My Unusual Path to Launch a New Business

Woman on a path to entrepreneurship Latin Business Today

Understanding the value of stepping away from a large corporation to build my Hispanic business

This is my entrepreneurial story.

Like many Hispanic businesspeople Fortune 500 companies are great to work with until they interfere with your core values. That’s the situation I found myself in September 2001. The dot-com bust was still making its way through corporate America, the Enron debacle was about to hit the fan and the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists killing thousands. Because New York City was my hometown, 9/11 hit me hard. Add to that a second divorce and it’s no wonder a deep personal quest ignited within me.

As the economy fell apart, I began to notice things about my job that no longer worked for me. Each morning upon arriving in the parking lot at the Monarch building in Buckhead, the sophisticated financial hub of Atlanta, a ritual of makeup readjustment as I wiped the tears to take on another day of area manager duties became the norm. That’s when I knew something had to change. I could not go on another day.

The choice to leave behind a bright career with an S&P Company, five weeks of vacation, a six-and-a-half figure income, solid benefits and the “security” of a stable company – all things most single moms would have died to have – was not made lightly. My friends thought it was crazy, mostly because I had two teen-age sons in high school and was raising them alone. But when your source of joy is threatened, you must take action, and you must take it now.

The Porn Connection

Shortly after resigning I was at the Brio restaurant in Buckhead for a lunch interview with the president of a company that had acquired a patent for an airport security technology, a hot commodity item for the times. The interview was for a VP of Sales position, a job I could do with my eyes closed.

Lily Winsaft
Founder and Principal Alehabran Associates

Lily Winsaft
Founder & Principal

As I sat on a bench outside the restaurant waiting for my interviewer, the warm October day enveloped me its Indian Summer sunlight steaming down on my bare shoulders. I felt alive and renewed, free from the reins of a company that was so focused on numbers they forgot about the people. The freedom to pursue my dreams was finally mine although I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. There was a thought to get out of recruiting lurking in my head and it seemed the right thing to do. A new resume and direction were in order. But today was about exploring and I had no expectations one way or the other.

My prayers had already been said and I trusted the universe more than ever before. Suddenly two gentlemen walked out of the restaurant and gave their ticket to the valet. The tall and handsome one locked eyes with me and we began a dialogue that changed the course of my life forever. Turns out he was the CFO of an Atlanta company that owned 12 adult toy stores. He had just fired his senior staff accountant and hired me to find a candidate to fill that position. That’s why I say “I got my start in pornography.” Everyone sits at the edge of their seat and then laughs somewhat disappointedly when I tell the story.

It took me four weeks to find a staff accountant that would be willing (or allowed) to work in an adult entertainment environment. When the client paid my fee I hired someone to create a website, found an artist to draw my logo, got business cards printed, registered the company with the state, applied for a business license and never looked back.

Failure is not an Option

Over the years there have been many challenges but I have persevered through sheer determination and passion. Many times I’ve wanted to quit but the universe sent an angel to straighten me out. Once it was my oldest son saying, “Mom, failure is not an option.” How could I disappoint him? There was the yoga instructor that taught me the magic of clearing the flow of energy in my meridians. It got me out of a deep depression when paying even basic bills had become an issue. Releasing the pent up energy in my body through yoga exercises got things moving again and I closed a handful of deals that had been “stuck” in a sort of a stalemate. There were a few angel investors who believed in me and put financial backing into the company, the last one becoming my partner; to this day he continues to add clear value. A strong inner drive has prevented me from even once considering that being a Hispanic business person, being a woman or not having capital are reasonable excuses to not make it as an entrepreneur.

It’s never mattered that the odds were not in my favor. Ignoring statistics can be beautifully powerful.

Lily Winsaft’s talent firm Aldebaran Recruiting is going strong, now a family venture.

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