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Melina Cortes-Nmili | Boston | Your Guts & Intuition!!

I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, in a very small town. I came to the United States and unlike many of the people I know it wasn’t really in search of a better life. While it was difficult, my mother already had a Degree and what was considered back then a good job. She married someone who lived in the States and so moving here was the natural and logical step. Everyone knows that you may live a comfortable life back home but that doesn't translate into a comfortable life in the States. So when I got here, my mother was not working, she was learning English and she had two other kids. We lived in the projects which at the time was a foreign concept to me and it took time to adapt. I went to a vocational high school and decided to major in Cosmetology. Since I was a little girl I enjoyed anything having to do with beauty and fashion. I was very bad at drawing but I drew and I dreamed. At a very young age - maybe 7 - I would close my eyes and imagine me walking into my business. Design and cosmetology took a backseat because I was taught that to do anything in life I had to go to school. So I did. I got my Bachelor's Degree and then my Masters and it wasn't until I was able to save money from my now grown-up job that I was able to start doing research and form this idea I had in my head into an actual business idea. Lalla Bee was born in 2012.

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?

How did the idea for your business come about?

As I mentioned above - I always knew. I just didn’t know how to start, where to go for information or have the money to fund it. Money was key - when I had saved enough to start investing in research, then off I went. Throughout the years though I have made shifts in my business. When I first started the way I used to define success is not how I define success today so I have had to take breaks, give myself room to evolve, etc. Currently there is a new spark in my business and that is the need to connect directly with my audience. I have historically connected through my customer through specialty boutiques which has been a great learning experience, I intend to continue that but also I now feel the need to build a bridge between me and the woman wearing my dress. It is important to me that she knows the story behind it.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students (young and old) locally or internationally who want to become entrepreneurs?

Do your research / study your market / know your customer

Use your money wisely - ask a lot of questions and for references before you fork your money over to any expert

Listen to your gut and your intuition.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing. I know this is what everyone says but think about it... I am where I am because of all the experiences good and bad that I have been through. I cant expect it all to be good all the time, I can simply control how I react to it.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

1. You need to be able to tell your story. You are your own best sales person.

2. Finance - I know this doesn’t sound sexy. but it is very easy to get entangled in debt, etc. because we just want to do, do and continue to do. but it is important to understand what is needed from the financial perspective in order to be successful.

3. Perseverance. It can get pretty rough... trust the process.


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