SHIFT Baltimore is the world’s only mission-driven, localized, invite-only entrepreneurial membership community. Our mission is to create a new standard for business, one where money and mission are not mutually exclusive. We use the most rigorous, holistic approach to personal and professional performance: honoring the whole-self of business, body, balance, and being. We are creating meaningful, sustainable change aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our members are relentlessly committed to inspiring, influencing, innovating, and impacting Baltimore. And we’re spreading across the word!
We are thrilled to introduce SHIFT Talks: a series of unique stories from local entrepreneurs, each detailing how they’ve experienced shifts within their personal life, their company’s journey, their industry, and most importantly, our city. Their stories. Their SHIFT Talks.
Veronica Cool is the Founder & CEO of Cool & Associates LLC, a management consulting firm. Cool founded her company in 2011 to create a bridge to the Hispanic market. She specializes in Hispanic marketing, community outreach, recruiting and workforce development, marketing & communications, training, and professional development. She also does speaking engagements and facilitates workshops and seminars.
Q. What is Cool & Associates all about?
A. We’re the bridge between the mainstream community and the Hispanic market. It’s simply a connection. We have two worlds living in alternate dimensions within Maryland and Baltimore City.
We have a community of Americans: Latinos—that are not meeting or connecting with mainstream Americans. We serve as the bridge between the two; we connect with workforce development, with training, and with communication.
Q. What is the most significant moment of your life?
A. The most significant moment in my life was July 4th 1984. I had just come to the United States and there were fireworks everywhere—I was 10 and I thought the fireworks were for me. I thought this was how America welcomed everyone to the country. To this day, it’s still magnificent and a cherished moment for me. I am a mom, I am married, and all of those moments have their exalted place and significance, but in terms of life changing events, it would be coming to America.
Q. What’s one of the most thrilling things you’ve experienced in your life?
A. I think my entire life is exciting! Living with the last name “Cool” makes life exciting. I loved racing cars – I drove an Aston Martin through the streets of Philadelphia. I made the trip of a lifetime when I went to Necker Island and hung out with Richard Branson in his home. I also love traveling the world and experiencing new places with my family. There is never one singular moment that is the “most exciting,” at least not for me. The joys of living life are moments where you’re like, “Wow, I did that!”
Q. Can you tell us about a few experiences you want to cross off of your bucket list?
A. I tend to live serendipitously and open myself up to things. I’d love to see the Northern Lights. I’d love to go on an African safari. I’d love to visit all the continents, and not just see them but live them. I want to visit the markets in Tuscany for fresh produce, and share a meal with friends and family by my side.
You can travel the world alone and it’s fine, but to share the laughter and the story is something special. We went to Necker Island and were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Five or six of us were seated in a dinghy and we all paused to look at the sky. Yes, I could have done that alone—that would have been awesome—but sitting there with friends who share the same mission in life and gazing up at the Caribbean stars. That was pretty epic.
Q. How has your experience as a Latina entrepreneur inspired you to shift the purpose of business?
A. I was in corporate America as a business banker for 20 plus years. Being the only Hispanic in the room, I often got to do a lot of different things.
I launched my company because the conversations I was having were not leading to results. People would ask me, “Where do I advertise?” “What event should I sponsor?” “Who should I hire?” I kept finding that all my advice was not being taken—I was doing a disservice to my friends, my colleagues, and my community.
My business started as a shift. It started with a gap between communities that was not being serviced, and I straddled both cultures. I’m an American and a Dominican, and if I don’t use my knowledge or my cultural expertise, then I live in two dimensions. My family isn’t that. I am not that.
My business has been shifting since day one; we are shifting the way people look at communities; we are shifting the way people look at the 57 million Latinos in the United States of America. These are people with money—one and a half trillion dollars of spending power. We are opening businesses at 15 times the national average and yet, we are being ignored. That is a business opportunity for retailers, for restaurants, and for clothiers.
For me, it’s not just about the business and the economics of it, but it’s the access to the culture. One in four kindergartners is a Latino, and if we don’t pay attention to those numbers, where are we going to be in 10 years? If we are not engaging and assimilating the population in the most effective way possible, we as a community—as a society—are doing ourselves a disservice.
Q. You are changing the lives of those living in underserved communities every day. With that being said, what is your greatest hope for the world?
A. Can’t we all just get along?
My greatest hope is the world finds “appreciation.” Diversity is a word thrown around a lot. People’s eyes glaze over, they fidget, and think it’s tired and jaded. “I have a gay friend.” “I have a black friend.” They don’t understand “diversity” encompasses diversity of thoughts, diversity of background, diversity of religion, how you grew up (urban versus rural, small family, big family) — forget gender and race for a moment—that is how different we are.
We’re so frustrating. As a people, we’re so close-minded and we assume because you’re white, because you’re black, because you’re a man, because you’re this, etc., that you cannot possibly understand me. My greatest hope for us as a people is we approach the world with an open mind. Do not prejudge; you don’t know the path I’ve walked, and I don’t know the path you’ve walked. I can’t go into an interview, a meeting, a negotiation, a transaction assuming, “Are you going to be nasty? Are you going to be great?” Or “Is this going to be easy?” I think if everyone could be more open minded and appreciate one another, money would be free-flowing and love would be free-flowing. Life would be nicer… sweeter.
Q. What’s one impactful project you’ve been involved with that makes you really proud?
A. Latino Innovators Pitch. This is something I created two years ago because I kept hearing people telling me Latinos were only landscapers, cleaners, and worked in food trucks. I wanted to show the world we are not, we are so much more.
We created a competition where Latinos have an opportunity to pitch their innovative ideas and propositions, from hot sauces and Peruvian chilies to innovative legal services and social media content for Spanish-language magazines. We had a call center that supports healthcare and various government agencies. It was an amazing experience.
There are so many opportunities for Latinos, and again we are busting every single misconception. We’ve got people looking at us going, “Oh, you have that accent,” or, “You are not from here … you are obviously in landscaping. What is that you do again?”
I love shocking people. I’m often asked, “Where did you learn to speak English?” And my reply is, “Do you mean, where did I get my Master’s Degree in Finance? Or my Undergrad in Finance?” I was educated in the United States. I love when people have these misconceptions and we are given the opportunity to reset them. The Latino Innovators Pitch was about that—it’s about showing the world we’re more than the generalizations and stereotypes you’ve seen.
The Latino Innovators Pitch takes place yearly and typically coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month and the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference. Everyone is invited. You can check us out in action as we help bridge the gap. Each year, the winner receives access to a whole year of support, mentorship, and professional guidance from experts. In the Latino community, business owners, especially when establishing their business, often express they cannot scale, they don’t know how to scale, or they don’t how to negotiate and network. The Latino Innovators Pitch is turning that around for these men and women.
Last year’s winner was Glenda Sierra-Schulz. She has an events company that focuses on social and corporate events with a cultural focus. Our Latino Innovators Pitch panel is helping her firm with branding, logos, logistics, and securing financing — it’s pretty awesome stuff.
Connect with Veronica on LinkedIn