We had the good fortune of connecting with Soledad Cabezas and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Soledad, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk has played an important part in my life because even though it gives you uncertainty it also gives you the opportunity to evaluate the worth of the things you are hoping to achieve. Risk allows me to grow in a constructive way because I learn, even if it doesn’t go the way you expect it. But I think you can measure the levels of risk you want to take, big or small. I know risks as everything in life comes with responsibilities, and I always take it whenever I know I can commit to it, or to accept if it goes in a different direction, so I don’t have regrets. When I decided to come to the USA, I had to take a risk, because I knew my career would take a different direction but also, I was going to be out of my comfort zone. I had to make a big decision between my personal and professional life, and I chose the first one. So professionally it was hard to start over in a place where I didn’t know anybody, and I didn’t have any connections. I had to start all over again but overall, I don’t regret doing it, because after many years I am where I need to be personally and professionally, I learn a lot about myself, and I have done things that I didn’t know I could do. At the same time, personally I am with my partner in life and now with my beautiful daughter, so it was completely worth it.
As a Director, I must make big decisions, and some come with risks, sometimes it’s hard because involves other people that can be affected, so I must evaluate the impact not just for the organization but for the wellbeing of the people involve, so you need to have a set of tools to be able to handle it and to respond appropriately to any obstacle you find along the way. Overall, I think risk will take you to a path of success, it will give you more self-confidence and allow you to evaluate the different alternatives you have.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It’s been a long journey but certainly gratifying to be where I am now. I started my career, while I was still studying. I worked for a variety of international companies in different positions. But working for a tourist operator led by an environmentalist kind of changed my perspective of life and doing business. At the time they developed a project to demonstrate the viability of environmentally, socially, and culturally responsible tourism, and since then, I have tried to apply all these principles wherever I go. At my work I apply sustainable practices that benefits not just the organization but the people behind your product and/ or the service. I’m not saying it has been easy for me, especially when I moved from a foreign country to the USA. At the beginning, nobody trusted my professional career so I have to start from zero and I have to start opening doors. For me that was the new start of something valuable in my life. What really sets me apart from others, is the ability to understand the different cultures and the importance of developing cultural awareness and community building and at the same time promoting diversity and advancing equity and inclusion. I have worked in many different industries, and with so many people that are culturally different between each other, and just the fact of coming from a different culture have led me to this path of understanding the importance of global engagement, because we are all interconnected somehow. At the moment I’m the Director of Building New Hope, a volunteer driven non-profit based in Pittsburgh. We collaborate with Central Americans to build sustainable livelihoods by linking people and communities with educational and economic opportunities. We have different projects, we provide education to kids living in underserved neighborhoods. We partner with a coffee cooperative in Nicaragua, we buy their coffee at a better than fair trade price and provide funds for education and community projects. We import the coffee directly from the farm to Pittsburgh, roast locally and sell it either online or in different markets or retail stores. All profits from the coffee sales goes back to support our projects. By buying New Hope coffee, people not just have a delicious organic, fair trade, shadegrown, bird friendly coffee, but also contribute to the well-being of the coffee community and at the same time provide education to kids that will help to break the cycle of poverty in communities that didn’t have the opportunities we have. Also, we help people understand the importance of responsible buying by visiting their organization, participating and organizing different events, and with partners around the city.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, I would prepare our bikes and will start our journey by driving to the bike path that goes all around the city of Pittsburgh. Our first stop before starting, will be at Crepes Parisiennes in Oakland to have some crepes with cafe au lait. We will be going from there on the bike path all the way to downtown up to the Point State Park, which is a really nice place to have a picnic. In the afternoon I’ll recommend going to a restaurant called “Noodle Head” before 5:00pm because it can get very crowded. Other days I would recommend going to walk around downtown and visit the Warhol Museum in the North Side and close to dawn to go to Station Square and go up in the Duquesne incline to see the view of the city. Have an ice cream. Other places to visit The Frick Mansion, have food at Bakery Square, Takos highly recommended. Visit at least one brewery and have a good time. Depending on the taste I recommend going to Pusadee’s Garden for Thai Cuisine, Fujiya Ramen for Japanese Ramen, but also there is a Ramen Bar, in Squirrel hill and you can’t miss an ice cream from Rita’s. If you want fine food, I recommend Spork and to have some cocktails on the roof of TRYP by Wyndham Hotel, the view is spectacular. Please, don’t go without trying Gaucho if you like Argentinean cuisine. Pittsburgh has beautiful parks around the city, so if you like nature, this is your place. You can also visit the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and visit the Nationality Rooms, the Carnegie Museum located in front but don’t forget to visit the Chapel. You can also visit Carnegie Mellon University. Of course, you can’t leave without having a Primanti’s sandwich. So many places, but Pittsburghers also make the city the place you want to live.

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?
I will give a Shoutout to my family, especially my husband, my daughter and my sister. I don’t know if I could be here without their love and support. My husband has always been my #1 fan. He always cheers for me, and I don’t recall one day that he hasn’t said something like “he admires me”, or “you are great” “how proud I’m of you”. There are many other people, my mom that is unconditional and my brother. I’m also very thankful to Joe Figliulo, for putting his trust in me and my abilities, I’m thankful to board members, staff, and founders of Building New Hope, for believing in me and supporting my work. I’m thankful to the community we partner with, because I learn from them every day. I will give a shoutout to supporters of Building New Hope, because without them we wouldn’t be able to provide education to the kids, and to New Hope Coffee buyers for supporting the cause behind a cup of coffee and for their conscious consumption. All my peers that also work every day to support the different causes but that also provide advice and guidance to each other. I would have a long list of amazing people that along my journey have contributed to my career and my personal path.

Website: www.BuildingNewHope.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/buildingnewhope/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-soledad-cabezas-ab94a3a2/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuildingNewHopePittsburgh

Other: https://www.buildingnewhope.org/stories-with-purpose

Image Credits
Clody Cornejo

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