No one can do what you do like you do. It doesn’t matter how many people are out there doing something similar to you. There is room for everyone to grow, but you must embrace what makes you different rather than mimicking what has worked for others in the same space.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melba Tellez.
Melba is the proud founder of Mujeres on the Rise — a community that connects Latina women and provides them with resources and tools to grow their careers and build the life they’ve always wanted.
After successfully overcoming many obstacles, such as dropping out of high school at the age of 16 to help her family financially, Melba is now thriving in her career and aims to empower other women to do the same.
Melba has two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master of Science in Marketing. When she is not empowering women or tackling her next marketing project, you can usually catch her writing or watching reruns of The Office.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my journey with Mujeres on the Rise in 2019 after realizing how hard it was to establish my career as a Latina. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. As a first-generation college student, I was paving my own way, making mistakes, and figuring things out as I went.
In a matter of years, I went from being a high-school dropout to a marketer at a top tech company.
After multiple rejections, career heartbreak, and large doses of fear, I decided to launch Mujeres on the Rise to help other Latinas rise in their desired fields.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Since starting Mujeres on the Rise, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with women all over the world. One time a woman reached out to tell me she tuned into my IG lives and IG stories as often as she did her favorite telenovela, except that she actually gained something of value from watching me. It was the sweetest thing ever.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started, I was offering free resume consultations and career coaching. Yes, you read that right. Anyone that approached me would receive my services 100% free. The funny thing is that on social media, I’m very vocal about my stance on equal pay, and I encourage women to always seek their worth. One day, a friend kindly pointed out that I was not doing that.
He was right. I could not teach self-advocacy without practicing it myself. Soon after, I put together a pricing sheet and started promoting my services.
As an entrepreneur, that experience taught me that you don’t have to pick between profit and purpose. You can make money while making a difference. I have since learned to balance free resources and tips, along with paid services. I also donate 10% of proceeds to non-profit organizations that support women in need.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Mujeres on the Rise helps break cultural and generational barriers by giving Latina women the empowerment, support, and guidance they need to grow their careers and build the life they always wanted but never thought possible.
What makes us different is that we don’t just give women the tools they need. We also help them overcome feelings of inadequacy and the idea that who they are isn’t enough. We do this by featuring other Latinas and sharing the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Our motto is: it does not matter where you start; all that matters is that you do.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Earlier this year, a woman reached out to me because she needed help creating a resume. After being a stay-at-home mom for a few years, she lacked confidence and had no idea where to start. We scheduled a consultation, and in this call, she told me she could not afford my services at the time but that she could pay me after landing a job. I knew she needed help, so I decided to take her on as a client. Together we created a stellar resume that perfectly highlighted her skills and demonstrated how she could add value to an organization. I also provided her with a list of interview preparation resources. If I’m honest, I never expected her to pay me, but just a little over a month after working together, she reached out to tell me she had landed her ideal job, and she paid for my services in full. She told me she loved her new job and was excited about where this would take her.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Communities could teach Latinas the importance of networking, mentorship, and higher education.
Society can help improve representation by connecting people with opportunities and sharing their knowledge/resources with others.
Politicians can honor diversity and inclusivity.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Many people think leadership is all about your job title or seniority at a company. To me, leadership is all about empowering people to be the best version of themselves. You do not need to be a member of the C-Suite to be a leader; you just need to be a positive influence, mentor others, and lead by example.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- That hope is not a strategy. You can’t put something out there and just “hope for the best.” You need to come up with a plan to help you get there. While you do not need to have everything figured out, you should have a general idea of what you are trying to accomplish and then develop a strategy centered around those goals.
- No one can do what you do like you do. It doesn’t matter how many people are out there doing something similar to you. There is room for everyone to grow, but you must embrace what makes you different rather than mimicking what has worked for others in the same space.
- That prioritization is key. As an entrepreneur, you will likely have dozens of things on your to-do list, but not all of them will make sense at the time. It is important to prioritize things that will have the largest impact and leave the rest for later.
- Self-care matters. A good friend once told me, “you can’t fill from an empty cup.” If you don’t take care of yourself first, the quality of your work will not be the same. So take breaks as needed, and let go of the guilt associated with rest.
- You will not get what you don’t ask for. Opportunities are out there — but you can’t expect them to fall into your lap. You need to put yourself out there and make the ask.
You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To get companies and organizations to increase representation. The lack of representation affects us all. If we would all come together to help elevate marginalized groups, we would all be better for it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Just keep swimming — even when it feels like you are swimming against the tide.” During my first two semesters of graduate school, I felt like I wouldn’t make it to graduation. Having dropped out of high school, I missed a lot of the foundational knowledge that my classmates already had, and I didn’t think it was possible to catch up. One day I walked into my finance professor’s office and told him I was struggling with the material in his class, “I feel like I am swimming against the tide,” I said. He then looked at me and told me to just keep swimming. Those words gave me the strength and courage to push through, and they helped me realize that you don’t have to have it all figured out; you just have to keep going.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Dulce Candy. I love the work that she does to empower women and help them feel confident in their skin. I’d love to chat with her about the biggest obstacles she has faced in her career, how she balances work and family life, and her journey to becoming a published author. I’d especially love to pick her brain about what else we can do as Latinas to make an impact in our communities.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow and join our community on Instagram at @mujeresontherise.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!