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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!