Nancy Marmolejo caught the entrepreneurial bug early; watching her father, who was a small business owner, get up everyday and go to work for himself left a lasting impression. After years of working as a public school teacher the kick to finally start her own business came when her daughter was born. She wanted to be able to build her schedule around her daughter, and to pass on those values of hard work and building a fulfilling life. The result is Talent and Genius, her very own coaching business where she helps people understand what is unique and remarkable about themselves (what she calls ‘Deep Genius’) and then how to harness that to create authentic and relatable personal brands. Today the Castro Valley, California-based entrepreneur takes pride in her work, particularly in helping to pave the way for other Latinx and BIPOC coaches who are following in her footsteps.
Marmolejo’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
Prior to starting my business, I had a career as a public school teacher. Each summer I dreamed of quitting teaching and starting my own business. But summer after summer passed and I never quite got to it. Then, when my daughter was born, I found the intense motivation I needed: to build a life around being her mom and continuing to work. I looked at my skills as a teacher, facilitator and leader, considered my unique way of being creative and empathic, and decided to start a business where I could help others be more clear about the directions they were going.
How do you define success?
To me, success is found in the ripple effect of seeing the people I work with go out into the world and make an impact. When I help an introverted scientist find what makes her special and see her claim her voice in a male dominated field, or when I guide an entrepreneur to finding the perfect way to position her business, or when I mentor rising Latina leaders and watch them take the helm with confidence, then I feel successful. Knowing that my work is meaningful, purposeful and expands people’s understanding of themselves makes me feel like Steph Curry hitting a 3 point shot!
Tell us about your biggest success to date.
My biggest success to date was when it became crystal clear that I was doing too many things I was good at but didn’t love… and subsequently redesigned my business to focus on my own genius rather than just doing things I could do. At first it cost me in revenue because those things I was good at were easy money, but ultimately that decision opened things up and increased my value tenfold. I’ve had other successes that could be quantified in dollars and cents, but for me the success of being free and not feeling like an employee in my own business made the world of difference for me!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
When I started my business, all of my branding made it very clear that I’m Latina and that I draw from my Mexican roots for inspiration. From the name of my business to the titles I used for programs, everything gave a nod to my heritage. The world of coaching and consulting was decidedly bland back then and I was often questioned and discouraged from taking on a cultural angle. There were not many Latina coaches (or many other BIPOC coaches for that matter), and so it was a lonely battle to engage in. I ignored the naysayers, stuck to my truth and now people call me “The OG Latina coach” which makes me smile! I see so many younger Latinx and BIPOC coaches and consultants out there embracing who they are and their ancestry and it brings my heart so much joy. I won’t claim that I alone paved the way for them, but in a way I am definitely one of the bricks in the road they’re traveling on!
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I experienced the loss of three loved ones over the course of a few years. First my mom passed away from cancer. I had been caring for her during her last year of life and was with her when she transitioned. Next, my daughter’s father (my former husband) passed away from kidney failure. That was excruciatingly painful because our daughter was only 14. It still breaks my heart to think of it. Then a year later, my sister died from a very rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. The first business decision I made for each of these events was to take time off and grieve. During my grieving period after my sister passed, I wrote a short book about navigating grief and loss as it appears on social media. I decided to give people tips on how to respond when they’re not sure what to say and how to come from a place of empathy. Next, I recommitted my business to supporting women leaders. My sister was a powerful woman and worked very hard to rise to her position. I wish she’d found a self care practice sooner because the stress of her job was intense and may or may not have been in a factor in her health challenges. When I work with women leaders, a lot of what we do is about calming the stress responses so they can think more clearly and make more empowered decisions.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
It’s really important to develop your inner strengths. Owning a business is a crash course in personal growth and you need to have the tools to handle all that it throws at you. So do all you can to develop your intuition, communication skills, boundaries, stress reduction, financial literacy, emotional intelligence and handling pressure.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I have a daily meditation and prayer practice that keeps me grounded through thick and thin. I still have my freak out moments, but they don’t last long because I have the tools. I also have people I can call any time when something feels overwhelming and they can give me perspective whether it’s spiritual, financial or leadership focused. I’m very grateful for this in my life.
Who is your most important role model?
My parents. Both of my parents were children of immigrants and grew up without a lot of the comforts I enjoyed growing up. My dad had a small business and I’m proud to say I never saw him get up and go to work for anyone but himself. He had his ups and downs but the freedom he had over his time and creativity inspired me and gave me the entrepreneurial bug. My mom was a nurse and was the most positive, effervescent, beautiful woman around. She had a way of shining inside and out. Let’s add on that they raised 6 amazing kids (I’m the baby) who carry on their legacy with strong family bonds and the desire to always better ourselves.