Leticia Ponce Hernández
Life is the best teacher, so make sure to pay attention
Professor Leticia Ponce Hernández’s knack for entrepreneurship began early. She set up her first business when she was eight, buying boxes of chewing gum and selling them at school for profit. The experience taught her about costs and pricing, and she spent the money on a new skateboard.
Later, while studying graphic design at college, Leticia began another venture. After friends and family complimented her on her beautiful, colorful home-made stationery, she asked a friend’s father, the owner of a printing company, for help starting a small business.
Leticia took advantage of her college network to get the word out about her product. Around twenty of her friends helped her to sell the stationery, showing off samples in schools and colleges around Mexico City. This was her sales force, and, after four months, they’d sold nearly all of the stationery. Leticia used the money on her first trip to Europe.
Leticia went on to gain an MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. After returning to Mexico City, she met her husband, and spent several years working at international corporations. Then, 12 years after her venture into the world of stationary, she started her next business—this time partnering with her mother. They became master franchisors of a successful Spanish decorating franchise, selling European fabrics at affordable prices.
A formidable team, in eight years Leticia and her mother opened seven stores throughout Mexico. However, working so far away from her husband and family began to take its toll on Leticia. She decided to return the master franchise in order to spend more time with her family.
After several years of caring for her kids and working mornings at a foundation, her husband encouraged her to start a new project. Why not try teaching? After all, Madrid was home to IE University and the best MBA program in the city.
Inspired by the challenge, Leticia applied and was asked to interview. She landed a job as an associate professor teaching Business Management in English at the new international university that would be opening in Segovia in 2009.
As part of the program, students had to develop their own business plans and pitches, and Leticia discovered that they had some great ideas. She decided to establish the Startup Lab which would give students the opportunity to continue to develop their business ideas after the course ended, with angel investors coming and listening to their pitches.
Leticia has since helped over 180 students further their business models and has even invested in one student’s company. She has also continued to learn, expanding her understanding of management, entrepreneurship and positive psychology, creating the seminar “Producing Happiness in Yourself and in the Workplace.”
Leticia finds joy in teaching and building relationships with students, learning from them just as they do from her. Her job leaves her fulfilled, motivated to keep doing her best. Not only does her work give her life meaning and purpose, but it doesn’t feel like “work” at all.