Congrats!😎 You've made it through the workweek.
As you enjoy your weekend, while you're dreaming, planning and preparing to start or grow your business, I wanted to share this inspiring story with you.
It's about how architect and interior designer Sandra Diaz-Velasco approached her transition from being an employee to becoming her own boss.
And, remember, if you have some friends or family who would benefit from this newsletter, be sure to share the article with them (share button is at the top).
In Today's Tip Jar section, Diaz-Velasco gives specific advice for students and for mid-career professionals. She also addresses the best way to maximize your involvement with professional/trade organizations.
Let's dive right in...
“FLOW WITH IT”
“Life throws things at you… like new realities. And you have to accept [them] or not… If we keep on resisting... that doesn’t mean that [the issue] will go away.”
Sandra Diaz-Velasco says war in her native country of Colombia changed her reality and ended up turning her into an entrepreneur.
If she wouldn’t have moved to the U.S. with her boyfriend, who is now her husband, she doesn’t think she would’ve ever owned an architecture and interior design practice.
“The minute you decide to flow with it, 50% of your problems disappear because your mind begins thinking about… possible solutions and different ways to do things.”
INDUSTRY: Architecture & Interior Design
STARTED BUSINESS: 2008
LATINO/HISPANIC CONNECTION: Born in Colombia, family is Colombian
Universidad del Valle – Colombia – Bachelor’s degree in Architecture
Validated license through the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Board)
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “I was going to be a painter – an artist. Or a … ballerina. Ballet. I keep on dancing. I love to dance. That’s what I was going to be. But my mom and dad were like, ‘What? No, you’re crazy. You’re not doing that. You need to choose something better.’”
“So I went, ‘Okay, I want to be a publicist.’ But I couldn’t because they didn’t want me to leave home. My dad was very protective of his first daughter… So he said no. You’re not leaving home… So I enrolled in architecture… And that’s how I studied architecture. But I fell in love with it!
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “I want to design products. I want to have a collection of furniture and wallpapers. I want to have that.”
Diaz-Velasco says she also wants to become a big-time developer of houses. She says, “That’s a dream.”
NO OTHER WAY
Diaz-Velasco felt lucky to work for a husband-and-wife owned architecture and design firm. But once she hit a ceiling professionally, she knew she had to take action.
“If I wanted to change things and do things the way that I love, or be more free to express my passion, I had to go this way. There was no other way to do it.”
“I had to begin from zero. Zero, zero, zero. I had to forget who I was, and I had to create a new Sandra.”
CREATING THE “NEW” SANDRA
To create the "new" Sandra, she went through a certain thought process.
“And the first thing that came to mind was, okay, if nobody knew me, if I didn’t have any relationships, first of all, I would polish my talents and skills. I would get licensed again and all that.”
But then what?
She decided she would then do every project as if it were the last project she would ever do in her life.
Profits suffered in the beginning because she threw everything she had into it, approaching every project as an investment in the company’s portfolio.
She went the extra mile to the point where she says clients felt as if they had won the lottery. “They got the most amazing projects. They got the best work for their buck.”
A COMPETITIVE STREAK
She then decided she would photograph the work and submit the projects to design competitions.
“That helped. That helped tremendously. And that keeps on helping tremendously.”
Diaz-Velasco started getting attention – national attention.
She was named as one of only eight Ones to Watch Scholars by the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) in 2018.
Diaz-Velasco credits another one of the honorees for teaching her something that’s stayed with her - the importance of finding a mentor or small group of mentors.
“BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SANDRA”
“There’s always someone that will know more than you. Always. And, then, if you find those team members in your community… or through a professional association or the place you work, that’s like you have your own ‘Board of Directors of Sandra.’”
Diaz-Velasco says she has learned a lot from her personal “Board of Directors.” She thinks that desire to learn every day, along with her willingness to knock on doors, explains how she was able to succeed with her entrepreneurial venture.
“If I don’t see the answer there, like, right in front of me, I am willing to go look for it… So I don’t stop because I don’t find an answer right there. I just keep on… asking and knocking [on] doors. And I’m not afraid to show that I don’t know.”
THE UNWILLING ENTREPRENEUR
To this day, she still considers herself an unwilling entrepreneur. But it was a means to an end. It was what she had to do to practice her passion.
“I love designing. I love architecture. I love it!”
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Sandra Diaz-Velasco)
STARTING OUT: Diaz-Velasco says, if you’re, for example, an architecture student, you should do the following:
“Begin building your portfolio from day one at school and submit to student competitions. That will set you apart from others. And then you have begun your entrepreneurial career.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): Diaz-Velasco believes that being in a professional association is a weapon.
“That exposes you to the outside world… You are being seen.”
She adds that, when you volunteer for professional organizations, you end up giving and will, eventually, receive.
“Sometimes, we think we deserve it all just because. … No, that’s not how life is. Be willing to give.”
Diaz-Velasco says it doesn’t have to be money. It could be time or even advice.
She advises avoiding the cocktail events and sticking with the professional development opportunities. She believes your time is better spent in those activities.
STARTING OVER: “First of all, go for it. Go for it!” She says, if you were doing something previously that you were not passionate about, “You have to pursue your dreams.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “I will never not trust my gut again. I will always go by that. Because we always know what’s right for us… Because that’s the right path. You always know.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: Diaz-Velasco is going with advice from her mom for this question.
“She always told me, if you feel you have to do it, you have to do it… Sometimes, when you don’t know what to do, you kind of, like, get stuck and you don’t do anything. And she knew… She’d be like, 'Okay, get up! Pa‘delante! Pa‘delante!'”
Her mom would add, “Don’t stop. Keep on going. You will find your way. But do not stagnate [or] procrastinate. Do not linger.”
REAL-WORLD TRANSLATION: “Go with the flow.”
“The more resistance I put, the worse the scenario gets. So if I learn to flow – go with the flow – things develop.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
Taking Your Idea to the Next Level
For those of you who need guidance on what key questions to answer, customers to target and strategies to employ before you pull the trigger on starting a business, check out this webinar.
This FREE class will not only help you figure out your value proposition and find your customer base, it will show you how to put all the elements together with a 1-year action plan.
FIU (Florida International University) and the Florida SBDC (Small Business Development Center)
From Idea to Company
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
1:00 p.m. EST – 2:00 p.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
Women Entrepreneurs: Own Your Power
This article is from last year, but it’s a good pep talk for women struggling with the hardships that COVID has brought to not allow themselves to forget their power. Rieva Lesonsky’s article helps you reignite your passion, take back your power and refocus your path to profitability. The lessons here are actually applicable to anyone who needs an attitude adjustment. So power on!
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
There are some people who you can tell give every ounce of who they are to their work. You see the intense focus in their eyes. They ooze energy and enthusiasm. And they show grit and determination.
In broadcasting, I used to think that viewers would not be able to tell how, on many days, my photographer and I had jumped through all kinds of hurdles, braved brutal weather and crazy deadlines to bring them our story.
But then I realized as I watched other reporters on TV, I could tell the ones that seemed to really care about their stories and those who were mailing it in.
I could never just “do enough” or do work that was “good enough”.
When I spoke with Sandra Diaz-Velasco, I could tell she was one of those people who puts her heart and soul into what she does. That’s why, when she said she treated every project as if it would be her last, I believed it.
Even with the questions I asked, she cheerfully provided her answers and seemed to be eager to share as much as she could about things that worked and didn’t work for her. Even afterwards, she remembered an extra piece of advice she wanted to add and texted it to me.
The Latino community in the U.S. is filled with professionals just like her who aren’t satisfied with doing just a satisfactory job. They’re going above and beyond, not because they have to, but because that’s how much their work means to them.
These are the kinds of professionals we need to profile. Let’s do more to share these stories far and wide.
🌴On a final note, Sandra Diaz-Velasco had so much to share, I'll have more of her comments and strategies in the next Generation Si! newsletter.
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