Marina Ponzi was a participant in the 2013 Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership – a unique partnership between FORTUNE’s Most Powerful Women, the U.S. Department of State, and Vital Voices. Marina is the founder of Fuudis and Ladies Brunch, two business located in Argentina that use food to facilitate social interaction. She is an active member of Vital Voices’ Argentina Chapter.
Vital Voices asked Marina to provide insight on her businesses, and how the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership has inspired her work.
Both your business and your community work aim to bring people together around food. Tell us more about Fuudis, Ladies Brunch and the role they play in your community.
In 2009, I founded Ladies Brunch, the first social brunch and networking event of its kind geared towards women entrepreneurs in Argentina. We offer events, workshops and services that support emerging businesswomen leaders throughout the country. Ladies Brunch has rapidly become a leading platform for social and business networking among women, with more than 5,000 members and followers in Buenos Aires alone. I am helping women connect with each other, one of my most important AND rewarding achievements!
In 2011, my business partner and I realized that a shared love of good food is one of the best ways to bring people together! So we decided to create the company Fuudis and began organizing food tours and adventures for people to get to know Buenos Aires through its culinary prowess! Since then, Fuudis has become one of the best ways for both locals and tourists to get to know Buenos Aires’ food scene. We support local businesses and help show Buenos Aires as one of the leading food capitals of the world. In April 2013, we launched the first Buenos Aires Food Week, which was attended by more than 12,000 people. In September, we plan to host a second edition and will donate a portion of our earnings to charities that help fight hunger in the country.
How has the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership had an impact on the way you operate your businesses?
The mentorship experience helped me focus on important aspects of my business I had previously neglected. Now I dedicate more time to writing down ideas, investigating startup best practices, and organizing my business operations.
Specifically, we will be marketing Fuudis in the tourism sector, and will begin selling gourmet products.
Through Ladies Brunch, I am now focused on developing business trainings and workshops for women entrepreneurs in cooperation with well-known NGOs in the country. I have found a lot of people who want to collaborate to help increase the number of women entrepreneurs in Argentina, and I am working to provide these trainings free of cost so that they accessible for all women.
Your businesses are all about increasing social interaction and building community. Why are networks important to you?
Being part of a network means access to new opportunities. It’s for this reason that I’m passionate about building professional networks for women. I have worked with the local chapter of Vital Voices in Argentina since 2010. I believe it is important to be a part of networks of like-minded people, and Vital Voices has been a place where I always found amazing women passionate about the same issues I care about.
Investing time and money into your network is an important skill I gained through the program. I realized that it is crucial to ask yourself how much time are you dedicating each month to connect with people who can help you grow, companies that may be strong partners, or professionals in the same business as you.
Marina meets with senior State Department officials in Washington, D.C. before her two week mentorship.
During the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, you spent two weeks with Roxanne Taylor, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Accenture. What impact did your mentoring relationship have on you?
As founder of two small businesses, having one of the most influential women from a leading consulting firm as my mentor meant taking my professional possibilities to new levels.
Just after the program, I could see important changes in myself and how I handle business relationships. I feel more confident in my work, and I have taken on challenges that I never would have taken on before the program. With the help of my mentor, I realized I am able to do so much more than I originally thought. I got to know the human side of Roxanne Taylor, and being mentored by her made me realize that no matter what situation a leader is in, or what position she holds, she does not change who she is at her core.
Learn more about the 2013 Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership and follow Marina on Twitter: @MarinaPonzi