I used to think that being a role model for my community meant just working as hard as possible. Some of my earliest memories are of filling onion sacks alongside my immigrant farmworker parents in the 1970s.
I look back on those experiences as a blessing. The life lessons of determination and perseverance I learned as a child have allowed me to excel as a production manager for Costco and then a serial company founder. Without them, I wouldn’t be among the 7% of sole female inventors in the United States and part of a select group of Latina entrepreneurs here in San Diego.
But to achieve these heights, I hustled. I hustled so hard, in fact, that my health suffered. And so, during the pandemic, I learned a new life lesson. I needed to embrace holistic wellbeing.
I am more than my work. It’s a message that I want other Latinas in particular to hear and take to heart. We spend our lives trying to prove ourselves — be the top. But when that’s all we do, we miss out on taking care of ourselves, and we risk bringing on serious health conditions.
In 2015, I launched Hanging Secrets, a line of bespoke closet organizers for lingerie. I hustled to get the company off the ground, sleeping very little and paying no attention to my health. It wasn’t until the pandemic canceled most of my networking and marketing events that I was forced to slow down. I finally went to the doctor—and what I learned shocked me. My cholesterol was high, and I was pre-diabetic. A colonoscopy, revealed several polyps, which required surgery.
My health problems weren’t unique. Nearly 47% of Latina women are obese and 35% have hypertension. The CDC reports that 30% of Hispanic adults between the ages of 18 and 64 did not have health insurance coverage in 2020.
That’s partly due to lack of access and language barriers. But cultural norms are also to blame. Hispanics don’t prioritize preventative care. Instead, people embrace being tough, and tend to wait to go to the doctor until there is a problem.
We’re taught to suck it up and never complain, just keep on going. This is especially true for Latinas, who are used to always putting others first. Being a hard worker is a wonderful value, but we have to also consider ourselves — not just our work.
In the last few years, I began to work on lowering my cholesterol. I cut my sugar intake stopped drinking alcohol and started going to gym regularly. I lost weight and am no longer pre-diabetic. But best of all, I feel so much better. I have more energy to do the work I love.
My approach to that work has changed, too. Paying more attention to my health has allowed me to focus on what really matters in my business. Instead of spending long hours on the road, networking and attending conventions I’m focusing on a few specific retail outlets and my Amazon.com presence.
All of this is going to keep me — and the business — healthy for many years to come.
Frances Prado is the CEO and inventor of Hanging Secrets.