E23: A Case Study on Intentional Business Growth with Ariana Gil

One of the things that has been really important is to stack my corner with people who love on me in ways that make me want to be better."

- Ariana Gil

Episode Summary:

Today, we have a fantastic conversation with Ariana Gil. We discuss setting yourself up for business success, using the power of community and your network, and how to go about taking brave and essential steps early on. Our chat focuses on Ariana’s transition from working as a consultant to starting her own business and how she translated her expertise into a successful independent company.

Ariana is an experienced organizational development and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consultant. She has over a decade of experience in the world of community organizing, education, project management, and more. For us, the fascinating part of Ariana’s journey is her intentional approach in moving from expert to profitable business owner.

We are so excited to have Ariana on the show. You won’t want to miss her lessons on gaining more control in your business, building a strong community of support, and the value of celebrating personal and business wins. Join us to hear it all!

What You’ll Learn On This Episode:

  • [05:58] Moving from community organizing to organizational development
  • [09:06] Gaining more control through business ownership
  • [13:16] Unpacking the first big win: paying off debt
  • [15:11] Stacking your support corner
  • [17:06] Transforming our communities for shared learning experiences
  • [18:35] Creating your own benefits package as a business owner
  • [21:13] Setting big financial goals
  • [23:38} Setting up a solo 401K
  • [24:55] Finding community and the power of building a solid support network
  • [29:27] Advice for folks just getting started in business

Resources Mentioned:

Connect With Us: 

Connect with Ariana:





[0:01:20.6] AGN: Connecting with experienced professionals, who know what they’re doing, and then paying for their services. Just pay for someone’s knowledge, pay for their time, pay for them to help you sit down, really identify what it is that you want to do, because it can get complex.”




[0:01:43.2] AS: You’re listening to The Transcend Podcast. I’m your host, Asha Wilkerson; an attorney by training and an educator at heart. This podcast is all about empowering you to build a business and leave a legacy. Here’s the thing, the wealth gap in America is consistently increasing. While full-time entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even a side hustle can change your financial landscape if you are intentional about using your business to build wealth.


I run my own law firm for over 10 years and in that time, I’ve helped countless California businesses go from idea to six figures. On this podcast, we talk about what it truly takes to build a sustainable business and find financial freedom. Let’s dive in.




[0:02:29.1] AW: You know, how sometimes you meet people in life and they just touch you in some of the most amazing ways? Well, that’s how I describe my friend Ariana Gil Nafarrate. We met, also, in the Cuban salsa community in the Bay Area, where I have met a lot of my friends and guests on this podcast. We quickly became friends and also, business confidants. We have shared our wins, we’ve shared our struggles. I have watched Arianna turn from consultant working for other people, into a full-fledged business owner, who has met almost all of her goals that she has set out for herself within the last year, or year and a half actually, of business ownership.


This episode is near and dear to my heart. I want you to tune in and really pay attention to how Ariana describes setting herself up to be successful in her business. Without further ado, here we go.


All right, welcome back to Transcend the podcast. I am super excited for my guest and my friend today, Ariana Gil. Welcome, Ariana.


[0:03:33.6] AGN: Hi, friend. Thank you.


[0:03:35.9] AW: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for being here. I absolutely love your story and your evolution as a business owner. I just wanted to share that with the audience to see, so that they can see exactly your path and be inspired by the steps that you have taken to get where you are. As we start the story, can you share a little bit about how you would describe your profession, your background, the work that you do?


[0:04:01.5] AGN: Absolutely. Thank you. I just want to start by saying what a blessing it is to be on your podcast, Asha, because Transcend the Podcast, Transcend the community, and the work that you have been doing within, even before Transcend and just in your law practice, it’s been one of the things that I have held up as a little beacon of light to go towards as I’ve been in my own business journey.


I remember, you and I met dancing, actually. I remember learning a little bit more about you learning about your own path towards business ownership and being like, “Okay, that’s going to be my friend. I want that person in my circle,” as I am building my own journey as a business owner. It’s a real treat to be on this podcast with you.


[0:04:50.9] AW: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


[0:04:55.6] AGN: All right. My name is Ariana Gil Nafarrate. I am an organizational development consultant. I do organizational development with an equity and inclusion lens. I’m originally from Tijuana, from Mexico. I was living in the Bay Area for about 15 years before moving to Washington, DC. I’ve been in DC for a couple of months now. I came here to go to school. I’m currently in an organizational leadership and learning program at George Washington University, so that’s exciting.


My background, though, is in community organizing. It’s in movement work. It’s in non-profit. I did many years as an organizer, and as a yeah, community worker in the Bay Area, working with primarily, with immigrant women, with domestic workers, and with the labor movement.


[0:05:54.2] AW: That’s awesome. That’s really good work. At what point did you decide to move from community organizer? Y’all can’t see her face right now that she’s making, because you don’t have the video. What made you decide to move from the community organizing work into the organizational development and leadership with the equity lens?


[0:06:14.4] AGN: Yeah. Well, in my work as an organizer, and actually, what I did a lot of was I did a lot of facilitation. I did a lot of leadership development within that organization, a lot of curriculum development, community engagement, and advocacy work. Really, it was about supporting people in their growth. Creating systems that would support, primarily women in learning and developing their leadership, learning how to speak in public, how to have their own voice heard about the issues that matter to them, and learning a little bit about the history of movement work and movement building.


That teaching bug that change the systems bug was already in me. I had just been doing that for a really long time. I was definitely burned out. It was a lot of work. There was a lot of blurred lines between my professional life and my personal life. It was a lot. I decided to leave the organization that I was in, and I actually – It was a funny story. I was working with a consultant and a coach when I was at this organization. When I decided to leave, I had been praying about what I should be doing next and where I should be going.


For some reason, I just asked myself the question, or in prayer, I asked the question, what does it mean to be a consultant? What would it mean to be doing the work that this coach of mine was doing? I just let that question float. Then, Asha, maybe two weeks later, this colleague, this friend of mine, called me up and was like, “Hey, I heard that you’re leaving your organization. I think, that you would be great at equity consulting. I have work going on. Why don’t you come help me in the work that I’m doing?”


It was serendipitous. It was a little bit, I don’t know, prayer, fate, whatever. Just following a hunch. I did that. I left the organization part-time, at the beginning of 2017. I was working halftime and started supporting this colleague of mine. I started, I like to call it, like I was carrying around her easel. What do you need from me? How can I support you in a way that is also going to be beneficial to me?


I started taking on clients with her and then taking on her clients for her and then taking on my own clients. It just grew in that way. I fell into it. Thinking about it from a business owner perspective at this point, I just stepped off a cliff, not knowing what’s going to come. I did that emotionally. I did that financially. I didn’t have a whole lot saved, enough to feel safe. I wouldn’t feel safe now doing what I did then. It did work out. What I’ve learned is that there are other ways to prepare, to jump out on your own and go out and be on your own.


[0:09:28.1] AW: Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. I think that that is also a common story in terms of you put something out there, maybe I want to do this and then an opportunity pops up and you go, “Okay, let me explore this opportunity.” That’s my story, too. I was working at a law firm. They downsized, so I was one of the first people to get let go, because I was one of the last people hired.


I was doing contract work for other attorneys and looking for jobs. My friend was telling me, “Why don’t you just start your business?” You’re already doing it. I was like, “What are you talking about? No, I’m not doing this at all. I don’t want a business.” She’s like, “Asha, you’re already doing it.” I probably took, I don’t know, a month or two to think about it and ended up going, “Okay. Well, I guess the work is the same.” What happens if I decide to think about it as having my own law practice?


At what point in your journey did you actually think about it, “Let me really run this as my own business, and not just I’m consulting and getting work from other people, but this is going to be my thing, my project”?


[0:10:27.6] AGN: Midway through 2020, I actually went through the process of becoming an LLC, as you know, because I did it with you, through the – I think, it was From Me to LLC.


[0:12:41.9] AW: That’s it.


[0:12:43.2] AGN: That was amazing. That was when my business ownership was formalized. The mindset shift happened before then. I think, that began happening in 2019, when I just decided I needed a little bit more control for the work that I was doing, over what was coming in and over how things were happening. I think that it actually started, because the media content that I was consuming shifted. I started listening to a lot of podcasts by young-ish women of color, entrepreneurs who were, “This is the way to go. This is what you need to do. Get yourself your LLC. Make sure you form the foundation that you can then use to build and grow and do a lot more with.” I think that must have happened in 2019. It was a lot of intentionally gearing myself towards, understanding what that would mean.




[0:13:50.6] AW: Hey, excuse me. Pardon the interruption. I know you were listening intently to the podcast. I just want to tell you that I’ve got this great checklist for you to download if you are a new business owner, or even if you’re thinking about starting a new business. It’s called the New Business Checklist. It’s got 12 things that you need to know as a new business owner, to help grow your business and make it ready for the wealth infusion that you’re going to have. Then, you can leave a financial legacy for your kids and your kids’ kids and your kids’ kids’ kids. If you’re ready for that checklist, head on over to transcendthemembership.com/checklist and get it for free.




[0:14:29.3] AW: For me, there was a shift when I – mentally, like you said, where I was thinking about working for other people. I was doing a good job, but then something happened when I said, let me do this for myself. I got a little bit more serious in a way. Not to say that I wasn’t serious before, but it became more maybe intentional, like you’re talking about. Did your practices change? Or what changed when you actually made that decision like, “Okay, I need to have a little bit more control. The way to do that is to do my own business.”


[0:15:04.0] AGN: Yeah. My practice has changed. I don’t remember when exactly it was, but I do remember the moment when in Spanish we say, [inaudible 0:15:11.0]. I finally understood. It dropped on me. Oh, you are not just a consultant, you’re a business owner. You need to start acting like one. That was yes, my practice has changed. I started paying a lot more attention to what I was documenting in terms of income and expenses. I started doing all the things that all the podcasts tell you to do. Open up another bank account. Separate it out. Start tracking things. Just getting a lot more serious about what was going on beyond the craft, right, the work that I was doing. Actually, what are the structures and the systems that I’m setting up to be successful, not just as a facilitator, not just as a trainer, not just as a as a coach or a presenter, but as a business owner?


[0:16:06.2] AW: Right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely it, right? When you not just focus on the craft, or on the skill that you have, but also on running the business. That’s super important. You’ve had a lot of great wins, since you have started your business. Do you remember the first big win that you had, not to downplay the little wins, but what’s the first big win that you have? You’re like, “Oh, shoot. I’m doing this, and I’m really doing it.”


[0:16:35.6] AGN: The first one. What do you remember the things –


[0:16:40.2] AW: Yeah.


[0:16:56.9] AGN: Okay. I guess, the first big win that, I don’t know, it is a business when it’s also just a personal win, and sometimes those are hard to tell apart of in the situation. I remember the day that I decided I was going to become debt free. I was going to use my [inaudible 0:17:14.4] to do that. I actually reached out to my brother, who is one of my – he’s a foundation core support, and also a wiz when it comes to money. If I did not get that, I didn’t inherit that –


[0:17:31.6] AW: Me neither.


[0:17:32.5] AGN: I had to work really hard to get it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to work hard by myself. I called my brother and I said, “All right, let’s make a plan.” We sat down and we made a plan. Now in the plan that I made by myself, or even in the plan that I first started talking to him about, my debt repayment was going to take two years. At the rate that it felt comfortable to pay off debt for me, it was going to take me about two years to pay off debt. I looked up how much interest I was going to be paying over the course of two years, and I said, “Oh, hell no.” I just decided to hustle a little bit more and put everything into my debt payoff. This was consumer debt, and educational debt, student loans. I did it in six months, Asha.


[0:18:21.0] AW: Yeah, that’s amazing.


[0:18:23.1] AGN: It was amazing. It was really amazing. It was shocking. I documented the journey. I had my little spreadsheets. I also had my wins and setbacks. Paige, and my brother was such a big help. He pushed me harder than I would have liked him to. That was part of the reason that I was able to do it. He was also a huge cheerleader. I think, one of the things that has been really important is to stack my corner with people who love on me, in ways that make me want to be better, and then in ways that catch me when I fall.


Getting that core support group, and both of my brothers are part of my core support group, and they are that way in very different ways. My youngest brother is very much like, “Well, you got to do the thing that you say you’re going to do, and here’s how you’re going to do it. You’re getting distracted. Come back. Do it again.” Then my middle brother was just always there when I just needed to cry and be frustrated. Just that emotion.


I think, those two kinds of support are really valuable when you’re going to step out and do a big thing, like pay off debt, or start a business, or any major life thing that you’re doing, you have to have the support for it. The support and inspiration. My family was definitely that. One of the things I’ve been able to do is along the way, I picked up a lot of information. I dove deep in both how you start a business, how you pay off debt, financial wellness and whatnot. Part of learning for me, is also teaching.


Along the way, I’ve been able to – I share what I’m doing with people that I care about. People that I care about are like, “Oh, my gosh. How did you do that?” Or, “I’m doing something similar, what were your thoughts?” I love being able to share everything that I’ve learned with folks who are at a different stage in the journey. I think, that has been really important. I’ve been lucky enough to find people who’ve already done what I’m trying to do and get support from them. Then, I also am looking out for people who are trying to do what I’ve been able to do and with that support.


[0:21:07.3] AW: Yeah. Right. I think that’s one of the things that is brilliant about striking out on our own. Not that you can’t do that mentorship when you’re working for somebody else. Part of the vision through Transcend is to help business owners create businesses that can then leave a legacy. It’s not just the financial legacy, even though we’re trying to get our money right and set ourselves up for generations to come, but you also become a pillar and an educator for those who are in your circle.


Not only do you transform yourself and your immediate family, but then it has rings that go out in this ripple effect, that begins to empower and educate and transform our communities. I think, that’s super important. A couple other questions for you, I’m going to come back to the community aspect, but I also know that you had set some other financial goals in your business. One of them you had called to tell me about a lot of times, we don’t think of our – we think of our businesses just as ourselves, especially if we’re running them solo.


When we go to get a job from another company, we look at all kinds of benefits, what are they offering me? I tell people, think about your own business as if it is somebody else’s. What kind of benefits do you want out of this business? From insurance to retirement, to $500 a month to go exercise and workout, or education reimbursement. All of these things that these top CEOs get with their companies, we can do that for ourselves. What are some of the things that you have been able to gift back to yourself, to take care of yourself through your business?


[0:22:45.5] AGN: Yes. Well, one of the things that I thought was just absolutely amazing was that some people get paid through their organizations to go to school. Some people get funded to go back to school and that gets – that’s a tax write off for the organization, or for the company if they pay for someone to go to school. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew that that was the thing I wanted to do, was that if I have a business and if I’m going to school, how can I pay for my school through the business and leverage the tax opportunities that are available to me as a business owner?


I connected myself with people who know way more about taxes and tax law than I do. I just began to ask questions. Questions open to more questions and how do I actually go about doing this? It comes back to having your systems and your documentation in order and in place and ready to go. I was able to do that. That was a huge win. Deciding that that was what I wanted to do, hearing from a bunch of people. I don’t know if you can do that, or how you can. Just knowing, “No, no no. If big corporations can do it, I can do it, too. I just have to figure out how.”


[0:24:03.4] AW: That’s it.


[0:24:04.8] AGN: I just have to figure out how. Connecting with experienced professionals, who know what they’re doing, and then paying for their services. Just pay for someone’s knowledge, pay for their time, pay for them to help you sit down, really identify what it is that you want to do, because it can get complex. I’m also going to purchase property soon. It’s a balance between how much do I want to write off and how much do I need to have on paper that I’ve made. It’s a little bit complex, depending on what it is that you’re wanting to do.


That was another really big win is connecting with someone who could help me map out how I’m going to get, where I want to go in the next few years. The one I thought you were going to ask about is that – the goal setting is really important, to set those big – As I’ve been reading a lot about personal development and business development, there’s a lot of ways that people talk about setting the big, hairy, audacious goal, the goal that you’re going to make. At the beginning of the year, I did set an income goal and I was sweating when I wrote the number down on the page.


I even was talking to a friend of mine who I meet with every Friday, to have a conversation about money and finances. We just get together and talk and support each other and share resources and whatnot. I was telling him, “Okay, this is my number, and I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel good.” I don’t want to be disappointed by being able to make this number. He said, “Yeah. Okay, so put down all that would be comfy, that you can be like, “Okay. Yeah, this I know, I can make. Then put your stretch goal.”


I ended up putting a comfortable goal that I knew I could make. I ended up doing a stretch goal. Then I ended up doing what I called a happy goal, which was – I don’t remember what I called it. Maybe it was a happy goal. No, it was comfortable, happy goal and then the stretch goal. I ended up reaching my stretch goal, Asha, in, I think by July, I had already pushed myself to reach this number that I have never been paid in my life. I never made that much money. Then went over that, have gone over that by about 50% as well.


Setting those big goals was also, it was a reminder to myself. I’m a lover of sticky notes. Just in my desk, it’s covered. There’s sticky notes on rotation, reminders on rotation, goals on rotation with sticky notes. Having that around, and being able to look at that was really – it helped me to push myself.


[0:27:18.5] AW: Absolutely. That’s what you thought I was going to ask you about, but I was actually thinking about your solo 401k that you have set up, because you also have that big win, which is setting yourself up for the future.


[0:27:31.6] AGN: I did do that. That is true. I opened up a solo 401k. I had my Roth, my IRA. I had some other places I was just starting to invest. Then I did recently open up the solo 401k to make myself an opportunity to invest more, and again, take advantage of the things that are available to us as business owners, that it’s such a huge, it makes such a huge difference in what, yeah, what I’m able to do for myself and the ways I’m able to set myself up in the future. It has been a huge stepping stone. It’s happened so much quicker than I could have imagined.


[0:28:22.3] AW: Yeah. Awesome. Now you all hear why I absolutely love Ariana’s story and wanted her to come as a guest on this podcast. Just a couple more questions for you. You’ve mentioned a little bit about community and about having people in your corner that can support you. Can you just give a few more words to people about what it really means to be in the right community and choosing, and then also, maybe letting go of communities that no longer serve you, so that you can get into the ones that are right for you in that moment?


[0:28:53.9] AGN: Yeah. Part of what you’re talking about is mindset work. Part of what you’re talking about is this personal level work to interrupt old ways of seeing, interrupt old behaviors, interrupt old ways I understand myself, the limiting beliefs that I have. Everyone talks about, there’s a reason. Everybody talks about it. Because there is that mindset work that needs to happen. Or, maybe not everyone needs it. I certainly saw a huge difference when I began to shift away from the places that felt limiting, the people that I didn’t – when I was sharing something exciting with them, they’d be like, “Are you sure you want to do that? That doesn’t really sound good. I don’t know if that’s for you.”


Which believe it or not, even people who love you and want the best for you will sometimes think that the best for you is different from what you know the best for you to be. That was a lot about putting down boundaries and interrupting, when I was the one telling myself, “That’s not for you. That’s for other people. You can’t do that.” I did step away from some spaces. It was time. It was just time. It felt more like, releasing my grip on things and relationships that were already trying to leave, or on their way out. We were no longer beneficial to each other, perhaps. Then, really seeking out spaces that were where I wanted to be, that were full of people doing, in some way, shape, or form, what I wanted to be doing, and we’re doing it in with love for the community for themselves. Others were doing it in a very specific way. That had an alignment of values and an alignment in the how.


Like you said, how did you choose your community? Well, I have a bunch of communities. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve been able to choose. I know that I would want to choose, because each community offers me something different. It’s a mixture of communities that I have stepped into, that have already existed, communities that I paid to be a part of, so that I’ve been absorbed from spaces that that are up to something different. A community that I’ve created myself, where I’ve pulled people together to have conversations.


There are communities that are just two or three of us that get together every once in a while, and then there’s also spaces that are larger. There’s, I think, secondary community spaces, too. There’s podcasters that I follow, other folks that absorbing as well. Yeah. I don’t know. Does that answer your question was?


[0:32:23.8] AW: Yeah, it does. I like that about sometimes you have to let go of communities and people in spaces, and it’s not always because there’s a bad thing, or that some conflict has happened, but you grow. You find new places and new spaces that will help you get to where you want to go. It could be relationships with – it could be with people, it could be with things. It could be with different communities. I think, that that’s important for people to hear as well.


Last question I have for you. If you had one piece of advice, you probably have lots of advice. I got lots of advice, too. Okay, not just one, not the best one, but a piece of advice that you have for business owners coming behind you, what would you encourage them to do to find success in their endeavors?


[0:33:12.3] AGN: Pay for professional support, before you think you can, or before you think you need to. I get that early. Get folks who know what they’re doing in your corner early, even before you start. Start collecting information from people who are doing this as their work. If possible, find folks who are in alignment with your values, with what feels good to you and with how you want to be in the world and connect with those folks.


[0:33:47.6] AW: Yeah, definitely. I think, that is awesome advice. I always tell people like, “Go to the experts. Your neighbor or your cousin, your family member down the street has really good intentions, but unless they’re actually trained in the area that you’re seeking advice in, probably not the best option, even though it is affordable, because it’s probably free.” Pay for the good advice. You’re going to pay for it later, or you’re going to pay for it now. It’s better to pay for it now and get set up on your path. Thank you, Ariana, for your time. Oh, go ahead.


[0:34:19.6] AGN: Where you can, pay for specialized advice. The advice that is for you, let a good person who’s going to be working with you is going to hear about the specifics of your business, what it is that you want to do, where you’re trying to go and will help guide you based on your specific – what it is that you are trying to do, your individual story. Like, YouTube and all of these things. Use those places as a stepping stone to find the person that you want to work with, that you can resonate with, but then really, get in there and get someone who can help you with what it is that you are doing.


[0:35:00.4] AW: Yeah, I like that. Definitely. It’s not a one size fits all. YouTube is great for background information. Books are great for background, but you definitely need someone to step in and advise you in your business, because your situation is not the same as everyone else’s, even though there may be some similarities.


Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I am so happy for you, proud of you and just absolutely adore you. I’m so happy that you were a guest Transcend the podcast. We will chat soon.


[0:35:28.9] AGN: Thank you, friend. I’m thrilled to be here.


[0:35:32.4] AW: All right, Ariana. Thank you so much for such a beautiful interview. Where can people find you if they want to get in touch?


[0:35:40.2] AGN: Oh, man. Thank you, Asha. I have a website, arianagil.com. That’s A-R-I-A-N-A-G-I-L.com. I’m also on LinkedIn, the same way. First and last name. Yeah, those are the best places to reach me.


[0:35:57.6] AW: Perfect. Thank you so much. We’re going to bring you back in the future. Everyone listening, stay tuned.


[0:36:03.6] AGN: Thanks, Asha.




[0:36:08.6] AW: Hey there. Thanks for listening. I really hope that you enjoyed the episode this week. I am so, so grateful to have you here. I hope that you are ready and feeling empowered to build your own business. You are needed. You are important and I want to support you. If you have just started a new business and you’re not sure what to do next, I’ve got a great checklist for you to download called The New Business Checklist. Head on over to transcendthemembership.com/checklist and put your name and your email into the box and you’ll get the checklist instantly.


Also, I want to ask you one more favor. If you want to interact with me on a daily basis, head on over to Instagram and follow my account @AshaWilkersonESQ on IG. I post on there daily. Can’t wait to answer your questions and begin the conversation. Talk to you soon.



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