Recently, I was scrolling through my favorite book app, My Must Reads, which allows me to purchase books and e-books from local bookstores, looking for a professional development book. My curiosity and personal goals echo in the back of my mind louder every year, so I know I need to start training myself for the next chapter of my life.
I did find a plethora of business and professional development books, but I was disheartened to find that most of them were written by white cisgender men. I’m not taking away from their expertise or their journey. Still, I can bet the world’s wealth that their experiences differ significantly from a Latina trying to build her way in the workforce and entrepreneurial industry in the United States.
Let’s not forget that Latinas continue to be grossly underpaid in the States compared to anyone else. Still, I bought a couple of these books because my mind has conformed to not wholly identify with everything I consume. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this type of mentality.
So, you can all imagine the genuine joy I felt when my BELatina News email’s inbox chimed with a message from Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda where she told me about her new book, “Jefa in Training.”
Before I go on about the message, you all must understand what’s so great about the author.
Ashley, born in Queens, New York, and whose roots are Mexican-French-American, has had plenty of experience tending to her entrepreneurial spirit. The initial stages of her career revolved around the music industry, leading her to work with major record labels.
Since then, her professional skills have diversified and include being a community-builder, strategist, coach, and socialpreneur. The impact of her work has been massive. She has a tenacity for understanding her environment’s needs, which has often led her to great outcomes. For instance, when Ashley was high and deep in the music industry, she single-handedly created a movement for rising womxn songwriters – without even planning to do so. It was natural for her.
It started off as her own network for local womxn songwriters named #WomxnCrushMusic, which has now transformed into a national nonprofit organization featured in The Recording Academy.
Her work may be more familiar to you than you know it. After all, she’s the Director of Business Development for none other than the amazing platform, Mujerista.
When an expert, better yet, when a Latina expert writes a book, you better pay attention.
Now, back to the message.
As I read the email, I quickly learned that “Jefa in Training” was written to be a business startup toolkit for entrepreneurial and creative women. But not only that — it was written with the Latina voice in mind.
A few weeks later, Ashley and I were Zoom-ing on a weekday afternoon talking about “Jefa in Training.”
The book, which Mango Publishing picked up, was weeks away from being launched, and there was so much to talk about.
I had gotten the opportunity to read a few chapters in advance. I enjoyed that these pages were filled with digestible information about entrepreneurship — not information that feels like it’s written by a pompous author gushing about their success and not truly giving real-life tips for people in the real world. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Reading these chapters of “Jefa in Training” felt like it was narrated by a sister, mentor, business coach, or friend that cares. Best of all, there is the right amount of Spanglish sprinkled throughout the book, which as a first-generation Latina, it felt good to read something the way I think and express myself.
During our conversation, we spoke about her book-writing process, the challenges she faced, and what “Jefa in Training” means to her.
The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
On why she wrote the book
When you’re starting out, support is so needed as an entrepreneur. And honestly, business coaches are most of the time very expensive. So, when you’re first starting out, you can’t absorb those costs. But being able to have a book like this that kind of serves as a coach as you work on building your foundation is a really good resource to have and be out there. That’s why it was important for me to write.
Also, it’s not about me, it’s about being able to provide this for, hopefully, as many Latinas out there as possible.
On what challenged her the most as she wrote the book
On one side, I knew what I was going to put in every chapter. But there comes a time when you are writing a book, especially with this kind of book where it’s a step-by-step guide, that structuring can become very difficult. And I think that’s the part that if I did not have my editors to be like, Hey, does this make sense? If I didn’t have them to give that feedback, I probably would have gone crazy.
I would stare at the screen and be like: Should I move this? Should I create a new chapter? I’ve never questioned myself so much in my life as when I was starting to write the book because, you know, everyone’s learning style is different, and I was trying to frame the book as a tool kit.
On the format of her book
It’s a step-by-step guide. But I also wanted it to feel like when you’re reading it, it feels like I am talking to you like I am your business coach for the next 200 pages. I wanted everyone to feel that way without it being difficult to understand or difficult to follow, especially with the legal and the finance chapter which, can be a little bit more intense and honestly less fun.
On what inspired the structure of her book
I read “Girl Code” and “Do Cool Sh*t” was my favorite book for a while. But I feel like a lot of those books that are targeted towards women are really focused on the mindset part of it. It’s more on having the confidence to start your own business and how to shift that way of thinking, which is, of course, super, super important. But I did not read anything that was really taught like frameworks and had these exercises like the way that I included them for a more fun training.
And that part was very intentional because I think you can read and read, but if you’re not putting something into practice, it’s going to be hard. I’m a very visual learner, so even in school, I had such a difficult time reading textbooks because if they didn’t have any exercises, I would forget everything. So, I wanted a good way to be able to engage with the reader that allows them to put into practice everything that they’re learning. You can also use this tool kit while you’re building your business.
On learning her favorite chapter
Chapter six, “Ser Diferente Es Ser Fuerte,” may seem simple, but I know it’s not always that way. This chapter takes you into finding what makes you different and what makes you stronger, more unique, and activates you to kind of just figure out what that is. And that takes a lot of self-awareness and it’s almost psychological to really dive deep in there because a lot of us, I think, are afraid of what actually makes us different. We see it as a weakness because society has told us that or has made us feel that way.
It is actually my favorite chapter in the book. I think that’s the chapter that some people might be like: “Oh, well, I think it’s this.” But after reading this chapter, it might be something else that makes them different and that they can use to their advantage. But don’t try to force it. If you’re reading through that chapter and you’re just like, “I don’t really know what makes me different yet,” you need to sit on it for a few days.
On motivating the BELatina News audience
If you have even the tiniest feeling of wanting to do something more and make an impact in your community or diversify your revenue streams or just fulfill some kind of creative passion project that you’ve had for a while, please pick up the book and just start.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help, because a lot of the time I think we are not very good at listening to our guts. Someone told me that one time when I asked them for business advice. They were just like, “Listen to what your gut is telling you.” I know that sounds very hippie-dippy or whatever, but it’s so true because only you are going to know what your next step is on what makes sense for you.