[Photo via Tanya Malott]
NAME: NATHALIE MOLINA NIÑO
CITY: NEW YORK + LOS ANGELES
HOMETOWN: CUENCA, ECUADOR
INDUSTRY: TECH + GLOBALIZATION + START-UP INVESTMENT
NOMINATED BY: KAVITA MEHRA
Tell us what you do!
I’m a recovering tech startup intra/entrapreneur now entirely focused on leaving the space better than I found it by supporting women entrepreneurs.
Did you go mboy college? If so, where?
All over — in the US, in Europe, and Latin America. I am a nomad in every sense of the word, always have been. Most recently, though, upon stepping down from my last project, I went to Columbia and studied playwriting. I think storytelling is critical in business. And frankly, in tech especially, we’re awful at it. So I decided to take a sabbatical, and immerse myself in the world of real storytellers to see what I could learn.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I wanted to travel around the world, be president of something (I don’t think I put too much thought into what I’d be president of), be an astronaut, and probably be a poet — I was always a little obsessed with poetry.
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your story!
I grew up between two worlds, and developed a love of art and language. But like any good immigrant kid, the emphasis was on math and science, so I went into engineering. I dropped out of school, started a dot com, then started four or five other ventures and helped a lot of big tech and entertainment companies figure out how to do business outside the US without completely embarrassing themselves. I became a kind of globalization fixer, and lived a high-stress, overworked lifestyle mainly out of a suitcase for many years until my body crashed. In 2011, I quite literally purged everything I owned, and moved to my happy place — Manhattan. Shortly after that, as luck would have it, I got into theatre school, and after that, I co-founded Entrepreneurs@Athena with the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. The aim is simple: level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. It’s both the mission of Entrepreneurs@Athena and my own personal mission as well.
Any obstacles along the way?
As a woman and a person of color in tech, I would say there’s not enough time to even start to answer that question. That said, I know that I came to the table with a lot of privilege and a lot of luck. It’s too easy to say that I succeeded because I worked hard and was persistent, because I know plenty of hard working, persistent folks that have not been so lucky and still struggle. The root of the problem is the obstacles — the overt ones as much as the implicit biases. The solution lies in people like me who made it past them, and in our commitment to look back and extend a hand to help others up and over them. In other words, paying it forward and trying to fix the systemic barriers that are still alive and thriving.
Who is your idol?
I have so many. And I’ve had the good fortune of getting to work with a lot of them. Probably one of the biggest ones is Kathryn Kolbert, the attorney who argued the landmark 1992 supreme course case, Planned Parenthood v Casey, and is credited with saving Row v Wade. She’s my partner and co-founder at Athena, and every day I get to work with her I say a little meditation of gratitude for my good luck.
Three personal traits/qualities that helped you get to where you are:
1. Good luck
2. Stubborn, honey-badger-like persistence
3. Hedonism (I’ve always valued the importance of having fun)
Where would you like to be in five years?
Exactly where I am now, but maybe with fewer airplanes.
Define “Girl Boss” in your own words.
Describe your style/fashion sense:
I’ve been called a “global misfit.” I like it simple, but I like it with a little edge. Like an all-black outfit and a crazy, oversized lime-green, hand-knit hat. Or maybe lime-green stilettos with a ridiculous chrome heel. I’m a big fan of the subtly absurd.
Favorite brand right now?
I’m walking the Carrie Hammer runway later this month on my new Fluevog heels, so I’d say I’m a little smitten with them right now. But I’m also very excited about a Seattle-based startup I’m advising called TomBoy, a menswear-inspired line of clothing and accessories, made for women.
Go-to clothing item/accessory right now?
I was just at Sundance and Power Mountain so I’d have to say, my 3/4 length black Patagonia jacket.
What’s your can’t-live-without beauty product?
I can’t live without my MSteves skin products.
Go-to nail color?
Never color on hands. Brightest most obnoxious thing I can find on my toes (lime green?).
I’m the only Colombian woman you’ll ever meet who can’t stand coffee. Go figure.
What makes you feel beautiful?
My body. And when I forget, meditation.
What makes you feel badass?
My mind. And when I forget, my amazing friends.
Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS inspired me. What book has inspired you?
Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is one of my top two favorite business books.
No Girl Boss is perfect. What’s your vice? (i.e. Chocolate, tequila, Justin Bieber, etc.)
Ice cream. And maybe men. I just love them. And living in NYC feels like being a kid in a candy store. How can any woman possibly choose just one? Forget the ice cream. Clearly, it’s men.
Which artist/band/DJ are you really into right now?
Cristina Orbe is the bomb.
What song makes you feel like a Girl Boss?
Orbe’s song “Winner”
What’s a quote that inspires/motivates you?
My long time mentor, the world renowned opera singer, Awilda Verdejo, once told me when I doubted my ability to start over, “You are the source of your own supply.” It’s my mantra now.
Best advice you’ve ever received? And who gave it to you?
My abuelita (grandmother) once told me that people were like water — if you try to grip them tight, they slip from your fingers. Instead, to have people close, you have to hold them gently, with your hands cupped open.
Advice to future girl bosses:
Businesses, like love, require a combination of strength and openness. Don’t try to control everything, let yourself be open to being helped, and bounce back from the betrayals. You will inevitably experience both and be better for it, as will your business.