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In Part One, you learned how two Latinas turned challenges and loss in life into purpose. Now, in Part Two, find out what Daniela Sichel and Mariana Morales faced as they went after their goal of providing wellness services online - even for those the system tends to forget.
SOLVING A PROBLEM: GO SMALL OR GO BIG?
You may see yourself solving one person’s problem as a starting point for launching your business.
But what if you see the need in terms of a much bigger picture?
When it comes to therapy, Mariana Morales says, “I was able to see a lot of the difficulties for the population to access care. Even affordable situations - affordable services… were too expensive for certain parts of the Latino population.”
And that’s why Morales was determined to serve the entire Latino community, not just those who would have an easier time accessing care.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAVE A BOLD MISSION
As a therapist, Morales had a steady flow of clients. But it was when she and her former classmate and fellow therapist, Daniela Sichel, discussed how to make a bigger impact that the concept of their online wellness portal started taking on a life of its own.
And that’s how the idea of Opción YO was born.
Sichel, Opción YO’s CEO and co-founder says, “We all feel part of something bigger than ourselves. And that’s what we want.”
PARTNERSHIPS: DOES ONE PERSON HAVE TO TIP THE BALANCE WITH 51% VS. 49% CONTROL?
Daniela: “You give that 51% to the one that can have that 51% that week. If I have the energy, I’m going to have that 51%. I believe that I have had weeks that I told Mariana, this is not a good week for me.”
On those weeks, Mariana told her, “Don’t worry. I’m here.”
Mariana: “When we think about partnerships, I think that it’s going to be a big mistake if it becomes a power struggle…. You have to trust someone… The only thing that will guarantee that you will continue the race is when you let go of being [mistrustful] and really accept that there will be somebody there who is going to pick you up when you need support. And make it about that - cooperation - and not too much about competition.”
FINDING THE STRENGTH OR CONFIDENCE TO SET BOUNDARIES WITH OUTSIDERS:
Mariana: “It’s very important to listen to your gut feeling. Very important to let that be louder than any voice that you hear outside. It’s hard to do. But it’s the right thing to do.”
Daniela: “It takes a lot of time to really understand that you are the one that really knows how that dream will look… and no one needs to tell you how it’s going to look…. I don’t want to ever again… have the fear that this dream cannot be true and to let anyone tell me that this is impossible.”
BEST RESOURCE/BEST KEPT SECRET:
Mariana: “For me, my biggest resource is Daniela… Seeing that you have somebody who understands your pain… who is there doing the same thing with you every single day and trusting of what you believe it. For me, it was like, okay, [that’s] who empowers me the most.”
Daniela: “For me, it’s the same. It’s the support that we give one another. It’s that you believe in my dream. I believe in your dream – because we have the same dream. And, as co-founders, if you don’t have someone that is there for you every time you receive a ‘no’… it’s very easy to quit.”
But their big plan came with a lot of rejection.
BE PREPARED FOR CONSTANT REJECTION
Sichel says they were quite used to hearing the word “no.” Not just a few times – but hundreds of times.
“A lot of meetings that don’t go anywhere. Waiting for the investor that told you that [they’re] going to give you money - and never answers.”
ADJUST FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS TO MATCH WITH REALITY
Sichel says you have to answer to the financial expectations.
“Trying to make your forecast true. And to find a way to balance the expectations with the reality - and how things change from what you were expecting - to what the reality is.”
FIND THE LITTLE MOMENTS OF VICTORY– THEY’LL FUEL YOUR MOMENTUM
The little victories kept the co-founders hanging on, despite the disappointments.
Morales says, “Every single day, when we open our portal that we have… we see our metrics, our results and the testimonials.
“We get the feedback and that gives [us] the energy to [say], okay, I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. And we want to make this a business into something that really scales and reaches people all over the world.”
FINANCING CAN BE ESPECIALLY DIFFICULT FOR WOMEN AND MINORITIES
Sichel and Morales say they also faced special challenges, especially when it came to financing, because they are women and minorities.
Sichel says, while at a conference in Tampa, she noticed that, out of 400 attendees, fewer than 20 were women.
“It’s hard. And every time you talk with a VC (venture capitalist) and when you talk with an investor, with an angel investor, being a woman, a Latina, an immigrant, it closes a lot of doors. And we really want that to change.”
BE READY FOR WHEN DOORS OPEN
Doors opened for Sichel and Morales in April of 2021 when Opción YO received $750,000 in a pre-seed round of funding. They say they used the money to take their business to the next level.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL
Morales also says, “[Finding] support with people who are experts in their own area makes the decisions more manageable and less scary when we make these connections with the right people.”
For example, she adds, “We partner with people who are good at technology. We don’t need to be good at technology. We partner with people who are good at finances. We don’t need to know everything in finances.”
Here’s how they divvy up the tasks:
Sichel says, “I love the financial part…. I love analyzing the metrics and the stats and the projections.”
Morales loves product design and development. She likes things having to do with people.
Anything they don’t like doing, or don’t have the proper skills for, they delegate or farm out to others.
DREAM WITH A PLAN, THEN EXECUTE IT
For Morales and Sichel, it started with a shared dream of helping others. It turned into a partnership and a focused concept. That concept evolved into an online platform that has served more than 2500 clients worldwide, 300 professionals in more than 32 countries - with 14 nationalities represented.
The women reflect on all the challenges they’ve faced. Morales says it’s been difficult “… being taken seriously by a world that is dominated by men. But here we are.”
And with a knowing glance, Sichel looks at Mariana during the interview and then adds, “We’re here to stay. Mariana, we’re here to stay.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
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Thursday, June 9, 2022
1:00 p.m. EDT - 2:00 p.m. EDT
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
Years ago, I interviewed Rob Basso, the author of the book, "The Everyday Entrepreneur." Back then, Basso told me that, in a partnership, it can’t be 50-50. One person has to have a little more power – at least 51% control. He analogized it to a football team. He explained, someone has to be the quarterback. Similarly, Basso shared with me that, in the band, Bon Jovi, Jon Bon Jovi is the CEO and the other bandmates are, basically, his employees.
It was an interesting way of viewing the band because we don’t really think of musical groups as being structured like a business. Or, maybe I should say that I never really thought of them that way.
It got me thinking about whether there’s consensus about this 51%/49% approach to hierarchy and organization.
That’s why I asked Mariana Morales and Daniela Sichel about it. While Sichel is the CEO of Opción YO and Morales is the COO, the two co-founders disagreed with the premise. They say they prefer to focus on the collaborative aspect.
What I sensed from speaking with Sichel and Morales is that their relationship is built on trust. It guides how they relate to each other, as people, co-founders and decision-makers in the business.
I wonder if gender norms related to socialization play a role, if any, in how co-founders view this topic.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the concept that somebody has to have more control in the business, even if it’s slightly more?
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