Nely Galan
Courtesy Nely Galan

Entrepreneur's Journey to becoming 'Self-Made'

53, VENICE, CALIF. BACKSTORY: Emigrated from Cuba in 1968.

EDUCATION: BA from Ryokan College; master’s degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

PROFESSION: Media executive, author of Self Made.

VISION: See women become self-made entrepreneurs.

Nely Galán became an entrepreneur at age 13, when she sold Avon products to her classmates and their mothers: “I wanted to help my family like so many immigrant children do.” After fleeing Cuba, the Galáns had ended up in New Jersey, where her parents found factory jobs. Galán built on her early start—intern at Seventeen magazine, TV reporter—to become the first woman president of entertainment at Telemundo. In 1994 she opened Galán Entertainment, a TV production company, and in 2012 created the Adelante Movement, a nonprofit that empowers Latina entrepreneurs.


Build a Giant Cushion. “Do not even remotely think about starting a business or leaving your job until you have two years of salary saved,” says Galán. The first year’s worth is for emergencies. The second is what you invest in your business.

Moonlight First. Carve out a business you can do on the side and save the money you make. Launch only when you’re earning as much as you do in your full-time job. “It teaches you a lot about entrepreneurship,” she says.

Be a Stealth Mentee. The person you want for a mentor is likely asked all the time. Instead, read up on someone you admire. Volunteer for their organization and stay late. “I’ve had a lot of mentors who don’t know they’ve been my mentor,” she says.

Cover Yourself. The biggest mistake people make is not buying insurance. Or underinsuring. Or overlooking errors and omissions, a form of liability insurance. “In this digital age, what you put on social media can so easily come back to bite you. Protect yourself,” says Galán

Don’t Mix Business and Pleasure. Borrowing from friends or family is the kiss of death. A loan will change your relationship, and the chances of it ending in catastrophe are high. “The only way is to give away the money and kiss it goodbye,” warns Galán. “That will work.”

Don’t Quit Too Quickly. Before you close the doors, invest in a consultant. “It’s counterintuitive, but it’s cheaper than starting all over again,” says Galán. “You may be onto something but you’re not approaching it the right way.”

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