Leslie Feinzaig has founded two companies in 14 years, but launching an entrepreneurial career didn't come easy to her. Born and raised in Costa Rica, Feinzaig says for a long while, she was "taking the best job she could find among a not great set of options." When she was admitted to Harvard Business School on a full ride, then granted residency, she was able to join smaller companies and eventually go out on her own. Her latest adventure? Helping other women do the same as the Founder and CEO of Female Founders Alliance.
Feinzaig told us about her Alliance, her career path and what she tells women who are feeling beaten down by the realities of a career world paved with inequality.
"If you've ever been beaten down, that means you know how to get back up," she said. "If you feel unseen, then they'll never see you coming."
She also shared the role models that inspire her, how she balances work and life, and her best advice for women who are questioning if they can meet their goals.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Leslie Feinzaig
Founder and CEO, Female Founders Alliance
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
My career path was profoundly shaped by my origin and the limited opportunities that were available to me at each step of the way. I was born and raised in Costa Rica, and my early career can be summarized as taking the best job I could find among a not great set of options. Pay was minimal and for a long time, the work itself was not great. Things changed for me in 2005 when I was admitted to Harvard Business School and awarded a full scholarship. I moved to the US and a new set of professional opportunities opened up, albeit still very limited by my visa status.
It wasn't until seven years ago when I became a resident and had the freedom to work at smaller companies that I was able to leave my corporate job and move to more entrepreneurial cultures. Then, in 2016, I went off on my own. I've since started two companies. The first one failed, but the learnings last forever. I founded FFA just over two years ago and our trajectory has been humbling and inspiring.
In the 14 years since I moved to America, I've started two companies and created hundreds of jobs through those and in my corporate career. Immigrants like myself are a source of innovation and economic growth and I hope my story demonstrates that!
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? And why?
I have many. One that comes to mind is Mikaela Kiner, CEO of Reverb People, who has been my coach and mentor for two years. She believes in me and is always there to talk things through. She actively makes introductions that can move the needle for me and my business, and she amplifies our brand in her own work. We've grown so close, her daughter even babysits my toddler!
What do you do when you're not working?
I spend nearly all of my non-work time with family. I'm a mom to two little girls who are mostly delightful and sometimes challenging! My husband and I are always looking for activities we can do as a family. We love theater and movies, visiting the zoo, the aquarium and the science museum. And if I ever get any time to myself, I love to dance (even if alone in the living room), go out for a walk and cozy up with a great book.
If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
That's easy: Oprah!
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
"Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," but the Lauryn Hill version.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
"Pride and Prejudice."
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
I love shopping for travel adventures, even though I have very little time to go on them these days.
What is the No. 1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
If you're ever down, I have three life-changing tips that I hope you will remember and find inspiration in:
1. If you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose.
2. If you've ever been beaten down, that means you know how to get back up.
3. If you feel unseen, then they'll never see you coming.
We all go through ups and downs and it is no secret that a woman's professional experience is shaped by the fact of our sex and/or gender. But it's our choice how we react. You are stronger than you think and you have much more in you than you know.
Why do you love where you work?
I love FFA for many reasons. It is the best professional experience of my career. One thing I would highlight is our people. The most under-appreciated benefit of starting your own company is that you get to choose the people that you work with and you get to create the workplace culture where you can best thrive. I love my FFA family and I'm excited to work with them every single day.