We had the good fortune of connecting with Marcella Prieto and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marcella, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work life balance is certainly one area that has evolved over the course of my professional career. From the onset, my focus and drive were on my own professional successes; I was driven by a self-fulfilling passion to excel and be the best at what I was doing in a way that I pictured success to look like. I worked hard, traveled frequently, and continuously challenged myself, taking on increasing levels of responsibilities along the way. I was fortunate in this regard, I met wonderful people professionally and benefited from my travels, seeing many interesting places along the way. The path I was naturally on changed for me the moment my husband and I realized we were expecting our first child. However, prior to this, I always had an ambition to open a woman’s clothing boutique and to be a small business owner. The challenge of growing something that was my own was a goal I could no longer ignore. At the same time, having the opportunity to watch my child and ultimately my children grow was a factor in life I knew I couldn’t pass up. Therefore, as my personal priorities were changing, a pivot professionally would be required as well. Finding work life balance would be essential, the avenue I was seeking, owner of a small business while constantly looking at ways to garner additional growth had to coincide with the passion I had for my family and my children. Gone were the weekly business trips and dinner with clients, the opportunity to see my children grow in front of me was one of the rewards I was looking for in life. Attempting to do both took a vast amount of planning, coordination and drive. There were many moments where finding balance was difficult, there were times I felt tired and drained. However, as I reflect, I feel fortunate; I’ve successfully grown a business from its infancy as a brick and mortar location to one where I’ve established an effective ecommerce and social media presence. I am thankful, the support I received from family and friends along the way was immense and I am very appreciative of this. Earlier on in my career, balance would have been tipped in favor of work, I was ambitious and highly motivated. Yet as I reflect, very little has in fact changed from that perspective, if anything I am more ambitious and motivated today than I was then, demonstrating to myself and more importantly to my children that when you set out to do something, do it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The Miami clothing boutique market before I opened was very concentrated in select areas of the city. You had your hot spots such as South Beach and Coconut Grove, however one of my strategies was to target an underserved market I knew had the desire for the types of fashion I was going to provide. I sought to balance fashion with affordability, all merchandise at Cocoa Couture Boutique retails for less than $100, yet continues to remain fashion forward and timely. Generally speaking, buying clothes is challenging, more often than not you are researching and buying styles several months in advance. Decisions based on seasonal trends coupled with my geographic location makes fall and winter buying in particular interesting and factors such as material, color, fit and form are all factors taken into careful consideration. Not only is starting a small business difficult, more importantly sustaining one over the course of 12 years is perhaps the larger of the challenges. You certainly learn a lot along the way, from the minor ones such as method of bookkeeping, insurance limits to maintain, etc., all are aspects you take for granted when you perhaps work for an employer. You become everything all at once, wearing multiple hats professionally and several personal hats as well. My brand is simple, we provide fashion at an affordable price, our styles remain timely and ever evolving. Additionally, I hold dear to me the simple concept of relationships and fostering those on a continuous basis. I am active in the community supporting local charities, have seen many of my customers children grow up along the way and am proud that I have been able to balance this journey with my responsibilities as a daughter, wife and mother.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Miami is very much a vibrant, eclectic and multi cultural city with many things to do. It’s art and culture scene has grown into a very relevant facet of the city, from the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Perez Art Museum to the various independent art galleries that dot Miami’s Wynwood and Design Districts. There are a multitude of dynamic neighborhoods, each with their own characteristics and charm. I would definitely start in South Beach so that one could get a sense and feel for the dynamic and urbanism the area has to offer. A walk along the beach, a drink or two while people watching are always a fun time. I would then head over the bridge to mainland Miami for a quick stop in downtown, to one of the many rooftop lounges with views of Miami Beach and Brickell. Once we’ve taken in the breeze and downtown lights I would head to Wynwood for the ultimate lounge and music experience. Graffiti laced walls sprawl this neighborhood, each establishment different from the rest offering their own quirks along the way. For anyone visiting Miami, I would have to take them to Coconut Grove for the best French food in town at Le Bouchon Du Grove and Coral Gables at Red Fish Grill for some perfectly cooked seafood. There is always time for brunch and there is no better place than South Miami’s Root and Bone, they have the best biscuits and tostones around.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My dad has always pushed me to think big and go against the grain of complacency. Failures will occur and are part of development, roll with the punches, learn and move on. For this, I have my mother to thank.