By: Bel Hernandez /Latino Magazine
At the age of 17, Cecilia Mota was already on her way to becoming an influential community leader, entrepreneur, radio host, motivational speaker, mentor, and women’s empowerment expert.That was when she was sent to an ad agency to deliver a baseball signed by her famous father, legendary baseball player Manny Mota (then an L.A. Dodger) for a dying patient.
There she met Carmen Hensch, a pioneer in the realm of Hispanic marketing. Hensch would become a lifelong friend and mentor who took her under her wing and taughther the art of creating, positioning and the importance of a public relations campaign.
That training would come in handy in 1997 when Cecilia was appointed as the Executive Director of her father’s Manny Mota International Foundation. She was already married and raising a two-year old. “When the foundation was handed to me I did not know anything about running a non-profit so I took to the internet to learn.” Additionally, she asked her board members for names of persons that could mentor her. She spent hours with them as they talked about grants, grant writing and funding. “I learned that your learning has to be intentional and that is what I teach leaders,” Cecilia relayed. “It is not going to come to you…you have to go find it.”
Soon Cecilia found herself embarking on the most ambitious enterprise of her life so far. In 1999, she traveled back to the Dominican Republic (with her child in tow) for two consecutive years to produce the Manny Mota Celebrity Classic. A three-day event which culminated in a baseball game. She flew in celebrities and sports dignitaries from all over the world, all there to support the mission of the charity organization to raise funds providing educational, health and recreational opportunities for underprivileged youth.
With the support of the president of the Dominican Republic, Cecilia was able to secure over $250,000 in sponsorships. She sought in-kind gifts for the more underprivileged attending the baseball game, and personally asked the president to donate a house as a giveaway. Amused, he laughed and remarked, “You’re brave and bold.” Cecilia recalls, “Hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get. The sky is not the limit for me…because when you are doing it for the good of someone else, you go all out.”
However, she soon found her true calling. Recalling how other women had helped her, she now found the need to pay it forward. It was about this time she began working with the National Latina Business Women’s Association, an organization which is dedicated to the development of women’s business and professional skills through their educational programs, financial workshops, and business referrals and networking. Cecilia dedicated seven years to the organization, working herself up from volunteer to serving three years as the national president.
Sometimes Latinas find themselves confronted with hard decisions when it comes to balancing family life and business. For Cecilia that choice was difficult, but in the end she decided to put her career on hold to help her then-husband launch his business. Unfortunately, the business did not survive and neither did her marriage. “I ended up broke, no home, nada — ni carro, living in one room. My kids and I were the little gypsies in one room.“ But with her parents’ help, Cecilia was able get back on her feet.
She bounced back and became a member of the board of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. But she realized she preferred to work for the CHCC Foundation.“One of my initiatives at the CHCC Foundation was to develop a Latina Woman’s program for the Chamber,” Cecilia recounts. “That is how I met Maria Hernandez, one of the co-founders of Latina Vida.”
When Cecilia resigned from the CHCC Foundation, Hernandez promptly asked her to be fill the position of the executive director at Latina Vida. Latina Vida was founded by Maria and two friends who came from a corporate background, and saw the lack of Latina diversity in the corporate world. Cecilia began by figuring out strategy, planning, and training on social media.
Rebranding started with a new website, LatinaVida.org. and she has added new programs to the organization’s “Rise To the Top” signature program. “I added the financial track because you can’t tell people, ‘go make more money’ and not teach them how to manage their money or grow their money,” Cecilia informs. “I guess that is why I’m always put into situations where I work structure and figure out what needs to be done,” she states. Sometimes things just fall into place. While promoting Latina Vida, Cecilia was offered the opportunity to host a radio show called Mujeres Y Yo. It airs on http://www.radiolatinoinc.com/ and for her, it’s just another way to continue empowering Latinas. “It’s all about reciprocity,” Cecilia smiles knowingly.