From her childhood leadership to claiming the title of Miss Kentucky, and now a successful business consultant, Maria Maldonado Smith‘s journey is a testament to dreaming big and taking risks.

She shares invaluable insights on creating impactful vision boards, the power of mentorship for future visionaries, and the courage it takes to pivot from a secure corporate path to entrepreneurship.

If you want to unleash your true potential and be inspired to create your own definition of success, she embodies what it means to connect, empower, and lead with integrity.

Top Takeaways

Certainly, here are 10 takeaway concepts from the episode featuring Maria Maldonado Smith on “Empowering Entrepreneurs”:

1. Vision to Reality:

Maria Maldonado Smith emphasizes the importance of a vision board in translating abstract goals into tangible objectives. Entrepreneurs can benefit from visualizing their aspirations and tracking their progress.

2. Holistic Leadership:

Leadership is a journey of understanding others’ motivations and fostering individual growth. Maria’s approach to leadership development underscores the value of empathy and connection in building effective teams.

3. The Entrepreneurial Leap:

Transitioning from a corporate job to starting one’s own business is a calculated risk that requires planning and conviction. Maria’s story provides insights into the importance of preparation and belief in one’s entrepreneurial vision.

4. Building Support Systems:

Achieving a balance between entrepreneurship and family obligations is crucial. The support from a partner or network can be the backbone of success for entrepreneurial endeavors.

5. Superpower Skills:

Maria’s ability to connect with, motivate, and help people identify core values is her superpower. Entrepreneurs should identify and leverage their unique skills to create value and differentiation in their businesses.

6. Personal Revelations:

Personal epiphanies often lead to monumental career shifts. Recognizing and acting upon these moments can set the foundation for a fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.

7. Start Young, Think Big:

Early experiences in leadership and organization, such as running an environmental club, can plant the seeds for a future in entrepreneurship. Instilling ambition and leadership skills in youth is instrumental in cultivating the next generation of visionaries.

8. Vulnerability Builds Trust:

Creating authentic connections in corporate environments involves a level of vulnerability. Entrepreneurs should embrace transparency to foster trust and openness in professional relationships.

9. From Personal Passions to Professional Pursuits:

Maria’s transition from the world of pageantry to entrepreneurship highlights how personal passions can inform and transform one’s professional path.

10. Growth and Strategy:

Entrepreneurs should be strategic about scaling their business, focusing on building strong relationships, and maintaining a balance between personal and professional spheres. Maria’s intent to expand her business while emphasizing the importance of community epitomizes this strategy.

Memorable Moments

05:32 Fascination with politics and shift from music.

08:57 Switched to corporate setting, gained skills, connections.

11:33 Struggling with work-life balance and leadership.

15:35 Coaching and mentoring for personal and team success.

17:54 Feeling compelled to leave corporate life.

20:08 Company development started in 2019, actively engaging.

25:31 Miss Kentucky, a conversation sparked entrepreneurial thoughts.

29:18 Entrepreneurship is challenging but rewarding with support.

32:57 Balancing motherhood, marriage, and entrepreneurship with purpose.

36:33 Openness and vulnerability foster trust in relationships.

37:27 Build respectful, supportive environment through open communication.

43:29 Work towards goals, form positive habits. Tools needed.

44:53 Contact her online at Email





Glenn Harper [00:00:00]:

Hello, everybody. Welcome to another edition of the Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. I'm Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith [00:00:04]:

Julie Smith.

Glenn Harper [00:00:05]:

What's going on, Julie?

Julie Smith [00:00:06]:

You know, I think we've made it through the technical, era here.

Glenn Harper [00:00:09]:

So It's it's a struggle is real. Thank god I'm not on that bus too long.

Julie Smith [00:00:13]:

Yeah. We didn't let you get out of your seat, obviously.

Glenn Harper [00:00:15]:

Well, we've got a great guest today, so I'm gonna go through and read a little intro here. I'd like to introduce Maria Maldonado, the chief empowerment officer at Maria Maldonado Smith Consulting, where she digs deep into her client's frontal lobe to identify their goals and help them achieve that. She calls this her executive vision imagery program. Maria is a content creator, cohost of her podcast, and speaker for Confessions of a Corporate Mom, aka Managing Motherhood, Maniacs, and Marriage, all which seem to be very easy to manage. She also had in her free time as a contributing writer at the Daily Drip. Her passion is to inspire individuals to be their best by helping her clients identify and set goals. Then she prepares the road map so the individual can actually find the path to achieve those goals. As a daughter of an immigrant parent, the passion for opportunity is what drives her every day.

Glenn Harper [00:01:05]:

She travels the world with a mission to empower others to be their best. Welcome, Maria, and thanks for being on our show.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:01:10]:

Thank you so much, Glenn. Thank you

Julie Smith [00:01:12]:

so much for having me. Oh. Thank you, Julie. As well. Thank you.

Glenn Harper [00:01:15]:

Oh, it's a it's a long road to get here, but, by god, we're here. Yeah. This is great.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:01:20]:

We've we've been through so much already.

Julie Smith [00:01:21]:

And when we can we we were communicating through different ways because we couldn't hear each other for the first 40 minutes of our introduction. Right. Right? Right. Exactly.

Glenn Harper [00:01:30]:

But that's the first rule for all of our listeners. Never give up. If you want it to work, it will work. So that's exciting.

Julie Smith [00:01:36]:

That is that is right.

Glenn Harper [00:01:38]:

Oh, great. Well, welcome to the show, and, you know, we like to kinda start off, get to know our guests a little bit, you know, where they're from, how they do what they do. And, know, I did some, research here a little bit. And, I heard that you're from Lexington, Kentucky. Is that true?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:01:51]:

I am. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. I do not live there anymore. We now reside in sunny South Florida, but, was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Great place to grow up.

Glenn Harper [00:02:01]:

Are you a big horse racing fan then or not so much?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:02:04]:

Yes. Actually, my father came to this country, like you mentioned earlier, daughter of an immigrant. My father came to this country, on the on the back of a horse. So he's in the horse racing industry. Yes. And so worked his way up all the way from, you know, exercise boy to groomer to breeder, all the different all the different potential jobs you could have in the in the thoroughbred industry. So that's what landed him in Lexington and where he met my mom and married her.

Glenn Harper [00:02:29]:

How about that? And did you ever do any horse racing yourself or hang around the stables or not so much?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:02:35]:

No. I never I never rode. My father always saw horse racing as, a job, a profession, something that was too dangerous. So, no, I never rode. I never did any, you know, dressage or anything like that. No no jumping. No nothing because he just found it to be very too dangerous for me.

Glenn Harper [00:02:51]:

Dangerous. Alright. Yes. Where did your dad immigrate from? Argentina. Argentina. Don't cry for me. Great. So what was the impetus to go from there to here? He just says, I gotta get out of here.

Glenn Harper [00:03:04]:

There's an opportunity job. Is that what happened?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:03:06]:

Yeah. I would say that my my father was, you know, a dreamer. He was his own visionary And so I think that so much of the work that I do is really built on so much of the upbringing that I had as a child, which was to dream big and to take risks. And, you know, my father left behind, you know, his mom, his dad, his siblings to kinda chart this path for himself. He also came to this country when he was 26, so he didn't speak a word of English. So at 26 years of age, having to immerse yourself in a culture and learn how to speak a language and communicate with people, it was it was difficult. It was difficult for him. So there were a lot of things he had to overcome, in order to get to where he, you know, eventually was.

Glenn Harper [00:03:48]:

Well, jeez, just for you to get rid of your Kentucky accent to move to Florida is probably a big deal too. So you did good on that.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:03:55]:

Thank you.

Glenn Harper [00:03:56]:

You betcha. Now, from at home, did you have any siblings?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:04:01]:


Glenn Harper [00:04:01]:


Maria Maldonado Smith [00:04:01]:

Yes. Older older brother, younger brother.

Glenn Harper [00:04:04]:

Okay. So, you know, when we see people, when they come out of, you know, they grow up, like, we're trying to figure out, like, obviously, the answer's already been answered for us that your dad started the whole entrepreneurial thing of of working and and following the dream and doing your thing. But when you, decided to go to University of Kentucky, be a Wildcat, a political silence. How how did you pick political science as a career or as a major?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:04:30]:

I would say that that actually started when, my 3rd grade teacher asked us to get out a piece of paper and write down 3 goals, on on a piece of paper. Just 3 things we wanted to accomplish. And I kinda took the assignment. Maybe I misunderstood the assignment. Maybe I nailed it. I don't really know. But I wrote down that I wanted to to graduate college because, as I mentioned, my father came, you know, came to this country as an immigrant. He had the equivalent of an 8th grade education.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:04:53]:

So I wanted to graduate college. I wanted to become miss Kentucky. I'd been watching miss America with my mom ever since I was about 5, 6 years of age, and it was on TV every year. And so I wanted to become miss Kentucky, represent my state, at the Miss America pageant. And then I put that I wanted to be a United States senator. And, the reason that I put that the only well, the I think that now that I re I reason with that by saying my dad watched a lot of C SPAN to learn how to speak English, and so it was free, like PBS, you know. We had Kentucky Educational Television, so KET, PBS, C SPAN, any of those types of channels, he would watch. And so I would watch them with him and I thought, wow, this seems kinda cool.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:05:32]:

They get to kind of they're passionate. They talk about, you know, things that they that they are, interested in. They're setting laws. And I think as an 8, 9, 10, 11 year old, I just start to become intrigued with that. And, ultimately, I think that's what drove me to to major in political science. I was a double major. I actually went to the University of Kentucky on a vocal performance scholarship thinking that I might, you know, take that path and either become, you know, a Broadway singer or, an opera singer was kind of the direction that my my instructors wanted me to go in, but I wasn't interested really in opera at that time. So, I stuck I stayed the path with political science, ended up interning in DC for secretary of labor, Elaine Chao, in between my sophomore and junior year and enjoyed, enjoyed political science, but then got out, and went, you know, kind of worked in that field for the department of agriculture because I won the title of miss Kentucky in 2004, and you're actually a paid spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:06:31]:

And at the time, I was promoting a program called no ifs, ands, or buts, which is, basically saying that if you're under the age of 18, you cannot purchase cigarettes in the state of Kentucky. Not a very sexy program when tobacco at that time was our number one commodity. This was pre tobacco buyout. So Gotcha. I wasn't very popular when I was going into some of these Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky schools preaching or teaching this message. So I shifted it to a conversation about money and compound interest and how if they saved the money that they would have spent on a pack of cigarettes over a year's time, over 10 years' time, they'd end up being a millionaire. And so I gave them all of the different things that they could potentially purchase by saving their money instead of buying a pack of cigarettes. That converted into a job after my years miss Kentucky, and I ended up becoming a goodwill ambassador for the state department of agriculture.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:07:24]:

And I ended up then promoting a program called, Kentucky Proud, which was essentially farm to table, and it was promoting farmers and food producers in the over 58,000 farm families throughout the state of Kentucky. I was given an opportunity to represent them. So it was a really cool kind of shift into that. But then, I realized, I think, through those journeys that I wasn't necessarily into politics as much as I originally thought. And I shifted quickly into corporate, when I was, actually at an event promoting the salsa sisters of all of all things, at a restaurant in I mean, I mean, sorry, the at a at a grocery store in Northern Kentucky, and I found a there was a, a pharmaceutical sales, district manager who kind of plucked me out of obscurity and out of government work and said, you belong in the corporate space selling and talking to physicians. So that's what really began my corporate journey.

Glenn Harper [00:08:23]:

So it's funny. You all of a sudden have this, platform by winning, you know, working hard in school, and then you won the the Miss Kentucky thing. And all of a sudden now you have this great platform to put a message out there. But the message was not political I mean, it was somewhat political, but it turned more financial, and it turned into awareness. Like, that's a heck of a platform to be on. Right? A lot of people don't get to do that at at that age. How did that impact you other than the fact that you're like, well, I don't like the politics side. You wanted to go into making money at that point or what switched with you?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:08:57]:

I think there are a couple different things. You mean, you hit the nail on the head with the money piece. You know, I mean, I was newly married and, you know, we weren't making a lot of money and there was an opportunity to switch and go into a corporate setting where I had the ability and opportunity to to essentially drive my financial future. I could earn, you know, as as not say as much money as I wanted, but, I mean, definitely there were bonus opportunities and structures in place that allowed me to take my kind of ambition and desire to be successful and use it in a way that financially benefited me. But I also learned a lot of I gained a lot of skills. And I think that to your to to your to your question about kind of making that shift or giving me that platform, it definitely helped. I mean, I made a ton of connections across the state. It allowed me to, you know, at 23 years of age, 22, 23 years of age, you know, speak to thousands of school kids across the state of Kentucky, which just I mean, I think I feel like if if you can stand up in front of a group of 6th through 8th graders, you can do just about anything.

Glenn Harper [00:10:00]:


Maria Maldonado Smith [00:10:00]:

I know because I have an 8th grader right now.

Glenn Harper [00:10:02]:

They'll say anything to you. Yeah. That's you don't know what that question is gonna be. You know, it's it's, you know, it's funny when, you know, reading your bio and and getting to know you a little bit before we started chatting, the, the corporate ladder thing that you switched over to to GM, but then it seemed like right away, you decided that obviously, the chaos of motherhood, business, and everything, and you're like, I need some therapy, so you start doing writing. And that was I suspecting that was a way to channel that outlet for you to kinda that was your therapeutic session probably, which is kinda cool that you got a chance to do that because who gets to do creative writing when you're working at at a financial company? It just doesn't happen. So how'd that happen?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:10:41]:

Exactly. Yes. And it really was born out of, a time in my my corporate career where I realized as much as I was, I guess, driven towards leadership and and and had some natural innate abilities in think there's a lot of honesty and vulnerability in kind of saying that I started out as a really crappy leader because I was really ambitious, internally and just with myself. I'd always been competitive with myself. I competed in, you know, the Miss Kentucky system, the Miss America system. So I knew how to compete with me, with Maria, and I knew how she could be successful. I then made a lot of, generalizations and assumptions when I went to lead a team that everyone felt the same way as me. Everyone wanted the same things as I did.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:11:33]:

Everyone wanted to be just as successful. They wanted to make as much money or even more money than me. And so by doing that, I applied, unfortunately, some processes and systems to my team that they didn't appreciate or they didn't like. They didn't find that that was very much, you know, leadership driven. So Confessions of a Corporate Mom, you know, Managing Motherhood, Maniacs, and Marriage really was born out of how I was balancing all of that. And then really, honestly, a tough conversation I ended up having with my my boss at the time who didn't think that it was a good fit for me and me having to literally fight for my role, on a team that I was, you know, promoted to. And so through that, I I kind of wrote my way out of of those of those sticky situations and did a lot of research, did a lot of self reflection, a lot of evaluation, and really leaned into, leadership from books, from mentors, from you name it. I was basically trying to be I was just a sponge.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:12:30]:

I was soaking up every opportunity that I could in order to learn as much as I could to be a better leader of people. And the I think the the the blog really allowed me to also explore my own, my own misgivings and be be real about them.

Julie Smith [00:12:48]:

So that's Did your did your team know about your blog? Just curious.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:12:53]:

Yeah. Some of them did. Some of them did. Some of the and and some of the females, you know, I would write about things too. Like, I mean, I've I've wrote about some embarrassing situations I am not a very good flyer. And there was a lot of turbulence and it was bumpy and I really needed to go and probably should have before they put the sign on and you're like, oh my goodness. And yeah. So, like, I wrote about, like, those things that I'm like, I'm willing to admit that, wild crazy things happen when, you know, you just instead of just standing up and being like, I have to go, it doesn't matter that the plane's landing.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:13:32]:

I have to use the restroom.

Julie Smith [00:13:33]:

Well, I I envision your blog to be like, well, today, Jim really made me mad because he won't follow my process. And working through some of those and Jim's reading and coming to work the next day like, hey, why am I on your blog? You know?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:13:48]:

No. And I did a lot of those in in, like, hindsight. I would wait and and write a lot of them kind of, you know, in in the past and pull from past experiences. I pulled from some experiences when I was in, you know, the pharmaceutical industry and kinda shared some of those and how I was learning because I had gone through a management program, a management training program that essentially gave me the stamp of approval and said I was ready. And so I also was only 29 years old when I became a leader. And I was a young mom of 2, so I was balancing a lot. And I think at the time I thought, well, this is just natural to me because I'm always used to balancing a lot. But then I realized I needed a lot more help than I was willing to admit.

Glenn Harper [00:14:35]:

So question is then, this is the 8 oach question, is are leaders born or they are they developed? Is it is it something you had or you had to grow into that? I mean, maybe it's your true self. What do you think it is?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:14:48]:

I mean, I'm an Enneagram 7 enthusiast. I would say I'm naturally inclined towards leadership, but I do believe leaders are developed because people are are nuanced and we're we're we're our dynamic, unique individuals. So there is no one size fits all approach to leadership. And I think what ends up happening sometimes in a corporate setting is we do apply a lot of systems and processes that work because we have to, at the end of the day, get to the bottom line. We have to achieve the goal or hit the mark or the number or whatever. But when you really get down to it, if you pour into each of your people individually to understand truly how they want to be led and what, what drives them to understand them, I think that's what really makes a bet a good leader. And that to me takes time. That takes development.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:15:35]:

That takes coaching. That takes mentoring because we're not gonna just get it right. I mean, are there some people who are just better with people? Absolutely. I mean, I consider that to be one of my superpowers is I'm just really good with people. I enjoy I enjoy learning about people. I enjoy understanding their motivators and why they're showing up for their life. It's why the program Executive Vision Imagery exists, because I wish I would've had that program when I was in corporate, which was is to allow a leader the opportunity to get to know themselves, but then also get to know their team in a really fun and unique setting where at the end of it, they're all making a visual, visual representation of their goals, their personal professional goals, And that's leading them to, you know, success as a team. So it's building that individual and team cohesion.

Glenn Harper [00:16:21]:

So here you are working at GM, and then all of a sudden, one day you just decide, I'm gonna go on my own and be a consultant and help all this up. How how did that happen? Because, again, it sounds like you got a cushy job. You do all the stuff on the side. You can be a mom. You do your thing, and you're like, you know what? I want more. So how did how did you make that decision?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:16:40]:

It's interesting that you say it that way too because I actually thought about it that way too. Why did I want more? I I found myself my husband and I had taken a trip to Scotland. We had just moved to South Florida. He had been promoted with his organization, and we had just moved. We got 3 kids in 3 different schools. We moved into our new home, into our new town. Like, everything was brand new. We literally did everything that you're not supposed to do, like, all at once.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:17:06]:

And and so we take we take off on this trip that we'd already planned when we had lived in, from when we were living in Nashville. And I found myself on a bridge in Scotland, in Inverness, Scotland of all places. We had met some friends the year prior in a pub in Ireland and became fast friends. So we were visiting them. And my husband and I had a day to ourself and I find myself on this bridge and I just had this overwhelming feeling that there was something more out there for me and that my my journey that I always thought would be, a career that ended in corporate with me retiring, you know, at 65 or or whatever that year would be, was actually coming to an end. I just had this feeling. I just knew it. And so, you know, it kinda like tear stained.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:17:54]:

I looked at my husband and I'm like, I don't know why I'm crying, but I'd have to leave my job. Like, I just there's something more out there for me and I don't know why I feel this way right now. I don't know what it is that I'm supposed to do. I just have this feeling that has come over me and I have to, like, I can't And I and and I and if I was being honest with myself and in all honesty now and full transparency, that feeling had probably been bubbling inside of me for a few years and I had just kept ignoring it because I was really afraid. I was really scared of the possibility of what my life would look like without that corporate, you know, cushiness, without, you know, the the yearly bonus, without the company vehicle, the, you know, the the the the expense card, etcetera. Like I, it's hard sometimes for us to step outside of that and see what our life could look like. But I think in that moment, it just reminded me that I couldn't I couldn't run from it anymore. I couldn't hide from it anymore.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:18:47]:

And so I chose to lean into it. My husband is extremely practical and not a risk taker, which is I mean, he is in his own right, but he is very much like, nope. I love my corporate role. He he has a fantastic team that he's built. So in his practicality, which is great because it keeps me grounded, he said, okay. This is awesome, but you have to come up with a plan. Like, you can't just leave. Right? You have to have you have to have a plan.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:19:14]:

And I am a planner and I'm a goal setter, so that's exactly what I did. And, did lo and behold, I mean, the pandemic happened, and I didn't know that in September of 2019. I figured I would be kind of, you know, in the the the consulting firm piece didn't come till almost a year later, you know, towards the fall of 2020. But in the in the in between, I was building out the infrastructure. I was networking. I was connecting. I was trying to figure out what it is that I wanted to create. And, in October of 2020, I started my LLC.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:19:54]:

I started MMS consulting firm and then immediately started kinda hitting the ground running to where when I left in June of 2021, I was ready.

Julie Smith [00:20:02]:

So you left your job in June of 2021, but started all of this the fall prior?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:20:08]:

Correct. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And and really, really 2 years prior. I mean, you you know, I guess a year and a half prior because it really started in 2019 with kind of that moment. And then I we turned home and then immediately started getting, you know, to work, like hitting the ground running, talking to people, you know, asking people, what do you know? What do you, you know, what do you think? Where do you need help? You know? What do you, where where do you lack, in, you know, in help in a corporate setting, etcetera? And that's really how the company was was developed.

Glenn Harper [00:20:37]:

So so you're in Scotland. You're obviously hitting some scotch and then you have this epiphany, or did it not go down like that? Or do were you then scotvening on the top of the mountain is usually where things happen, but you're on the bridge. So

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:20:52]:

Again, I was on a bridge, and it was like a rickety bridge too. Like, I was a little afraid that it might not crash into the water, but, you know, it was just, no. I it was it was around I wanna say it was morning time because I know we were taking a stroll. So not not saying that I haven't taken a shot of scotch or whiskey that early in the morning, but that particular day, I don't think we had yet. Don't close started.

Glenn Harper [00:21:17]:

Well, you know I think it

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:21:19]:

probably drove me to drink the rest of the day.

Glenn Harper [00:21:21]:

Oh my gosh. Your husband's probably hitting it hard and hitting all the good stuff. Well and it's and it's the craziest thing how sometimes these things come to us. It could be anything. I'm making the joke about the Scotch in Scotland because it's an awesome place over there, but you just never know how it's gonna hit you. And when it hits, try to listen, and, you listened. And how how in-depth did you go? Just out of curiosity, you have this feeling. You're on the bridge.

Glenn Harper [00:21:46]:

You have the thought, how long did it take you to go, holy Schneikys. This is gonna happen. And then you you have that revelation and you tell your husband, is that, like, in 5 minutes? Is that a day, a week? How long did it happen?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:21:58]:

From time to

Julie Smith [00:21:59]:

time the bridge.

Glenn Harper [00:22:00]:

Was he there too with you? He was

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:22:00]:

on the bridge.

Glenn Harper [00:22:01]:

But you just reached over and said to him, hey, dude. Here's his

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:22:03]:

trip. Yeah. We were standing there.

Julie Smith [00:22:06]:

Talk about peeing your pants. He probably was.

Glenn Harper [00:22:08]:

Dan's like, I'm jumping off this bridge. Dan's like, I'm out of here.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:22:12]:

Yeah. That's what I said. I mean, I think it was just one of those moments where then we kinda walked around a little bit and and and my my husband is an investigator. So that's like his personality. So immediately he starts asking questions. Okay. You know, why, what, how, you know, what are you thinking, where is this coming from, you know, just all of the questions. So he's really good at kinda digging in and getting to the root of of, of where he needs to be in order to feel comfortable about that decision.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:22:43]:

But, no, it was pretty it was pretty instantaneous. Yeah. I mean, I'm I'm your wife's crying on a bridge. You're gonna ask, like,

Glenn Harper [00:22:50]:

are you okay? He didn't have the same epiphany. He just got smart and goes, well, I just need to support my wife here and do what she needs to do. So that's smart.

Julie Smith [00:22:58]:

So how old were your kids at this point?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:23:01]:

Oh, gosh. So I'm trying to think. My oldest was a 6th grader. My old, our oldest son was a 4th grader and the baby was in pre k. So he was in like a Montessori pre k program. Yeah. So we had, you know, like I said, 3 3 kids in 3 different schools. He was in, like, a pre k four program.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:23:20]:

It was it was madness. And then I throw all of this at him that we're going to, you know

Glenn Harper [00:23:25]:

I mean, in my world, that seems totally normal. I don't see the issue. So this is where again, people that are used to the organized chaos, if you will, everything is an opportunity. They don't look at it like, oh my god. That's too much more. I can't do it. They're like, oh, let's go do that. That looks like fun.

Glenn Harper [00:23:39]:

I suspect that's your mindset from when you're a kid growing up.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:23:43]:

Yes. Yes. And and I think that's where a lot of my dad is is kind of instilled in me in that way of, okay, this is this is just a new adventure, the new opportunity, this is something new. I might not know all the I have all the answers. I mean, I I I know from my dad's story that he never had any of the answers. And oftentimes, you just put one foot in front of the other and you just kind of go and you make it work and you figure it out. And I knew that I had that attitude. I knew that I had some built in resilience from almost being fired and really fighting for my position and, you know, rightfully within the company.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:24:22]:

And and then building a team that was incredibly I think a lot of it was just that fear and it's this self limiting belief. So I think a lot of it was just that fear and is the self limiting beliefs of just saying, but do I really have what it takes? And, like, am I am I truly capable of this?

Glenn Harper [00:24:43]:

A lot of that comes with, you know, mentoring. It comes with, upbringing. It comes with just your team around you to support you. Who do you think was the most crucial person or thing that gave you the strength to to believe in you to go do that?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:24:59]:

I would have to say my husband. I would have to say, you know, my my my husband because at that point too, I mean, we're still in the pandemic. We're still, like, in it. And so, I mean, we're there was just the 5 of us in the house, you know, for the most part. So as I'm building this but I will say there's a there was actually a pivotal conversation, and I have to give credit to, actually a a girl I grew up with in in Lexington. She is now, a thriving business owner. We ended up going to high school together. We ended up being sorority sisters.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:25:31]:

All the things we competed in miss Kentucky together, all the stuff. And I had a conversation with her and it was interesting because at the time, I was was thinking, well, maybe I maybe it's not that I start my own company or my own business. Maybe I just need to actually leave, you know, leave this corporate role and go find something else. Maybe that's what I need. And I remember having this conversation with that you need right right instilled in you. Like, you should be going and doing your own thing. Everything that you're telling me that you want to go do and help another company do, actually, it would be better if you went and did that to for a lot of companies, because not just one company needs that. Every company needs that.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:26:16]:

Every company needs leaders who, you know, know why they're showing up every day, that pour into themselves so that they pour into their people. You know, they have really balanced personal professional lives, whatever that looks like to them, because balance is such a a nuanced word, you know, in and of itself. But that was a really motivating conversation. And, you know, I still keep in touch with her, of course, and I I thanked her on numerous occasions to say you were really a catalyst for me deciding, okay, it's not that I need to look in the direction of another company. I actually need to look in the direction of myself, like, you know, do that mirror work to remind myself that I actually have all the tools that I need to take this business to the next level already in the 17 years of corporate experience that I had at that time.

Glenn Harper [00:27:01]:

Yep. It's funny. You're, you had all the tendencies. You had all the markers. You didn't know you were gonna be an entrepreneur, but you are effectively acting like 1. You're building your resume, and you didn't know. And it just takes somebody to say, you know what? You can do this without being in that structure. You can build your own structure, which, again, that revelation is pretty cool.

Julie Smith [00:27:21]:

But I think we've gotta go back. So growing up, did you ever I don't know. Probably not mow yards, but paint rocks. Sing for people to get to like, were did you ever have any of that entrepreneurial growing up that you can look back now and you're like, I did have that or like, oh, I was always doing that or I've, you know, I always joke and say my kids are very bossy. They're very good leaders. Right? Like, how do you turn that around? But, like, I totally can see you know what I mean? If you have that self reflection

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:28:00]:

between 2 boys, and my younger brother was really I always say he's like my, like, my my little child. I feel like I still kinda boss him around because he's 5 years younger than me. But I I I ran an environmental club in my neighborhood, and I will say I I somewhere I still have the book and it was like a 101 ways to save the earth. And I remember pouring over this book and I was and I'm still am very involved and love to recycle. It's a very big part of my life. I really I mean, it just little things that that we do and don't do, in order to, you know, reduce, reuse, recycle, renew. And, so I would say that that's probably the earliest piece of, like, my leadership development or even my entrepreneurial journey was gathering a group of neighborhood friends to be a part of this environmental club where we'd go around and pick up trash and make sure that it made it into the recycle bins or to yeah, into people's garbage instead of on the sidewalk.

Julie Smith [00:28:54]:

So you're building a team and leading them towards a goal?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:28:58]:

Yes. Absolutely. Yep.

Glenn Harper [00:29:00]:

And here we are doing the same thing. Isn't it funny how you end up and you didn't even know it was gonna happen? And and just think, if you wouldn't have answered the calling, whatever that moment you had, where would you be today different? I can't even can't even comprehend it.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:29:18]:

Yeah. I don't know that I could comprehend it because there's moments you know, I mean, I think everyone every entrepreneur has those moments where they think, gosh, if I just look back now, maybe I can, like, get back that old life. You know? It's like I'm still not so so far removed from it that maybe, just maybe I could get it back. Now, I mean, I think I had those moments a couple of times just, you know, in doubting my own abilities or when things were moving not as fast as I wanted them to. And I've been I've learned to enjoy, like, planting seed phases and then enjoy the phases where I am am incredibly active and I'm so busy that I can't even think straight. Or, like, today where we literally have dogs and kids running around because it's spring break, and I've got a kid who I'm like we have a neurodivergent child who unfortunately does not listen. He's saying, can you be quiet and stop playing with Legos? Because he's like, no. I'm just gonna continue playing with my Legos.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:30:13]:

You have to you learn

Julie Smith [00:30:14]:

to lean into those moments, right, instead of running to them because it's You do. I mean, we're in a nice studio, but you and I were, you know, talking about we both have kids on spring break. How do you make all of this work and how relatable that is to, you know, females and males. But, you know, I think more the female entrepreneur where you're just trying to fit everything in to each specific second and hoping that there's no nanosecond where something goes slightly off key because you're not gonna make it on time then. Right. Exactly.

Glenn Harper [00:30:45]:

We all know it's way harder for the dude entrepreneurs. It's we have so many more things to think about, so many more responsibilities. It's really impossible. I don't know how we even survive. No. Obviously, we're joking because, again, the multilevel juggling of entrepreneurs and the different responsibilities at work and home and how that all works, again, there's just it is what it is. And nobody can complain about it because that's the way it has to be, so you just gotta figure it out. Right? And if you have somebody supporting you on both sides, it sure does make it easy.

Glenn Harper [00:31:15]:

Right? Not not easy, but easier. At least somebody believes in you and you can do what you gotta do.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:31:20]:

Yes. Yes. It takes the pressure off. I think that's the biggest piece of it is that it's that peace of mind, that you you have someone who's there to support you, who's got your back, and who understands what you're trying to achieve. So you're not in it alone. And even though my husband isn't in the day to day of my business, I know that when I need to run something by him or I need his support or I need, you know, just his just his ear just to hear me vent or to, you know, to to to work through something that he's there for me. And that's something that I don't take for granted because I've talked to other entrepreneurs who don't have that at all.

Glenn Harper [00:31:56]:

It's a entrepreneurism is a very lonely world. And, nobody really can relate except another entrepreneur. So it's really that's why they're having those mentors and supportive people around you can really help because that just doesn't exist for most people, which is crazy,

Julie Smith [00:32:10]:

but that's the way it is.

Glenn Harper [00:32:11]:

Today, we could see it on the Internet,

Julie Smith [00:32:12]:

but that's not the same. Yeah. So you've kind of alluded to this, you know, before, and maybe you'll pick the same one that you have, but what is your superpower?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:32:23]:

Oh, yeah. I mean, I said, oh, I did mention that earlier. There's people. And I would say, yeah, connect you know, connection, connecting with people. I'm I my when I work with private clients, I love the 1 on 1 work that we do because I truly get to lean into them and get to understand them, how they work, what it is they're working on, and I get to help motivate them. I pull things out of them that I know is in there. And I think the same works in a corporate setting as well. I just enjoy talking with leaders, working with leaders, with individual contributors who are trying to be the best that they possibly can be.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:32:57]:

Because just like we talked about the entrepreneurial journey of of balancing all of this, of, you know, the motherhood, the craziness, the, you know, like, the marriage, the main the maniacs and the motherhood. You know, it's the whole thing. And and now it's the entrepreneurial journey on top of it. People are at the core of everything that we do. And so when I can connect with someone and make them feel more seen, more heard, and, less, afraid to be open, then I feel like I've done my job. And so whether that's working with US House of Representatives, with Paramount, with Constellation Brands, with Johnson and Johnson, like, whoever I work with, it is really just leaning in to say, how do you wanna show up for yourself in your life every day? Why are you showing up? Do you know your why? Do you have your core values and your mission statement for your own life? Not the company's core values, not the company's mission statement, but, like, what is what is yours? Like, what is Julie's statement that says, like, this is who I am. This is this is who I am in my life. This is how I show up in my life.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:34:02]:

You know, what are my core values that I'm not gonna, you know, compromise on or deviate from? Because those are are really innate to me. Those are the things that keep me me, and that's what sets me apart from everyone else. Even if they're the same words to describe it, it's like but those are the words that I really use to describe, you know, who I am. So that I think is is a big piece of my superpower, which is baked and built into the program.

Julie Smith [00:34:26]:

So I love that, but I have one more question. Have you sent that person that tried to force you out of leadership like a free trial or a free session?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:34:39]:


Julie Smith [00:34:39]:

I don't know. That came to me as you were speaking your why of like Yeah. This person had earned the spot at the table to be a leader and you were kind of, you know, asked to leave gracefully or whatever that was. And look where you are now. Look where that led you and, you know Mhmm.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:34:57]:

No. I haven't. I do know that that person I did write a blog about the situation, after everything had passed, and probably had, maybe felt had a different perspective on how things ended than I did. Because I think as women, you know, we we learn to just smile and say, okay. That's great that you tried to screw me over and get me fired from a company for no reason, for no apparent reason. None whatsoever. Not not performance based. Nothing.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:35:24]:

I mean, the team was was doing great other than maybe just some management style, you know, coaching and mentoring that you could have done, but he didn't need to fire me for that. That could have been a conversation that we had. Similar to the cups of coffee on your desks right now, that's exactly what he showed up with. No paperwork. No nothing. No prior conversation. It was just, hey. I've been I just just showed up and decided that he, you know, didn't think that I was gonna be a good fit for the team anymore.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:35:49]:

So, no, I have not touched base with him, in a long time.

Glenn Harper [00:35:53]:

So here's a here's a so here's a funny question or interesting question. So, normally, to get people to relax and open up and tell things, you gotta have some training on that, or you just want those natural people, people you wanna talk to, right? So here you are, having not only get the skill set to be able to have people trust you, to tell you what's really going on, What's your success rate on when they tell you that you go, I got this, and you know what exactly to do for them? And they're like, oh my god, how did you know? I mean, does that happen all the time or is it, you know, it takes a lot of sessions to get somebody open up?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:36:33]:

No. I would say that because I'm open and I'm willing to be open with people, it creates a level of vulnerability in them. I think that you have to mirror what you want to get out of people. And so if you're not willing to be open with them and share your story or your vulnerability, it's gonna be a lot harder for them to then open up and trust Cause you're really building trust and people work with people that they know, like, and trust. And if they, if they don't feel that way around you, then it's going to be very clear and they're not going to be, as, as open and honest with you. And I think that's how I get to those levels with people within corporate settings, with their leaders sitting right there, because I'm creating an open, safe, non judgmental space to say we we want we all wanna get better. We all want the same thing. We want you to feel like when you show up to work that you have a meaningful and valuable piece in this organization.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:37:27]:

And likewise, that your boss respects and knows that. And let's have some conversations that facilitates that as well if you're not feeling that way. And if you are feeling supported, then great, then let's use that opportunity to thank that leader for creating that, that space for you. I I think a lot of it is just open communication, trusting the process, you know, of executive vision imagery, because what it really does is open up that communication pathway for leaders and their teams to come together and get to know each other better. We spend 80% of our time with the people that we work with. So I want that time to be valuable. I never wanted to show up in a corporate setting and feel like I had, you know, no friends or that I couldn't trust anyone. And whenever that happened, you know, that was not, that wasn't a fun or happy place at all.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:38:14]:

And so to push through and kind of work through that through my own experience, I don't want anyone else to have to go through that.

Glenn Harper [00:38:20]:

So you kinda had to get rid of the whole political science thing and not be a political monster to figure out how that works. And you had to go the other way, which is how to be helpful and kind, which is so bizarre that you would switch it like that you could switch it like that. Right? Because you were trained in a different way. Yes.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:38:35]:

Well, I remember my I remember my, like, political science. I think it was like a 495 class. It was my senior year. And he he asked our class, you know, how many of you guys and I wanna say there was like Latin American politics related too. It wasn't even like US government or US politics related. But he said, how many of you want a, career in politics? Like, you're gonna go into public policy. You're gonna go into law school, etcetera. So several people raised their hand, and then he said, okay.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:39:00]:

And he's like, well, out of this, he goes, let me just tell you the number one job for political scientist is comedian, and the number 2 is social worker. And I'm like, well, I want to do neither of those things, so I don't know where that leaves me. But

Glenn Harper [00:39:14]:

You pivoted. That's the key.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:39:16]:

Yeah. Yes. For sure.

Julie Smith [00:39:18]:

So I guess I have one last question. Well, I have 2. Sorry. I got I got one more that's been been in here. Have have you built a team around what you're doing or is it still just you?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:39:31]:

It is still just me. I do have an operations manager who is amazing and who I rely on significantly. And when you talk about talk about relationships and building relationships. We worked together at GM. And so, when she left and I found out that she left because I had already I had already left, We had a conversation and and it kinda one thing led to another and I'm like, wow. I could use your rock star ness with what it is I'm trying to do. And so she signed on and she's, she's amazing. And I think that's also the cool thing of identifying like other powerful females, you know, in the space that you can bring along to say, you have a need right now.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:40:09]:

You wanna raise kids and you wanna, you know, be a mom, but you also still want us to be able to support your family. I can help you do both of those things, which is really cool feeling. But, yeah. So, so far it's just me, but the the the idea is that by the end of this year into 2025, I have plans to scale to where we'll add some additional trainers just to cover the ground that it is that, you know, the the momentum and the speed that we're, at which I'm growing. I can't, at this, unfortunate, I guess, way be in, you know, 4 places at one time.

Glenn Harper [00:40:38]:

So then this funny everybody listening is here we are. We're juggling everything. What's she gonna do? Expand. Take it to heart. This is how entrepreneurs roll. Everything's an opportunity.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:40:49]:

Right. Right.

Julie Smith [00:40:49]:

But I think she's gonna be strategic about it, and I think, you know, she's built it to a place where she has the ability to do that with the relationship she has, and I think that leads me

Glenn Harper [00:40:58]:

It's not a negative, by the way. It's a positive. I know. I'm all I'm all in on that.

Julie Smith [00:41:02]:

Leads me to my final question, which is what is your end game? What it what where do where do you see yourself way down the road?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:41:11]:

Oh. Well, I talk a lot about vision and my podcast is called Creating the Vision because I love asking people where their vision is. Wow. So when it's flipped on me, whew. Okay. So I create a vision board every year and that's actually my process ends that way. It's a unique, you know, kind of way to visually represent the goals you're working towards. And so what's on my vision board is, to become, you know, a TEDx speaker, to become, you know, a professional speaker, just, you know, to to work with as many corporations as possible.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:41:42]:

I am I feel like there's a book somewhere along along the way down the road, to truly tell my story and more so for an opportunity for just, potential entrepreneurs or people in corporate to kind of learn from. And, Yeah. I just I see a lot of I I see a lot of collaborations with people because I love expanding my network and I love pulling in from, different female entrepreneurs who are doing similar things, but yet different where we can collaborate and really lean into, women in corporate, women in entrepreneurship. So I see a lot of those things in in my future. I mean, I I would say, honestly, like, world domination is probably in there somewhere.

Julie Smith [00:42:24]:

So I'm gonna laugh and I'm gonna keep it full circle here. So in the beginning of the podcast, we kind of alluded to you're going to do your corporate thing until 65. Right? You were kinda had that goal, that vision. Right? Mhmm. Now here you are. You've created this entrepreneurial dream where there is no end game for you. Ever. You you you literally just spoke and it was winding down the path.

Julie Smith [00:42:46]:

I see the peaks and the valleys of what you're gonna go through. There's no end game for you.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:42:52]:

No. No. Not at all. Not at all.

Glenn Harper [00:42:53]:

Not at all.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:42:54]:

Not at all. I I mean, I I want to I want I want a nonprofit sector of what I do because I don't think that we teach kids, how to goal set and how to truly goal set and plan for their life, things that are crucial and vital. And yet we kick them out of the house at 18 and tell them, okay. Go be adults. And we haven't really given them the foundation for that. So creating is coming. It's actually coming in 2024. So I see that growing and hopefully becoming a part of, you know, curriculum or school systems where I can go and speak and talk about the importance of how setting goals is is vital to to, you know, our our life.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:43:29]:

We have to have something to work towards, and we might continue to move the goal post. You know, it's all about habit formation. Are we building those positive habits? Are we doing small day you know, daily small tasks and that are manageable to get us from 1, you know, one step to the next? All of the things that I work with corporations on, but I wanna take it into a level that, you know, that 8 year old, 9 year old when I was in 3rd grade and her teacher said, you know, get out piece of paper and write down those three goals that, you know, she felt not that you know, I had transferred it to a Post it note. It stayed on my mirror till I was a senior in high school, but not really having much of a of a of a clear path to achieving those things, just knowing that's the direction I'm gonna head in, so that's the direction I'm gonna go. But if I had had some tools and resources to help get me there faster, I I think of just yeah. Who knows? Yeah. So many more opportunities could have been opened up. And I think that's what, our youth and, our world would be so much better off if we had those opportunities for our kids.

Glenn Harper [00:44:30]:

We couldn't agree more. Well, we really appreciate you being on the show. Would you like to give a couple plugs to your companies where people get a hold of you and find out what you do?

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:44:38]:

Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me and for all of the the craziness today through, through all of the ups and downs. I mean, that's life. Right? That's the the entrepreneur journey. That's the motherhood journey. That's the, yeah, that's the piece of it.

Maria Maldonado Smith [00:44:53]:

But you can find me, online at my website, You can email me, if you'd like to to talk about what my program looks like for your corporation, or your team retreat or team event. And that's just I'm on Instagram and LinkedIn. I'm pretty active in both of those places. It's just at my full name, Maria Maldonado Smith, is my handle. And, you can also order my, kind of, you know, customer facing tool for creating a vision board, and it's called Creating a Vision Board. And it's available on Amazon.

Glenn Harper [00:45:28]:

Fantastic. Well, we really appreciate you being on the show. Another edition of Empowering Entrepreneurs. I'm Glenn Harper. Julie Smith.