Forté Foundation
Career Lab Virtual Campus

My Role Model is a Woman Too

By Maria Flores Gandaria

October 24, 2017

The thought of opening my own business never crossed my mind until I was a freshman in college. My mother had two failed businesses so I believe that, at first, having witnessing those experiences first-hand truly discouraged me from even trying.

Initially, I would have wanted to open a coffee shop in front of Central Park; nowadays, I want to open my own national non-profit, and event planning business (catering and photography services included, of course!).

This semester, however, I have become the best version of myself; in desperate efforts of getting involved after having submerged myself in giving campus tours and providing academic advising to incoming students for two years, I no longer knew what to do after I had to kiss my Orientation Advisor nametag goodbye.

Luckily, the answers to my pleading would be found in an organization that was tabling in front of the gym.

I joined a professional event planning organization, and little did I know that my dues would be the key to a world of networking opportunities—one of the speakers we have had in the past would offer to pay for my International Live Events Association membership!

Such “keys” grants me access to workshops with experts in the industry, and leaves open plenty of space for academic and personal growth. We are always told that networking is a skill that we should foster throughout our years in college, and that statement has been as real as ever.

During one of our meetings, I met a local business and non-profit founder, Nycia Emerson; she is the face behind She Inspires. I had just experienced a panic attack earlier that day, and I thought of missing that meeting, I am glad that I did not because I was one step closer from figuring out one of my purpose in life.

I saw pieces of myself reflected in her, not only a passion for life seems to radiate from eyes, but she is also a mother; if it is written in the universe,  I would like to become a business woman and a mother too.

Like many of us, Mrs. Emerson started her business from the ground up, and it has been a long and difficult process—through the financial and personal difficulties she has still manage to thrive and succeed. Her confidence reminded me of the importance in embracing our talents, while acknowledging our weaknesses as well.

Let’s admit it, girls. We will never be Wonder Women, as nice as flying across the globe sounds, but we DO have the power of changing communities through our unique capabilities.

Because of Nycia, and the supportive group of young college women I get to work with daily, this past week I launched my first small photography business. I assume it is official since I just booked a client for next week.


Student by day, writer by night. Maria Flores is a Social Work student at the University of Texas at Austin, she is also currently pursuing a BS in Communication and Leadership. She is an advocate for mental health, and unapologetically proud of being an immigrant. Her goals as a writer are to become a voice for the voiceless and to change the world—in accordance with her school’s motto.

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