What keeps me inspired is the power of creativity and self-expression to spark action. We're the creative directors of our shared future in this beautiful blue planet we call home. How are we going to step up to solve the great social, political and environmental crisis of our time?
It’s been twelve years since Ivellisse Morales was a NFTE New England student on her way to the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, but the entrepreneurial mindset she cultivated back then shaped the landscape of her life.
“The NFTE program planted a seed that has since blossomed into a mission-driven career in communications with my own creative agency."
Ivellisse Morales, Founder & CEO of bombilla
Her business began as a side hustle. A self-taught graphic designer, she was taking on some small design projects outside of work as a way to earn extra cash. But burnout in her corporate communications career led Morales to reevaluate her career. She decided to go out on her own and, in a calculated leap, she left her job in early 2018 with five paying clients and a small savings cushion.
“They say the best businesses solve personal problems,” Morales says. “I knew it was time for me to build my own values-based creative agency.” Like a flip of a light switch, Bombilla–which means “lightbulb” in Spanish–was born.
With Bombilla, Morales is reimagining the agency model.
She’s creating economic opportunity by connecting her clients to diverse, talented creatives to, as she puts it, “deliver creative kick-ass work and spark social change. The creative design industry isn’t diverse and has its own barriers to entry. We are addressing that!”
She credits the entrepreneurial mindset she developed with NFTE for allowing her to navigate the choppy waters of uncertainty that come with business ownership.
“As a woman of color and a first-generation American, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own that my parents couldn’t support me with. Because of barriers and challenges, I’ve had no choice but to be flexible and adaptable in handling anything that comes my way.”
Mentorship is something she also is passionate about. Morales received abundant mentorship herself. Those who helped guide her as she struck out on her own, who listened and helped her see solutions to problems are very important people in her life.
She believes mentorship is just as important as networking and that it helps entrepreneurs thrive.
As a west coast transplant, Morales has connected with NFTE Bay Area as a volunter. “They welcomed me with open arms and provided me with a number of ways to give back, including mentoring NFTE students through their business development process."
"It’s very important to me to make sure black and brown young people and people who identify as first-generation American can see what’s possible for them. That’s why I share my own story and lived experiences.”
Her story as a business owner is still just beginning. But Morales feels she gets to be her authentic self every day and gets to work on causes she cares about. She’s excited to see where this takes her.
Currently, she is in the process of refreshing the Bombilla brand. It may be a wild ride but she embraces it as one of ongoing learning and growing. Keep in touch with all things Bombilla as they keep growing!
I left the corporate world because my health depended on it.
Empty American calories of success fueled me. Promotions and recognition, pay raises and perks. Like a hungry hamster on a wheel, I chased and chased and chased. I chased willingly, and with the shiny ambition typical of a child of immigrants...until I couldn't any longer.
This isn't new news. Truth is, I’m a recovering overachiever. As a kid, I hid from the summer heat and humidity at the local library instead of playing outside. In high school, I excelled with straight A's and served as school president. TIME Magazine likened my college internship hustle to an Olympic gold achievement. I spent my early career at top-notch organizations. Of course, an MBA was in my 5-year life plan. Because that’s what I was "supposed to do"...but according to who?To be continued in a separate post.
Collaboration, creativity, cool clients, and constant learning. All attractive aspects of agency life that I enjoyed. Agency is the perfect playground for generalist skills to develop. It's fast-paced, intellectually challenging, and fun. I gladly accepted the challenge to become faster, better, and in demand. I thrived and had incredible opportunities to contribute to exciting, impactful projects.
But the agency model is broken.
(This isn't a secret.) It operates on human capital and tight profit margins. This means that the business excels with healthy and happy employees who contribute their creativity, time, and skills. The downfall is that our value as an employee is measured by the productivity produced in a billable hour. Everyone at some point ends up overworked.
It’s no surprise that I found myself unhappy, unhealthy, and deeply depressed.
The Big Burnout arrived September 2017. It was the second fizzle and burn to greedily rob me of my mental and physical health. My grandmother Luz brightened this dark moment with meaningful advice: El trabajo siempre estará ahí, pero la salud se va. Work will always be there for you, but your health won’t.
“El trabajo siempre estará ahí, pero la salud se va.”
- Mamá Lucy
Her words were my wakeup call. Like a flip of a light switch, I knew it was time for a change. Gracias, Mamá Lucy. I took weeks of paid leave to re-calibrate my wellbeing and re-ground myself in my values. The recovery process included gracefully resigning from extracurriculars, learning how to say no, protecting my time, and, ultimately, creating a plan to escape the corporate world.
They say the best businesses solve personal problems.
My personal problem was the lack of empathy, understanding, and human-centered decisions in how ‘business’ is traditionally done. My personal problem was investing blood, sweat, and tears for thankless work. For not being on purpose and aligned with my personal ethics.
bombilla creative is my phoenix rising from the ashes.
I'm grateful for the painful The Big Burnout - it led me to a new beginning. I’m taking a chance on myself by starting my own consultancy. I take on projects that I enjoy and collaborate with causes, socially conscious companies, and entrepreneurs I believe in. I’m here to help amplify the brands and businesses of changemakers on the move — on my own terms.
I've chosen to accept perpetual uncertainty in exchange for what doesn't serve me. I choose work that aligns with my values, interests, and skills. It feels liberating, empowering, and pretty amazing! I'm learning so much, every single day.
Thank you for reading my story. If you're currently unhappy, unhealthy, and depressed because of your job:
You're not alone.
How can you take small steps to create an alternative for yourself?