Small businesses are the heart of what we do, and we’re proud to share our customer’s stories as they tackle everyday challenges and celebrate all the wins—both big and small—that come with running a business. This month, join us as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by spotlighting Hispanic and Latinx founders whose roots and culture have shaped their businesses and entrepreneurial journeys.
For many small business owners, entrepreneurship is something that runs in their genes. For Nashira Lynton, seeing her father start several ventures growing up planted the entrepreneurial seed from an early age, though she wasn’t always sure what that would look like in practice. Her personal financial journey, paired with her culturally-informed upbringing—Nashira is the first-generation child of Panamanian immigrants—ultimately drove her to start Breaking Cycles. Breaking Cycles is a business aimed at helping people reclaim their financial independence by understanding and altering the emotional, mental, and cultural factors that influence their money habits.
Here, we chat with Nashira about her business, her path to entrepreneurship, and how her background has played a role in her small business journey.
BlueVine: Tell me a bit more about your business.
Nashira Lynton: Breaking Cycles is a personal finance practice where I incorporate financial therapy techniques to help people achieve financial success through value-based methods. Financial therapy looks at the cognitive and emotional behaviors that people have around money. I always tell people that if they’re looking for someone that’s just going to give them a budget, I may not be their girl. But if they’re looking to understand why they’re not sticking to a budget or why they’re not accomplishing their financial goals, that’s what I’m here to help with. We eventually get to the numbers and work out specific financial goals, but we start with deeper work that goes into questions like what needs someone is trying to meet with spending or how someone feels before and after a purchase. It helps us understand where the behaviors are coming from before we change them.
BV: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
NL: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My dad was a serial entrepreneur. He had many ventures, and I knew that I always wanted to run a business. While my friends were playing with their Barbies, I was trying to sell my Ken doll and decide how to take over the world.
Throughout college, I studied business; I just had no idea what kind of business I wanted to get into. I always thought I would be selling a product, I didn’t know it would be a service-based business—and it is so special. You know, I’ve had great positions within big firms in my career, but it just wasn’t my heart and passion; people are my passion. I know a lot of entrepreneurs might say this, but I really love my clients, and they hold such a special place in my heart.
BV: Why financial therapy?
NL: It started when I decided to get certified as a financial counselor, mainly for my own selfish purposes. I was at a point where I was living paycheck to paycheck, and it was the same cycle that I saw my parents go through. I had always said I would never get there, yet, I was actually living it. At this point, I was about $60,000 in debt, and that ranged from student loans, personal loans—all of it. And I was like, I didn’t want to live this way. So I decided I was going to learn as much as I could. I took tons of courses, I read blogs, I took webinars. At one point, I attended a webinar for financial therapy, and that’s when things clicked for me. I realized I was making a lot of my financial decisions from an emotional place, and I wanted to understand those behaviors from an internal perspective. Then, I wanted to help other people do the same, and that’s where I am now.
BV: How do you feel like your culture and heritage impacted your business and entrepreneurial journey?
NL: I always say that I wish I was the financial mentor my parents met when they landed in the United States. My parents came to the U.S. from Panama in the 1980s, and I was their first child born here. They both have great work ethic. They came, they worked, they humbled themselves, they took whatever job they could get, and they built themselves up. But they also lived a life based on survival.
Growing up, I saw what it was like to be worried about how you’re going to eat, how you’ll make it to the end of the month, and I saw what it’s like to have a constant need to borrow. And I knew that those were behaviors that came from their background.
I remember one of my assignments while going through the financial therapy graduate certificate program at Kansas State University was to interview my parents to learn about my family financial system. I really got to understand how they grew up, how they behave, and how they view family. For them, if one person eats, everyone eats. If one person’s built up, everyone is. Growing up in America, I didn’t get it then. But this helped me understand that when you’re raised close to poverty, it shapes your values differently. It wasn’t for me to judge, but it was for me to respect, understand, and figure out what role I played in that, and what boundaries I needed to create for myself.
Once I identified the cycle and its causes, I could break it for me and my kids. That’s why I called the business Breaking Cycles.
BV: What are some unique hurdles or opportunities you’ve experienced as a Latinx entrepreneur?
NL: As far as opportunity, I think that the amount of people—especially around this time of year—that build up and highlight Hispanic entrepreneurs is amazing. Last year, I got to speak at a company I used to work for that had built up their Hispanic business group. This year I was able to speak at a university and am now speaking with you. I’ve started to see some really amazing opportunities like this.
I think the hurdle that I probably experienced for a long period of time, is just struggling with my identity. I may not look like a typical Latina, and I’ll often just get boxed into something based on how I look, like a Black minority program, or a minority women’s program. So sometimes finding the right groups to join or the right programs for me can be a challenge.
BV: What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
NL: A lot of being a service-based business is telling your story and sharing a big part of who you are, and that can be challenging. But the connections and relationships that I have built have been amazing because of that, too, and the success stories my clients share with me. I may help them and guide them, but they have to be persistent and do a lot of the work themselves. I know what that feels like from personal experience, so to know that someone else persevered after our work together brings so much joy to my heart.
BV: What’s the piece of business advice that’s stuck with you?
NL: Don’t be afraid to fail. I don’t enjoy failing, but I think not failing just means you’re not trying. You have to fail a few times to get things right, and sometimes it helps to just fail fast, pick yourself up, and try again. That was the best advice because it allowed me to experiment and be curious again without fear.