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Laura Hartmann and Gladi Colon of H&F Redefined: “Mean what you say and say what you mean”

Having a diversified skillset is critical, you never know when your professional life will get dismantled, so ensure you have developed skills that are cross functional for various types of roles… or your own. This is 100% a lesson I will be teaching to my kids, that I never would have realized was so important until […]

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Having a diversified skillset is critical, you never know when your professional life will get dismantled, so ensure you have developed skills that are cross functional for various types of roles… or your own.

This is 100% a lesson I will be teaching to my kids, that I never would have realized was so important until I was laid off. I had the luxury of working for a global hotel brand that had processes in place, and helped streamline a lot of areas such as PR, marketing, IT, website management, content creation, and now I’m learning alongside Gladi how to do things on my own vs forwarding to another department what I need produced. It’s humbling, but I look at how much I’ve learned to do from watching tutorials, stalking influencer pages, googling, and scouring YouTube to self-teach myself on areas that I took for granted were managed by other people in my past. I’m so proud of all that I’ve learned and it’s empowering to know I can still develop myself, and expand my resume skills.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gladi Colon & Laura Hartmann, Co-Founders of H&F Redefined.

GLADI — Originally from Melbourne, Florida, Gladi now resides in Orlando, Florida where she built her career in hospitality and event management. She is the Director of Event Management at the 1,335 room Caribe Royale Orlando Resort and Co-Founder of H&F Redefined, a promotional network supporting colleagues and peers through their furlough and new business journeys. Gladi is a proud graduate of the University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality, and enjoys cheering on the Knights.

LAURA — Originally from Columbia, Missouri, Laura now resides in Orlando, Florida where she built her career in hospitality and event management. Laura graduated from the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality. While in Orlando, she has worked various positions within the industry across brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton and Waldorf Astoria as Assistant Director of Event Management. Most recently she is now the proud Co-Founder of H&F Redefined, a promotional network supporting colleagues and peers through their furlough and new business journeys. She loves illustrating the stories of their successes as well as her own personal correlations to mom/career life through writing and blogging.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

GLADI:

I grew up in Melbourne, Florida with my three sisters who have always been very close to me. My mom raised us on her own, teaching us along the way to work hard, never give up, live with integrity and most importantly, live by faith. Though we had a humble upbringing, we had more riches than the Queen herself because of the values and morals my mother instilled in us.

LAURA:

I was born in Ohio, however we moved to Columbia, Missouri when I was 5 years old which is where I grew up with my parents and older brother. I immediately developed friendships with a group of girls, from my kindergarten class that I am still friends with to this day. Growing up I spent my free time at my dance studio, as a dedicated competitive dancer which I truly believe helped instill so many important life skills into my soul such as discipline, grace, and the ability to overcome insecurities and fear. Following high-school I moved to Orlando, Florida where I attended college at the University of Central Florida and was fortunate to be selected as a member of the NCAA UCF Dance Team.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

GLADI:

“Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission,” by Zig Ziglar. When I lost my job in March due to the pandemic, I needed to be reminded of my sense of mission. During my first week of unemployment, I heard this quote from my Pastor and it stuck with me. Whatever I do, whoever I talk to, wherever I go, I want to do with intent and purpose, and make all my interaction meaningful.

LAURA:

“When there is a will, there is a way.” Cliche, I know, however this phrase has resonated with me since I was a child. I have always been an independent, stubborn, entrepreneurial minded person, so when I get my stuck on something it’s tough to get me to change my plan. I don’t like to be told NO, because I feel extremely self-aware of my abilities and know I can conquer whatever I put my mind to, based on knowing my own skill set and parameters. For me, once the pandemic hit, and I saw my career begin to dismantle, my drive kicked into gear and this mantra keeps me charged every day to reclaim my life.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

GLADI:

I enjoyed reading As We Speak by Peter Meyers and Shann Nix. The book taught me how to overcome my fear of public speaking and how to get my message across. I’m not perfect, but it gave me a lot of confidence to at least try.

LAURA:

This might sound really silly, however the movie “Pretty Woman” has been a favorite of mine since I was young; in fact way too young to have even watched it! My childhood best friend and I used to sneak watching it at her house, and we would giggle knowing it was inappropriate for us to be viewing. The shopping scene was our favorite of course. To this day it’s my favorite movie. Take the controversial aspect of the storyline out of it for a second, because for me, I love watching Julia Robert’s character face adversity, judgement, insecurity, and low self-worth head on. I love watching her evolve into a women she never dreamed she could be, with a life she didn’t feel she deserved and believe that it’s a great message for all women to know we CAN have it all when we believe in ourself and surround ourselves with those that believe in US.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

GLADI:

Following graduation, I spent time learning the restaurant world as the AGM of a sophisticated and acclaimed signature Italian concept that took residency inside one of Disney’s most famous resorts. Two years after working in restaurants, I was recruited by my mentor to transition to my first position in event management with Hilton in 2009. I worked for Hilton for 10 years in event management and eventually got promoted to Assistant Director of Events & Catering at my Orlando property. Prior to the pandemic I was managing a team of 15 extremely talented event professionals, working about 50 hours a week (on a good week) and executing events with million dollar budgets. I was running at 100mph prior to the pandemic.

LAURA:

I started my first job when I was 14 years old in the hospitality industry at a country club. I worked there through high-school graduation, in conjunction with waitressing at a well-known chain sports bar/wing shop restaurant. While in college, I worked various roles in the hospitality industry to explore and understand the fundamentals of the business from an operations perspective. I spent most of that time as a banquet server for large Orlando resorts, and then transitioned to a Marriott property in a front of house role as Catering Coordinator/Wedding Planner. After over 3 years in that role, I was recruited, like Gladi, by our mentor to work for Hilton. I stayed with the Hilton brand for over 10 years and worked my way up to the Assistant Director of Events role where I helped lead the department and manage/execute/produce multimillion dollar budget programs. Gladi and I held the same title for Hilton at sister properties as the pandemic hit, which ultimately led us to both be furloughed around the same time as well. I was later laid off in August 2020.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

GLADI:

I started a promotional network with my friend, Laura Hartmann, called H&F Redefined. The brand provides an outlet for us to share relatable stories of loss and triumph for people just like us who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and find themselves having to redefine their circumstances, or in other words, not let furlough define who they are.

LAURA: To add to what Gladi said, after doing a lot of soul searching of our own, and remembering who we were as individual’s outside of the careers and titles that defined us for so long, we realized we had other passions and talents that we could turn to and develop. Writing was one of those skills and passions for both of us. Additionally, I was eager to create a platform or outlet to dump my conceptual and creative ideas and concepts into without the need to seek approval for HOW or WHEN to utilize and apply each one.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

GLADI:

Laura and I, best friends with the same job title who were furloughed around the same time, decided we would start a blog about our career woes and the irony behind it all. As we were brainstorming ideas for that, we started to talk about all the people who are in similar situations who are starting their own businesses. Then it dawned on us that we should be writing about these people and promoting their small business.

LAURA:

I remember my brain was just spinning with ideas and the yearning to build and do something positive, something GOOD. I watched not just myself, and my best friend have our careers stripped away in an instant, but my peers as well. My talented and successful peers/colleagues that were like family to me in many ways. It really made my heart ache to know the level of talent that had been benched, with no idea on what the future would hold. Slowly I watched some of these colleagues begin to develop side hustles, or start YouTube channels and it occurred to me as I found myself becoming their sideline cheerleader, that growing awareness to THESE types of success stories was my calling. They needed to be applauded for not settling with the finality of their terms. They needed to be believed in and supported and motivated, and suddenly the stars just started to align and Gladi and I began connecting the dots for how to bring the mechanics of H&F Redefined together to achieve our vision.

How are things going with this new initiative?

GLADI:

Great! The support has been tremendous and we are hearing from people all over the nation who want to collaborate. We have a steady following on social media and are humbled to have over 500 followers on LinkedIn and Facebook despite just launching at the end of September.

LAURA:

We are so humbled by the response we have received thus far. I have to say, it feels incredibly rewarding and just overall really healthy to go to sleep every night knowing that the work we are doing is genuinely coming from our hearts and intended to help and support others. The best part, it’s all on our terms, and our timeline. We’ve recently had the honor to be guests on a local podcast, as well as guests on a women empowerment based talk show, and we have a few more appearances scheduled for 2021 that we are excited for to continue to grow awareness for H&F Redefined.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Gladi:

My mom, Dalia Griswold. She sacrificed everything to ensure I had a good future. She cheered me on at my first job, help me get into college and search for scholarships, and was there for every high and low.

LAURA:

My parents, family, husband and kids are always my rocks and foundation for me to find purpose with what I do, however I have to say that from where I sit now, Gladi is that person for me that has kept me afloat through this pandemic. She’s been that moral compass for me, and my everyday confidant that I could open up to about the daily emotions or feelings of what it feels like to lose my career. In some ways it’s felt like I’ve been mourning my job, and there has been comfort in knowing she understands what I’m going through. She’s always been my #1 hype girl, instilling confidence in me, and believing in me when I can’t muster it up for myself. Her friendship is one of the most special pieces of my life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

GLADI:

I rediscovered my passion for writing. I used to write a lot in high school and was passionate about writing in the high school newspaper. Somehow, I stop learning about writing and eventually just forgot all about it until I was furloughed. When we interviewed our first feature story, I was so inspired after that call that I immediately went to my laptop and starting writing. It flowed so naturally and then I remembered how much I like to write

LAURA:

I am the proud mommy of two little boys, ages 4 and 2, who have only ever known me as a working career person prior to the pandemic. When I was laid off, and my professional life came to a halt, I was suddenly catapulted into a new change of pace as a stay at home mom. It has been such a huge pivot for me to retrain myself on how to be a mom, in a different way. I have felt a lot of self-doubt and even feelings of failure at times. When we started H&F Redefined, I began to realize that I could also use the blog platform as an opportunity for me to incorporate them into the project and soon they began to inspire a lot of the lifestyle blog content that I write about. It’s been really therapeutic and a way for me to process my own personal growth while trying to rebuild a career.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

GLADI:

Mean what you say and say what you mean. No, really, I mean it… if you don’t want something you said to come back around to you, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it at all.

LAURA:

1.) How much work social media management is, and all the nuances and tricks required to keep up with each platform, as well as the tools within each one for best exposure.

Before we launched H&F, I was not a huge social media person. I posted occasionally some fun/cute selfies and loved to share what my little boys were up to but having a social media strategy was never on my mind. Now, I absolutely love the strategy and creativity that goes with building content and unlocking the tricks on how to post or create certain formats from a marketing perspective, but it’s time consuming. Fortunately, I’ve got time considering I was laid off, so I’m going to use it wisely and self-teach myself how to gain exposure in a digital capacity with the mindset that worst case scenario I’m building my own skill set, and helping applaud our Innovators.

2.) You can build your own schedule, everything is on your terms.

I’ve never “worked for myself” until now, and still that’s a very loose term. I’m someone that when hired by a company, is 100% all in, sometimes more, and even to a fault. I would never allow myself to fail, or turn in mediocre work, so I’ve had a bad habit of letting my job hit the top of my priority list for too many years. Now, working for myself, I find that drive and motivation kicking back in and know that my soul needs some type of professional purpose, but in a healthy way. One of the most empowering parts about launching a brand on our own, is we get to do it on our own terms, without any approvals except one another’s. When life gets busy and pulls our attention, we can easily say.. “well just tackle it tomorrow.”

3.) The extreme amount of difficulty it is to try to build a brand/company from home with little ones running around.

Technically I’ve now gone from being a full blown, workaholic career mommy undergoing the screeching halt transition of turning into a stay at home mom overnight. I realized early on after I was initially furloughed that my heart and soul needed an outlet to retain a sense of professionalism and connection to my beloved industry. With that said, with the financial impacts of the pandemic on our household, my boys are only at school 3 days a week now so I’m trying to juggle multiple hats without the buffer of “going into the office.” They show me no mercy, and climb, ninja kick, and beg for entertainment or someone to play baseball and football with when I need to be staying on track with H&F, yet I know they come first. It’s tough trying to build this in front of them, as it puts me in a position of saying “no” sometimes so I can invest on my future, but also sacrifice memories with my kids.

4.) Having a diversified skillset is critical, you never know when your professional life will get dismantled, so ensure you have developed skills that are cross functional for various types of roles… or your own.

This is 100% a lesson I will be teaching to my kids, that I never would have realized was so important until I was laid off. I had the luxury of working for a global hotel brand that had processes in place, and helped streamline a lot of areas such as PR, marketing, IT, website management, content creation, and now I’m learning alongside Gladi how to do things on my own vs forwarding to another department what I need produced. It’s humbling, but I look at how much I’ve learned to do from watching tutorials, stalking influencer pages, googling, and scouring YouTube to self-teach myself on areas that I took for granted were managed by other people in my past. I’m so proud of all that I’ve learned and it’s empowering to know I can still develop myself, and expand my resume skills.

5.) You’ll find out who are genuinely your real supporters, and unfortunately sometimes the truth hurts.

The most interesting thing to me about social media is that the reactions are so real time, and so exposing. You get to see who “liked,” “shared,” commented or followed your content. And you also get to see or notice who DIDN’T. I can see who has subscribed to my blog, and who hasn’t. I can see who has commented or acknowledged my raw posts, and I can’t help but take notice who has taken the time to reach out by text, email, comments, etc. to cheer us on and offer support when knowing the hardship we are crawling out of. I’m so thankful and blessed for our Innovators, as they know this same sentiment, and at the end of the day we can understand one another maybe even more than some of our closest family and friends due to the common circumstances we face.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

GLADI:

Yes, pray and turn towards God, Jesus is the reason for the season!

LAURA:

It’s been really important to me to take time every day for ME. Some days it’s going on a long walk, other days It’s starting the day with a cup of coffee and my prayer book, and then there are days that I stay up late and catch up on my Bravo Housewives with a glass of wine. I just need that time to recalibrate so I can be the best version of myself for my husband, and kids. It also helps me curate a creative and healthy space to write and develop content for H&F when I’m in a personal growth mindset.

You are both people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

GLADI:

Furlough Redefined Movement. Encouraging people to hire furlough, shop furlough and support our furloughed professionals.

LAURA: #furloughredefined, it’s what we are doing right now and deeply passionate about. The world as it is today, needs empathy, collaboration, and organizations that are rooted in wanting to help the common good of humanity.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

GLADI:

Chris Nassetta, the CEO/President of Hilton Worldwide. I think it would be nice to share with him what so many Hilton employees are doing to pivot.

LAURA: eek ok I think I would say Kate Patay, a recognized hospitality/event industry leader that focuses on brand strategy, sales, speaking engagements and meetings/event consulting. I choose Kate because I love her passion and niche focus on the same industry that I’m in love with and would really want to hear what her perspective is on H&F Redefined. I would value her advice, feedback, and suggestions for how to scale the brand, as well as get the most exposure and momentum going for us and each of our innovators. She seems like someone I would genuinely be friends with, and have a fun girls lunch with to not only talk “shop” but also “shopping.”

How can our readers follow you online?

LINK TO WEBSITE: www.hfredefined.com

Gladi:

Instagram: @hfredefined

LinkedIn: H&F Redefined

Facebook: @hfredefined

LAURA:

SAME AS ABOVE BUT ALSO PERSONALLY:

Instagram: @lhartmann1384

LinkedIn: Laura Hartmann

Facebook: @laurahartmann

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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