Nely Galán, dubbed the Tropical Tycoon by the New York Times Magazine, is an immigrant from Cuba and self-made media mogul. She was the first Latina president of entertainment for the television network Telemundo and is an Emmy Award–winning producer of more than 700 television episodes in Spanish and English. Galán also owns and operates her own media company, Galán Entertainment.
In 2012, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, Galán launched the Adelante Movement, a nonprofit organization that trains and motivates Latinas to become entrepreneurs. It was her work through Adelante that motivated her to write her book ¡Adelante! Cómo ser emprendedora y autosuficiente para alcanzar una vida rica y realizada. The English edition, Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way, was released this May and quickly made it on to the New York Times bestseller list of business books. On August 30, the Spanish-language version went on sale; both editions are published by Penguin Random House.
Filipe Silva, associate director of Latin-American and Spanish-language sales at PRH, said presales have exceeded expectations. He credited the broad appeal of her message: “As an immigrant myself, I love Nely’s message: ‘Think like an immigrant.’ It carries a positive message for us, a nation made up of immigrants, and it resonates with U.S. Latinos,” he said. PRH has placed the Spanish-language edition in more than 2,000 retail locations, including Barnes & Noble, Kmart, Target, Walmart, and independent bookstores. It will also be available through Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and other distributors that reach the library market. PW met with Galán at her home in Venice, Calif., to discuss the upcoming release of ¡Adelante!
Although you are a Latina, the book does not just focus on Latinas so much as multicultural women. Does the version in Spanish have more stories on Latinas?
There are several Latina stories in the book, but there aren’t any additional stories about Latinas in the version in Spanish. The book has stories about women of different races and ethnicities. I think it’s important for Latinas to hear stories about other women and know that they are not marginalized, that there is a universality to all women’s stories. I think the story of self-made women is universal; it’s a mind shift.
What plans do you have for promoting the book in Spanish?
We are very excited about the book in Spanish, because I started this whole journey with Latinas through the Adelante Movement. We are doing an extensive number of interviews on national media, and I’m presenting at bookstores, conferences, and mass merchandisers—I am traveling throughout the country the rest of the year. Some of the events are in English, and others are in Spanish, and it’s wonderful to have the book out in both languages. Nothing at public libraries yet, but I’m open and available.
The book suggests that even if you work for a company or are a stay-home mom, you should think like an entrepreneur. What do you mean by “think like an entrepreneur”?
In the book, I’m not saying that women should go out and quit their jobs tomorrow; not every woman will be an entrepreneur by nature. Whether you work for a corporation or a nonprofit organization or the government, you have to change your mind-set in order to make it in this world. You can no longer think like an employee; you have to think like an owner. What is the company doing right? What is it doing wrong? What can I do better? That is how business owners think. What I encourage all women to do is exercise their entrepreneurial muscle, even if it’s one hour a week.
How should we exercise our entrepreneurial muscle?
Go into your closet, take out that wedding dress or a pair of shoes you no longer wear, and snap a picture of it and post it on eBay or Twice, and begin by becoming part of the shared economy. I have met teachers that drive for Uber or Lyft for a couple of hours a day and are saving that money for their next big idea. There are so many opportunities in America, so many options in this new shared economy. It’s the difference between feeling that you might be without a job and be left with nothing versus thinking the world is my oyster filled with options and possibilities—it’s a glass-half-full thought process. I think, how can you really be empowered if you don’t have your own money?
Why do you think Latinas are starting businesses at a higher rate than any other demographic group in America?
In 2008, when the economy crashed, many Latinas had to step up and contribute to the household budget as many husbands, brothers, and sons lost their jobs. But this is true of most minority women, not just Latinas. Latinas just happen to have done so at a much higher rate, but now African-American women are slightly ahead of Latinas. I think we are all united in this quest for a financial future that we can control. Entrepreneurship is egalitarian; not everyone can climb the corporate ladder, not everyone went to Harvard, not everyone has a linear career path—entrepreneurship is for the rest of us. It’s a way for us to make money and do well in life.
Is there anything that you wanted to share in the book that did not make it in?
Yes, lots! I think writing a nonfiction book is like a journey through your life. Now I feel like my entire life has come out of my body. In the original manuscript, I wrote quite a bit about psychological issues and mental barriers to entry that we have. There is my story about leaving Cuba that I wish would have made it into the book. We left with the shirts on our backs. My mother made me give away all of my toys, which created a resentment towards my mother that I carried around for years. It wasn’t until a therapist told me to go out and buy some toys, so I did. It’s amazing how those mental blocks, many which can be fixed, keep us from reaching our full potential. There is a chapter in the book called “In Your Pain Is Your Brand.” I do think that your pain guides you to a transcendental place, a place where your pain and your work collide, and you realize that your pain came for a reason.
Is there is a second book in the works?
If there is a second book, I think it would be for teens. From being on the road presenting the book, I realized that the message really resonated with millennials, and I think it’s because they weren’t taught these lessons early on in life. I think that if I want to make a radical change in this country, it will be by changing the minds and hearts of teenagers. I’m blessed because I have changed my own teenage son’s mind. I put my son in a two-week boot camp on financial literacy—he loved it, and he went on to start his own business.
¡Adelante! is filled with advice. If you could only give one piece of advice to your readers, what would it be?
I think there are two. One is that there is no Prince Charming; we have to kill him. By that I mean that there is no savior. There is no husband, boyfriend, boss, father, corporation, government that will save you. I believe in total financial self-reliance. This does not mean that people in your life can’t have your back, but that is as much as you can ask someone to do. If this were a race, the starting point of the race is knowing that you are it and have surrendered to the fact that no one will do it for you. That you are responsible for your well-being—your health, your happiness, and your financial security.
The second one is that there is hidden money in America. We live in the number-one country in the world, and there are numerous programs for entrepreneurs. But we have an information gap. I’m happy to say that although we briefly discuss this in the book, we are in the process of launching an app that addresses this. We have spent two years researching all of those hidden monies: government contracts, monies through nonprofits, programs that train you for free, free therapy so you can move forward, etc. All of this will be in an app that will be available in Spanish and English. There are monies and programs available that can help people start their own business and move forward—¡Adelante!