Jennifer Garcia

Jennifer Garcia tells you how to leave a secure job to launch your dream business

Jennifer Garcia is a multi-faceted business professional and leadership coach with a passion for empowering people and transforming businesses. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Latino Business Action Network (LBAN), a collaboration with Stanford University driving research, providing education, and cultivating a growing ecosystem of 800 scaled Latino and Latina entrepreneurs across the United States and Puerto Rico, who contribute nearly $4.9 billion in annual revenue. 

Jennifer Garcia, founder of Fluential Leadership. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Garcia)

Jennifer is also the founder of Fluential Leadership, a business and leadership consulting firm focused on elevating small-to-medium-sized business performance through developing and executing growth strategies, recruitment, and retaining talent.

Cutting the ‘golden handcuffs’ to start business from zero 

Like many entrepreneurs, Jennifer was driven to start her own business out of a desire to pursue her passion and make an impact. For fourteen years, Jennifer worked in the finance industry and in a variety of leadership roles at Bloomberg, a global financial data provider. Through her work, she recognized her strength in developing people, transforming teams and departments. 

Her work at LBAN has also allowed her to continue elevating Latino businesses to the next level by creating growth pathways. Jennifer’s passion for helping women and Latino business owners and leaders grow is what ultimately led her to launching her dream project, Fluential Leadership in 2018. 

Jennifer wanted to make a greater impact and use her expertise as a leader and consulting coach to help others achieve their own career goals and dreams. 

“I positioned myself to equip business leaders and elevate small-to-medium-sized businesses, which are the driving force in the U.S. economy,” says Jennifer. “I have a unique perspective with a long corporate career, first-hand experience as a business owner and a birds-eye view supporting businesses through LBAN and Fluential Leadership. I’ve learned that there are systematic challenges and barriers for women in professional careers, and in entrepreneurship.”

Launching Fluential Leadership was the first step for Jennifer was both exciting and challenging. She was stepping into the unknown and leaving the comfort, certainty, and stability of her career. 

“I stepped away from a successful career, a secure job inclusive of all the benefits provided by a top-tier corporation. I often describe it as the cutting of ‘golden handcuffs’.  The challenge was going from zero to one, building from scratch, doing the role of a CEO, CMO, CFO, content writer, content deliverer, and much more,” says Jennifer. 

entrepreneur, leadership, mentor

Jennifer Garcia mentoring at an event. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Garcia)

However, these initial challenges only helped to further fuel Jennifer’s passion and determination. Launching Fluential Leadership afforded her the opportunity to pursue something she was passionate about and build something that was all her own. She says there were many long days and nights, but she put in the time and effort, determined to make an impact and follow through on her dream. 

“Each of our journeys are unique, our entrepreneurial dreams or careers are personal, and so is the price that is paid for it,” she says. “It’s important for me to understand my ‘WHY’. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting in the long hours, why did I step away from a secure career?  It is that understanding that sustains me through the season.  And I do remember that seasons change.”

Owning your story

Like the changing seasons, life can be unpredictable. However, change is good and necessary for any progress or growth. Every entrepreneur is on their own personal journey and that journey becomes your story. Where you started from, how you worked to get to where you are today, where you stumbled and failed, and where you succeeded. 

“My story is my unique strength, and so is yours,” says Jennifer. “It is my story and experiences that shaped who I am today, how I approach business, and the lens in which I propel other business leaders. I grew up selling Christmas trees and firewood on the side of the road with my father, not around the dining room table discussing stocks and bonds or venture capital. The conversations and the work I do today with my kids, with women professionals and business owners, has the ability to empower and elevate leaders, creating exponential and generational impact.  Regardless of my starting line, my purpose is consistent and that is to move the needle for women, business leaders and the Latino community.” 

business, leadership, mentor, storytelling

“Don’t mute your story. Let the world know!” (Photo courtesy Jennifer Garcia)

For entrepreneurs, both established and aspiring, embrace your story and own it. Your story is what will set you apart from others. Your story is uniquely yours. 

“Don’t mute your story,” says Jennifer, “let the world know!” 

Writing your story, telling it to the world, and following through on your dreams can be daunting and even downright terrifying. But the alternative is never trying, never sharing, never starting. Jennifer took a chance on her dream, stepping away from the comfort of a corporate job to build something new. 

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To the aspiring entrepreneurs looking for that final push, Jennifer says, “Go for it! Jump and grow wings on the way down. There will always be logical reasons why today is not a good time to start your business or aspire for the new career move.  I’ve found that opportunity doesn’t always present itself in opportune times and we just need to embrace it.  Learn what you can from the season.  To borrow a few lines from the powerful poem by William Arthur Ward:

Believe while others are doubting

Plan while others are playing

Begin while others are procrastinating

Work while others are wishing

Persist while others are quitting


Ivana De Maria presents her storytelling app

Ivana De Maria, will be presenting her storytelling platform StoryPlace at the upcoming 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch “Beauty, Health and Wealth: Taking Charge of Our Lives,” to take place on June 13 at the Hudson County Culinary Conference Center in Jersey City, NJ.

Ivana De Maria, actor, TV writer and producer, women’s advocate and philanthropist, is the creator of an egoless social media storytelling platform by taking all the positive elements of social media and cutting out the negative, purely ego feeding elements. A twenty-six year old Latina entrepreneur, CEO and founder of StoryPlace, Ivana and her team have created a revolutionary egoless social media platform where empathy comes first.

What is “egoless” social media?

StoryPlace’s core values are empathy, solidarity, philanthropy, culture, and connection.

“In an age where empathy is at an all time low and ego-based social media at an all time high, StoryPlace aims to create an egoless social media experience with empathy at its core through the act of sharing true stories and life experiences,” said Ivana De Maria to

The storytelling platform gives a voice to ordinary people with extraordinary stories. Through reading and sharing stories, people are able to connect and engage with others on a deeper level. StoryPlace is not about competition such as who has the most ‘likes’ or the best selfie. It’s about community and connection. Everyone has a story to tell and every story offers a fresh new perspective, idea, or lesson to readers.

The vision for StoryPlace began formulating in Ivana’s mind over the past few years along her travels and her time working in the entertainment industry. A storyteller at heart, Ivana became increasingly interested in creating content based on true stories. After studying business and law at Boston University, Ivana moved to Los Angeles to focus on acting and producing for film and television. Frustrated with aspects of the entertainment industry, Ivana began re-evaluating what she wanted from her career.

Register now to meet Ivana, use her storytelling platform StoryPlace and hear her story in person during the Fireside Chat at the 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch.

Finding her way in a very competitive industry

Ivana De Maria, actor, TV writer and producer, women’s advocate and philanthropist

“When I began my acting career, I very quickly hated how the ‘system’ worked. I couldn’t understand how someone’s career could depend on so many factors that were in the hands of complete strangers. I also realized that I did not have the personality to sit around waiting for people to give me opportunities,” Ivana shares.

This shift in perspective helped her discover alternate forms of creating and sharing content. There were more options out there for her as a creator and consumer. The industry was changing. Creating digital platforms and alternate distribution channels, people now had more creative power which once belonged exclusively to big name studios.

“I realized we are living in a world where phones can make videos and we have free distribution channels online,” says Ivana. “There is NO excuse not to be creating our own content, and more importantly, people are interested in finding these new and untold stories that we ALL have to tell.”

This awareness was the push Ivana needed to begin producing her own creative content. She started with her own stories and listening to the stories of others. By becoming more involved in the process of sharing, she soon noticed just how many untold stories there were in the world, waiting for a chance to be shared.

Ivana was turned off by the egocentric mentalities that dominated pre-existing platforms, where people seemed to compete for a sense of status. These platforms were not the place for the kind of deep, connecting stories Ivana wished to tell and read. So she decided it was up to her to create a new, egoless social media platform where these stories could find a home.

Register now to meet Ivana, use her storytelling platform StoryPlace and hear her story in person during the Fireside Chat at the 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch.

Overcoming self-doubt

Entering the world of story telling apps with StoryPlace was somehow uncertain for Ivana. She had a clear vision of what she wanted StoryPlace to be, but beyond that the rest was uncharted territory for her. Initially she struggled a bit, spending a lot of time and money doing things only “halfway.”

“Somehow it felt ‘safer’ this way,” says Ivana. “Then, one day I realized this was not going to work unless I really invested my entire self, mind, and trust into my vision. Time, space, and energy are by far the most valuable elements a person has to offer and for a while I underestimated their significance.”

Once Ivana put her full self to the task of making her dream a reality, the process became smoother. Instead of worrying about all that she did not know about storytelling apps and tech, she was eager and thankful for people’s advice and guidance.

Guided by others advice and her own strengths have helped her navigate through the bumpy obstacles along the way.

Being Latina, being a woman, or being simply human

StoryPlace is a storytelling egoless social media platform that aims at sharing real stories from real people.

Speaking on her strengths, Ivana says, “I believe that more than because I am Latina or because I am a woman, my strengths come from a place of simply being human.”

Her strengths derive from her lived experiences, the people she has met, conversations she’s had, things she’s seen and places she’s been to. All these moments have helped her develop her strengths and weaknesses. Ivana self-professed greatest strength are her instincts. She works and functions largely based on instinct.

However for some time she did not view them as a strength. She was consumed by self-doubt over her decisions and wondered if her ‘experimental’ egoless social media app would be well received. She questioned if she could or should trust her instincts.

“Then I realized that my instinct was not this magical, intangible thing, but rather a combination of all that I have lived,” says Ivana. “Once I reclaimed my instinct and gave it the respect in deserves, it became my biggest strength and my number one advisor.”

Additionally her mother’s words always echo in her mind when she fears failure.

“My mother would tell me: Don’t worry. If you don’t do it, it’s fine, nothing will happen. But listen carefully, NOTHING will happen. However, if you do decide to do it, maybe SOMETHING will happen.”

This message has always stuck with Ivana, who’s best advice to anyone, both in their career or life, is to just TRY.

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Defining success with experiential storytelling 

Success is often difficult to define because it is specific to each person. Ivana spent many sleepless nights after the launch of StoryPlace on the iOS App Store filled with nervous thoughts, questions, and insecurities. Subconsciously she was thinking about this idea of success. Would she get those millions of users? Would she make money? Was this even a good idea?

She had created something new and different, something some people might not know how to react to: an egoless social media platform. What exactly did that mean? What were the expectations? It was all new territory, for Ivana as a creator and for consumers too.

“I felt like I had given birth to something and then sent it off into the universe,” Ivana says of the experience.

And behind all these nervous jitters was that undefinable concept of success. Would her efforts be “worth it”?

The answer came to her in an email. It was from a woman who had dealt with difficult situations and had fallen into a depression. She shared with Ivana how finding the storytelling platform and reading stories that spoke to her current situation helped her feel less alone.

“She thanked me and said that StoryPlace had given her the strength to keep going,” says Ivana. “Suddenly after sleepless nights of trying to define what success would mean for StoryPlace, the answer was so clear, right there in front of me. It made everything worth it.”

Register now to meet Ivana, use her storytelling platform StoryPlace and hear her story in person during the Fireside Chat at the 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch.


brand strategist

Brand Strategist Vicky Ayala uses storytelling to build clients’ personal brands

Vicky Ayala, a Latina brand strategist and visual storyteller, believes one major component for building a brand is confidence. “When you are confident, your voice exudes strength and conviction which helps with conveying authority. These qualities help you build a strong brand that others will want to work with and invest in,” she shared with

brand strategist

Vicky Ayala, founder, Sacred Brand Mastery

With over fifteen years of experience in marketing, she shows multi-passionate entrepreneurs how to leverage their passions, talents and skills to cultivate their own profitable personal brand.

Vicky recently launched Sacred Brand Mastery where she utilizes her combined expertise in the social service sector, the startup world, and the entertainment industry to teach women how to harness the power of the internet to build online businesses and create financial freedom in their lives.

Brand strategist beginnings

Vicky began her career working for a non-profit organization post-college that provided vocational services for workers displaced by the 9/11 attacks. She worked her way up from counselor to director, leading the program’s employment outreach and professional development training. Though due to the difficult job market at the time, the program began to suffer and eventually Vicky herself became unemployed. It was during this time that she began exploring the option of entrepreneurship.

“This was my turning point which shifted the entire course of my entrepreneurial journey,” says Vicky. “I’ve been freelancing and running an online business ever since.”

brand strategist

Vicky Ayala, speaker at the 2018 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch

Vicky found her strength in storytelling. After years of honing her personal brand she found that she had a true talent for brand-building that she wished to share with others.

“As a brand strategist I am expert in developing and organizing a cohesive brand but the root of all personal and professional development is the ability to tell stories,” Vicky explains.

Vicky stresses the difference between “brand” and “business.”

“A brand is your mark on the world while a business is how you make money. Don’t confuse one for the other.”

One’s personal brand is what will represent them to the world and so it is important to build a strong brand that reflects one’s personality, passions, talents, and values in a cohesive way.

Overcoming self-confidence issues

Vicky understands and appreciates the importance of self-confidence now because it is something she struggled with early on in her entrepreneurial journey. She believes most of her early challenges stemmed from this issue of self-confidence. For her finding clients was never the problem, but as an introvert, putting herself out there for those potential clients was a massive hurdle.

She eventually overcame these obstacles by tapping into what she calls her “authentic self.” Looking inward and focusing on her goals and her passions brought her much clarity.

brand strategist

Vicky Ayala, presenter at the 2018 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch (Photo credit: Americano Newspaper)

“Once I was aligned with who I wanted to be, it was much easier to build a sustainable business around my passions,” says Vicky.

Now she works to help other women do the same so that they may harness their passions and build their own personal brand that stands out. She urges other Latina women to “take a leap of faith” for their passions.

“You don’t have to quit your day job,” she says, “but you have to decide that your passions are worth pursuing. In this day and age anything can be monetized so it’s not a matter of ‘if’ this will work out but rather ‘how’ will I get this to work out.”

Building a successful brand is a necessary and often over-looked component of entrepreneurship. By building a strong personal brand, one can ensure they will have a stronger business.