Sabbatical Brings Clarity: It’s Time to Be My Own Boss


By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

From an early age, Miriam De Dios Woodward was set to be a businesswoman. She often led the Multicultural Business Network at Iowa State University as she pursued her undergraduate degree in marketing and management and landed her first internship at a Fortune 500 company before graduating. She jumped into financial services and was soon at the forefront of starting a company with two young and hungry Latino entrepreneurs, giving her a front-row view of how to go from start-up to national enterprise. She took that experience and ran, becoming the youngest Latina CEO in the history of Affiliates Management Company (AMC), the holding company of the Iowa Credit Union League. 

Her resume only got more impressive from there. She ran a company while completing her executive MBA, and even went on to participate in Harvard’s Executive Education, Leading Change and Organizational Renewal Program. More recently she completed Cornell University’s Certificate of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion focusing on improving engagement, counteracting unconscious bias, and fostering an inclusive work environment while raising two toddlers. It’s no wonder that when faced with the chance to take a 5-week sabbatical after 15 years of service, De Dios Woodward took it.


“It was a good time to reflect. I started asking myself, ‘What do I enjoy doing? What do I want to do more of in the future?’” Those questions planted the seed for De Dios Woodward to think about her own consulting firm focused on helping businesses implement growth strategies based on consumer growth. With a passion for her community, she wants to use her experience to help them better reach and serve Latinos, who make up one of the largest, fastest growing, and most underserved markets in the country. With her background work in insurance, corporate strategy, product development, governance, risk management and compliance technologies, De Dios Woodward has expertise across some of the most valuable areas in business. As a native of Jalisco, Mexico, the oldest of four and the first-generation daughter of foreign-born parents, she combines her education, plus what she’s learned in the corporate world with her lived experience to guide clients from a place of profound comprehensive proficiency. 

DeDios Consulting is the culmination of the reflective and challenging questions she asked herself while focused on where she’s been, and where she wants to go. While launching a business is difficult, De Dios Woodward used her extensive network of peers for advice, learning some of their preferred vendors for everything from insurance plans to website hosts. “I’ve really leveraged my network of friends and people I know who have started their own business. I am part of some female focused business networking groups. I’ve leveraged my sister who does some graphic design and a lot of marketing to help me with branding. I’ve gone to different providers to obtain legal assistance with the entity formation and the operating agreement.” Being brave enough to ask for help can often be a barrier for new entrepreneurs. Building her career in predominantly white, male spaces with colleagues much older than her forced De Dios Woodward to get over that fear and go for what she needs. “If I would have decided to do this 15, even 10 years ago, it would have looked a little bit different. I wouldn’t be as confident.” 

Working with credit unions, DeDios heard about the struggles many business owners face when getting started, especially women of color. She knows it is even harder for those who may not dominate English as well as she. “Part of my mission as a business is to be a resource for others. I want to guide people to some of the resources out there because clearly, I have benefitted from years of building these networks and being exposed to this world, but that’s not the case for everyone.” One area where De Dios Woodward has been giving back is through mentoring. She was a mentor through Latina Leadership Initiative and serves as an advisor on Iowa State University’s Women in Business Advisory Board to help women grow their network through those who have come before them. “I haven’t always had that role model or mentor to connect with. I love to be able to be that for others. I feel like I can contribute what I know to help folks overcome some of the challenges they are facing.” For new entrepreneurs, sometimes knowing what it looks like to be your own boss is a challenge. If they can’t visualize what it might look like, they may shy away from trying. De Dios Woodward shares some of her daily tasks to show that with a daily plan of tasks, starting a business is feasible.


“I’m using LinkedIn a lot because that’s where a lot of my professional network is. I post from the company page, but also from me.” That’s the plan for her first year, to focus on getting her company name out as much as possible to build brand awareness. That looks like contributing articles in industry media that link back to her website, commenting on posts related to her expertise, and creating blog content highlighting how her company can help businesses meet their growth goals. “As people hear I’ve transitioned to my own business, folks have reached out,” she says about some of the results she’s seen so far. “I’m taking calls and scheduling meetings. Hopefully as I get clients, I can use their testimonials on my website.” Part of her strategy is carving out time to call or text people in her target industries to “catch up” and tell them about her business or follow up with anyone who has inquired about it. She also researches events in the business community where she can make more contacts, like through local chambers of commerce. She hopes those events can expose her to not only potential clients but to companies that do similar work but may be lacking some of the services she offers. That business-to-business connection can lead to referrals and opportunities for partnerships. 

Although her business is less than 90 days old, De Dios Woodward knows the time was right to take the risk and she’s excited for the future. “I feel happier. It’s nice doing something that I really care about and am passionate about. It’s very freeing. Even though there are stresses, these are things I’m doing for myself because I want to and it’s contributing to a mission I care about.”


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