From Professional Ballerina to Business Woman
It sounds like the plotline of a movie: vivacious professional ballerina of 11 years quits to manage the family natural fruit pulp business in the Dominican Republic.
While it’s not a movie (yet), and as Estefany Marte pointed out, most movie plots would likely go the opposite direction – manager to ballerina. But, it’s her true story.
After graduating from the National School of Dance in the in 2009, Estefany would sometimes go help her dad at his 30-year-old company. She recounted that she quickly, and unexpectedly “fell in love with the business.” Without regret, she quit dancing in 2010 to become a successful business woman and the General Manager of A.M. Frutas y Vegetales SRL.
In her three years at A.M. Frutas y Vegetales SRL, her drive, passion and leadership has helped change Santo Domingo’s fresh fruit landscape, and rally the market around quality – the core of their business philosophy: from the farmers, to the factory, to the local grocery stores and restaurants. Today, she is working with her team (which she speaks so very highly of) to get the company ready for the international market. She is also passionate about teaching women to believe in themselves, and their potential for entrepreneurship, which permeates her daily life and work.
Estefany was recently selected to participate in a new U.S. Department of State’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) Initiative. She was kind enough to sit down with us last week and answer a few questions about her career path, lessons learned, and her goals for the future:
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
“[I’ve learned] not only in business but also in my life, that the perfect moment is now. Even if you don’t understand it, you will – everything happens to for a reason. You have to do it when you feel most inspired, not be scared, not be afraid; whatever the consequences, that is the way it has had to happen. I’ve made good deals, and bad deals, but they have all taken me somewhere, and in that place I’ve learned a lot. I think everyone around me has seen that progress. At the end I always say, “You know that thing that happened last year? It had to happen because now I’m here, I got this.”
What do you think has made you successful?
“I have to say the ballet gave me discipline. It gave me the knowledge that if you want something, you really have to work for it, it is not going to fall from the sky. So everyone around me knows when I want something, I have to get it, and I work for it until I get it. It’s about being inspired by what I do, being driven. Every day if I feel like if I take a step, and it can be a small one, not a mile, [then] I feel like I’m achieving. Every day I work for it, work really really hard…I go for it – I’m not scared of getting what I want.”
What do you think are the keys to success for women in your country?
“For women in my country, there is common problem of women not believing in themselves. Latin American culture is male-dominated, but I think things are changing. Right now we have many female presidents, and our vice president is a woman too. It is about empowering women from within. They have to understand they can do it. It doesn’t matter if you give them money, the [right] tools, the training – if they don’t believe it, they aren’t going to do anything with it.”
“I am trying to work with the women in my community and the women around me. They have an amazing capacity, but they don’t think they can have their own business. I am trying to make them understand it is possible and you can do it. My dad started selling pineapples from his truck, and now he has this big business. We love it, and I am proud of it. If he did that, if I did, YOU CAN DO IT. It is not a matter of money, that ‘She’s rich, so she can do it’, or other excuses. You can get there if you really want to! It is possible if you work for it, whatever you want.”
Do you have any mentors?
“Yes! My dad is my mentor. He really respects me, by the fact that he lets me make my own mistakes; he respects the decisions I make. I learn from him, and I don’t feel pushed. I feel more encouraged to do things my way, and learn from them. But I ask him ‘How would you do this?’ He has been there for me all the time. I think it is really important as a mentor that he or she doesn’t force you to do things their way, but walk your own path and make your own decisions and just be a support to you.”
What are current your goals and dreams?
“I really want to take my business to another level while I maintain the values and philosophy of quality we are working on. I really respect it and feel confident about it. I want to introduce myself to the international market. The U.S. Department of State’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) Initiative has opened my eyes. I felt I wanted it but wasn’t taking the steps towards it, so now I am really focused. I really know I am going to do it and hoping to make it happen a year or two from now. Another personal a goal of mine is to see fruits for women entrepreneurship, and start a mentoring program…so women can get help with their businesses.”
“I am blessed that I work with people that love what they do. I try to surround myself with people who feel that way, [who] love what they do. I love my job – it is awesome. It doesn’t feel like you are working [because you] are all going towards the same goal. [When] we take a step forward, it is a team achievement.”
“All my life I thought I was going to be in a tutu and a dressing room, and now I think, ‘How did I end up in business?’” she laughed. “It was the toughest personal decision I’ve ever had to make, but there’s not a single day I regret it, because it allowed me to get fully involved in my family’s business and I LOVE IT.”
Inspired by Estefany? Follow her on Twitter.