We had the good fortune of connecting with Arielle Minicozzi-Figueroa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Arielle, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Though there have been many factors behind my personal and business success, the root of them all has been surrounding myself with a network of other smart, successful people, starting with my husband / business partner, Mark, and extending out to a vast number of colleagues, friends and acquaintances. In 2017, Mark and I left New Jersey to move to Arizona. As though moving across the entire country wasn’t enough of a change, I decided to leave my career as a loan officer and become a financial planner. Business ownership was never a dream of mine, but I had a vision for the type of business I wanted to run and the clients I wanted to serve that made it hard to find a job opening; I wanted to work with millennial first time home buyers, but every open position I found was an investment manager or insurance salesperson role. My last interview was with a firm that offered me a position as a 1099 contractor. It occurred to me that I could start my own business. Then Mark found the XY Planning Network, a group devoted to serving financial planners that work with Gen X and Y clients and that out-of-reach dream started to seem like more of a possibility. Their membership fee was $400 per month, but it included access to much of the technology and support one would need to start a financial planning firm. I signed up with the network and got started building the foundation of the business, setting up a process, registering as an investment advisor with the state of Arizona, and completing a seemingly endless number of other tasks that come with being a business owner. I spent so much time working on the business that Mark suggested I should transition to helping others do the same. At the same time, Mark was also searching for a job. He had recently graduated with his MBA, so finding a cushy job should have been an easy task, or so we thought…. At this point I can’t even count the number of applications he put in, interviews he went through, and just major frustration and disappointment he faced. It was a hard time for both of us. I took a position as a seasonal tax preparer to supplement my knowledge and our income. Mark ended up working a series of really awful jobs to keep us afloat, while also helping me build a website for the business and taking the lead on household duties. I am so grateful to him. Without his support, I would certainly have given up on my new-found dream and gone back to being an employee. The other key character in my success story is my business partner, Angela. She joined the XY Planning Network at the same time I did and we were assigned to the same “launchers” group. At that time, I had a phobia of public speaking. The last attempt I’d made was a presentation for a college class, during which my knees and my voice literally quivered with fright. In fact, when the group was doing personal introductions, I was so nervous that I rehearsed what I was going to say over and over until it was my turn to speak. As part of our continuing meetings, our group members elected to take turns presenting on various topics related to our businesses. When it was my turn to present, I had no idea what topic to choose. While I wasn’t good at public speaking, I was possessed of a natural curiosity about technology and a severe case of impostor syndrome about being a financial planner which led me to focus on setting up my business, rather than getting business. I decided to speak about how I set up and automated much of my business processes. The other members of my group encouraged me to do a speaking engagement for the network. Not only did this lead me to join Toastmasters, hoping it would allow me to muster up the courage to get through a 50-minute presentation (it did), but it led to me starting a second business helping other financial planners set up and automate their own processes. Because of support from Mark, Angela and my other study group members, that business was able to grow and thrive, not just survive, to the point where I was so busy that Angela and I ended up merging our practices and Mark was able to leave his last, not as bad, but still pretty awful, job and step into the role of COO. He now works full time in the business, trains all of our employees, and still does much of the cooking and cleaning around the house, giving me the time and energy I need to focus on being a partner in both businesses. While my career path has taken some twists and turns, I couldn’t be happier with where it has lead me and I look forward to the road ahead with my amazing support network by my side.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business came about as a result of a circuitous series of events and my multifaceted interests. People are surprised when I tell them this but I was a fine arts major in college. When I graduated, I needed a job so I took an internship in the mortgage department of a major bank thinking I’d stay six months then find an opening at a photography studio. I stayed six years. While working as a loan officer, I decided to pursue personal financial planning, hoping to make a bigger impact in people’s lives. After I started my financial planning business, I soothed my raging impostor syndrome by focusing on setting up my business processes and automating them. In fact, I procrastinated so much that I ended up with another business venture on my hands. While I still work as a financial planner, I merged with another firm and my primary focus these days is my technology business, Sphynx Automation. Through Sphynx, I’m able to merge my creativity, my passion for the personal financial planning industry, and the countless hours I spent playing with my computer operating system as a child in the 90s. It’s a perfect trifecta. Plus, I get to work with my husband, Mark, who is the most efficient person I know, and our sphynx cat, Nigel, the namesake and mascot of our business. Through Sphynx, we help other financial planners set up and automate their technology so they can spend more time on the work that matters. In addition, by empowering other financial planners, I can help more people indirectly than I can serve on my own. As much as I love what I do, getting here was not an easy journey. Being a business owner is one of the hardest jobs I can imagine. No matter what line of business you’re in, you invest your time, energy and emotions into the business. It can be a lonely journey, but it’s also a rewarding one. By pushing myself beyond what I thought I could accomplish, I’ve become a stronger, more well-rounded person. I am proud of myself and the hard work I’ve put in but, more than ever, I’ve come to believe that success does not occur in a vacuum. That’s why I’m so grateful I had so much support from others. Mark picked up a lot of slack, both financially and domestically. My business partner, Angela, was the most amazing cheerleader from day one. The members of my study group pushed me to pursue my second business and commiserated with me when the going got tough and I felt like giving up. Above all, this journey has inspired me to pay it forward to others and I intend to continue doing so every day.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Even though I don’t live in Miami, I’m lucky that my father-in-law and business partner do. Having moved to Arizona from New Jersey, I miss the diversity of restaurants, entertainment and ocean views available on the east coast. Therefore, my ideal itinerary would center around food, fun and beaches: Food: 1-800 Lucky Versailles Bakery M&V Cafe Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant Fun and Beaches: Wynwood Walls Kayaking or paddle boarding on the beach Key Biscayne Vizcaya Museum
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Mark, and my business partner, Angela.