Conceived in Cuba, born in Spain and proudly Made in the USA
By Mirela Sula
Isaura is a compilation of many aspects that compile her life. She is a mother, psychologist, entrepreneur, educator, advocate, author, international speaker, podcaster, and the list goes on and on. She is a “Latina Powerhouse” breaking barriers and creating new paradigms in many arenas all over the world. Isaura is an innovator, thought leader, visionary, disruptor of the status quo for Latinas and thought provoker. With all of the accolades, honors and world changing programs she has created she is the first to tell you that she is imperfect, still growing and humbled by the acknowledgements that are bestowed upon her.
Isaura’s story is quite simple: conceived in Cuba, born in Spain and proudly Made in the USA. In order to secure freedom many years ago, her family gave everything up for her and her brother. As a family, they each pitched in to secure safe passage from Cuba; her uncle paid the financial way to move her mother and brother, maternal aunt, maternal grandmother, his wife and son to Spain while her maternal aunt “paid” their dues to the Cuban government by doing forced labor at their work camps in torturous and traumatic conditions that she has never been able to speak about. Once in Spain, her grandmother was brought to the US due to an unknown medical condition that was quickly deteriorating her health. A short while after her arrival in the US, the Drs. informed her uncle that her grandmother had ovarian cancer and it was too late for any type of medical intervention to save her life and that she had days if not hours to live, suggesting that he secure passage to the US for the rest of his family while she still was alive.
All family members were secured passage out except for one slight delay, Isaura was a Spanish citizen and the government boldly told her mother, “You may go but she stays. You can leave her with a neighbor”. What the Spanish government didn’t know is that Isaura’s mother is fierce and determined and with said determination and a greater boldness that the Spanish government she responded “I don’t think you understand, she came to this country with me, she leaves with me.” Her mother’s tenacity, quick thinking and persistence allowed them to leave Spain expeditiously.
This story has been told to Isaura and her children countless times as the lessons here are bountiful: 1) family first, 2) when we all collaborate, we all win, and 3) nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it, are a few of those lessons. This is why in her professional life as well as her personal life, the comfort of home and family are extremely important to her. Understanding the sacrifices that her family made for her educational pursuits became the underpinning of Isaura’s success aside from her determination. She often joked with her doctoral and dissertation mentors that the D. in her middle name stood for determination; a point few ever argued with her.
You have achieved a lot with your career – have all your dreams come true?
It is an interesting question because many years ago, I was on a clear path to what I thought were my dreams, my goals and my aspirations. My answer back then would have been very different; I would have said absolutely. I have achieved my degree, my private practice, my family, etc. etc. Although, not all have quite looked like what I envisioned, the results are so much more than what I could have ever expected. Today, I see that question a little differently. I understand that no matter what I dream, that there is destiny and destiny is going to take you to where you are meant to be and so sometimes your dreams are not the same as what you are destined to do. TODAY, I am working towards my destiny and my life is fulfilled because I am moving toward that destiny. Achieving my successes and failures in my life and career are all part of my destiny. There are lessons in everything that happens to us. When I struggle, or have a failure or success for that matter, I stop and look at what the lesson is that I am supposed to learn. And often enough those lessons are needed in order to move me to the next stage of my life, career, and/or profession.
You are the founder and CEO of Latina Mastermind, how did you create this empire?
Latina Mastermind was honestly not intended to be what it has become. It started with the idea of a webinar titled Latina Mastermind: creating powerful connections; And that was supposed to be the start and the end of it. However, that was not what my true destiny. On a Wednesday early morning, 2am, in preparation of advertising for this webinar, I created a Facebook group called Latina mastermind, added my 22 NHLI Hermanas to form the group and thought I was calling it a night. Unbeknownst to me, my “hermana” Nilda Oyola was up as well and messaged me to explain the mission of the group and after explaining that Latina Mastermind was about creating powerful connections to form collaborations and cooperation instead of competition, within five minutes, I had 67 members in the group. A few hours later in the morning, I had over a hundred members all clamoring to know more about this concept. I then asked a childhood friend, Belkys Avalos, who is an amazing community builder, if she wouldn’t mind spreading the word. A few hours shy of the group being open a week, I had 982 members in the group. I never imagined it would grow this fast and I reached out to one more colleague, Sara Maldonado, another amazing Latina and said, “I am so close to 1,000 it would mean the world to hit 1,000. Can you share this?”. No more than five minutes later I received a text saying, “Congratulations, 1001. It’s all you.”
So how I built it was simple: through powerful connections and collaborations utilizing the power of the mastermind and strategy, knowing what the needs are and how to bridge the very necessary gap for Latinas around the world.
At that point, I recall understanding that what had just happened wasn’t a webinar, and Latina Mastermind was born, an organization in teaching Latinas to stand in their own power and accomplish more goals and make more money in a shorter period of time. I spent the next several months building strategic alliances, concepts, and putting procedures in place to create a solid foundation. As we all know, a strong foundation can withstand what gets built on it. So how I built it was simple: through powerful connections and collaborations utilizing the power of the mastermind and strategy, knowing what the needs are and how to bridge the very necessary gap for Latinas around the world. Everything else seems easy. The progression of the organization into an empire is humbling.
You have also created the first and only app for Latinas in business globally. Can you tell us about it?
My personal power comes from being humble, being authentic, being grateful for all that I have been blessed with, prayer, and having a family that ALWAYS supported me and kept me moving towards my destiny. My children now give me my power; My heart beats for them. Understanding that God has gifted me with talents that are to be shared keeps me grounded and focused on what my bigger purpose is. Soon after I had started the Facebook group for Latina Mastermind, I decided that I would continue the growth of the organization and the commitment to connecting powerful Latinas around the world by creating an app specifically designed just for them, which happens to be the first and only app for Latinas in business and Latinas in business all around the world. The app allows real-time networking 24 hours a day and connecting to Latina owned/operated businesses all over the world with a click of a button.
Being between psychology and business – how do you balance your time?
Balance? I think it is more about making things work than balancing. Balancing means that there are equal portions that keeps things the same. It is more like give some, take some. Sometimes, psychology takes a little more and sometimes business takes a little more but at the end of the day they are both necessary for my growth but more importantly for the growth of those I work with and for. You would be surprised at how supportive my clients are. When I go traveling to speak they are often as excited, if not more than me. They say I can’t wait to hear what lessons you will bring back and they enjoy that I get to meet powerful individuals that they just get to know from books, television or the internet. I have a place in my office dedicated to my journey in pictures, the clients love to see them and it supports them in continuing to grow and seek the life they want to live. In maintaining a good work flow with my time, what I do is dedicate time for different activities and as best as possible adhere to those time commitments. But like money, when we don’t budget correctly then we have issues, we run out of time or we don’t have enough time or we can’t budget for things that are outside of our control. The same holds true for our time as it does with money. Therefore, forgiveness is optimal in those cases. Forgiving ourselves for certain difficulties with time is as important, as long as we correct it and we are not doing it over and over again.
What motivated you to study psychology and become a psychologist?
I LOVE psychology. It is my passion. I love everything about it. I can’t stop talking about it once I start. My passion was natural. It was not something I looked up and then got interested in. I was born with the passion of human behavior. I was born with the passion of observing others and making sense of behavior and what it all meant. I remember observing children when I was a child and I could accurately predict who was going to hit who and what playground drama was about to erupt. It often helps to avoid conflict at this point in my life. I continue to study psychology, all aspects in fact. I have taught for 23 years and learn every day. Teaching is one way of me staying tightly connected to my psychology community and my passion for the subject and learning. I enjoy unlocking the potential in others to be the best that they can be and to unlock their potential as future psychologists.
I enjoy unlocking the potential in others to be the best that they can be and to unlock their potential as future psychologists.
How difficult is it for you to dedicate time for your business, be a psychologist and at the same time be a mother of four? What is the formula of your success?
Difficult is not the word I would use; Sometimes it feels impossible. I view life as a puzzle where we have to move pieces around to make them fit. And as demands change so does my role and how I interact with those three separate and sometime distinct roles. My children are entrepreneurs at heart and surprisingly know a lot about business thanks to Shark Tank and can hold quite in-depth conversations about business. They are interested in how I have built the businesses and why I chose to build them the way I have. I homeschooled for years and they came to my office and had their own desks, computers and we were able to spend time learning together. The children traveled with me as often and as much as they could and we learned together at the places where we went. So, integrating our lives has been a key component to our success. I am a mom in everything I do, even in business. They were the first ones up the day my podcast launched and the first ones clapping and celebrating that it was finally on air! They are the first ones that cheer when I am in the media and of my successes. They talk about what their firsts are and we hold candid conversations of the struggles I still have as successful as I am and why they should not allow certain things to become barriers for their success. My children understand that the barriers that I break and the new roads I have built are to make life easier for them and their children and for the world to have more opportunities and for other families to have a chance to create their financial freedom.
My formula for success includes FAITH, PASSION, DETERMINATION, OPTIMISM, SERVICE and GIVING VALUE.
While I have never really aimed for success, I have aimed to do things successfully. I have aimed to be a leader that provides benefit and value to those who I encounter. I lead from a place of service, authenticity, genuineness, humility and passion. Understanding that I am human and fallible keeps me grounded and continues to be the forefront of how I lead. Success is a byproduct of delivering value and service on a consistent basis and overdelivering while under promising. I often take people by surprise because I may at times come across as quiet but when I speak, and speak as powerfully as I do, it is clear that I have amassed an enormous amount of information in both psychology and business and have fused leadership and psychology in a way that one cannot be distinguished from the other. I have been called a vault that stores powerful information.
Who has supported you on your journey toward success?
I have a “Familia” that consists of more than just my biological family who have supported me on my journey toward my success not just a team. My family is first, including my children who are the cornerstone of my life, my family as you read before, my brother, supervisors, and other psychologists comprise this family. There are many individuals that have supported me to get through this journey. Global Woman magazine and their fearless Editor, Mirela Sula, my mentor and mom, Sharon Lechter, and her husband and my pops as I affectionately call him, Michael Lechter. The sister, hermana, I always wanted but never got to have until a few years ago, Angela Totman, who is the most amazing woman you can ever meet. There are not enough words or room on this page to describe what she means to me aside from being an incredible strategist and organizational guru. She is my partner is doing firsts along our journey in life together.
My COO, Jane Terlizzi, who runs my companies and keeps me on my toes by challenging me daily, including engaging with me in a game of who can assign who the most number of tasks. She’s winning at the moment, in case you wanted to know. The most amazing and gifted Social Media Manager, Melinda Cooper who supports me in providing value to others. The soul of my financial resources for my private practice, Alma Arocho. My fearless podcast manager, Kate Astrakhan who inspires me every day and doesn’t let me off the hook. My “hermanas” Camilita Nuttall who reminds me of my destiny every 3 seconds of the day, Nilda Oyola, who bulldozes the obstacles whenever the need arises, Robyn Johnson, Emily Letran, Karen Tooley, Becca Tebon, and the countless others who not only support the vision and mission of Latina Mastermind but also support me! All the members of my family including supporters, mentees, and the countless number of Latinas who fuel the burning fire within and have joined my “Familia” locked in arms as we rise together. Cultivating those connections and nurturing them is an important part of the process of growing any business. What many fail to understand is that we are all in the relationship business and how we interact with others and with ourselves is immensely crucial.
What are the challenges that you have faced while achieving your dreams?
There are always challenges in all facets of life. For those that see success and think they can never achieve what others have obtained, I say think again. Sacrifices are always made, obstacles are always present, losses always happen. I have been at times unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) insulted, belittled, criticized, especially given my being viewed as less than because I am Latina in a country that is not “my” own, and at times from my own colleagues and supervisors. It is never more crushing to a spirit to hear from someone you admire and look up to say that you will gain a position because you speak another language completely ignoring the skills, knowledge and expertise that you have. Luckily for me, I know enough and know better that my ability to speak two languages is a mere fraction of what embodies me as a person, and I could effectively communicate to those whose behaviors tried to make me feel less than or inadequate. I always quickly remind those in need that I am THE expert AND Latina; two worlds that create greater leverage in order to provide greater value.
What was your biggest achievement in 2016?
So many achievements in 2016 to mention and many of them came from lessons brought about by my failure in some aspect of my life or business. I endured many storms that brought about life changing lessons, greater understanding of who I am and ways in which my leadership can grow exponentially if I make slight changes to how I navigate and negotiate my space. Tangibly, one of my greatest successes was launching the first and only podcast in the world on Latina leadership and having an enormous turnout on subscriptions in one week during the Christmas holiday. Collaborating and putting an event conjointly with WED’s global ambassador, Aksinia Stavskaya, and HERREA at Harvard University, and being able to highlight four distinguished Latina Leaders was another highlight of my year. The crowd gave a roaring standing ovation to the speakers. It was phenomenal! Being invited to the White House to participate for a Latina empowering conference was also very special.
It was phenomenal! Being invited to the White House to participate for a Latina empowering conference was also very special.
You are also the Founder of Latina College Corner, Latinas In Action (LIA) and Co-Founder of Latinos Empowering Others (LEO). Tell us more about your passion and your work with Latina.
Latina College Corner has gotten a makeover and is now the National Society for Latina Leadership and Empowerment. We will begin to roll out the new initiative this year at colleges around the US and then globally. Empowerment starts early and through education and this is my focus. Latinas in Action or LIA for short is a Latina version of TED-style presentations. You can find these presentations at our conferences. At Latinas we have great thought leadership and it must be supported and brought to light through efforts that allow our voices to rise and stand out from the crowd. My passion for Latinas is multi-fold, aside from my being Latina, I have seen the sacrifices our mothers have made, including my own and my aunt to bring me to a place where I can be anything I wanted to be. I cherish that gift that was given to me. It is a blessing. My talents and skills are gifts from GOD and they were meant to be shared. I think of my daughter and my sons and creating legacies for them whenever I want to stop.
What are your plans for the future?
The future for Latinas around the world is exponential. It is my responsibility and duty to continue to support Latinas in creating their financial legacies and fulfilling their destinies, as I have broken barriers and I stand with individuals that are amongst the elite, thus making it possible for others to forge through with greater ease. I am in the process of working on another project that would be a first for Latinas targeting specifically children. I have just recently created the group Latina Podcast Network on Facebook, the first and only group for podcasting dedicated to empowering Latinas to find their voice, hone their message and create thought leadership to serve others while leveraging their brands globally and creating communities locally.
Other steps for Latinas include a continued alliance with Harvard University and an initiative with the White House to continue to expand the reach and impact for Latinas in the United States. This year we will bring Latina Mastermind to the United Nations to continue our efforts in empowering women across the globe. We will be hosting two major expos this year, the first and only one of its kind on Latina Leadership, one in the US and one abroad. We are expanding the program Soy LATINA to bring powerful Latinas from around the US and abroad, to share their expertise with others through the Latina Mastermind Podcast on Latina Leadership. We need to unleash the power within and awaken the sleeping giant of powerful strong Latina women where we can stand side by side, creating our financial legacies and changing the landscape and paradigms for our future generations.
What is the message that you would share with women who see you as their role model?
Stay humble, be authentic, allow your genuineness to shine through, provide value over anything else and it is your responsibility to support others along the way in your journey. Create legacies for your families and for your children as the power to do so lies within each and every single one of us. We are destined for greatness if we allow it. There is someone in this world waiting to hear your message. When we give ourselves the permission, and we come from our place of strength, our core place of love, others understand that they too have the right to shine onto others from their core. Do not compete with others, collaborate and cooperate as it will bring you closer to your goals in a shorter amount of time than going at it alone. “Juntas vamos mas lejos y damos mas duro”. Together we go further and hit harder. We celebrate your success and all of your victories. Powerful Latinas know that to shatter the glass ceiling takes a family, won’t you join mine?