Balanced Hustler: Meet Yai Vargas, CEO & Founder of The Latinista
Being an entrepreneur can seem glamorous. We own our schedules, build our companies based on work we love—and sometimes we can even work beachside. But the glamour is second in command to the hustle.
The hustle is what really defines the ups and downs of the entrepreneurship journey. And to shed some light on the work it takes to build a business, I’m interviewing fellow entrepreneurs who are ready to get real about their journeys. I’ll ask them how they manage to balance the hustle with the passion of what they do, and they’ll share what they had to overcome to get where they are today. It’s all in service of inspiring, supporting and illuminating the path for you, and we’re calling it the #BalancedHustler.
Yai Vargas is a powerhouse. She’s the founder and CEO of The Latinista, a platform that helps women invest in their career development through interactive workshops. Not only does the Dominican Republic-born, New York-based hustler regularly consult with corporations like NBC Sports, she also created a membership program where women can hone their entrepreneurship and career skills to help them meet their goals. She’s methodical and organized and I love how she opens up about her multi-year plan to make her side hustle into her full-time career. Here’s how Yai Vargas balances the hustle.
Fast Facts: Yai Vargas
When did you launch The Latinista?
The Latinista started seven years ago.
In one sentence, tell us why you started The Latinista.
I had a natural market of women professionals around me who wanted to learn new skills and get ahead in their careers. They didn’t know how—I wanted to build that community.
How much did you invest to get the business started?
The domain name and hosting site is always the first real step—so I’d say about $200.
How did you get capital to start?
How long did it take for the business to get profitable?
Two years because when I first started, it wasn’t for the purpose of making money—it was to help a community. Now, it’s absolutely a business.
Are you growing your business to sell? Or this is your dream job and you want to be doing this in 10 years?
I am always thinking of and sharing new ideas—I have tons of them. I wouldn’t mind selling to the right brand, as long as I still had some influence in decision making. Besides, I’d just start another business—I love thinking of new biz ideas.
How many hours a week do you work when you started vs now?
I worked both a full-time corporate position and this as a side hustle, which was really another full-time [job] since I worked on it every night and weekends. Now, since I’ve left corporate this past year, I get to do Latinista, among other parts of my business. Some days I work 14 hours, some I only work 4. I love the balance.
How many employees do you have?
Just me and a great team of brand ambassadors and an intern.
What two business goals do you have for 2019?
- Work smarter, not harder—I’ll be learning to use more productivity tools.
- Bring in a significant sponsor that aligns well with my community and have them underwrite most of my programming.
How Yai Balances the Hustle
Yai, you left a solid career track at New York Life to go full-time into The Latinista. How long did you work on The Latinista before you went full-time? And when did you know it was time?
I had built this community for about six years before I decided to go full-time. I started to get opportunities outside of my full-time job that really aligned with what I wanted to do in the community and for my personal brand—I became frustrated when I wasn’t able to do the work in the community when it was interfering with my full-time career. I started to say, “I can’t keep passing these amazing opportunities up! I want to be out there helping women invest in their career skills, and not here!”
How did you prepare for that leap?
I got connected to The Financial Gym where they helped me with my saving, budgeting and exit strategy. I knew that if I saved enough, I wouldn’t have to be under too much pressure to accept clients I didn’t want to work with and take the time to really think about my business goals.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to take their side hustle full-time?
Save at least two years worth of your living expenses and sit with a management consultant who will help you figure out all the income streams and monetization opportunities in your business.
Tell us a little about your experience being a WOC in the business world. You’ve really capitalized on your heritage by weaving it into the ethos of what you do. Why was that important and how has it benefited you?
When I graduated from college, I asked myself what would differentiate me from all the other students studying the same thing and going for the same marketing and communications jobs. I realized I could use my Spanish language and understanding of the Latino/Hispanic experience as a plus. I then used this to fuel my career. Every opportunity I embarked on was focused on the Latino consumer experience. It’s important for me to be the subject matter expert in this field. Now, both of my businesses focus on the statistics, data and understanding of this culture. These companies are looking for innovators that have a history and understand the nuances as well as the background of the experience.
You have branches of your business is three cities. How do you balance multi-city “offices”?
I have found some really great brand ambassadors who are passionate about doing this work and also see it as an already built-in ecosystem they don’t have to recreate. I built this community for them so that they can use this to thrive and carry out their leadership skills. It’s taken me awhile to let go of the reigns, but when you have great people working alongside you, it makes it easier!
What do you hold onto tightly to keep yourself sane?
Sleep! I’ve never been one to like night working—it’s just not me. I’m extremely focused when I do work and I make sure to list out my top three must dos for the day. As long as those get done, all the others are cherries on top. I don’t sacrifice sleep because I know it’s important to my sanity—I’m also aware that to be successful, you need to wake up early and focus on getting your emails out of the way early in the day. I am a zero inbox type of gal.
You teach career development and success. What do you do to stay on top of trends + keep yourself and your business moving forward?
I don’t have much time to consume books or podcasts, so I get a lot of my knowledge from LinkedIn articles and industry peer posts—they are always keeping me up to date with marketing, tools, trends and events.
Yai’s Advice for Entrepreneurs
What is something I didn’t ask you about being an entrepreneur, about the journey/hustle that you wish I had?
Asking your community, friends and family, and fellow colleagues for help is crucial. An entrepreneur can’t do it alone—not when the business you’re building includes accounting, graphics, event planning, building, media and so much more. We need to know where our time and energy is most valuable and have others help you build the rest.
What failure have you learned most from?
In building a team, it’s so important to take every intern, brand ambassador or partner position seriously. As simple as you think a role may be, I’ve learned to write a description, interview and have a signed contract—that way all parties are aware of what their responsibility is—even if it’s not a paid opportunity. The more structure and professionalism you take with each role, the more each candidate will reciprocate.
So you must have hired someone who didn’t work out. What did you do to overcome that?
I sat with a management consultant and they gave me language for contracts that included responsibilities, timelines and payment options.
What is your number one piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Make sure you’ve got various verticals for income working at the same time. You’ve got to be able to monetize so much more than just your core work. You have skills, connections, resources and talents you can monetize. If you love what you do, perhaps you can teach others how you’ve done it. Public speaking, workshops, webinars—those are all opportunities for you to have other income streams.
What does being a #BalancedHustler mean to you?
It’s certainly something I practice. It means doing what it takes to get the job done—even if it’s 20 hours of work a day and then taking the time to do absolutely nothing the following day. If you are a natural born hustler, you know it’s not sustainable to do it every day—you must know when to rest and repeat.
Want more inspiro and tactical advice from female entrepreneurs? Check out our full #BalancedHustler series.