Judging by the chic surroundings you might find me in today, you would never guess I was born and raised in one of the most violent public housing neighborhoods in Brooklyn—the Marcy Projects.
I was exposed to downtrodden attitudes and discouragement more often than encouragement, which almost put the idea of becoming a businesswoman out of my mind completely. But at a young age I learned how to become an intuitive listener and apply action to whatever advice I could get my hands on, both from people in my life and those who I didn’t know but admired.
One of my first virtual mentors was my neighbor, Shawn Carter, who’s better known today as Jay-Z. I would listen to him rap about achieving success by polishing his skills, and I realized that I, too, needed to refine mine.
After less than a year in college, I couldn’t afford to continue. So, I took a receptionist position for a notable antique dealer in New York City, where I worked closely with interior designers whom I grew to admire. I worked really hard in that job and, thankfully, many designers took notice of my efficiency in administrative work. And so my career was formed.
With two decades working for designers, furniture showrooms and fabric houses on my résumé, I soon had the urge to launch and manage my own business. In 2012, with no formal schooling but plenty of personal work experience, I launched Viteri Style Management (VSM) and produced and hosted my own talk show, Designerlebrity™ Talk with Barbara Viteri. Now, I serve as executive recruiter at CNA International USA.
Honestly, there are times I don’t believe the incredible path my life has taken. But I know it wasn’t out of luck. It was my virtual mentors and their quotes that inspire and motivate me that propelled my business growth forward. I repeat these five mentors’ quotes to myself almost on a daily basis, and they are practically ingrained in my mind.
5 quotes that motivate me
Here are my go-to quotes that motivate me for when you feel the odds are against you:
1. “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”
I know successful entrepreneurs are interested in a wide variety of things. They develop businesses under a brand. I was always keeping new ventures on my radar to help develop VSM into a full-fledged brand.
2. “Perception creates reality.”
This goes beyond getting people to think what you want them to think. It is more about believing in what you want to become real. I believed I was a business leader first before starting a business, and then people made my beliefs into a reality.
3. “Never assume someone is smarter than you.”
I remember a designer spending more than $10,000 on a business coach. It took the business coach nine months to send her a binder full of documents to be read through and implemented. After the designer reviewed the documents with frustration at the lost time, she soon realized her existing office manager had achieved 10 times more than the hired coach had. That office manager was me.
4. “When you walk up to opportunity’s door, don’t knock on it… kick that b*tch in, smile and introduce yourself.”
No opportunity was too small for me to use to my advantage. If I only conducted one speaking event, I was going to turn that experience into a talk show. I learned to leverage my opportunities and make people take notice.
5. “People first, then money, then things.”
This is the best quote to learn how to get your priorities straight. It’s simple.
This article was updated May 2023. Photo by Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock