Building a Filipino school in New York and New Jersey: Interview with Venessa Manzano
Source: The Alpha Stories
By Alpha Sanford
August 7, 2016
This week, I am sharing with you an amazing story about how one Filipina filled the void of Filipino cultural schools in the Northeast. As an educator and an education advocate, this particular interview is close to my heart. I have great admiration for people whose projects involve education and teaching children – as I too, highly believe that education is one of the primary vehicles to living a better life!
This week, I had the pleasure of sharing with the story of how Ms. Venessa Manzano, the Founder and School Director of The Filipino School of New York and New Jersey started the first Filipino school in New York and New Jersey. Her parents (Mr. and Mrs. Ben Manzano) live in Massachusetts and I’ve seen them closely participate if not, lead some of the most engaging Filipino cultural events in Massachusetts. Like her parents, her love for the Filipino culture is immense – thus the beginning of her great story.
Here is her story:
The Alpha Stories (TAS): Tell us the story of your company and why you started it?
Venessa Manzano: The Filipino School of New York and New Jersey was organized in 2008. I was on maternity leave at the time, with my firstborn. As a new mom, I thought of the many things I wanted my child to learn, one of which was his Philippine heritage. I realized that there were no actual “Filipino cultural schools” in the area, like the other ethnic groups such as the Koreans, French, and Chinese had. I mean, there were programs that other Filipino community organizations offered. But, most of them were not long-lasting, and the content was missing substance. Because of this, I decided to do some market research to see what was out there, and what the feasibility was of starting something for the community. I also surveyed other individuals in the area to determine if there was a need for such a resource (for which there evidently was!). From here, started the journey of building our school.
TAS: When you were starting, what was your worst entrepreneurial moment?
Venessa Manzano: I wouldn’t call it the worst moment, but it was definitely an issue I was struggling with for some time – should we be a for-profit or nonprofit entity. I had met with so many individuals and consultants about this, and it pretty much boiled down to what I wanted and what my goals were. In the end, we are now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
TAS: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Venessa Manzano: Surprisingly, it is more so how to deal with success rather than with failure. With failure, it is easy for me to know how to let things go and move on. With success, I wouldn’t know where to start on how to handle it.
TAS: What do you think is the most important part of starting out? How do you maintain a level of organization and impact to the community?
Venessa Manzano: Being prepared.
TAS: Can you give us some strategies that help you get to where you are now?
1. Be responsive to your audience/the market, but have limitations.
2. It’s ok to say no. Do only what you are capable of, and don’t over-commit or do things outside the organization’s mission.
3. Keep focused and stick to the mission of the organization.
4. Have a positive outlook, yet be realistic.
5. Don’t be afraid to take risks – to make mistakes, to fail and to do something different or daring.
6. Deliver the best service or program possible. You want participants to enjoy their experience and for them to come back for more and to tell others about it.
TAS: What was your a-ha moment?
Venessa Manzano: I’ve had several a-ha moments that it’s hard to describe them all.
TAS: If you could recommend just one book for our readers what would it be and why?
Venessa Manzano: It’s a toss-up between The Secret and The Alchemist. I think both touch upon common themes and issues as it relates to yourself. The Secret focuses on the law of attraction, where if you emit positive thoughts and actions, this, in turn, attracts positive results back to you – but all in due time. The Alchemist taught me how to pursue my dreams in the face of obstacles, how to preserve and how to understand and trust myself.
TAS: When did you consider yourself a success? Why do you think you are successful?
Venessa Manzano: To me, success is primarily impact, followed by growth and expansion, and then financial standing. What I consider a success is when participants let me know that they had such a great time/experience, that they are grateful for the organization and instructors, and look forward to more events/programs. This not only includes comments from students, but also volunteers!
TAS: What are your success habits?
Venessa Manzano: I make sure to, every once in a while, thank people who have been a part of the journey/process. Whoever it is, whatever their role, I would reach out by sending a text, email, a personal note or card, or even a small gift. I also try to find time to take a break or to spend time alone so that I can meditate and reflect. These moments of silence and solitude help me refocus and think outside all the noise from the everyday hustle and bustle. I also keep learning, looking for new things related to my work, for things that interest me or are out of the ordinary. This helps me get new perspectives on things as well as new ideas.
TAS: How do you start your day?
Venessa Manzano: Before I literally get out of bed, (I know this might sound cliché), but I think about all the things I am grateful for and then run through my head the things I aim to complete or do by the end of the day. I think to myself, “I’m going to make it through the day, accomplish as much as I can, and be appreciative.”
TAS: What makes you happy? Do you think being happiness is critical in being successful?
Venessa Manzano: My family makes me happy. Knowing I’m being helpful and making a difference in someone else’s life or in the community makes me happy. Being at peace and in harmony internally and externally makes me happy. New knowledge and constant learning also makes me happy.
I definitely believe that happiness is critical to being successful – 100%! Not only does success involve hard work, determination and sacrifice, but being in such a positive state of mind helps push you through the tough times and is a great reminder of why you are doing what you are doing.