Top 10 Things Learned as an Entrepreneur
UPDATE March 17, 2022
Since the posting of this article, Gaby has continued to make new career achievements. She’s grown The Colibri Collective to reach new heights and achieve new accolades. In 2021, under Gaby’s leadership, our Collective was lauded with eight national awards in the political industry from Campaigns & Elections and the American Association of Political Consultants. She herself was awarded the Anti-Corruption Award from Independent Voters, Outstanding Woman in Business from Phoenix Business Journal, and Woman Achiever of Arizona from Arizona Capitol Times. Gaby launched and delivered on iconic projects from Valle del Sol’s 50th Anniversary/Profiles of Success Gala and ACLU’s Border Humanity Project, now an award-winning achievement. Most significantly, she’s managed to expand the business with clients and team members who align with her values.
When asked to reflect on the past year, Gaby had this to say:
“One moment that stands out is when Phoenix Business Journal named The Colibri Collective a Best Place to Work. The fact that we were so high in these rankings as one of the newest businesses listed is not lost on me. We create quality work that mobilizes people and delivers on goals for our clients. At the same time, I make sure that our office is a fun and fulfilling place where everyone has a voice. If there’s one takeaway I’d like to share with those considering starting their own business, it’s that leading with your values pays off. Always stay true to what you believe in.
Lastly, as women, it's so important for us to uplift each other and find a village of likeminded women, especially in an industry like marketing that's dominated by men. We can empower each other if we come together.”
Gaby Cardenas, our CEO, founded the first Latina-owned digital marketing firm in Phoenix, Arizona, with the goal of championing social good in her community. Since then, our Collective has taken flight. Our work creates notable buzz as we bring campaigns to life, helping our partners’ businesses reach new heights. Gaby shares the following 10 insights for rising entrepreneurs.
Follow your instincts. Gaby has had the spirit of an entrepreneur since she was a young girl, inspired by her parents’ forward-thinking business acumen. Founding her own business was only a matter of time. Throughout her career in media, she continuously built cause-marketing campaigns out of a passion for giving back to her community. She drew resources to communities in need and promoted causes like public health, education, and civic engagement. By following her instincts and her heart, Gaby built an award winning marketing and advertising agency that combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her passions and values.
Always keep learning. As a small business owner, it’s critical to embrace change. Sometimes people can be hesitant because change is intimidating, but the future of business begins with small changes. Technology and culture are continually shifting and, especially as a marketing firm, we must keep up with the times. Gaby is a lifelong learner and that perspective has kept The Colibri Collective at the leading edge of innovations in digital marketing. Gaby encourages all members of the collective to continue learning and share new skills. Currently, Gaby was selected to take part in the competitive Small Business Administration Emerging Leaders Program 2021.
Make a business plan. Your vision should be crafted. It is why a business plan is essential and serves as a roadmap prior to launching your business. Always keeping in mind the need to pivot, Gaby continually reflects on her business plan as it often serves as a platform to remind herself that taking the road with the least resistance may not be the most successful route. As new updates in business and technology emerge, make sure to change your plan accordingly.
Prepare for scale. Operations is the heart of the business, even more so as the company grows. When you scale, be strategic. Head count matters only if you maximize skill set. Gaby always uses a rule of thumb: “hire slow-fire fast.” Remind yourself that adding to the team should add value and not bring disruption. We have a team that leads with their heart and we keep this in mind when we interview our candidates. It's important to hire experts to support the growth of the team, whether that's CPAs, consultants, advisors, coaches, or legal counsel.
Barriers happen; break them. As an agency based in Phoenix, Arizona, The Colibri Collective continually proves we are capable of building successful campaigns anywhere. The extent of our work reaches from coast to coast starting in California and Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, and extending to Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York. As a digital marketing firm run by a Latina, we show our strategic thinking with our unique eye for design in an area where men dominate the field. Entrepreneurs will face barriers because of gender, race, identity, and even more. With consistency and impactful delivery of high-quality work, Gaby has been able to break those barriers.
Pivot. Entrepreneurs must be capable of pivoting their business to respond to all kinds of challenges. Pandemics happen. Politics shift. Historic events reshape our country. Clients change. By focusing on the essential business principles like maintaining the central ideals of her business plan, and preparing operations properly, Gaby has been able to successfully pivot The Colibri Collective through cultural and business shifts.
Say “no.” When Gaby first started The Colibri Collective, it was easiest to say “yes” to every opportunity. As Gaby continued to grow the business, she began to discern between partners who were genuinely invested in communities of color and those who were simply checking a box. By being selective as The Colibri Collective grew, Gaby has been able to ensure that her team members, their expertise, and their communities are treated with the utmost respect.
Build a network of mentors and supporters. Supportive mentorship can bolster an entrepreneur’s success. Even entrepreneurs who were already working in the industry—like Gaby with her media experience—can learn so much from others. By listening to the advice of her network, Gaby has been connected to resources that helped her build a stronger business.
Mentor and support others. Mentorship is two-sided; just as others share their connections and resources, so must we. Gaby believes in the importance of empowering others, whether that’s through connecting her entrepreneurial peers with resources she’s utilized or mentoring her team through professional development. Gaby continues to foster a new pipeline of talent with our mentorship-focused Colibri Fellowship - an Internship Program. Mentorship and building leadership supports small business operations in the long-term.
Invest in your team. As a company grows, it is crucial to ensure that new team members match the existing company culture and values. At The Colibri Collective, potential employees are asked about their community involvement, their passions and values, and their advocacy. Gaby also strongly believes in equal pay and servant leadership. Her driving principle of empowerment guides everything The Colibri Collective does, from team building and leadership to partnerships and campaigns.
And the most important: never allow anyone to clip your wings! Taking the leap was the best decision for Gaby.
These values and insights from Gaby Cardenas have led The Colibri Collective to become the marketing and advertising powerhouse that we are today. We are looking forward to our future as we elevate strategies and lead in cutting-edge design. Thank you for your continued support; our clients and partners are the heart of our success.