – FOR FREE, delivering equitable access to advanced technology to historically disenfranchised communities. “In addition to self-paced and teacher-led coursework, students are able to learn by experiencing the moment in history from the perspective of the person who lived it by stepping into their avatar,” says Adam. He adds, “It brings into the fold the opportunity to cultivate empathy throughout the learning experience.” After realizing there was not much research regarding the impact and efficacy of virtual reality in education, Adam decided to get a master’s at Vanderbilt University to conduct his own research to better inform this innovative approach to education. It paid off. Today over 400 students of all backgrounds have free access to Optima Academy Online. “By decoupling funding for education from zip codes we democratize and individualize learning. This also provides parents an option that delivers safety, socialization, and flexibility,” Adam points out. OptimaEd is also working with Stanford Children’s Hospital to support students who are bedridden and unable to attend school. Adam’s immediate goals are to consistently double the number of Floridian students every year and to expand to other states where parents are facing similar challenges brought on by COVID. “During the pandemic, people placed tremendous value on the gift of time. Spending time with family and loved ones and figuring out ways they could be with their children more was prioritized,” Adam observes. “I get it. My children are now learning virtually. It makes a difference when you can be there and make them a peanut butter sandwich during your breaks. But I’m always telling our team that we need to nail it before we scale it, so we are making sure to do this right,” he adds.
When artistry and entrepreneurship meet purpose, incredible experiences happen. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, doll artist Jayd Collins, CEO of Reborn Nursery Next Door shares how she transformed her passion for motherhood into a business that helps people during their most vulnerable moments. Jayd was exhibiting her artistry and product at the 2023 Greater Haitian American Chamber of Commerce Summit, but I had no idea she was a vendor. All I knew was that she had a beautiful newborn baby named Sage sleeping soundly in her arms…GOTHCA! The newborn was one of Jayd’s handcrafted designs. I almost lost it. I just HAD TO HOLD SAGE once I realized that I would not be imposing (I know better than to ask a new mom that I just met if I can hold her baby).  As a mom of six children she homeschools, Jayd loves the feeling of holding a newborn baby. She first became a collector and eventually decided that she wanted to learn the art of creating original realistic reborn dolls. Self-taught, Jayd discovered that she had mad artistic abilities, and you can clearly see that she’s a master reborn doll artist (see Baby Lavender in the vodcast). It’s a skill she’s constantly working at, commanding new techniques for hair and skin tone reproduction to ensure she can “bring to life” babies of diverse ethnicities. “You get varying reactions. Most people jump right in, and like you, want to hold them immediately. And some freak out because they find them creepy,” Jayd shares with a laugh. However, she points out that reborn dolls play a role in supporting people during their most vulnerable moments. After the loss of a child, while getting cancer treatment, to combat loneliness, for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia in nursing homes, during end-of-life…the sensation of holding a newborn baby brings comfort to most humans. Jayd adds, “These dolls are very expensive because they require a lot of work to make them realistic. My mission is to create reborn dolls that can be more affordable for people to have access to the positive effects these dolls can have from a mental wellness perspective.” I told her THIS will be my gift to myself this upcoming Christmas!
The rapidly evolving landscape of the "white collar gig" economy requires a critical mindset shift that professionals in job transitions need to make. In this eye-opening episode of "I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY" my remarkable guest, Monique Mills, Founder and Chief Innovation Strategist of TPM Focus, joins me to talk about an urgent situation affecting highly qualified and experienced professionals. We both know too many individuals in transition after being laid off who are clinging to the idea of a traditional full-time job, complete with regular paychecks, corporate perks, and benefits. But, as Monique emphasizes, the urgency of the situation lies in that the longer they resist embracing the changing employment landscape, the bleaker their financial future becomes. As a seasoned entrepreneur who worked in corporate for a long time as well, she shares her invaluable insights. Monique has seen it all when it comes to career transitions and building companies from scratch. We discuss how the gig economy is evolving far beyond personal services and food delivery. Professionals from various backgrounds and across most industries are entering the “white collar” gig economy, and companies are actively seeking their skills and expertise on a project basis or in entrepreneurial roles – because they bring VALUE to accomplish specific goals. Monique predicts a significant shift in how employment is structured, and she shares why it's essential for everyone to acquire entrepreneurial skills, project management expertise, and sales acumen – all of which are underpinned by effective communication skills. “I know this may sound harsh, but it doesn’t matter that you’ve been working for decades. You still have to prove yourself every day. Whether you are employed or are exercising entrepreneurship, your performance is always being carefully evaluated. So, it’s time to let go of this entitlement mindset,” she warns. It might explain why job seekers are oftentimes required to go through several rounds of interviews, including with panels formed by company leadership, and then struggle to understand what went wrong – why did they choose someone else? This is a must-listen for anyone navigating the ever-changing job market and seeking valuable insights on how to adapt to the new world of work. Explore with us the concept of a "white collar gig" economy and learn how to stay valuable and relevant in this evolving landscape.
“It’s OK to be a copycat, as long as you’re copying the right cat,” shared Chris Brignolle, South East Executive Director for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a global nonprofit that ignites the entrepreneurial mindset and builds startup skills in young people to ensure their success. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY we discussed, among other topics, how in business you don't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel; you just need to do it better or differently than your competition, whether you’re delivering a product or service. A Brooklyn native, Chris experienced the devastating loss of a close friend as a young adult still trying to sort out what to do with his life. This propelled him to take a trip to Miami for a few weeks and he never went back to New York. He started working with youth, who like him, were trying to find their path and he was hooked from the get-go. Seeing himself reflected in the younger people he was supporting and guiding, he immediately owned and stepped into his purpose. Chris began his journey with NFTE in 2006 as a Program Director, responsible for promoting and implementing the organization’s entrepreneurial mindset. Since then, his mission has been to ignite the imagination that takes students through the process of identifying solutions to problems and creating and refining an original business concept. He generously dedicates his time to working with students, teachers, volunteers, and administrative staff from community-based organizations to assist with tailored NFTE program implementation. This includes pitch competitions throughout the year which my colleague Michelle Cortes and I have both been honored to judge. For decades, NFTE has been literally preparing each new generation of CEOs and bridging the gap of access to business readiness for underestimated youth. Beyond the passion Chris infuses within NFTE, he’s also an entrepreneur in his own right. For the past fourteen years, he has successfully launched a few companies in various industries: Fashion, Media, and most recently an importing and exporting company titled Nicaragua Cargo Express Inc. He’s proud to say that his teenage children have also caught the entrepreneurship bug…they know Dad is the cat you want to copy. Me too!
Anti-immigrant laws impact the economy and our humanity. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, my dear friend Samuel Vilchez Santiago, with whom I’ve advocated for social justice causes at the local, state, and national levels, joins me to talk about Florida Senate Bill 1718 in effect July 1st, and its impact to our community, economy, and cost of living.  Samuel is Florida State Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), a bipartisan organization that engages activists, advocates, business leaders, and elected officials on the urgency of passing immigration reform that boosts our economy, creates jobs, eases the labor shortage, and supports families. He reminds us of the quote by Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Samuel also reminds us that anti-immigrant laws are nothing new. Proposition 187 in 1994 sought to limit services to undocumented immigrants and required verifying and reporting the immigration status of all individuals, including children. After 5 years of advocacy, this law was voided. SB 1718 in Florida, passed WITHOUT making it a felony to transport or live under the same roof with an undocumented person, under penalty of spending 15 years in prison, because of the strong bipartisan advocacy of the church community and organizations like ABIC. “This would have affected me directly because my grandmother came to visit from Venezuela, and we are in the process of getting everything in order for her to stay with us, but her undocumented status would have made it a felony for us to care for her. Thankfully, advocacy works, and we are determined to overturn this law altogether,” Samuel shares. It's hard to determine the impact of SB 1718 because investments are rarely made into doing research about our community. The Mexican Consulate in Orlando assisted 200 people daily, and they’re now down to 40. Many construction sites are at a standstill. Latino families are panic-stricken this Back-to-School season, especially those with mixed status.  Florida's economy will lose billions in spending power and the taxes contributed by immigrants. Businesses in Tourism, Hospitality, Construction, Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Healthcare across the state are starting to feel the impact, too, because 1 in 4 workers in Florida is (was?) an immigrant. Floridians will now also likely see the price of food and housing go up as undocumented workers and their families leave the state. They are leaving for Georgia and the Carolinas. Florida already has the nation's highest inflation rate, sitting at 9% in comparison to 4% in the rest of the country. Take heed, speak out, so there's someone there when they come for you.
“The Daughters of Latin America are spread throughout the four corners of the world, and they are bound by their connection to the land no matter where they are,” says Sandra Guzmán, award-winning author, editor, and documentary filmmaker in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. For decades, Sandra’s work has explored identity, land, memory, race, sexuality, spirituality, culture, and gender. She was a producer of The Pieces I Am, a critically-acclaimed documentary about the art and life of her literary mentor Toni Morrison, and she is the author of the non-fiction feminist book, The New Latina’s Bible. In all of her projects she’s guided by what she needs to be doing at the present. And THAT’s the present – the gift. During the pandemic, Sandra was presented, gifted, the opportunity to curate and edit Daughters of Latin America, a groundbreaking anthology released this week by Amistad Press, an imprint of HarperCollins. Through this book, she creates a space to illuminate brilliant writers who have achieved acclaim, are on the rise, and women who have been underappreciated, erased, and forgotten. These Daughters skillfully express themselves through poetry, speeches, letters, essays, drama, memoirs, humor, short stories, songs, chants, diaries, and novels. Sandra masterfully weaves his collective work from 140 women writers, scholars, and activists from across the world that spans time, styles, languages, and traditions. “As an Afro-Indigenous woman from Puerto Rico, my first instinct was to include indigenous and African Latinas and defy the imperialist definition of what comprises Latin America,” Sandra explains, highlighting the inclusion of voices from Haiti, Guadalupe, Brazil, Mazateca, and other non-Spanish speaking nations. This required a team of several dozen translators to step in to expertly deliver the writings in English for the book launch this week, and for the Spanish version that will come out in November. In one word Sandra expresses her gratitude for everyone involved in the birth of this book that will bring the voices of Latine women out of their invisibility – “I want to say, Bo’matum, the sacred thank you in Taíno.”
There’s chaos in Hollywood – the writers' strike paralyzed production and everyone attached to the entertainment industry is feeling it. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I have an enlightening conversation with Miguel Berg, the CEO of Bravoecho Entertainment, to discuss the topic of navigating Hollywood and owning our stories. Miguel brings with him over 15 years of experience in the industry. Having worked in various capacities and learning from those who have paved the way before him, he recognizes the need for change in Hollywood, which also INCLUDES increasing the representation of Latino executives. Miguel candidly sheds light on the underrepresentation of Latinos in Hollywood. He highlights the startling statistics that reveal the lack of Latino executives, with less than 2.1% of TV executives and 1.8% of film executives being Latino, according to the 2020 UCLA Diversity Report. Moreover, he emphasizes the immense untapped potential of the Latino community's $2.8 trillion consuming power. It’s a pretty simple business proposition – the more we see ourselves in the stories that are produced, the more we will spend to see/listen/experience said stories. Miguel’s knowledge of the transformative potential of diverse representation in the entertainment industry led him to exercise entrepreneurship in this space by founding Bravoecho Entertainment. As we explore the challenges of navigating Hollywood and the importance of owning our stories, Miguel shares first-hand accounts of triumph and determination in the face of adversity. Throughout his journey, Miguel has experienced a lack of recognition and opportunities for Latino professionals. He has been told he wasn't "major leagues enough" and was discouraged from standing out and embracing his diverse range of skills. Despite this, Miguel remained proud to represent his culture and his experience as a first-generation Colombian American in the industry. Miguel's success has not been without its share of allies and champions who have supported him along the way. He acknowledges the individuals who have stood by him during challenging times and recognizes their contributions to his success. Together with a group of talented, fierce, and diverse executives, Miguel is committed to building collective stories and igniting the flames of change that the industry of entertainment desperately needs.
I think we can all agree that “making it” in the music industry requires a champion. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I’m joined by José Maldonado, Account Manager at Marmoset Music, a pioneering music agency based in Portland, Oregon. He shares his inspiring journey into the music industry and his role in creating pathways to mainstream media for independent artists. José's introduction to Marmoset came in 2016 when he attended a “Listening Hour” hosted by the company. Instantly captivated by the atmosphere and the mission of Marmoset, he knew that he wanted to be a part of this creative community. Although he didn't get the job initially, his perseverance paid off, and he was eventually called upon to join them. From that moment, José found a place where career growth, inclusivity, and a true sense of community converge. Working at Marmoset, the world's first B Corporation music agency, allows him to fulfill his purpose and contribute to important causes. As a music agency, Marmoset represents diverse, emerging, and independent artists, bands, and record labels for licensing. Their Music Production Team specializes in creating original music, soundtracks, and scores for brand campaigns, film, and television, revolutionizing the mainstream media landscape, empowering independent artists, and championing diversity and inclusion in the music industry. Marmoset's values shine through in their daily interactions, their flexibility and adaptability, their passion, and their collaborative nature. They challenge, encourage, empathize, and listen offering unwavering support to local and indie artists. During this episode, José sheds light on Marmoset's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a Certified B Corporation. As a person with an immigrant background, José is deeply passionate about immigrant rights and social justice. He emphasizes the significance of representing underserved and underrepresented artists in the mainstream media industry. Marmoset goes beyond just providing tangible opportunities; they also identify diverse talent, provide capacity building, and foster collaboration among artists. By listening to their interests and dreams, Marmoset creates an environment conducive to growth and success. The company's values can be applied to recruitment practices across all industries where representation is critical. Marmoset believes in upskilling individuals, fostering collaboration through peer-to-peer mentorship, and connecting people with the right resources and networks to help them achieve their career goals.
Health disparities persist because the disconnect between managerial teams at service providers and the populations they serve persists as well. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I talk about the uphill battle to change how we deliver healthcare with Dr. Edith M. Nieves López, a fierce advocate for health equity and creating clear pathways for minoritized people to access effective and culturally mindful care. Dr. Nieves López is a board-certified, bilingual pediatrician with over 10 years of experience. Her work in the U.S. healthcare system is informed by having initiated her medical career in Puerto Rico – which affords her a different perspective. As a Puerto Rican doctor working with Puerto Rican patients in Puerto Rico, the lack of historical context and cultural considerations in patient-centered care was not a thing to worry about. Her knowledge of historical context and cultural considerations was embedded into the provision of medical attention and treatments, and it was expected. Transitioning to working in the U.S. mainland in the public health arena has now afforded Dr. Nieves López first-hand hands-on experience with diverse patients, and due to her unique “outsider” lens, she was quickly able to identify inefficiencies, disparities, opportunities, improvements, and solutions that can enhance the well-being and quality of life of patients of color. What’s even MORE awesome about her is that she’s not shy about calling out social injustices that impact health equity, physical and mental health, and survival rates. A true and vocal advocate, Dr. Nieves-López states, “Communities do not need representatives, they need us to listen to their collective wisdom to design and enact effective policy. There are key players in the system opposing measures that would effectively empower our community. Public health will continue to fail communities as long as this power structure stays in place.”
There are so many career choices these days for youth entering the workforce making it daunting to “find yourself”. If you add to that the shift to automation, a new remote work culture, and increased value/acceptance of certifications vs. degrees, it’s enough to make your head spin. So, I invited my friend Magda Vargas-Battle, Founder and President of Performance Improvement to be my guest in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY to share specifics about digital career assessment tools that serve as a compass for youth. With over 20 years of experience in Business Consulting, Recruitment, Talent Management, Behavioral & Skills Assessments, and Professional Development, Magda is very adept at helping humans reach their full potential. She realized that there was a void in supporting today’s youth using competency assessments that could help guide them, especially Latino students and their families. Magda is on a mission to share the availability of Tu Talento Finder (Your Talent Finder), an online, customized, and validated bilingual tool to successfully identify skills and gaps to direct youth toward the career paths that will bring them joy. It determines which jobs (out of 400+) will best align with each student taking into account three factors: their Cognitive Abilities, Personality Traits, and Interests. My daughter Catalina who is 13 already knows the career path she wants to take, so I asked her to take the assessment (worth every penny and it didn’t break the bank). She completed the Tu Talento Finder assessment in 45 minutes and within seconds she had her reports. We marveled at how spot-on the results were: she will find joy and will excel working in production within a creative field. Magda says that the reports are helpful for both students who are unsure about the professions they want to explore, and those who are decided. “It helps boost their confidence, self-esteem, and sense of security in the choices they make, alleviating uncertainty, anxiety, and self-doubt,” she emphasizes. To learn more about Tu Talento Finder, visit:
Only 8% of professionals in STEM careers identify as Latino, while 20% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. This will change for the better thanks to the commitment and dedication of people like Ana Vaca, our guest in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. As a Mathematics educator, Ana is passionate about creating an equitable classroom environment that encourages students to see their potential as learners of mathematics, and in pursuing a wide variety of career paths to debunk stereotypical societal expectations. Ana gets it. She’s a first-generation immigrant who can empathize with the challenges and barriers experienced by undocumented and mixed-status students. This is why she strives to create safe and inclusive spaces in schools that support the unique needs of immigrant families. By leading professional development and immigrant-centered workshops to create a learning environment where all students, regardless of their immigration status, can achieve their fullest potential, SHE IS PAYING IT FORWARD. You see, Ana is very thankful for the adults who once guided her as an undocumented student learning how to navigate the U.S. school system. She fondly recalls how from an early age her teachers noticed her brain was wired to excel in Math. So, they mentored her, helped her enroll in STEM programs, and encouraged her to pursue a college degree.  She realizes how blessed she was because this was not (and still isn’t) the experience of many Hispanic children who are often dismissed as candidates for university studies – much less in engineering, technology, math, or science. Thanks to her advocates and champions, Ana went on to earn a B.S. in Mathematics and followed her passion for teaching. Each day, she pays it forward by mentoring, guiding, and instructing entire families. Through her devoted attention to both their academic, and basic human needs she makes sure immigrant youth have the necessary resources to fulfill their dreams and attain socioeconomic mobility along with their parents.
In 2017, when Hurricane María impacted Puerto Rico, I met Dr. Ashley Saucier through email and then a phone call. She had access to medical supplies and planes and was in the thick of coordinating disaster relief and medicine to be flown there. We quickly became comrades (or comadres) sharing information and supporting each other’s efforts to help prevent an even larger health crisis on the island – depleted of most of its resources. We reconnected through LinkedIn a few weeks ago and in this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY she shares how she’s become an influencer and healthcare advocate from the lens of being a mom AND a physician specializing in pediatric emergency medicine. After the catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she’s from, Dr. Saucier along with some of her friends, formed BREAC225 (Baton Rouge Emergency Aid Coalition). Since then, they have been able to aid in hurricane, flood, and other disaster relief efforts due to their expertise in the matter and because their hearts are filled with compassion.  She’s also part of a network of thousands of ‘mom physicians’ from across the country that are quick to intervene in moments of crisis. When Dr. Saucier is not saving someone, she’s being a scientist and encouraging her two boys to get down and dirty with their home experiments. “Kids are born scientists, and there are many ways you can foster curiosity, experimentation, and discovery in children right at home. It’s OK if they make a mess!,” she shares. After being terminated by the hospital she had been working for almost a decade, she’s now dedicating her time to exercising entrepreneurship. Amid this transition, Dr. Saucier is excited to have the freedom of investing her energy and resources into creating a platform that will provide parents with easy, fun, and inexpensive ways to do science at home. And while she certainly hopes no other catastrophes happen, if they do, she will continue to show up for communities in need to help lessen their sense of fear, loss, and despair. Ashley, you are my SHERO!!!
Timing is everything. Joe Lugo, Founder & CEO of J^3 Creations and I have been trying to have this conversation since FOREVER. As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) experts we are faced with the constant challenge of clarifying what DEI is and is not. And with this week’s new law banning DEI from being taught in State colleges in Florida (we both live in the Sunshine State – yeesh!), the Universe had already afforded us some time LAST WEEK to record this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY focused on…yeah, you got that right…DEI! Joe and I discuss the differences between a multicultural marketing agency and DEI practitioners, and how they can complement each other, despite their very distinctive roles. We agree that “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour across the nation,” as Joe observes, and that although multicultural marketing agencies have been around for decades creating culturally relevant campaigns to attract diverse consumers (oftentimes perpetuating stereotypes, too), practicing DEI is about advocacy for social justice in the workplace and society anchored in respect for human life and dignity. “Disrespect is disconnect,” adds Joe, and he’s right. Diverse employees, consumers, vendors, and communities who do not feel valued and respected will simply disengage. We are now counting on Corporate America to double down on their investment in building trust through DEI before bans are passed to control what you can or cannot do as a private business in the free market (i.e., the State of FL vs. Disney). Why? DEI is good for business. Following are some basic distinctions between multicultural marketing and DEI: Multicultural Focus: Understand nuances of diverse cultural/ethnic groups, with the goal of connecting with specific demographics. DEI Focus: Create inclusive and equitable environments, address systemic biases, promote diversity, and ensure equal opportunities for all individuals. Multicultural Target: Reach audiences within cultural/ethnic groups with messages tailored to their values, customs, language, and preferences. DEI Target: Create a sense of belonging for all individuals, regardless of background, by addressing systemic inequities and promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels. Multicultural Strategies: Campaigns, traditional and digital media, public relations, and other forms of communication that deliver diverse groups. DEI Strategies: Inclusive policies, diversity training, and addressing bias in recruitment and promotion practices. Multicultural Agency: Primarily operates in the marketing and advertising industry, serving clients who want to target specific cultural or ethnic markets. DEI Experts: Work across various sectors including corporate, nonprofit, government, education, and healthcare, aiming to foster inclusive and equitable environments. Multicultural Outcomes: Successful marketing campaigns that resonate with diverse target audiences, resulting in increased brand awareness, customer engagement, and revenue. DEI Outcomes: Workplaces where all individuals feel valued, respected, and have equal opportunities, leading to improved employee satisfaction, productivity, and organizational performance. Multicultural Expertise: Cultural research, market analysis, language adaptation, and effective communication strategies tailored to specific cultural/ethnic groups. DEI Expertise: Knowledge of diversity issues, social justice, equity frameworks, organizational change, and the design and implementation of DEI initiatives/programs.
What do advocacy and support look like for Hispanic Business Enterprises (HBEs) so they can actually have equitable access to procurement opportunities? Meet Alma Del Toro, Co-Founder of BlueWave, a Supplier Development Program designed to strengthen Latino-owned businesses and get them BIG BUSINESS READY. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, Alma shares how she partnered up with Co-Founder Eduardo Nuñez, also a former C-Level executive in the oil industry to create this much-needed training and capacity building curriculum to help business owners like me attain the required documentation and knowledge to align with the rules and regulations of most procurement departments in Corporate America – across all industries. URBANDER had the privilege to participate in Blue Wave’s first cohort with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sponsored by JPMorgan Chase. I’m very grateful to have been nominated by my cheerleader at Chase here in Orlando, Janice Lopez, and to have been accepted into the program. Access to this type of resource and support to scale in a significant way can be costly and difficult to secure. As we look forward to celebrating the upcoming celebration of URBANDER’s quinceañero in business, I’m delighted that we were the recipient of this invaluable gift in the form of BlueWave’s hands-on guidance. The initial self-assessment was extremely helpful in benchmarking our procurement readiness, and each session was a masterclass in compliance, policies, and procedures. I vividly recall when we were encouraged to access BlueWave’s Document Library to see samples of how to implement best practices in operating a business. I was in disbelief and nearly cried; it was the first time in 15 years that I have received such a generous amount of assistance accompanied by Alma’s outstanding level of coaching. Result: URBANDER received the PLATINUM badge – whoot whoot! This experience has been transformational, and I know that URBANDER, as well as the rest of my comrades in this cohort, will now have the tools and knowledge to seek opportunities that will exponentially grow our businesses. Alma Del Toro and Eduardo Nuñez, your leadership, authenticity, and selflessness does not go unnoticed. URBANDER’s forthcoming quantum leap is part of Blue Wave’s legacy, and it will impact wealth creation in our families for generations to come.
I know so many people that have started their own business in the last couple of years, and a lot of them are fellow Latinas for whom it’s especially difficult to get access to…basically everything (i.e., introductions, invitations, capital, contracts, mentorship, sponsorships, certifications, commercial spaces, manufacturers, press and media coverage, etc.). So, for this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY I asked my dear friend Sandra Noemi Torres, Founder and CEO of Plan Your Company, to join me to discuss where, as Latina business owners, we have learned to invest our time, energy, and resources (aka money).  We figured this conversation could perhaps prevent fellow entrepreneurs who identify as women of color from experiencing some of the pitfalls of “not knowing what you don’t know” regarding business ownership. This is a very raw and candid conversation – that even takes a turn into existentialism, spirituality, and how we are all interconnected (Sandra takes it there!) – and we hope it offers some insight into what and who to avoid, what not to waste your hard-earned money on, where to invest your energy and re$ource$, and the importance of being mindful of the time you dedicate to yourself, certain tasks, other people and pursuing opportunities. It becomes very real very quickly that self-worth is at the epicenter of how to maximize all three: YOUR time, YOUR energy, and YOUR resources. It’s YOUR business and at the end of the day…you call the shots! ¡Tú eres la jefa!
We have all been challenged in recent years to pause and consider other perspectives. And it’s not always as easy as it sounds in the workplace because most people don’t control how businesses are generally run. They must abide by the rules and policies of their employers – like them or not. However, the pushback and tension are REAL and PERSISTENT. In this episode of “I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY” I talk to Ilhiana Rojas Saldana, Founder and President of BeLIVE Coaching & Consulting, dedicated to supporting companies with their Executive and Leadership Transformation Strategy. We take a deep dive into the generational clashes that are happening in workplace cultures across the U.S. and how to best navigate them. Ilhiana points out that for the first time ever there are five generations of employees represented in work environments (traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials/Gen Y, and Generation Z), all with very distinct values. When we add into the mix (and tension) the fact that the younger generations are the most diverse we have ever experienced in terms of gender identity, race, and ethnicity, let’s just say – it’s A LOT to navigate from the employer’s perspective. Communication is critical because if everyone is not on the same page with regards to the expectations of each individual and each team, then performance will be at most satisfactory and oftentimes disjointed or “meh”. From a generational standpoint, people tend to have differences in three areas: what they value at work, how they behave at work, and their skill sets. For example, while a seasoned salesperson might have more years of customer service and forecasting experience a recent college grad is a native speaker of tech and Web 3.0. Something’s gotta give. We can all start by listening with empathy and admitting that we don’t know it all. There is MUCH we can learn from newer as well as more mature colleagues. We also have to come to terms that things will never go back to pre-pandemic work experiences because people are prioritizing LIVING…and many want work with PURPOSE. So, at the end of the day, if people feel valued, appreciated, and respected in the workplace, they will feel their employer actually cares about them and they will want to stick around for the long run. Otherwise, it’s time to BOUNCE!
I’m experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions as I read Passion and Purpose: 21 Inspiring Stories from Women in the US Virgin Islands on Business, Leadership, and Life. In this episode, if I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, the co-authors of this incredibly powerful anthology of essays, Jo’Hanna D. Samuel and Vanessa I. Farrell reminisce on the special circumstances under which this book came to be. We all met in the summer of 2019 while enjoying the inaugural Annual #Girlfriendism Retreat in St. Croix. Both Jo’Hanna and Vanessa are businesswomen, accomplished speakers, and best-selling authors, so they inevitably gravitated towards each other, quickly realizing they had the same idea in mind of elevating the voices of female leaders from the USVI. Passion and Purpose is “an amazing journey of unshakeable faith in the face of adversity, unknowns, and triumphs. This compilation of stories was written by women for women to inspire, motivate, and strengthen your confidence to follow your dreams, rise above fear, and live out your life’s passion and purpose.” This is the formal description of the book, and while it’s spot on, I share with Vanessa and Jo’Hanna how I don’t know what to expect with the turn of each page – and in a good way. Will I cry, feel enraged, laugh out loud, pause to ponder or be inspired? Each story is mesmerizing and transformational. The authors wear their hearts on their sleeves and tell us how they pushed forward in pursuing their goals with confidence and clinging on to their faith in a higher power, even during the direst situations. But the best part is that men who have ventured into exploring these life-changing essays are also hooked with Passion and Purpose. They are likely struck by the voices of women who are exercising their leadership through storytelling because they are often dismissed, unheard or unrecognized in society. We celebrate that the majority of the authors are first-time writers, and invite everyone to buy a digital copy (hard copy will be available soon!):
Writing is art, and Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernández has mastered it.  He’s our guest in this week’s episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, to talk about his life experiences and his new book “When the World Turned Upside Down: Politics, Culture, and the Unimaginable Events of 2019- 2022.” As a seasoned historian, university professor, nationally syndicated columnist, consultant, and public speaker, he has A LOT TO SAY and shares some of the developments in the United States and across the world that have impacted the world that he highlights in the book, including the parallels of an 1800’s Civil War United States with the current sociopolitical landscape in the nation. Dr. Martínez-Fernández describes how by the age of 10 he had already experienced exile from Cuba and migration several times – Miami, Perú, Puerto Rico. All these lived experiences fueled his interest in understanding the history that caused them and writing about them. His college studies at the Universidad de Puerto Rico also afforded him a nurturing learning environment where he began exploring graphic design. In Orlando since 2004, Dr. Martínez-Fernández’s expertise in international affairs, Latin America, the Caribbean, education, and US Latinos/Hispanics makes him a valuable asset to the students of the University of Central Florida (UCF), which is classified as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). This means that over 25% of UCF students identify as Hispanic. It’s awesome to learn that his “Puerto Rican History” class is very well attended. He says that for a researcher like him, Orlando is a laboratory of sorts, giving us an idea of the U.S. Hispanic experience, both for U.S.-born and migrating families.  “When the World Turned Upside Down: Politics, Culture, and the Unimaginable Events of 2019-2022” will be presented at the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center in Orlando in the DeVos Family Room on Thursday, Apr 6, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. This is a FREE event and registration is strongly encouraged to attend: Dr. Martínez-Fernández will share excerpts of this collection of 65 essays and opinion columns that stands at the intersection between opinion journalism and history, its individual components offering a dialogue between past and present. The talk will be accompanied by a visual presentation that includes a selection of editorial posters related to the book’s topics that will be on display.
Ladies. We are riddled with guilt. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Good news: you can stop beating yourself up. In this episode of I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, I'm joined by my new friend Pam Isom, President and CEO of ICE Safety Solutions, a company that has been supporting Corporations and Government entities since 1999 with the mitigation and prevention of employees and contractors from getting injured, ill, or potentially losing their life. The stakes have always been high for Pam, who has had to navigate asserting her industry expertise in a male-dominated field. And she’s succeeded because of her unmatched ability to customize any potential safety concern into simulation-based training to ensure long-term retention of skills, and most importantly, people’s capacity to save lives. However, today Pam and I talk woman-to-woman, sister-to-sister, about the guilt that inevitably creeps in when you are running a business and raising kids at the same time. Pam had her first baby while she was starting her business 25 years ago. Like in her home, in mine, my kids only know me as a mom-entrepreneur as well. And while it may sound sexy, it poses certain challenges: hard to disconnect from work/clients, limited family time even though you’re sort of “there” all the time, the constant disappointment of your loved ones, assumptions about where you have your priorities, etc. Some of these apply to working women in general, but having worked in both the corporate sector and as an entrepreneur – well, let’s just say the hustle is different. As a small business owner, you’re solely responsible for securing the revenue that will deliver financial stability and socioeconomic mobility for the family. I ask Pam, whose daughters are now in their early 20s and pursuing successful careers if my kids (16 and 13) will be OK, even though I often feel I’m failing them by not being fully accessible every time they need me. She responds reassuringly – “YES, THEY WILL BE OK!”  She offers up the following gems that help me rid myself of my guilt: The children of mom entrepreneurs are exposed to experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have like listening in on business negotiations, helping consolidate invoices, and attending networking events. This helps them handle rejection, learn how to persevere and compromise, and adjust to unexpected circumstances (and people) more swiftly. They understand that “NO”, stands for New Opportunity. It’s not the end of the world if things don’t work out as planned. On the contrary, they know it may lead to a better opportunity and the result is resilient, nimble, and creative people. They learn to deal with disappointment, and that it’s OK to disappoint someone every day because no one is perfect. This wards off a sense of entitlement, affording everyone in the household a chance to “come short” of meeting the expectations of others without judgment.
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