Fairygodboss of the Week: Michelle Löpez

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Photo Courtesy of Michelle Löpez.

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Fairygodboss
May 21, 2024 at 8:18PM UTC
Michelle Löpez left her c-level position to break free of the traditional workplace and follow her entrepreneurial passions. Now, as  Founder and Advisor at Breakaway Bookkeeping & Advising, she is leading a team in a culture she created with love. 
An advocate for blazing your own path, Löpez shared the one she took to CFO-turned-Founder. She also shared her best career advice for women, the personal challenge she overcame this year and the hobbies that keep her creative spark, well, sparking. Buckle up, because this is an inspiring read! 

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get where you are now?
As an eager graduate of International Marketing and Business, I took a position with an environmental company with global reach fresh out of college. Sounds like a dream job, right? Because I was one of the least paid and most available, I quickly rose in the ranks. I found myself in the accounting department working directly under the CFO and loving it. Numbers made sense to me: No gray, no opinions, just buckets of ratios. For a performance- based person, this was my sweet spot.
Then came the recession. Like many other companies in the ‘08 crash, they didn’t make it. Luckily, and through hard work, I found other positions providing accounting assistance and quickly grew my skill set and experience. Because I didn’t have the traditional accounting industry career trajectory, I was able to speak a language that business owners understood, while still providing Marie Kondo style bookkeeping and Jillian Michaels-esque performance metrics.
After being a CFO for close to 5 years, I decided to go out on my own as an accounting “field guide” helping businesses navigate their journeys to success. I now work with 20 businesses offering fractional CFO and advisory services through my company, Breakaway. I am proud to say that they are all weathering the pandemic and continuing to grow.

What's an accomplishment that you are proud of?

Breaking free from the chains of traditional employment! I went from a c-level, cushy salary to starting a business from the ground, up. When the opportunity presented itself to found Breakaway, I sat with my family around the dinner table and explained to them the risks, the sacrifices (both time and money) and the fear I felt in the face of this decision. It was important to me that this was a family decision and I knew I needed their support to not only succeed, but also make the decision with confidence. My husband and three daughters took a family vote. It was unanimous and we all took the dive courageously into entrepreneurship together.

What's a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

Oh sheesh, as have so many other women leaders, I’ve faced obstacles having to do with age, gender, discrimination and more. However, a recent and less heavy challenge comes to mind. I am currently wrapping up a six week Western National Parks family road trip. Coordinating both my husband’s and my work schedules on top of my kids’ online academic requirements was no easy task. We were equipped with hotspots, routers, boosters, a mountain of chargers, power banks and two different services providers. I was worried that I would drop the ball, possibly lose some clients and the kids would get behind in school, but it was all fear. Once I leaned into courage and came at the challenges as a problem solver, I was able to pour everything into the 5th wheel trailer and didn’t look back. Our adventures and the adventurous spirit the trip cultivated in all of us along the way has been more than worth it.

What's the No. 1 career tip that you'd like to share with other women?

“Professionalism” — eff that! It is a term that should be approached with caution. Be genuine and if you are met with advice to “be more professional,” then you are being asked to conform. I am finally at a place in my career where I can see that when I suppress myself for the sake of “professionalism,” I am sacrificing the best parts of me and what I can provide my team.

Why do you love where you work?

We are a band of rebels, pushing boundaries and asking questions, all for the sake of joy and progress. Opportunity is abundant and support isn't finite or conditional. I love where I work because we all build each other up, vulnerability and transparency are our cornerstone, and “Bring Joy” is our motto. What’s not to love?

Who is your Fairygodboss? Why?

RuPaul: “Remember who you really are. Unleash the dragon and let them have it!” Ru is punk rock and mocks ego, but holds tight to kindness and empathy... what more could you ask for?

What do you do when you're not working?

I’m planning theme parties and dancing between commercial breaks. There are only a few things I love more than a thoughtful gathering. I pour my heart and creativity into hosting and any meal can be a party — it’s all about the attitude! Formal affairs are not my cup of tea, but give me 24 hours and a general location and then buckle up! Themed parties are my preference because people can check their reality at the door. My favorite party was a “White Wig” themed evening. Everyone had to wear a colonial white wig and everything else was up to the guest. White wigs on superheroes, business professionals, disco dancers, duck hunters — it was beautiful and a blast!

If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?

Jade Simmons — if you haven’t heard of her, look her up. She is an activational Speaker, concert pianist playing Rachmaninoff to rap, and running as an Independent for US President with a lot of life ahead of her.

What's your karaoke song?

"Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top.

What's your favorite movie?

"Princess Bride," but I am a sucker for all things Christopher Guest.

What book would you bring with you on a deserted island?

"The Big Book of Sudoku." Gotta keep that brain sharp.

What's your go-to self care activity?

Massages of any kind! Whether it’s getting my hair shampooed, a pedicure or my yoga instructor correcting my posture, I love it.

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