NAWBO members often credit their achievements to a team of supporters who guided them. In fact, mentoring inspired some to not only launch award-winning businesses, but to also seek public office where they can pay it forward. To mark National Mentorship Month in January, we asked two of our NAWBO members who are running for political office in 2020 to share their mentorship experiences.
Candidate for Tennessee State Senate
Diane is living proof of mentorship’s value. As a single mom in the ‘90s with no college education, she was living in survival mode when she applied for an office manager position. “I had no experience and no business applying for that job,” she says. Yet, Diane’s determination won her the position, and also caught the attention of a consulting firm VP who offered to mentor her. “She took me under her wing and devoted her time to teach me everything about the consulting business,” says Diane. The mentorship helped foster Diane’s entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring her to open her own consulting firm, serve in an advocacy role for NAWBO-Nashville and launch Lady Like Leaders—a series of women’s symposiums—in which she empowers women business owners.
Diane’s goal is to help women overcome personal struggles of entrepreneurship, including imposture syndrome, asking for business and the inability to relax. “I lived with imposture syndrome for years because I lacked a college education,” Diane admits. “But I’ve learned there are many paths to education, including apprenticeship and mentoring.” To pay it forward, Diane volunteers at the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she teaches entrepreneurial skills to incarcerated women in hopes they become independent and leave the prison walls for good.
When asked for advice on seeking a public role, she says “Get involved in advocacy through NAWBO to learn everything you can. Then, make sure politics is your calling. Candidates need to be prepared to open up their entire lives to the world. But if God’s hand is in it, he’ll clear the path and bring people alongside you who can help you make an impact.”
Lea Márquez Peterson
Candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission (Running for Re-election)
While Lea was born to a patriarchal Hispanic family, her mother and grandmother served as her first mentors by instilling in her a sense of determination. “They told me I could do anything I set my mind to as long as I was willing to make sacrifices and never slow down,” she recalls. Lea proved them correct by operating a chain of gas stations, and holding numerous leadership roles, including former President of the Hispanic Chamber, Executive Director for Greater Tucson Leadership and President of NAWBO-Tucson in 2003.
Mentoring came naturally to Lea in her leadership roles. “My strength is my network,” she says. “And I’m able to share it to benefit others.” While Lea hasn’t mentored in a formal capacity, she often connects with younger women who share ambitions she wants to support. “When I learn about their plans and ideas, I’m able to offer them business advice, point them in the right direction and introduce them to people within my network who can help them achieve their goals.”
When asked for advice about running for political office, Lea shares: “Follow your passion and get involved by joining your local public policy commission or chamber. Be present, be vocal and know the issues so you can confidently run for office. And raise money—that makes a big difference for first-time candidates.”