I’m the Co-Founder and COO of Paladin, which is streamlining corporate social responsibility (CSR) by building a global pro bono marketplace where professionals—starting with lawyers—connect with personalized pro bono opportunities and companies can track their positive impact. As a Latina with experience at the Justice Department, I’m passionate about serving underrepresented groups and mobilizing professionals to increase access to justice for those who need it most.
Is entrepreneurship something that anyone can tackle? What is the most important thing to consider?
Being a successful entrepreneur requires passion, resilience, and determination. Start-ups can be all encompassing and stressful, but if you’re passionate about your work, you’ll be able to inspire yourself and others to give it their all. Entrepreneurs are naturally challenging the status quo and are thus often met with resistance and rejection, so using those experiences as motivation is key. Lastly, the best entrepreneurs I know love tackling problems and are determined to find creative solutions at every turn. That scrappiness and willingness to do whatever it takes can be the difference between success and failure.
Is it important to have mentors and mentor other people? Why?
As a first-generation college student, I relied on older students and mentors to help me navigate the college and career scene. Their experiences and advice helped me focus on what was important and to not worry about the little things. Just knowing that they believed in and supported me gave me the confidence I needed to navigate tough situations. Mentoring has been such an integral part of my life that I’m passionate about paying it forward, which is why I serve as a mentor for Almaworks, a Columbia University-based accelerator program, and separately advise about half a dozen start-ups, most of which are run by women. It’s exciting to be in a position where I can pass along best practices I’ve learned first hand to help others develop.
How important is it to have co-founders and focus on building a strong team? Do you have any tips you can share with us when hiring/meeting new people?
Your team is your (and your company’s) most important asset. Co-founders are especially important because they balance your strengths and weaknesses, as we’re prone to surrounding ourselves with like-minded thinkers. Thus, I try to always hire people smarter than I am and who challenge the way I think. For example, my wonderful co-founder Felicity is a great high-level thinker and very conceptual, whereas I’m much more execution-oriented, so we’re able to push each other and balance work in a complementary way.
Why do you think now is the time to be a female entrepreneur? Do you believe that times are changing for the better? Is it harder being a female entrepreneur or do you think it doesn’t really matter?
Being a female entrepreneur definitely has its challenges; I hear stories about or observe discrimination on a regular basis. However, because there are more successful female entrepreneurs in the space than ever before, we have a chance to equal the playing field by utilizing our momentum to bring other women into the fold. Only by creating an inclusive and empowering environment can we continue breaking barriers.
What does it mean to “be successful”?
Success to me is giving back and improving others. Whether that’s through my work at Paladin, through personal mentorship, or through friends and family relationships, I’ll be successful if I’ve made everyone better in some way, including myself!