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Carolina Aponte: I Am Living Proof Of The American Dream

The US continues to be the ‘Land of Opportunities’, I am proof of that. It is the essence of this beautiful country. More entrepreneurs are motivated and inspired to ‘give back’ to their local communities which in turn helps develop financial growth. And the young generation is more empathetic than my generation, my teenage daughters […]

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The US continues to be the ‘Land of Opportunities’, I am proof of that. It is the essence of this beautiful country. More entrepreneurs are motivated and inspired to ‘give back’ to their local communities which in turn helps develop financial growth. And the young generation is more empathetic than my generation, my teenage daughters care about the well being of others, of the environment, and of their community. That gives me great hope for the future.


As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolina Aponte.

Carolina Aponte is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of experience serving clients both large and small. As the CEO of Caja Holdings, Carolina divides her time between business development, client services, consulting and analysis. In a span of 8 years, Carolina has grown Caja Holdings’ revenue an average of 35 percent year over year. Her business provides outsource bookkeeping and fractional CFO services to multi-million-dollar companies, law firms, and diverse small businesses including local CPA firms and Non-profit organizations.

Carolina began her accounting career working on manual ledgers for a Miami law firm. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a degree in Business Management. Afterward, she climbed the corporate ladder at a thriving accounting software company until she moved to North Carolina with her family. There, she used her extensive understanding of tax code, accounting and business management to start a small consulting company to provide clients practical and effective internal accounting and tax-reporting solutions.

She holds a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Entrepreneurship certificate. Carolina is the recipient of the Latin American Businesswoman 2012 Award in Charlotte, NC and the 2017 NAWBO Charlotte Rising Star Award. Also, a recipient of The Mecklenburg Times 2019 Phenoms honoree and 2020 50 Most Influential Women in the Charlotte region. She is also 2020–2021 President of the National Association of Women Business Owners Charlotte and a 2019–2020 Woman Business Owner of the year finalist.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Carolina! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born in Caracas, Venezuela, in the spring of 1967, a year that brought many changes to my family. We, my sister, two brothers and my parents, lived in a small apartment in the city. My dad traveled to the country as a paint salesman. On the night of July 29, 1967, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook Caracas, causing severe damage to the city. After the devastation, my parents packed up our belongings and relocated us to Margarita Island, a beautiful Venezuelan island in the Caribbean Sea, where I grew up and learned many of the skills I now use in my business and everyday life.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?

My dad became an entrepreneur when we relocated to Margarita and as a result of his hard work, he managed to create financial prosperity for our family. In 1980, once my older siblings were either married or had gone off to college, he purchased a home in Miami, Florida, moving my mom and I to the United States where I learned English while attending middle school and part of high school. Unfortunately, in the mid-’80s there was an economic crisis in Venezuela that lead to our family’s bankruptcy. We had to return to our country right before I was to start my senior year of high school. When I returned to Venezuela, I made a promise to my self to return to the USA where I knew I could pursue my dreams of financial independence.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

I came back to the US at the age of twenty with just a couple thousand dollars to my name and lots of dreams and hopes. I was twenty years old with no high-school degree. My job choices were limited, and you would think I was doomed to work a low-wage service job with lots of physical labor. But for whatever reason, I thought differently. I knew a second language, and that was a skill not many people in the professional world had at the time. I was hired as a bilingual receptionist at a criminal law firm where I convinced my supervisor to teach me bookkeeping, which has become the most profitable skill I have learned!

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

Firstly, I am grateful for my mom, Julieta. She made it possible for me to not feel totally intimidated going from a private all-girls school to a public middle school in Miami with kids from all over the world. She made sure when I got home from school that I had a homemade meal and always welcomed the new friends I made.

Secondly, I am grateful to my sister Elizabeth. She opened her home to me while I settled in the new job as a receptionist and once I moved out of her place into a studio apartment of my own, she made sure to invite me over for dinner or for small social gatherings where I was able to make new friends and build a community.

So how are things going today?

As a popular hashtag goes, I’m #livingmybestlife! I am in a great place both professionally and personally. My business Caja Holdings continues to grow while retaining customers year after year, giving me not only financial stability but freedom of time to pursue other aspirations such as writing my first book ‘Pave Your Own Way: Thirteen Skills To Create Your Professional Success.’ It will be available in September and I am hopeful that the personal stories I share in the book will inspire young women to pursue their own path to success.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Becoming an entrepreneur has given me many opportunities to grow as a person and to understand my personal purpose. I am a giver by nature and have had the privilege to volunteer for organizations such as The Sandbox, whose mission is to lock arms with people in our community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs of families when a child is diagnosed with cancer, life-altering, rare or terminal illness.

I am also the current president of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Charlotte Chapter where I spend time leading the board and creating opportunities for our members to grow their businesses and find support when needed. I am of the mindset that if you are able to impact at least one person, then you have lived your purpose.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

The US Immigration system is archaic and has not been updated since the ’80s, creating a bottleneck for individuals who want to follow the rules to live in a country famous for the tag line “where dreams do come true.” First, I would modernize the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system to improve the experience of applicants and oversight. Second, put an end to all family separation, not only for young children from their parents, but also end family separation for children 18 and older, siblings, spouses, and others. If we are a nation that values families, we should work to preserve the integrity of the family. Last, grant DACA recipients legal residence with a short pathway to citizenship, this is their country, the only country they know and love.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

For me, the 5 keys to achieving the American dream are:

1. Learn the language, not just to be able to speak English but to understand the culture and cultural references. It opens up many insights into how people think, how decisions are made, and what to expect.

2. Do all the jobs, from the bottom up. Your understanding of how things work, how to manage people and processes will speed up your progress towards success.

3. Show up for others. Make sure you are present at events, at work, with friends and colleagues, building relationships will open many doors for you.

4. Set goals, write them down, draw a map of how you will achieve your them. This will help you stay on track and when you veer off course, it will bring you back to your what and why.

5. Never forget where you came from. Be your authentic self and invite others to learn about your culture, it will help remind them why they want you to succeed.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

The US continues to be the ‘Land of Opportunities’, I am proof of that. It is the essence of this beautiful country. More entrepreneurs are motivated and inspired to ‘give back’ to their local communities which in turn helps develop financial growth. And the young generation is more empathetic than my generation, my teenage daughters care about the well being of others, of the environment, and of their community. That gives me great hope for the future.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx. She is someone I greatly admire for how she started her business with next to nothing to how she now uses her financial means to help other women achieve success. Plus, she just seems like a really cool gal!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

www.linkedin.com/pub/arlene-carolina-aponte

Twitter and Instagram @carolinainbiz

www.carolinaaponte.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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