I don’t think Gaby Natale is one of the most interesting women from Argentina. I consider her one of the most interesting women in the world!
We hear stories of people turning obstacles into opportunities. Yet we can’t grasp how and why luminaries as Gaby choose to adapt an unbreakable mindset. She shined no matter what storm she voyaged through.
She came from her native land Argentina in pursuit of a dream in Texas. Gaby began her professional career in broadcast journalism as an anchor at Univision. A job most people would kill for and never want to leave. But after securing her green card, she did the unthinkable.
With her heart and courage, Gaby left her job and pitched her own Spanish-language television show, SuperLatina, to a local network.
Gaby shot her first show out of a carpet storage closet in Odessa, Texas. Now SuperLatina is a six-time Emmy-nominated and nationally recognized show. Being the President and Co-founder of AGANARmedia, her company has an array of clients such as Ford, AT&T, McDonald’s, and MetroPCS.
We go in depth about Gaby’s experiences, obstacles, and why she created her successful television show and media company.
Gaby chose to make herself no matter what obstacle stood in the way.
Can you give me a brief overview of your unique career path and experiences coming from Argentina and to where you’re at right now?
I came from Argentina in the year 2003, there was a big recession starting in the year 2001 in Argentina. The unemployment rate was 24% and I had just graduated with my master’s degree in journalism and was hopeful and full of energy to start working. But there were no jobs. I will go and do a job interview and the people will tell me, “You know, today I had to fire half of my staff. This is really not a good timing to think about hiring somebody.”
I was offered an opportunity to work for a public relations firm in Washington D.C, I said, “Why not? I don’t have anything to lose.” And I came here to the United States. I started working for that public relations firm. Then I moved to North Mexico because their client was based there and I had to oversee that account. North Mexico is literally the hottest border. There’s a lot of death due to heat and there’s a lot going on there. I started covering what was going on in the border for Mexican networks.
While I was in Washington D.C, I also covered presidential visits from presidents from Latin America. They were meeting with Bush in the White House and I was freelancing and sending them materials. And I moved to Texas and my struggle at the time was my Green Card because. I had a work visa but it took me three times to apply for my Green Card. It was a long process and in the end I had to self-petition under extraordinary ability and it got approved.
My husband and I, we asked ourselves, okay, we have a Green Card. And we have the freedom to do whatever we want, live wherever we want in the U.S. And if we lose our jobs we don’t lose our status because that’s a tricky part when I had a work permit. If anything went wrong with my job I would lose my status and would have to leave the country.
We said, “Okay, now what do we really want to do?” And we said, “Okay, we’d like to start our own company.” And I saw many wonderful women in mainstream media; at the time. It was Tyra, Oprah, and Martha Stewart who would own their content, have their own television studios in the case of Oprah. And in the Hispanic market I didn’t see much of that.
When creating your show, SuperLatina. Did you see thought leaders in your current market right now?
There were thought leaders but the type of women-owned content and having somebody who’s not working only in front of a camera but also behind the camera. At the time, it was only Christina Anderson. There’s a legendary host in Hispanic market Christina Saralegui. Which I have interviewed for this upcoming season and she was the only one who embodied someone who had editorial control, financial control, and had control over her content. She had her own magazine too. There were not that many.
And to take it back before you came over to the United States. I realize you graduated into what was one of the worst recessions with a 24% unemployment rate. And I read somewhere along the lines of where the president of Argentina evacuated in his helicopter at his presidential house.
Yes, he fled what is the equivalent of the White House. In Argentina it’s pink, it’s the Pink House. And there were lots of riots, violence, and he fled the Pink House in a helicopter. And it was a strange time in my country because there was a lot of instability. Not only economic and social but there was one week in which we had five presidents. Imagine that!
Did you find any kind of joy or any real skill sets leading up to what you’re doing right now? Before your formal education were you a big writer at all and did you see any people that you wanted to model yourself after?
I surprised myself by my own passion. As a student I was not that passionate, I was dedicated. I didn’t feel the passion that I feel now for my company or my work when I was in the university. Part of the reason is that the world changes fast, jobs change fast, and there is no more job stability or even job title that you have guaranteed for a lifetime like in my grandparents time. They were working in this company and if they wanted they could spend, maybe their whole life there. Now you cannot even plan five years in advance.
Schools and universities change at a pace that’s slow and it’s hard for them to prepare students for the real world. I was a student that was a good student but I didn’t feel that fire I feel now.
Creating my own content, running my own company, looking for new clients. Part of the key in there is I’m a personal faction, I’m a doer, I enjoy creating, doing processes, bringing ideas to life. And when I was in school the focus was more in reading, reflecting, answering but no action. And that’s where I surprised myself because I said, “Oh wow, for me, this is what makes me tick.” But you don’t realize it until you experience it.
You did variety of different jobs behind the scenes, such as working as a reporter, doing all of these unique projects. Do you think your real world experience was the perfect education for you to create your own company?
College education, masters, and everything is a foundation, you need it. When you’re on the public light or when you’re doing a story it shows if you don’t have it. It shows because you don’t have vocabulary and it shows because you don’t have any background as to the history of what you’re talking about.
But at the same time, when you leave college, you graduate and then you start working at a real job. Especially in this industry that is in a transition, there’s a gap. That gap can only be learned by doing in the real world. Even professionals in the field are asking where the industry is going. When I graduated, first from International Relations, it was the year 1998.
Imagine now everything is mobile and we’re all thinking about how we’re going to integrate the television, the computer, the telephone, everything. And in 10 years probably we’re not going to ask ourselves these questions. These gaps between what you learned when your graduate from college and what you need to succeed in the real world, the only way to fix that is by doing.
You’ve lived in five different cities in five years. How has that experience contributed to your success right now? Did you go through a lot of growing pains to gaining the knowledge for you to be successful?
Well it was not planned. The five cities in five years, that’s not something I set as a goal. Opportunities came and I took advantage of them. And then it was also the time when I was working with a work visa. It’s not like I could change jobs but at the same time there was certain risk doing that. I was taking the opportunities as they came. In Steve Jobs speech he says you connect the dots after a while looking back.
And I can tell you for example, I have a company dedicated to Hispanic marketing and Hispanic content. The experience of living in North Mexico was fundamental for me because it allowed me to get in touch with the way of living of people in Mexico, the brands are important for them.
Everything from what is a holiday to what is Cinco de Mayo? Now we have Hispanic Heritage Month. Why? Because many countries including Mexico have El Grito. Mexico has El Grito but other countries have other independence days around that time. I learned a lot about what would later become my market.
It also allows you to understand you have US born Hispanic more acculturative, less acculturative, and acculturative by culture. It helps you to understand more in-depth, the different shapes, the different experiences that a Hispanic living in the United States has.
Leading up to the point of you leaving as a reporter to start your own company. How did you spend your time outside of your normal work hours to craft your company and bring it to life?
I didn’t push my company, my show, my idea to be what pays the bills from day one. I quit my news anchor position and I started working as a professor because I have a master’s degree. I started teaching communications at one university and two colleges. And to be considered full time you have to have four courses. I started teaching four courses to students and that was Monday through Friday. Saturday we tapped the show. During the week we were editing the show and also showing pictures to prospective clients.
I signed a new sponsor, then next semester I’ll do substituting from four courses, three courses or two courses. It allowed me to transition. As I saw my company growing I’d take on less courses to teach in the university. Eventually, I stopped teaching. I dedicated myself 100% to my company. My husband came to work with me and quit his job too. We did it in an organic way. I did not want to start a company only to find out it’s something that would’ve taken longer.
The whole idea to have your own company and to create something that didn’t exist before is to live a more abundant life, to have over time more freedom if things do go well. I never wanted to put myself in the situation where it’s a make or break type of project. I’d rather that it takes more time or that we scale slower. I never wanted to do it as a gamble where I could hurt my own financial situation or I would make decisions that would be too risky. It’s a good idea, if you can do it. And somebody who’s making their own business should start slow and test the waters because I’m sure you’re going to make mistakes. And it’s better to make mistakes when the stakes are smaller than when the stakes are higher.
I always tell people who want to start their own business is do you research, find out how easy or how tough it’s going to be to have that access to credit that you need, how much money you need and how easy it’s going to be. I assumed because I only needed a small amount. We did the math and we only needed $20,000 and I said okay, it’s not much to start a company. I thought it will be easy for me to get the money but the thing is I was not a homeowner at that time, I didn’t have any asset to go against that loan. I have been, at the time, in the United States for only a few years I did not have an established credit history.
I still possessed the immigrant mentality. I was always saving, saving, saving and paying cash, saving, saving, saving and paying cash. And when I started working with a small business administration, they told me,“You have to build your credit” and to me having no debts was wonderful. To them having no debts meant you were a question mark. Because it means if they give you money, they don’t know what you’re going to do because you have no history of returning money. These are valuable lessons, I was turned down by three banks before our small credit union. I don’t know what they saw, but I’m glad they saw it and they signed the loan for us.
How do you look at problems or obstacles and use them to your advantage?
It’s an ongoing work we all do. When something goes wrong or it’s not what you expected, it’s normal to be frustrated or feel bad or be mad or wish things were different. After the initial reaction the key is to accept things as they are. I would have loved to graduate and not have 24% unemployment in Argentina. I would have loved if things were different, but what’s the point of fighting a reality I cannot change?
When I don’t like or I would prefer things were different, this is my reality, with this reality how can I make the most out of it? And these type of challenges, they happen all the time. For example, we’re in an industry that has been in transition. Where nobody knows exactly what is going to be the outcome for the media industry, everything is converging. Everyday news of colleagues who have been fired, laid off, or newscasts on shows that have been cancelled and people lost their opportunities and lost their jobs.
Everybody is thinking about, this is the situation we’re living now or the situation of the industry. How can you make the most out of it with the abilities you have? Or if you think you don’t have the right abilities, how to get the skillset you need to make the most out of it. If you know everything is converging and transitioning to digital.
Is there a point of where you can be comfortable with what you’ve accomplished? Or do you always have to possess hunger, drive, and ambition as when you first started to keep on adapting to the changes in your industry?
I always keep pushing. It’s not in satisfaction, it’s enthusiasm. When you’re passionate and you like something and if something goes wrong you just feel frustrated or feel down. But if it’s something really important to you you love and it’s a very enjoyable thing to do and makes your life better or yourself better as a person. It’s hard to feel “Okay, I don’t want to do anything else” because your motivation is coming from different sources. It’s not only the job, it’s not only financial, it’s also the experience, it’s also the growth and it’s many things. You have to stay hungry in a way.
Do you have a common theme that you live by everyday or a system in place for yourself?
I give myself reminders. On my phone I have an image that says, “Believe in yourself” because you always are going to have weak moments.” It also says, “Be you” because the best things come when embrace who you are, not when you try to change who you are.
Many times in my life, especially my first job, I was somebody who was at meetings and was hesitant to share what I was thinking or to share ideas and I feared not being respected or being ridiculed. I embraced who I am and I allowed myself the possibility of making mistakes and the possibility of making right choices at the same time. Many good things started to happen.
There is not a particular model I follow, but there are things I do to help myself be motivated, to help myself stay positive. There was a time where I felt everything had to be done through sacrifice and through pushing, pushing myself. The more you enjoy, the better you get at what you’re doing.
What are the key things you just learned about yourself and can give advice to other people about the obstacles you overcame?
It’s very important to know yourself, how you work, what makes you happy, what motivates you, what are you strengths, what are you weaknesses. If I was an employee, I don’t know if I would thrive inside a company because everything red-tapped is a turn-off for me. It takes a long time to get things approved and have to go through many field tests and everybody is changing your idea. At the end of the day, you want to do something and it ends up being something not honest to the spirit of the original idea. Doesn’t mean you don’t take input, it’s sometimes when the structures are so big it’s very hard to leave your mark.
Companies are changing and they have this notion of intrapreneur, not entrepreneur. Intrapreneur, so they create more dynamic work environment and projects. You have to ask yourself, how are you going to align your personality, your skillset, how you want to live? Because if you want to live and let’s say nature makes you super happy. And for doing what you have to do, you have to be in a city where you’re not going to be in contact with things you love and is important for you and you don’t want to resign and you’d never be happy. It has to be taken into consideration. You’re going to go further and make the most of your skills, if you align yourself with a project, it could be an entrepreneurial project or a company. Align yourself with something which is a good match for you.
From your own experience. Are we our own biggest gatekeeper from preventing ourselves from what we want to do in life?
Fear can be our gatekeeper, we don’t even realize it. Having a gatekeeper was one of the reasons why I decided to start my own company. I wanted to tell stories I’m very sentimental about and I fall in love with. Then because somebody else had to approve them. At times my stories were not approved and I quote not “newsworthy”. And at the end of the day, what was a big push for me to think, okay, I have already left my country, I have already started a new life here, I had to struggle to get my green card and now it’s solved. I asked myself am I going to stay in a place where they tell me no to my ideas or no to a project, no to growth, no to abundance?
And situations where you feel the most frustrated are your biggest lessons and the person telling you no. In the moment you want to strangle that person or the boss, he is your teacher. Because he is the one when you go back home you say, “Why am I feeling so miserable, what is going on?” What I need is more freedom or what I need is another direction or what I need is to start a new chapter.
Nowadays especially in media, it’s the moment in history where it’s easier than ever before to publish yourself, to publish what you think, what you feel, to write a book and don’t need a publishing house. You can self-publish, put it on Amazon, I have friends who are doing this, they’re very happy. They create podcasts, they do their own interviews, they put it out for the world to see. It’s an interesting time we’re living in now.
Your show has reached tremendous success and reaching over 40 different markets. What’s next for you that you’re looking to accomplish?
We’re doing a transition to have other projects coming to fruition in the digital world. It’s an interesting time, such as the time before we launched SuperLatina. There are new things coming up in that area. Hopefully it’s going to be something we really see when it launch. I will like to be syndicating in more countries.
Now we’re seen in the United States from coast to coast, we’re seen in Puerto Rico and we are launching in Canada, it’s going to be great. But there is no reason why these interviews with the type of guests we have and the type of interviews we do, as to why why this is not seen all through Latin America. I will like for the show to have presence in the whole continent, from Argentina to Canada. Everybody, watch SuperLatina!