Ep. 149: How this global advocate helps empower women to pursue their career goals with Ingrid Harb
In this episode, I speak with Ingrid Harb who is a global advocate and International speaker from Texas who founded the Women Ambassadors Forum while still in college.
Since starting her forum, Ingrid has since partnered with over 50 Fortune 500 Companies and created over ten global forums and local forums that have reached women from over 95 countries.
Listen on to find out how Ingrid has been able to empower women around the world to pursue their career goals regardless of social, economic, racial or cultural background.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m so excited to be here with Ingrid. Hey Ingrid, how are you?
Hi! I’m so excited to be here. I’m good.
Thank you so much for being here, Ingrid, and I never have met in person. But we were put together by Peggy who is creating this incredible book about branding and marketing and we were fortunate enough to be in it together. So I’m really excited to learn a lot from you and your story, Ingrid.
Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. We’re just digital friends which is not a very common thing but I’m sure we’ll meet soon.
So before we get to all of the tips and tricks that you will give us, can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?
I was born in Texas but raised in Mexico and I actually left Mexico when I was sixteen because of the drug war. So it’s a very unsafe place for me to be at and my parents wanted me to go back to Texas to get my education.
So long story short, I had a lot of counselors in high school telling me that I wasn’t smart enough because I was coming from the Mexican educational system, which is very different from the U.S. educational system. I wasn’t adopting as fast and I came as a junior which many people know that’s like the hardest year and the defining year for getting into college.
So, I ended up having other people and my mother being like, “No, you gotta do it. Apply like you’re gotta get in.” And I feel like I was the first in my family to be able to have the freedom to go to University.
My mom went to University too but she then married my dad and kind of gave up her career. I was the first to be able to fully explore like go full-on and have all the dreams that I wanted. I got into college and then I studied in a Sociology class.
I saw the statistics on women and I knew that my culture was very hard on women. It’s definitely changing but it really, really threw me off, right? I was looking at statistics of how some women, after two years working for corporations, drop because of the culture and the mindset I was like, “Oh my God, I need to do something.”
So, I got a few friends together over a glass of wine. I was legal by then… I believe. We got together and we started talking about how we wanted to empower women and how we wanted to really make a change. We started with an on-campus organization called She Leaders and is meant for students helping empower leaders.
After that organization, I was like, “I want to do more.” And that’s where I was invited to go to this MIT and Harvard conference in Mexico and I saw the dynamic of it. I saw everything about it and I was like, “I have to do this. This is exactly what I have to replicate.” So, I went back and I got all of my professors involved, I fundraised money.
I have no idea how to do it. Got a person involved in a university. The university is Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and it started. Something so simple as I need and I desire for creating something bigger than myself. It slowly evolved and now we organized over 10 global and local forums and online programs. We reach over a hundred fifty countries and that’s all in the span of five years.
And so what happened with me, and I’ll try to be short ‘cause I know you have other questions and we can dig deeper, was that when I started growing this movement, I didn’t believe that I was ready for making it my full-time job. Like I was so passionate about it that I just never saw a monetary need from it. I really just wanted to empower women into the day – that really is my core purpose.
After college, I always had a job, moved up the corporate ladder, and brought a startup in Florida which is how I got into Tampa, Florida. And so, it really was this journey of just trying to figure out how to align my purpose and my passion with my job and my life. And so, up until six months ago, I had this crazy thing happen to me where I was let go, offered to relocate and everything. Within that time, I started my digital agency because I realized that I can monetize from helping women create their brands.
So now, it’s a full circle and that’s really how now I get to live from my computer in every part of the world and be able to still help women.
Well, you have so many different backgrounds; things that you started especially you’re a definite entrepreneur and you came from Mexico where you had to leave because you really had to. And there was no choice otherwise, who knows what would have happened and people were telling you couldn’t do so many things and here you are creating all of these summits.
Now, you are in charge of another business, how do you make time to do all of these things and then make it work on top of that? Because there’s a lot of people that will often talk about what they want to do. And it’s another thing to actually have action and back yourself up. How do you make yourself do that? How do you back up what you’re saying?
It’s definitely taking action. I think you can dream as big as you want but the thing about dreaming is that it’s always in future tense. So if you really want to make an impact in the world and you could start as small as what I did.
I started with an on-campus organization – like it was very small. I definitely was very abrupt when I decided to make it global and I wanted it to be in every country of the world and we, still, are growing. Next year will be our biggest forum ever in history and our 5th anniversary.
But I think for people trying to do something – just do it! I do work a lot like there are so many weekends I have to work and I had to, sometimes, spend nights. And as the years pass, you definitely become better at project management and making sure that you have a balance in your life. What I mean by that is that I’ve come to terms that for me to be able to be very productive, I also need to bring in people that are better than me and other things.
So making sure that you have very smart, talented people, it doesn’t matter how old they are, as to act as either mentors or advisors in your journey is important. But here’s a problem with entrepreneurship, you don’t take advice from many people because when you’re starting a company, and this is what happened to me, I wanted to do it in my own way.
And the more I heard people give me advice, it just didn’t feel right. So for me, I think it’s important because I’m now at a point where I do need advice. Because I’ve grown it to the point where it’s out of my hands like it’s too big for me, right? And it’s a good problem to have but you just have to know that you always should have a strategy, you should have the right people around you and that you should do something.
Don’t just talk about it, just figure out how to and ask for help because every time that I had something I would always talk about it. So it would always happen that I would meet people and we are like, “Oh! I can help you with this. I can help you with this. I can help you with that.” I didn’t just keep it in me.
I think that’s really important to realize – you can’t do it all on your own. Specifically for us, women, we feel like we can do everything and we don’t need anyone with certain things. But there are so many things that other people can do especially with you because you have this incredible group of women, this forum, and the summit that you created.
So now you have a network of incredible people who have amazing talents at your fingertips. For somebody who doesn’t have that yet, how do you prepare for this type of journey and make it bigger than you and even bigger than what you wanted it to be?
I think it depends on what your journey looks like and kind of like what your goals are. Definitely, for some women, I think it’s knowing that what you think of something as something being big, sometimes it’s not really as big.
I had a conversation with someone this morning where she talked about her boss telling her, “Think bigger.”. And I think that’s very important because you sometimes need to be surrounded by people that can see that you can think bigger than what you think already. And so how you back yourself up with resources and kind of in the next level of your career or journey is just reaching out.
I think, for me, I’m now at a point where I need to start connecting with other founders – which I am. And I need to start bringing in more interns and I need to start bringing in more resources for women that are aligned to my own journey. Because at the same time a lot of times many women will find that you have a passion and then you have your job and sometimes they never mix.
It’s really hard to actually mix it. You can do it but there’s always these two forces that are kind of pulling you from one direction to the other. For me, right now, the agency is very much aligned with my Women’s Ambassadors Forum and it’s definitely working in par. But I was mentioning to you, for our next forum, I’m going to have to find or raise half a million.
So it’s definitely a very intimidating space for me because I feel like I’m not capable of doing it. But at the same time, I think back in the forums that we planned and with very little effort, we fundraised close to 50 to 100k. So, now I know that it’s just going to have to take me to believe in myself to get there.
But it’s really easy for you to see a number or see a goal and get very intimidated by it. Therefore, moving back and staying back and saying, “You know what? I can’t do this.”
Let’s go into how you actually fundraise because it is really intimidating. Even you, you’ve done this before and you’re still intimidated a little bit, right? It’s kind of the “fake it ‘till you make it” type thing. You definitely have a way of doing things that you allow people to trust you and you’ve done a lot of things that will just have somebody say, “Here, Ingrid, take my money and I believe in your cause.”
How do you do that? How do you gain trust and how do you actually market the brand that needs a certain amount of financing for you to actually get that?
I think the number one piece to start is to have a passion for what you’re fundraising. So, for me, I made my business a for-profit and I did that because it’s important that we understand that women need to start leading for-profit businesses and not not-for-profits.
We’re kind of always leaning into being leaders of non-profits if it’s for a good cause and it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t run a for-profit business. Now, I always prelude nonprofits to make sure that I can give some, especially foundations – the 501(c)(3) status.
How I started, going back in time, is having passion like when people see you and they see you talk about it – they’ll believe in you. You’re not going to fundraise money if people don’t believe in you. If you’re just talking to talk and say, “Oh! There’s this project.” you need to be very certain. For me, I was like, “I need to bring these women here. They need me in a way.”
We’re so privileged in the United States, we have no idea how privileged we are. And so, me, being able to help international women come to the United States take a 5-day program to train them to be leaders. And then, seeing the ripple effect of them creating companies, creating businesses, and creating movements – it’s so worth it.
So you have to be able to show that to sponsors, right? Because of the end of the day, what sponsors care about is really the ROI and they’re not going to care if you tell them, “I’m going to have so much Press. You’re going to get a ton of Press from me,” – that’s BS. Like they don’t care about the Press especially big companies because they have the Press, they don’t need Press. So just knowing that and knowing how to measure that like, “How do you measure ROI for me?”
ROI is changing the lives of thousands of people, changing communities, empowering someone to go back and create sustainable change. So how do you measure that? It’s always important to also, with sponsors, follow-up. So you follow up with everyone that you meet, you create a relationship. You never asked for money right away. You build a relationship and then you ask for money.
You have to think of money as energy. So, many people and a lot of the girls that I mentor get intimidated by the fact of like, “Oh! But I’m asking for 3000 or 5000,” – that’s nothing for them, right? So you always have to think about a number even if you don’t have it in your bank account.
I didn’t have $40,000 in my bank account and I was fundraising $40,000 in college. So it’s just like you have to think and make them think like you’re okay with that number. Like Its just nothing and it sounds ridiculous but it does work. And always ask someone else maybe more experienced or has fundraised before or whatever on ideas or suggestions like, “Maybe you think 25,000 is a good amount to fundraise?” And maybe that someone else will be like, “No, you should fundraise for 40,000.”
Having other people analyze your, I would say, fundraising sheets is important ‘because then you’re probably asking for less.
It’s definitely all about making the connection first before you ask. Like with anything else, who are you to ask somebody that much or even if it’s a little bit, right? If they don’t know you, why on Earth would they give you anything? So you have to kind of nurture that relationship first – that is really true with anything.
Even if it’s not about raising money or for that type of business. It’s just when you’re not working connecting with people, it’s just giving before you take. For the most part, its a lot of giving before you can actually take anything.
It depends. I can give you an example now with companies that I work with and organizations that I partnered with. Let’s say the European Parliament, it took me three years of building that relationship and really establishing credibility with them. I saw two Italian women within the parliament that grew a movement for women. I was kind of connected to them while they were reporting that. And now, we’re looking at partnering next year.
Sometimes things just don’t happen overnight and that’s what people don’t understand. You are so used to seeing things like tomorrow and the next week and for you to establish a really big connection like I just landed one of the largest IT companies in the world and I’m starting to do events in partnership with them, it took me a solid year to establish a relationship and get something going.
So, it just depends on the size of a company and that’s the key to fundraising.
Absolutely. And I think you’re right too, Ingrid, is that we see a lot of instant things happening. There’s a lot of instant gratification. I think a lot of people really don’t know how to take their time anymore and not get frustrated. And it’s really about the follow-up, you have to keep following up and making sure that you still have that relationship going and to keep it up even if they may not be interested right now. You never know what’s going to happen later on
Now, Ingrid, what is the biggest setback that you are encountering right now as an entrepreneur?
Setback? There’s so many. Every day you experience something. As a digital CEO for an advertising agency, you have all types of clients with all types of needs with all types of prerequisites and expectations.
And it’s really hard to understand that not everyone’s going to love the outcome. So you have to come to senses to that. People have different expectations and if they’re not willing to pay the price, you’re going to have to tell them like, “I’m sorry, this is what you paid for.” You can’t say that because you’re offering a service. So, it’s a very hard journey. It’s fun but it’s really hard
I’m sure a lot of digital artists can relate to me. You kind of pray for the perfect client which is the client that you send the design to and then they’re like, “Oh! I love this,” and they’re done. You only get like one of those in every 20 clients.
So, I’m just learning to definitely grow and understand what my pricing is because I often realize that I’m giving knowledge away, I’m giving my time away. I realized that I’ve definitely been spending underpaid contracts, I’m getting paid less for something I should have paid more for.
Since it’s a very new world for me, I am starting to understand it – not fully. I have someone in my team that has done it before so she’s helped me establish prices and all that stuff. Because at the end of the day, it’s your value as a creator.
It’s so funny because there’s this co-working space in Tampa, and I’m just going to say it because I think I should say it, they accept creators to be in their space and I didn’t get accepted to it because I’m not creative enough for the way that they set it up for designers. And I think that’s BS because as CEOs, presidents, and founders – you are a creator.
Even if you’re doing project management, I think everyone should know that even if you don’t know how to draw or create a design, if you have an idea of how the design should be – that makes you a creative.
Another setback is definitely… I’m just so nervous. Like I really am getting so emotionally unstable just thinking about it. So, I’m just going to have to be very strong and believe in myself and just know that the universe wants this to happen. And it’s going to happen the way that it’s supposed to happen. So I’m just going to be hopeful.
Well, it’s all about experience and being comfortable because, with me, I’ve been doing this for a few years and I still question every time I send out my pricing sheet to someone. Whether you price yourself too low or too high, it really comes down to experience at the end of the day. They’re either going to like it or they don’t and if you price yourself too low then, the next time you go a little up from it.
But it is really nerve-racking. I can definitely understand what you’re going through, Ingrid, and everybody goes through that. It doesn’t matter how small or how big you are, you’re always questioning whether your decision is the right one for you and your company.
Absolutely. Every time I think about it is like a day.
Every time they see you on social media or you’re doing a public speaking gig, you just look really in place and then they don’t know that inside, you’re a wreck.
Yeah. You’re like dying before you get on the stage.
I had a speaking engagement two weeks ago. Sometimes I say yes to some organizations like our Latina base or local that I’m going to help kind of speak to young girl teenagers or college students. I definitely say yes because that’s when I started my journey – very young.
But sometimes I don’t pay attention to nothing like I just say yes and then I’m like, “Send me the address and I’ll just go.” So I have been to one event where I get there and I haven’t practiced at all. A guy was just going to talk, I have a layout of every speaker prepared so I know exactly what my layout looks like in my brain.
But I get there and there’s like three hundred people and I’m like, “Oh shit! This is way bigger than I thought.” I thought it was going to be like a 50-people event. So, that was a surprise but I think having that metal structure in my brain helps to be prepared for any scenario.
There are always so many things that are going on and there are certain things that you never expect that would happen – happens. But you just keep going and you learn from everything. The little hiccups are actually good for you. You need to be more prepared.
Now, Ingrid, talking about how you started this new company as a CEO of a digital agency and you had a previous background in it, how did you find your clients? Because that’s one of the biggest things that people really want to know aside from pricing, of course. How are you able to find your clients without any knowledge of this in the first place?
Because I was organizing so many conferences. When you think about it, I grew a movement from 2 countries and reached, I would say, almost every country in the world without SEO. So, no SEO involved, I mean women that are in this toe-to-toe era would know that SEO is so important for you to even be in Google. We were just always off.
I always think of it like this movement was something that I was born with, that I had to do. I’m kind of figuring it hours ago but everything works out, obviously, with strategy. So, I grew that and I had a strategy in place and even a strategy for me, for sponsorships, for partnerships.
I partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank. Some of the companies that I work with: Kelloggs, Mary Kay, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Raymond James. You name it – there are so many companies. And so how I started getting clients in this new world that I had no idea how to – like seriously.
And then, I needed to make a living, right? Because my movement is my passion, I don’t want to monetize it. Because then, it’s going to take away from what I love, right?
I actually had a client before I left my previous job. So, I had a client and she’s a very, very strong lawyer in my city where I live. She’s an entrepreneur lawyer which means she has a ton of entrepreneurs under her belt and she really was a big mentor for me – she’s still my client,
She took me under her wing. We’re sitting in a meeting, and I had already left the company I was working for and I had organized a few other events ‘cause I also do events for military women, and she’s like, “You know.. You should really create a company. I don’t think charging to your Women’s Ambassadors is exactly what you should be doing ‘cause you have it. This is like another product.”
So what I did with her is I really helped her build her 2 new companies. So she’s creating a coworking space for lawyers and another kind of female movement. I’ve worked in consulting so I know how to work with people, I know how to strategize, I know how to project management., I know how to brand. I was taking jobs and this is why,I think, sometimes it’s good to work for other people and then, for yourself. Because you start gaining skills from other jobs that you don’t realize are going to be then really helpful for your business, right?
So I got her and then I started getting from referrals. So then, I got people from my events – that was my advantage. So I have a huge database from all the people that have attended my events and most of them are from all backgrounds. I started marketing to that community and I was able to get a few Veterans for my military conference to be my clients.
And then, I had this huge client that we just signed and he was a referral from a very close mentor of mine. So, I think when it comes to clients, it’s really a matter of many things like Facebook ads, YouTube Ads that I haven’t done yet ‘cause I’m 5 months old in figuring them out. And so referrals, I think, is the most important
That’s definitely a huge thing because people already know that what you’re doing is really valuable and referrals are such key to a successful business if you want to keep going at it and they are the best types of people together anyway, right? And you don’t usually have to spend any money on it.
So, let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What Legacy would you like to leave? And what do you want to be remembered for?
Wait, how many years?
I would say, in 50 years… I don’t even want to say 50, I want to say 5 years. Like in five years, I want to be able to say that I have now branched out my organization into having summits in other countries. That’s my goal for next year.
And I just want to be someone that really embodies the true empowerment of women. Someone that really embodies not being fearful of who you want to be because I think my projection on my life changes a lot. And I’m kind of in this time of my life where I’m really surrendering to what the big thing is for me.
Something that I really can encourage people is that you may be forced to be someone that you’re not and that may be causing you a lot of anxiety, anger, and feelings because it’s not right. So, I just think you need to just find who your authentic self is.
And I want to just be able to be happy with what makes me happy, which is organizing these forums, speaking to people in public, and having deep meaningful connections.
That is such a great legacy to leave and you’re already starting that with all of these different women that you changed their lives in so many different ways.
Now, what are you working on currently that is really exciting to you?
So many things. Definitely my global forum, we’re going to start fundraising Monday.
Something that I’m very excited about; I started a Mastermind this year. And we had 40 members and we’ve had, I think, two businesses that have started out of the 12-week Mastermind and it was an experiment. I just wanted to offer an online course for women and bring women that are like-minded together. So I was doing all the work for you to just show up and be loved and accepted and we bring guest speakers.
So we’re about to launch our second one. It’s going to be open at the end of the month and we’re only accepting 30 people to join. The Mastermind is going to be about mental health because I think beyond this mess and beyond anything, as leaders, as founders, it’s a very lonely world If you live in America.
America just makes you very isolated from the world. It’s a very lonely culture and I think it’s important to connect with other women because we forget that that’s how we get our energy – with the connection because we are all connected. I really want to be able to give out to our audience.
Another thing that we are working on is having global forums in Africa. So I want to organize something in Africa next year and a retreat to India and Mexico.
There’s a ton of stuff but the most recent, definitely, is the Mastermind that we’re, literally, opening today.
That is so exciting and I can’t wait to hear more about that and also to share that with everyone. So, if our listeners want to know more about you, about the Mastermind, and your forums, where can they find you?
Yeah. So, on Instagram it’s @ingridharb_, for my movement, it’s @wafintl. And then, our website, it’s very funny our URL, thinking if I remember correctly, womenaf.org.
Perfect. Thank you so much, Ingrid, for all the amazing tips that you gave us. I really appreciate it.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
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