Our Story

Our Story Begins…


I always have been fascinated about business and what it can do for individuals, organizations, communities, societies, countries and the World in general. For this reason, I have enjoyed building small businesses since my teens here and there out of good ideas to generate extra money — from selling merchandise and modeling, to food trucks and a small restaurant. However I never considered doing this full time. I was raised in a family where self-employment and commerce was the norm, but my family encouraged me to pursue a different path, one of a defined career with a “title” that could bring me a guaranteed future and retirement. They used to say: “Katherine, you are intelligent! You must study engineering or medicine. You will be great at it, and you will have a nice future.’’ I believed that.

Time went by and when the moment came to decide on my career (university), I still was attached to business. I was impressed by how this mechanism called business rules our civilization in tangible and intangible ways. This is the reason why I chose to study one aspect of business that awoke my curiosity back then which was “Banking & Finances”. Yes! I went for that bachelor degree, and my family wasn’t too happy about it.

While I studied banking, the “Banking System” intrigued me. I wanted to know the reasoning behind it, and how it could be more efficient, and impact people globally in a positive way. I also wonder a lot about our Financial Systems and Economies, and the powerful influence they have in people regardless of their origins, color of the skin, wealth, privileges, challenges, etc. It was mind-blowing for me, but it became hard to understand why — if we had created such incredible systems — is a major part of the global population still not benefitting from business, and still not knowledgeable about how all these systems work. Was it meant to be like this?

Since then I have felt this drive to work hard, learn more and more about banking, economy and finance with the hope of building a successful career with any financial institution (and perhaps one day work in New York), with the aim of helping these institutions and/or organizations identify their systemic flaws and hopefully collaborate to contribute possible solutions to have greater flows of resources globally, with powerful systems albeit balanced ones. In other words, co-create systems that promote sustainability and the well being of all.

Time went by and when the moment came to decide on my career (university), I still was attached to business. I was impressed by how this mechanism called business rules our civilization in tangible and intangible ways. This is the reason why I chose to study one aspect of business that awoke my curiosity back then which was “Banking & Finances”. Yes! I went for that bachelor degree, and my family wasn’t too happy about it.

While I studied banking, the “Banking System” intrigued me. I wanted to know the reasoning behind it, and how it could be more efficient, and impact people globally in a positive way. I also wonder a lot about our Financial Systems and Economies, and the powerful influence they have in people regardless of their origins, color of the skin, wealth, privileges, challenges, etc. It was mind-blowing for me, but it became hard to understand why — if we had created such incredible systems — is a major part of the global population still not benefitting from business, and still not knowledgeable about how all these systems work. Was it meant to be like this?

Since then I have felt this drive to work hard, learn more and more about banking, economy and finance with the hope of building a successful career with any financial institution (and perhaps one day work in New York), with the aim of helping these institutions and/or organizations identify their systemic flaws and hopefully collaborate to contribute possible solutions to have greater flows of resources globally, with powerful systems albeit balanced ones. In other words, co-create systems that promote sustainability and the well being of all.

With motivation and drive I started my first job at Citibank (at that time it was a blessing that fell from the sky), followed by St. George’s Bank. Both jobs were in Panama City. I learned a lot and was promoted quickly. However the more I worked my way up the ladder, the more disappointed I became about realizing that my perception and way of seeing these systems were not aligned with the intention of the owners and management running these systems. Different events and experiences helped me conclude that the people that could improve these systems were not interested in doing so. They were completely fine with them, and didn’t perceive there was any need to change. Even with the disappointment, I thought this was something just happening in Latin America due to the level of corruption we have. ‘’This doesn’t happen in North America and Europe. They don’t have those flaws!’’ I thought.

In 2008 I moved to California with the objective of getting an MBA, but circumstances of life (I met the person who is now my husband) opened a space for me to make new choices. I decided to stay and live in California. This brought an opportunity to work in Banking but in the US, where I ‘’knew’’ things were different and the system “works”. I was excited and thrilled about this opportunity. Even when I had to start further down the ladder due to a new culture and language, I didn’t mind because this was the opportunity to be able to gather more data and insights about how the Financial and Monetary system must work to in order to have these better societies, communities, countries, businesses etc. Guess what? I was wrong, completely wrong! The system looked better from the outside, but inside, it’s the same system I experienced back in Colombia and Panama.

This banking experience in the US helped me to become more grounded, not so naive, and to know that if I wanted to see a different system operating in our civilization around money and finances, I needed to create a new one, or at least contribute with some pieces of the puzzle. Perhaps someone is already working on it, and we can co-create it. Or we can work on the initial phases, so future generations can complete it. Whatever the solutions were, I knew I was not meant to “fix” the current system; my mission was to contribute to something new, so at some point, the current one will become obsolete — a new system that could restore sanity among all of us.

But the truth at that moment was that I didn’t know how. I had the intention and lots of research and insights but no idea about what to do next. I had opinions about how the system should work, but no idea about how or where to start. With no defined answers, my husband and I decided to start our own business in the US to gain more experience about how the systems work in the country. Perhaps to find clues about what steps to take to create a more functional and sustainable system for this country and our countries. Also, to grow capital for those future steps. We both started to look for business options. He as I, had small businesses since his teens, so we both were open to take the leap, explore possibilities and make it happen. We thought about doing housing development, we thought about a construction company, we thought about opening a bar-restaurant in San Francisco, or even some food trucks?

During this search, a banking colleague presented a fairly typical idea to us for a business relative to the area where we live —  a web application business. Her idea was good, and after hearing more about it, we both did extensive research on the industry, the market for the idea, the competitors, we explored the business model and thought it definitely had legs.

My husband and I decided not to open our own business, but instead invest in this idea. We made this decision in order to gain experience in US business, make some money and grow the capital we wanted for our original intentions, and then later we can prepare to start our own business in order to make the impact we really desired.

The new company launched. As investors, we were supposed to provide the funding and some operational guidance, but not be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business, nor the direction of it. Despite this fact, the founder asked to get involved with some day-to-day operations, organizational structure and the development of the software itself, all this while the company was being built. We happily accepted. We were hands-on, got deeply involved in the creation phase of the business and built the company, so much so that I quit my job at the bank and started full time in this business. My husband did the same after 3 months. At this stage, the founder was extremely happy with the results, but she still had her full time job, which was fine with us because we were having so much fun developing this business.

Seven months into the business, the company had its own staff, was generating income (which is rare for a web application company at early stages), and market reception was excellent, which made us think the business had lots of potential for quick both growth and staying power. It was at this stage where the founder started to show up more frequently to the office, and execute her power with the staff, treating them badly, risking some vendor relationships and even exposing the company to a lawsuit by one member of the staff who felt mistreated. Also, during the same time, she started to tweak the intention and vision of the business (at least the one she presented to us), and wanted to turn it into a “sexy” environment, where having sensual staff was part of the “selling” strategy. All these events made us wonder what happened with the original idea that was presented. What happened to the sweet lady that presented it to us? Everything we started to experience was so far off from our core values and from our integrity, and it just didn’t resonate with whom we are.

From this moment onwards, everything turned gray. Even when the Company was going well, we felt miserable. We wanted to contribute to the evolution of civilization, and here we are; supporting someone that wanted a business as a mechanism to acquire and abuse power, someone that wanted to continue doing business precisely in the way we were running away from and someone that had a completely different agenda than us in the context of community and how to relate to people.

The first step was to have a conversation with her. We asked her to please change her attitude with the staff and vendors, and to pay attention to her behavior as a role model/leader of the company. To please value what was being built, to appreciate how the company was doing well, and that this was due to the staff’s contribution, and to please contribute as well to the overall improvement of all of us within the company. She declined the request and found it ridiculous. She reminded us that this was her company, and that she will continue behaving the way she wanted. We had to hear these words: “It is my way, or the highway”.

Of course we got concerned, worried, upset, sad, with lots of regrets. We had so many mixed feelings, but what we were supposed to do now? We felt trapped because the amount of money we invested (approx. $200k), and had no idea how to get out of this situation. We talked to our mentors who said this was part of doing business. That is, if we wanted to build businesses, then we had to be prepared for these situations, and that sometimes you lose, some others you win, and that we need to learn when to leave and lose to move on for something better.

After 2 or 3 weeks of contemplation (and of course more drama), we decided to let the founder know that we wanted to leave the company. She declined the request. We asked her to buy us out and continue with the business. She denied. We offered to buy her part. She denied. After all that, we told her we were fine with just leaving and removing our names from the documents, etc., but her response to this was that if we leave, she will dissolve the company. Again we felt trapped. We didn’t want to dissolve the company. It was a profitable business, and had people working for it. We didn’t want to let go of people during Christmas time, especially not the way the founder wanted to do it which was by just sending them a letter. We were shocked by her preferring to see everything crash instead of finding a mutually beneficial solution.

We struggled but ultimately my husband and I decided to leave regardless of the consequences. It was poison. We preferred not to have money, start all over again, but to keep our integrity.  We both had faith we would get back up from this failure.

That December was tough! I spent days and nights asking myself: Where did I mess up? Why didn’t I see that coming? Are we ever going to recover that money one day? Was the founder really like that, or was she being influenced by something else? What was she thinking? And so many more questions I didn’t have answers for. All these questions pressed all my buttons, I spent long hours crying and putting myself in victim mode, and not taking responsibility for my reality.

During those days, my husband and I were also contemplating other options, about how to recover from this, how to move on, and how to continue with our lives. But the grief of the loss and the bitter aftertaste of the experience outweighed other ways of thinking. We were not able to see any positive aspects from this experience.

One afternoon in a conversation with our mentor about our next steps, he told me: “Katherine, stop crying over the past. Instead of crying, look back and appreciate what was created. Can you see the good part of it?” At first I couldn’t understand what he was referring to. He continued: “Guys, regardless of the bad experience with this venture, you both were able to build a company in 6 months, a company with revenue, staff, processes and systems, guidelines in place, developed software, and all this happened because of you. Two individuals that were not born here, didn’t know business in the US, are not from technology backgrounds, and are still learning the language and the culture. In spite of all that, you built that business. This is the part you should be focusing your energy on right now!”

Both of us were confused. After listening to his statements, we were able to see that. However for us it was something simple, something natural and not special. The way we built that company was the same way we built our previous businesses. We just followed certain steps that we considered very natural to every business creation. It was something we always did with our previous businesses. And we shared this with him. He asked us if we could put in paper that “simple” way we built businesses because he did not feel it was that simple. He also started to ask us questions that made us wonder. Things like:

Q: Why did you get so involved with this business?

A: Because we loved the process of building anything and the money too.

Q: Would you do that all over again?

A: Definitely! 100 times.

Q: If you would that all over again, what would you do differently the next time?

A: We would focus our attention on the person behind the idea, and not just the idea. Ideas and companies can be built, but ultimately, the businesses turn out to be a reflection of the founder. And that makes a huge difference!

At that moment, my husband and I experienced a shift in our energy, our eyes shone again, our hearts beat quickly, we both looked at each other with so much emotion that we immediately knew what we wanted to do going forward. We want to build businesses for rest of our lives, but this time we needed to learn what it meant to build sustainable and profitable structures where values and human behavior is embedded in every step of the way. From this new challenge and curiosity, we started BoominGroup and its first goal was to find out how we could do this. The rest is history!

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