WhenLeticia Gonzalez-Reyes, Rachel Brathen (whom you may know as Yoga Girl) and Olivia Rothschild got together over a phone call in 2015 they didn’t know to what extent their lives would be changed forever.
After brainstorming sessions, acknowledgements of the plusses and minuses of Instagram fame and a bit of strategizing — 109 World was born. With 109, as Gonzalez-Reyes warmly describes it on our Creating Espacios podcast episode, they wanted to tap into a generation that thrived on social media and also wanted to actively pay it forward.
“The concept for 109 World came from our discomfort over how, despite today’s technology, a majority of the population still has little knowledge about the social and environmental challenges that our world is facing,” explains Gonzalez-Reyes. “Moreover, very few of us realize that we have in our everyday actions the ability to alleviate these challenges.”
109 World hosts activations that make it easy to use individual social platforms for greater social good missions. The organization puts together seasonal trips all with the intention to in someway assist the community they will be visiting. During their first trip to Nicaragua they helped set the groundwork for a water distribution system.
Her role as the co-founder and Head of Operations and Sustainability of 109 World falls in line with the career Gonzalez-Reyes has intentionally strived for. As a Brazilian who worked her way through startups, grad school and other social good endeavors, Gonzalez-Reyes shares her thoughts on impostor syndrome, social media and what advice Latina entrepreneurs should live by.
Vivian Nunez: Given that so much of your organization is social media-based, what are some tips you have for those who are trying to build a community around their social media?
Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes: You are your best asset and if you are an organization, the people behind your organization are your organization’s best asset. Share their stories and people will connect not with your products, but with you.
If you have a voice and a platform where people listen, even if the number of people is very small, it’s not just your responsibility to speak up about things that matter, it’s your opportunity. This way you will attract a genuine following that appreciates what you share and will want to engage. My feeling is that if you try to please everybody or be somebody else, you will build a community of “casual” followers that will probably unfollow you every time you share something that doesn’t interest them and you will see your engagement as a whole go down.
Nunez: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Gonzalez-Reyes: There is a quote that I love from Alan Cohen that describes it well: “Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” If you always wanted to start something, don’t wait any longer to make it happen . Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Nunez: What has been one of your biggest moments with 109 World?
Gonzalez-Reyes: Running our first trip to Nicaragua and seeing it all happen was easily one of the biggest moments for 109 World. It is when everything we had been dreaming about came to life. Digging the ground together with hundreds of locals to implement a water distribution system for them and thinking, “It is all happening, right here, right now, with them. Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we won’t do anything.”
Since this first Nicaragua trip, a number of people have criticized our work saying we were intruders and that we only built a system that can serve 1,400 people. For 109 World, we work directly with the community, listen to them with empathy, co-design a solution based off of their stated needs and for us, there is no such thing as small impact. We believe that every little effort starts a butterfly effect for global change.
Nunez: As a Latina entrepreneur, what have been some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
Gonzalez-Reyes: Myself. There were so many times I underestimated and boycotted myself thinking that I was not smart enough to hold certain conversations, that I was not experienced enough to accomplish certain things, that my English was not good enough to represent my organization. It wasn’t until I had a mentor tell me I didn’t have any problem with my confidence, and that almost all entrepreneurs suffer from something they half-jokingly called “the impostor syndrome,” that I realized, yeah, I can do this. I started making a list of accomplishments, positive feedback and success stories in my life and now I basically think I can do anything.
Nunez: How can someone make a positive impact with their Instagram or other social platform?
Gonzalez-Reyes: If you have a voice and a platform where people listen, even if the people are your friends and family, it’s your responsibility to speak up about things that matter. Truth is, I believe it is your opportunity. The secret to living a life of positive impact is to start living the life of positive impact today , in every little way you possibly can.
Content written by Vivian Nunez and originally posted on Forbes.
Vivian is the Founder of Too Damn Young, a community and resource for teens and young adults, and growing up as a Latina in New York City, have given Vivian an interesting perspective on entrepreneurship. By day she helps small businesses and startups strengthen their digital presence, by all the other hours she is the co-host of Forbes Podcast, Creating Espacios, and freelance writer.