The Road Less Traveled

Leaving the corporate world behind, Mindy Santo finds that life and career are what you make of them. 

Written by Rosalind Fournier; Portrait by Mary Fehr

Mindy Santo—mentor, public speaker, and women’s empowerment coach—has learned that success doesn’t require a spot in the c-suite. It just takes a willingness to take risks, evolve, and pursue goals on one’s own terms.

Santo considers that last part—living and working on her own terms—paramount. Her former career spanned 20 years in a corporate setting, which she enjoyed—but then, she didn’t really know anything different. “I loved what I was doing,” Santo says, “but now that I can look back from a distance, I see that it wasn’t really me. I wasn’t making it mine.”

Since leaving that life, Santo has happily pursued a path that at times seemed meandering but ultimately led to where she is today. For a time she worked for a major event planner, doing work she liked while also making a lot of contacts with clients, who began hiring her for odd jobs on the side—like running errands, working as a nanny, and pet sitting.

“I found what it basically boiled down to is that I enjoy helping people,” Santo says. “And I started searching for more of those things, or they found me. I’ve had a lot of different side gigs that have contributed to who I am—and the amazing thing about being self employed is you get to shape it. You get to fail, you get to succeed, but you get to do all of those things on your own terms.”

In her more recent professional and volunteer endeavors, she has worked to share that realization with others, particularly women. In 2009 she became a volunteer with Momentum, a group dedicated to helping women realize their professional potential. She is also a regular speaker for the Young Women’s Empowerment Conference (YWEC), as well as the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, where she hosts seminars based on her “Detox Your Life” program.

“I also have a desire to have more ‘fem-centric’ gatherings,” Santo adds, “where women in the community can meet in a safe space and share what’s on their minds. I had a few of these last year and they were very successful.”

As for her one-on-one empowerment coaching, Santo describes the overall focus as helping women get into the right mindset to better identify and achieve their own goals. “It’s so hard to explain,” Santo says, “because it’s so much more than the word ‘coaching.’ But coaching is what people understand. And ‘empowerment coach’…it took me a while to get to that name, but I realized I wanted to empower and uplift women. I’m not coming in with a bunch of graphs or anything like that. It’s more about my interaction with them and trying to just shine my light on them. That’s the best way I can say that. And I see the results.”

What really sets Santo on fire, though, is the chance to speak to young women through YWEC, meeting girls who are wide open to possibilities and potential. “I want them to keep their voice, and never hesitate or question or doubt who they are,” she says. “Because if they’re different, that’s okay. I think sometimes you’re taught that if you’re different, you’re not in the majority, so you feel kind of like an outsider.

“And I think being the outsider is where it’s at.”

2 Responses to “The Road Less Traveled”

  1. T.K. Thorne says:

    Great article! Mindy is an inspiration!

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