How Success Happened for Soledad O'Brien
How financial resiliency allowed the award-winning journalist and podcast host to start her own production company.
Soledad O'Brien left an accomplished career in network television to build an integrated media production company from the ground up. Doing so took passion, resilience and initiative; all values that O'Brien learned from a young age. Growing up in a large middle-class family, O'Brien was taught the value of a dollar and that if you wanted something, whether it be a physical item or an opportunity, you had to figure out a way to get it.
Early on, that "something" that she wanted was to become a doctor. She studied pre-med in college and took a job as a nurse's aide. However, it was also during this time that she learned an important life lesson that would change her career trajectory: you shouldn't pursue something simply because you are good at it, you must be passionate about it. While O'Brien recounts being "good at memorizing" her organic chemistry coursework, she never felt a greater desire to really understand the material.
It wasn't until she started interning at a TV news station that she found this passion in journalism. From producing and reporting at local stations to stepping onto the national stage and building a career headlining at CNN, O'Brien always loved having the power to be creative and shape stories.
So, what led her to leave the networks behind and start Soledad O'Brien Productions in 2013? O'Brien explains that the decision came down to the lifestyle she wanted to live and her frustration with being "just a body" in a sea of journalists telling the same story. Her passion for valuable reporting was replaced by a constant state of re-framing the same news that generated the highest ratings. Starting Soledad O'Brien Productions was her way of taking back control and finding her sense of purpose again.
O'Brien credits stringent saving and financial resiliency as the secret weapons which enabled her to take this leap. O'Brien explains that there is an important intersection between the financial decisions we make and how we live our lives. She is passionate about helping people navigate this crossroads and is now co-hosting Edelman Financial Engine's new radio show and podcast, Everyday Wealth, providing guidance and insights to help listeners take control of their financial potential.
Beyond making sure she had the right financial footing, O'Brien also leaned on friends who were running companies as she entered this entirely new world of entrepreneurship. Despite having years of experience under her belt, in the beginning she constantly felt like "the new guy" as she navigated the unfamiliarity of running a business. Every day came with a new set of challenges and uncharted territories, like "how do we manage a production budget?" or "what are we going to do about quarterly taxes?" However, the more time she spent on the job, these frequent questions and feelings of uncertainty were replaced with answers and confidence.
Through Soledad O'Brien Productions, she has been uncovering meaningful untold stories that take a challenging look at often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, opportunity and poverty. Outside of her professional career, O'Brien has also contributed to many projects that focus on bridging equity gaps and empowering people with the right financial tools. From starting the PowHERful Foundation to help young girls of color graduate college, to co-hosting Everyday Wealth with her media colleague Jean Chatzky as a way to facilitate discussions about important financial decisions, O'Brien is passionate about helping people use money as a tool to live the way they want.
For O'Brien, entrepreneurship has allowed her to take control of her life because it comes with one of the greatest benefits: "owning your own time." Coming out of the pandemic, with a greater emphasis on the value of time, more people are seeking out the entrepreneurship lifestyle. For those aspiring to take this leap, O'Brien's biggest piece of advice is to talk to a wealth planner immediately and figure out if you are financially ready. From there, she recommends "a slow roll into it," giving yourself a nice cushion of time to gather advice and tee yourself up so you can ultimately "carve your own way, taking all of that valuable information."
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