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Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Marcela Berland is the President and CEO of Latin Insights, a strategic communications firm  that focuses on the Latino market and Latin America. LI bases their strategies on research and digital and AI tools and develops digital and marketing strategies to help clients achieve their goals. LI’s clients include political candidates and heads of state, corporations and nonprofit organizations. 

Building a successful consulting firm from the ground up

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Marcela Berland eventually came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and began working in New York in strategic communications and polling. At the time she did not expect to launch her own consulting firm and embark on her own entrepreneurial journey. However, life circumstances would soon steer her onto this path.

It was 1996, after the birth of her daughter, Isabella. Marcela asked her then-boss for five extra months of maternity leave so she could work from home taking care of her newborn. She had done the same before when her son was born so Marcela did not expect to be told “No.” After her 3 months of maternity leave, Marcela announced her resignation. 

Marcela Berland, Frank Gomez, Latin Insights

Marcela Berland and Frank Gomez. (Photo by Max Canovas)

“They realized then that they needed me. Many of my clients wanted to work with me so, they agreed to let me work primarily from home.  Now, too little too late, I positioned myself as an external consultant and negotiated a higher salary for fewer working hours. They agreed to all my terms.  However, I was very disappointed at the whole situation and had already made plans to consult for other clients,” said Marcela. 

After three more months, Marcela left for good, showing them that it was possible to work remotely from home and be effective– even in the late 90s! 

In 2000, Marcela decided it was time to launch her own firm. As a Latina, she had a unique perspective to bring to her company, understand the multicultural market in a deeper way, and she was already committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in addition to women’s issues. 

The brand new entrepreneur began to plan and gather as much information as possible. She was nervous to set out on her own, fearing failure, but determined to try. Soon, she reached out to someone she admired to help her build her business: communications, media, and political expert, Frank Gómez.  

“At the time, Frank was working at a corporation but thinking about retiring. He not only gave me great advice, but he ended up leaving his job and joined me as a partner. I was thrilled. And that’s how Latin Insights started, just the two of us at first,” said Marcela. 

Conquering the fear of failure and following your dreams 

After over 20 years, Marcela’s venture has become a success. She now serves a variety of clients that include political candidates and heads of state, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. As a successful Latina, she is also often the only woman in the room when working with Presidents and political candidates in Latin America. 

And she has proved that working remotely from home and being successful is possible. This was especially evident this past year during the pandemic when Marcela and her team worked remotely on a presidential race, developing a successful and highly effective strategy that ended with their candidate winning a very tough election. 

Despite her successes now, the early days of her entrepreneurial venture were full of doubts and fear of failure—a common fear for many new entrepreneurs. 

“The first obstacle I faced was overcoming my fear of failing. I was doing very well just consulting on my own, but starting a new company, becoming an entrepreneur had a completely different meaning. What if I didn’t make it? How could I sustain a business? Take care of all the financial and administrative needs associated with it?” Marcela shared. 

Like all newcomers, she soon learned the antidote to this fear was knowledge. Now, whenever she feels doubts, she takes this as an opportunity to learn and come back stronger. 

Latin Insights Founder and CEO, Marcela Berland. (Photo courtesy Marcela Berland)

“During my career as an entrepreneur, I learned that you need to reinvent yourself, adapt to the ever-changing times and take risks. It is the only way to grow. Learn from your mistakes. You need to be open and humble enough to admit that you made a mistake and change direction. Also, become associated with people who share the same values and mindset. I was very fortunate to find Frank early on. We sometimes disagree, but in more than 20 years, we have never had an argument.” 

You might be interested: Rosita Hurtado shares how she transformed a childhood passion into a successful design export

With over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, Marcela has found that success is not about winning alone, it is about making a difference. Additionally, each success is made all the more enjoyable because she loves what she does and loves helping her clients. For her, the work is more than just work, it is something she is passionate about. Having that passion pushes her to “go the extra mile” because she believes in delivering the highest quality service for her clients.  

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Marcela urges that you follow your dreams and go for your passion. She shares her pillars of advice for new entrepreneurs: 

First, be well prepared. Have very clear goals of what you want to achieve and develop a product/service that distinguishes you from others. Next, find the right partners/team to support you and ask for help from the right partners/associates/mentors. Check for resources that can help you and also make sure you help others on your way to success. Don’t give up even when you fail. Network strategically. Raise capital if needed (many organizations can help you with this task).

Finally, never stop learning; make sure you learn something new every day if possible, and always honor your values, treating others with respect. 

Claudia Vazquez, Prudential

Servant Leader Claudia Vazquez shares 5-step recipe for success

Recent winner of the Mujeres Brillantes award, presented by Prospanica & Prudential, as well as the Prudential Hispanic Star award and Influential Latina award, Claudia Vazquez is a bilingual and bicultural Latina Leader dedicated to diversity and inclusion, education, and uplifting the voices of women.    

Latina Leader, Claudia Vazquez (Photo courtesy Claudia Vazquez).

Currently, Claudia is a Director of Product Management within Prudential’s Group Insurance Customer Solutions Unit. There she leads the Business Resolution Team, which manages key activities and elements of the portfolio sales cycle. Claudia focuses much of her time assessing innovative customer solutions to help solve customer challenges. 

In addition to her work at Prudential, she is also a servant leader who is passionate about education and strives to amplify the voices of women and children. Currently she serves as a Board Trustee of BRICK – Achieve Community Charter School, which services elementary children, the majority of which are Black Americans. Claudia has also done volunteer work for the Greater Newark Conservancy by developing a revamped hiring process for their reintegration to society program, and has volunteered at Northern New Jersey Girl Scouts by facilitating various badge workshops and at her children’s schools by facilitating STEM workshops. 

The “perks” of growing up bilingual and bicultural

Claudia’s passion for helping others, and her career in the insurance industry, began when she was just fourteen years old. Living by the Mexican-American border and growing up bilingual and bicultural “had its perks,” Claudia says. One of these perks was the tourism that came into Baja California, Mexico from the United States. Every weekend, Claudia would receive these tourists and sell automobile insurance to American drivers. This was Claudia’s first job for which she was paid $50 pesos per day, or about five dollars for an eight-hour shift. 

“I was selected to do the job because I was bilingual and able to grasp the insurance concept during a week-long training,” says Claudia. 

Of her upbringing, Claudia says it was different than others living in the U.S. today. Originally from Mexico, her parents met and married in Pasadena, California where she was later born. At just one year old, Claudia and her parents returned to Mexico, settling in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico where she would live until the age of thirteen. 

“At the age of 13 years old my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to move to Pasadena, California with my aunt, so I could practice my English and learn about American culture,” says Claudia. “I was placed in ESL (English as a second language) classes with kids from all over the world. In my classes there were kids from Vietnam, Philippines, Armenia, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, etc., as well as a mixture of cultures, races and languages that I had never experienced.

servant leader

Learn, do and earn event for High School Students – Newark 2018 (Photo courtesy Claudia Vazquez).

This experience lasted 18 months and helped Claudia become more disciplined, focused, develop leadership skills and assimilated quicker to a new place and environment. She decided to push herself harder than ever before, refusing to take all ESL classes. 

 “I figured that if the purpose of me going to California was to practice English, then I needed to attend all my classes in English! So, I took a risk and requested the Principal and the Educational Director’s permission to be transferred to regular English classes, even though I would struggle in understanding and it would take me three times longer to finish my homework,” says Claudia. 

With permission granted, she then worked diligently, translating her work with her English/Spanish Dictionary by her side. 

“Nowadays, with Google Translate it would be a breeze,” says Claudia. 

Still, even with the added obstacles, she managed to finish the school year and the next with some Honors classes, and mostly A’s and B’s.

This can-do, driven mentality would continue to follow her throughout her childhood and into adulthood as she began her career. 

Stepping up as a servant leader 

At 22 years old, Claudia found herself in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico. At the time the village had no phones or running water and most houses had dirt floors and were constructed with sticks. Here, she would become an ESL teacher for elementary school children–an unexpected turn in her career. 

servant leader

First time teaching English as a Second Language to elementary students,1994, Zipolite, Oaxaca Mexico (Photo courtesy Claudia Vazquez).

“I got married at 22 years old. My husband is a physician and as part of his bachelor’s degree program, all Mexican physicians must complete one year of social services work in a rural area before they can graduate. Therefore, we moved to Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico,” says Claudia. “We were very lucky because we lived in the small clinic, where we had a small private room and bathroom, and the most beautiful view of the ocean. We were literally a few steps from the beach.” 

Claudia describes these first two weeks as a “true vacation.” She took naps, walked by the beach and read, while her husband worked from nine to five. But after two weeks she began to feel anxious with so much free time. 

“I started to evaluate what I could do? I had only worked selling insurance at the border, at McDonald’s as a cashier and as a sales representative for State Farm, none of which were transferable skills for a location like Zipolite. But I spoke English, and Zipolite received a lot of tourists from the USA and from Europe,” says Claudia. 

It was then that she decided to use her bilingual and bicultural experiences to become an ESL teacher and servant leader within the community. Quickly Claudia set to work and created her own  teaching material by cutting images from magazines and pasting them onto cardboard. Soon enough she was teaching evening classes four days a week to the children of Zipolite.  

As a servant leader, Claudia also began assisting her husband at the clinic in Zipolite during the day. “I learned to give vaccinations, assisted him with the delivery of babies and completed medical history reports that were due at the end of the month. It was then that I realized that my calling was to help others succeed. This 12-month experience helped me become creative, tenacious, and more compassionate.”

You might be interested: 4 Tips for becoming a professional Hispano entrepreneur

5-Step recipe for success 

Washington, DC, 2017 Receiving the Latina Style Company Award on behalf of Prudential (Photo courtesy Claudia Vazquez).

Being a dual-citizen, bilingual and bicultural, and fully embracing her cultural background has given Claudia a unique perspective in her career. From her work in education as an ESL teacher to her leadership roles within the insurance industry, Claudia’s background has helped her succeed and help serve the growing Hispanic population in the U.S. 

“As of 2020, there are 60 million Hispanics in the US, representing 18% of the population. According to Nielsen, by 2023 the buying power of the United States Hispanic population is expected to top $1.9 trillion, which is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries like Australia, Spain and Mexico,” says Claudia.  

The Hispanic population has tremendous power but many Hispanic individuals face roadblocks on their way to success. Immigrants often struggle to access resources due to language barriers. Claudia has worked to eliminate these gaps throughout her work in the insurance industry. Prior to working at Prudential, she led the Hispanic Initiative at Unum, which was an end to end customer/claim bilingual program to serve non- English-speaking claimants, which resulted in the company saving over $300K in translation services and improving the customer experience. 

Claudia also strives to uplift the voices of Latina women. She is passionate about helping women follow their dreams and achieve success. Over the years, Claudia developed this five-step recipe for success that has helped her on her personal journey: 

Connect with your inner soul and rediscover your true essence

When Claudia was in her mid-twenties, she decided to permanently move back to California. She had a dream that she had been putting off for years: finishing her Bachelor’s degree. It was a dream that could no longer wait. 

This was a plan that had always been in my mind and in my heart, but due to several socio-economic barriers, a move to Oaxaca and then Chiapas, I was not able to do it sooner.”

Have a clear plan with specific goals to achieve your dream

Claudia was determined to break the transgenerational cycle and become the first in her family to graduate college. 

It was at this time that I realized that unless I had a clear goal and a plan to achieve this goal I may not succeed.”

Stick to the plan and adjust as needed

“It took me six years to finish my bachelor’s degree while working full time, being pregnant with our first child, managing the purchase of our first home and volunteering as an ESL teacher and as a Citizenship instructor to more than 80 Hispanic students who achieved their US citizenship by attending my classes at a local community center. The feeling of not being enough, of not belonging, of not being smart enough came several times throughout the six years, when I could not understand certain economic concepts, statistical regression analysis or computer coding. Then once again when I applied to an amazing Fortune 500 company and I was hired at 20% less salary than others because I had not finished my Bachelor’s.” 

Be grateful, every day, every time

“Nonetheless, I did not quit, I did not blame anyone, I did not stop pursuing my ultimate dream. On the contrary, I persevered–I got up every morning and remained positive, determined and diligent. I ultimately arrived at the desired destination at the age of 30. We had our first son, and 40 days later, I graduated with a degree in Psychology. The transgenerational cycle was broken– I was the first one in my family to graduate from college!”

Pay it forward and always find time to help others

“At Prudential one of my greatest accomplishments was being the connector between our Financial Wellness team and various National Hispanic Organizations in the US. As a result, we were able to provide free tools to improve the financial opportunities for over 100,000 Hispanics across the United States.”

Red Shoe Leader Award – 2019 (Photo courtesy Claudia Vazquez).

Finally, Claudia says it’s important to believe in yourself and follow your heart. “I know this sounds easy and sometimes we don’t have role models, support systems, or the socio-economic means to achieve it. But I can guarantee anyone that if you have conviction, people, and resources, opportunities will manifest themselves as that is how the collective wisdom works.

It takes a village. Surround yourself with those who believe in your dreams!”

A champion for change: Spotlight on Latina of the month Beth Marmolejos

Latina Leader of the Month, Beth Marmolejos is a business leader, activist and advocate who strives toward serving as an champion for change daily in both her personal and professional life. 

A Champion for change 

Beth’s passion for helping others is unrelenting and inspires her to be a champion for change working to help minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities. 

champion for change

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

“I live my life everyday in service of others. As a Business Executive, I support the Senior Leaders of the market, striving toward satisfying their business priorities in support of business growth. On a personal level, I advocate for the underrepresented in the corporate world and my local community,” says Beth. 

To achieve her mission, Beth serves on numerous boards that support and serve these communities. Some of her positions include  Madame Chair of the Passaic County Workforce Investment Board, Chair of the Passaic County Advocacy and Abilities Committee and Diversity & Inclusion Chair of the American Association of University Women – Greater Wayne Area, and President of the New Jersey Prospanica Chapter, formerly known as The National Society of Hispanics MBAs.

“The goal of the Prospanica New Jersey is to make an immediate impact on the development and visibility of Hispanic professionals and students in the State of New Jersey,” says Beth. “We achieve this goal by assisting corporations in the recruitment, development, engagement, retention and advancement of Hispanic Business Professionals. Organizing and participating in strategic networking and community events to provide opportunities for career growth, leadership development and entrepreneurship for Hispanic business professionals.”  

The power of collaborations 

In the last year Beth has been named “138 most Influential Latinos in New Jersey” by the INDEX Latino 2019, was recognized by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders during National Women’s History Month with the Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence award, Co-Authored Today’s Inspired Latina Volume VI, been a guest speaker at the SHE Emprendedoras Conference in Belgium. Then in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth co-founded the FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of Greater Wayne and advocated for the opening of the 1st Inclusion Playground in Wayne, NJ. Least to say, it’s been quite a busy year! 

champion for change

The opening of the 1st Inclusion Playground in Wayne, NJ (Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

Most recently, Beth co-hosted LatinasInBusiness’ first Virtual 2020 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit which gathered national and international speakers for an inspirational event focused on promoting “The Power of Collaborations in a Post-COVID World.”  

On the event Beth had to say: 

Collaborations are vital to achieve success and soar! “The Power of Collaboration” created a nеw energy that I felt was “bіggеr than our individual efforts.” We effесtіvеlу put together resources, energy, tаlеntѕ and gоаlѕ to раvеѕ thе wау for thе ѕuссеѕѕ that we had рlаnned tоgеthеr achieving unexpected benefits. 

You might be interested: Women self-empowerment: the culture of diva-ness vs the power of collaboration

Rising up together post-COVID 

Navigating our world post-COVID has shone a light on the power we have as individuals to come together as champions for change and support one another. 

One of the many ways Beth has been using her position to affect change is by co-founding the Front Line Appreciation Group of Greater Wayne (FLAG) in collaboration with Wayne Township Mayor. The group is dedicated to helping feed and support front-line health care workers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic while also keeping the local-owned restaurants in business. So far the group has raised $100,000, provided over 12,000 meals to 18 front-line groups (hospitals, EMTs, Fire Departments, etc.) and helped 20 local restaurants.

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

Additionally, as President of the Prospanica NJ Chapter, Beth has worked to help the chapter overcome challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The main struggle that we faced was the cancellation of our in-person events, along with increasingly severe ‘social distancing’ restrictions and current economic conditions,” says Beth. “We have since shifted our respective mindset and as a result our chapter has been able to accomplish a great deal in the first half of 2020, overcoming these challenges by thinking differently and by collaborating with other sister’s organizations. Finding new ways to achieve success and soar while delivering benefits to our sponsors and members. #RiseUpTogether!”

The makings of a leader and champion for change

Beth wears many hats in life, from being a business executive, an advocate and champion for change, a philanthropist, community leader, serving on nonprofit boards, and being a wife and mother. 

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

“I am blessed to be married to my high school sweetheart and I have two beautiful boys, one of which is Autistic and the inspiration to many of the things that I volunteer for,” says Beth. 

Some may wonder how Beth manages to get everything done, being so involved in many organizations, projects, and collaborations. But looking at her strengths it soon becomes clear. Beth is an extremely disciplined, focused and organized strategic thinker and connector. Her discipline keeps her focused on completing tasks toward her goals and achieving results while her passion for advocacy, politics, human rights and more is the fuel that drives her. Beth can see beyond problems to find effective solutions and once she sets her heart on something she rarely will deviate from achieving it, even if it takes years. 

Crucial to her ability to juggle all those hats is staying organized. 

“I do not have a lot of free time so I am extremely organized to be able to do all the things that I do,” Beth says. “Once a friend told me that I get done in a week a human cannot accomplish in months.” 

Another key to her success has been the confidence instilled in her from a young age. 

“Confidence has helped me,” Beth says, recounting a story from childhood. “My mother used to take me to work.  I played in the Accounting Department with an old fashioned paper calculator.  That experience taught me that I was going to go to college and work in an office.  I also learned to be comfortable around senior leaders, because my mother and I lunched with the executive team.  Interacting with them built my confidence and made me feel comfortable around executives.  That had a big impact on me.  What is funny is that I graduated with an accounting degree and a Masters in Finance – with honors.”

Truly Beth’s drive and accomplishments are an inspiration to us all! 

A recipe for success

If you’re feeling inspired and ready to become a champion for change in your own field and achieve success in your personal and professional life, Beth offers her top 3 pieces of advice.

  1. Treat people with respect: If you are kind and a team player,that creates a good reputation that you can leverage to obtain better opportunities within your organization
  2. If you want something, be BOLD and be a can-do type of person: Being bold will help you seize opportunities and a can-do attitude will give you leverage in obtaining senior roles. 

Beth recounts one of her earliest bold moments at age 13: 

“My mother was the secretary of Dominican President Salvador Guzmán and she invited me and some of my friends to visit her at the Presidential Palace.  As the tour guide stopped to talk to someone, I had my friends sneak out and take the elevator to meet the President.  We ended up finding our way to his office and asked the guards if we could see him. Eventually, the President came out to greet us and he proudly brought us to his office where he showed us a picture of Pope Juan Pablo II and his wife.  Soft-spoken, very amicable, he spoke to us for a few minutes.  When I told my mother what had happened, she looked at me with a grin and said she was proud of what I had done.”  

  1. Lastly, be happy, positive and knowledgeable: This mindset is a magnet that will attract people to want to work with you!
energy democracy

Young Latina Daphany Sanchez leads energy democracy movement in NYC

Energy democracy is a collaborative community effort focused on shifting away from traditional corporate modes of energy to energy models that are governed by local communities and are environmentally conscience. Daphany Rose Sanchez is an advocate for energy democracy responsible for creating Kinetic Communities Consulting and one of the 50 winners of Grist50! 

energy democracy

Kinetic Communities ED Daphany Rose Sanchez, on of Grist50! awardees (Photo courtesy of Kinetic Communities)

Each year, Grist -a nonprofit news organization for people who want a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck- searches high and low for the most inspiring innovators and do-ers working on fresh solutions to the planet’s biggest problems.

The result is a collection of 50 Fixers working to build a sustainable world that works for everyone. Solutions come in many shapes and sizes: exciting technologies, smart campaigns, forward-thinking legislation, innovative products, courageous organizations. Fixers vary, too; they include farmers, entrepreneurs, comedians, activists, scholars, scientists, and more. Kinetic Communities Executive Director, Daphany Rose Sanchez is one of#Grist50 2019! Congratulations to all #Grist50 fixers!

energy democracy

Daphany Rose Sanchez, founder and ED Kinetic Communities NYC

Founded in 2017, Kinetic works at the crossroads of affordable housing and energy efficiency, serving low- to moderate-income New Yorkers through education, networking, and making opportunities easier to understand. Daphany, a New York City public housing resident, is passionate about ensuring that all New Yorkers preserve their homes through energy democracy.

Daphany has always been an environmentally conscience person, but her experience during Super-storm Sandy was the major turning point in her career that led Daphany to pursue a collaborative approach to her work in the energy field. After the storm she witnessed how engineering companies and community organizations worked together to help people rebuild. It was then that Daphany realized that what needed to be done was not build something new, but merge existing markets.

She decided to adopt this model of community collaboration and energy democracy for her work in the energy field. Her main goal is to give under-served communities a seat at the table in the fight against gentrification by reducing New York City’s contributions to climate change.

Challenging the status-quo with an energy democracy model

Through Kinetic Communities, Daphany has been able to challenge the status-quo when it comes to energy efficiency.

“Our perspective accelerates clean energy implementation with existing communities that are not traditionally engaged,” she explains. “I have been able to design programs focused on reducing harmful air pollutants, increase visibility for the elderly, and promote job creation for people of color regardless of their socio-economic class and education.”

These experiences have propelled Daphany forward in her journey to spread energy democracy. In a male-dominated industry, Daphany leads the charge in energy democracy for under-represented communities in New York.

“As a minority and a 4-foot-11 woman, I often face validation challenges from industry professionals,” says Daphany, describing the obstacles she has faced.

energy democracy

(Photo courtesy of Kinetic Communities)

Reaching where she is today has not been easy. Growing up she took on many student loans just to have an opportunity to have a seat at the table with other decision makers. She has faced people questioning her validity and position as a leader in her field. Yet she has not let these challenges deter her from her goals.

“Instead of feeling oppressed, I became obsessed with having a catalytic impact on breaking stereotypes,” says Daphany.

Daphany chooses to focus on her strengths and use her skills to effect change. Her skills of perception, creative collaboration, and community intuition have been essential skills in leading New York toward a climate neutral environment. These are skills that have been ingrained in her since childhood. Daphany believes that working collectively as communities is the key to addressing important issues such as systematic housing injustice, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

You might be interested: Leaders, influencers and entrepreneurs converge in NJ at 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch (EEL)

A vision for New York’s future

“My vision of New York’s future is an equitable carbon neutral city,” say Daphany. “One where organizations work side by side, and community members are empowered to take hold of their energy democracy without burden of stereotypes directing their lives.”

Daphany’s work in promoting energy democracy is making great strides in actualizing that vision. Her accomplishments thus far include being recognized as one of Grist50!, collaborating with NYCHA to create rooftop gardens at 24 buildings in 8 developments, creating green jobs for NYCHA residents, and organizing efficiency awareness campaign events that provide active workshops on energy efficiency. Additionally, Kinetic Communities has joined a national campaign which collectively reached 58 governments, 358 organizations, and 80 million residents in the country. Through the efforts of this campaign, the Brooklyn Borough President announced October 5th as Brooklyn’s Energy Efficiency Day. These experiences have only emphasized the importance for collective action in the energy field. Through collective community efforts change can be effected.

As parting words of advice to others looking to effect change in their careers, Daphany encourages people to find mentors and be curious.

“Explore how other new businesses are implementing their products and learn from their opportunities how you can be different and excel in the future,” she says.

Finally, she encourages people to see their that persistence and risks are worth it. The opportunities for change and success are limitless through learning and accessibility and Daphany hopes to continue to make opportunities available to under-served groups through her own work in the energy field.

team building Bellaria Jimenez

Bellaria Jimenez, a Latina leader’s passion helps others achieve their dreams

Bellaria Jimenez, President of MassMutual Tri State, will be Keynote Speaker at the Latina SmallBiz Expo and Pitch your Biz Competition on November 9 at NJIT in Newark NJ (150 Bleeker St – Free parking at 154 Summit Street). To see Bellaria speak, please register: https://latinasbizexpo.eventbrite.com/

Bellaria Jimenez

Bellaria Jimenez, President at MassMutual Tri State and Latina SmallBiz Expo and Pitch Competition Keynote Speaker

 

Bellaria Jimenez is the President of MassMutual Tri State, an agency that focuses on building long-term relationships with individuals, employees, and business owners to help them achieve financial security.

With 22 years of experience in financial planning, Bellaria leads a team of 35 managers and 175 sales representatives who attend the needs of over 210,000 clients, 6.7 billion in client assets, and offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

“My passion for helping people achieve financial peace of mind was triggered by my own family experiences,” Bellaria told LatinasinBusiness.us. “We came from Venezuela when I was seven years old because my father was a well-known local artist who wanted to advance his studies in the US,” she recalls.

However, as an artist, he was never able to achieve the level of notoriety he had back in Venezuela. He explored other opportunities to sustain his family, starting a small newspaper printing shop.

“He never had sound advice from professionals who surrounded him, and he retired with a very small pension late in life,” Bellaria explains. “I believe that it is not uncommon for a lot of individuals and business owners who are so concerned about their daily problems and obstacles, fighting to survive and sustain their businesses, that they make poor decisions for their futures,” she said.

Sacrifices started at a young age for Bellaria Jimenez

While attending college full-time, Bellaria was working for Continental Airlines also as a full-time employee. “I had to do a lot of sacrifices to pay my way through college. I knew an education would pay off some day but I was not sure how,” she recalled.

While trying to live her own life, Bellaria was also witness of the family situation at home. She then decided to read and acquire knowledge about managing finances by studying individuals who had been successful in their business lives. She switched her course of studies and started taking financial courses.

In 1995, Bellaria entered the financial industry. “At the time, there were very few women in this field, specially Latinas and young ones. Those were very tough beginnings.  I tried to surround myself with the best mentors and most experienced colleagues who would teach me the way,” she explained. “Tell me who you have lunch with and I will tell you how successful you are, that was and continues to be my motto, constantly learning from others.”

She continued her studies to become a Certified Financial Planner then working for First Investors, a company that was later acquired by a Canadian firm. Bellaria saw an opportunity to join MetLife, a well-established financial company where she flourished for 15 years.

“It was during all these years that I discovered my passion to help others achieve their goals. My manager took notice of this talent and started offering me some managerial responsibilities. I did not know at the time great changes were coming my way,” she said.

Taking a step into a stellar leadership role

In 2016, MetLife sold the Individual Distribution Division to MassMutual. “I was offered a leadership role for which I have been preparing, unknowingly, for a few years. It was a thrilling moment, full of mixed feelings but I knew I was ready,” she said.

Bellaria Jimenez, President at MassMutual Tri State

Bellaria Jimenez, President at MassMutual Tri State, has received numerous awards including the 2016 Prominent Woman award.

As the President of MassMutual Tristate, Bellaria focuses on helping individuals and business owners, especially women, who need guidance and customized solutions to their specific need.

“We focus especially on Latinos, women and the younger generation, who are now out of college with a lot of debt and fewer opportunities than their parents,” Bellaria explained. “Young people are not attracted to financial planning early on, when you really need to manage your finances. They see older people –the agent average age is 51-and they think it is something their parent do or need,” she explained.

At MassMutual Tristate, Bellaria’s team is working hard at attracting younger men and women who would like an opportunity to advance their careers helping others. “Many people think you need an MBA to build a career in financial planning but in truth, you just need a passion for helping others and a series of certifications and licenses that we, at MassMutual Tristate, provide and guide all potential candidates to achieve,” she said.

The company also offers a great deal of training and support through their virtual university, mentors that help them not only build a client portfolio but also how to do marketing, sales and establish strong relationships with their clients.

“At MassMutual Tri State, we offer comprehensive financial services and products that empower our clients to improve their long-term financial situation and reach their lifetime goals and dreams,” Bellaria explained. “If your passion is to help people live a worry free life and make a great career for yourself, I encourage you to contact us and become part of our successful team,” she concluded.

Bellaria has received numerous awards including the 2005 Hispanic Corporate Achiever of the Year 2014, Top 50 Business Women in NJ, and the 2016 Prominent Woman award. A member of the Junior Achievement of New Jersey, she also sits on the FDU board. She had the distinguished honor of ringing the opening bell on Wall Street in April 2010, a success few Hispanic women at MassMutual have achieved.

A version of this article will be published by Abasto Magazine 2017 October/November issue.