Nayleen Quintero, my host and partner in Panama City, is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. At only 30 years old, she has forged her own path and accomplished everything she’s put her mind to. I’m sure the majority of my blogs about Panama will be filled with her wisdoms and anecdotes, but let this blog suffice as a brief glimpse into the beautiful creature she is.
Nay was born and raised in Las Tablas, Los Santos, Panama, constantly surrounded and nurtured by the Panamanian folklore. The oldest of three, she has both a younger brother and sister, along with amazing parents. Family is everything to Nay. Her mom does administrative and accounting work at the local hospital, her father is a musician. Perhaps their juxtaposed skill sets are what led Nay to being both a shrewd, focused businesswoman and a creative.
When she was 19 years old, Nay left her beloved family to pursue her path as a career woman in Panama City. Unfortunately, Las Tablas does not offer many opportunities for education or economic development, so the majority of young people leave to work in larger cities. Staying at an aunt’s house for two years, Nay studied and worked hard. She finally got a job that paid enough for her to move into a small apartment in the city with three other roommates. Her first job was in the distribution of women’s beauty products. It was here that Nay decided she needed to learn English. In order to grow with the company, she had to be able to communicate effectively in both English and Spanish.
It is customary for the young professionals of Panama to study abroad for a year or two to learn another language. There is an understanding that classes aren’t enough, that cultural immersion is necessary to truly learn a foreign language. (I wish this was more encouraged in the youth of the US, because my Spanish is embarrassing here in Panama!) So Nay headed to Michigan to study and grow.
Upon her return to Panama with her new English skills, she was promoted. She was then offered a position at Felipe Motta, one of the main wine, spirits and luxury food distributors in Panama. She has now been with the company for five years, and currently oversees a team of brand managers and heads all the marketing operations.
While elevating herself personally and professionally, Nay also married the love of her life Albert. She is now the proud mama of 2-year-old Zara Helena and is seven months pregnant with her son Ignacio. She prioritizes family time, and I appreciated that at the end of our workdays she would tell me “I go take care of my family now.” She is the quintessential boss babe.
If you follow our social media, you know that Nay’s day job and family life is just the tip of the iceberg. She is the Founder and CEO of Sante Cutarras, our partner organization. Nay has a clear vision that Sante Cutarras will be internationally recognized as the brand from Panama that produces ethically, promotes local culture and rescues the arts that are so dear to the Panamanian people. Her love for tradition and her heritage came at a young age. She loved dressing in Pollera and singing the traditional songs of Panama alongside her father. Sante is an extension of her heart to preserve an identity and tradition she cherishes, in addition to supporting the local economy of her hometown.
While I was staying at her mother’s house in Las Tablas, Nay dressed me in the traditional Pollera. The amount of flowers that were in my hair were extremely heavy, but I didn’t say anything at first. About an hour into wearing the garment she looked over and asked, “You feel that it’s too heavy?”
“Yeah,” I told her, “how do you wear it for 8-9 hours a time?”
“Because of love.”
In that moment, I saw the core of Nayleen Quintero. Everything she does is led by love. Ultimately that is what makes her an incredible mother, a successful businesswoman and a tenacious entrepreneur/ small business owner. I am in awe and am so excited to see what comes from working alongside her.
Until next time,