Elsi Pacheco’s life story is full of unexpected twists and turns, a resilience of steel, and an unwavering faith in destiny. The founder of Link Up Level Up marketing agency found her true calling between a teen pregnancy and the conviction that life had much more in store for her.

Like many Latinas out there, Elsi Pacheco transformed her passion into a thriving business that is making a real impact on big and small companies worldwide.

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She shared with FIERCE her story, what it really means to be a woman entrepreneur, and the secret to her success.

Image used with permission from Elsi Pacheco.

When life throws you curveballs, you swing even harder

As is often the case with inspirational success stories, Elsi Pacheco’s story began with an unexpected twist.

“Life threw me a curveball when I became a teen mom. I had to find a way to work and care for my son,” Elsi told us. “That’s when I stumbled into the world of hospitality, working my way through restaurants and even slinging drinks as a bartender.”

As she puts it, she soon found herself “running the show,” managing restaurants, and juggling her responsibilities as a mom. But that was just the beginning of her journey.

Fate had bigger plans for Elsi Pacheco

After learning everything she could from her first professional experience, Elsi ended up in customer service at Verizon. There, she found her true calling – public relations and marketing.

She remembered, “I soaked up every bit of knowledge and experience while still working in the hospitality industry.”

A few years later, she became a global marketing director, “marketing everything” from concerts to tradeshows with over 25,000 attendees. She thrived in her new role and soon spoke at public events, trained business owners, and rocked the marketing world.

With over 20 years of experience under her belt, Elsi Pacheco specializes in creating custom brand development strategies. She designs “killer websites” and is definitely crushing it with content marketing campaigns.

Image used with permission from Elsi Pacheco.

Taking a leap of faith

Despite the successful path fate opened for her, something inside Elsi Pacheco wanted more. “I wanted to make a real impact, not just for big companies but for hardworking, ambitious solopreneur entrepreneurs,” she remembers.

That’s when she decided to found her own marketing agency, Link Up Level Up. Her new journey allowed her the freedom to be with her family. She could also help small business owners while giving back to her community.

And it took a lot of organizing.

Elsi had to create a new structure for her life and her business. “I thought I’d be able to work when I wanted and still be successful, but that was not the case at all,” she admits. 

She had to create schedules for herself and stick to them if she wanted to balance her work/life. Similarly, Elsi shared she also struggled with imposter syndrome and shiny new object syndrome. “It took a lot of internal work on myself to let go of those limiting beliefs, focus on what I knew I was great at, and pour into my clients as best as I knew how.”

For Elsi Pacheco, resilience is key to finding a place in a male-dominated industry

The badass entrepreneur first tasted the bitter reality of patriarchy at 17 when bartending in New York City. “It was an express education on how to defend myself around men,” she admits. “It was challenging, eye-opening, and, at times, intimidating, but it equipped me with resilience and a unique perspective that I’ve carried throughout my career.”

But life would teach her another lesson when she found an incredible mentor in her corporate days — a man who “not only recognized my potential but also helped me navigate the intricacies of the ‘boys’ club’ that often characterizes our industry.”

“His guidance was instrumental in helping me understand the dynamics at play and how to assert my presence and ideas effectively,” she said.

While she admits encountering obstacles or biases as a woman has been part of her journey, her resilience, strategic thinking, and authenticity helped her overcome and, eventually, conquer.

“I’ve learned the power of my voice and the importance of establishing a personal brand that speaks to my skills, values, and vision for the future.”

Image used with permission from Elsi Pacheco.

In the end, it all came with its own rewards

For Elsi Pacheco, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a woman entrepreneur in the digital strategy and brand development space is her profound impact on the visions and dreams of other entrepreneurs, particularly women.

“Empowering other women to find their voice and carve out their own spaces in the digital world has been exceptionally fulfilling,” she said. “There’s something incredibly empowering about witnessing a client’s brand come to life, embodying their values, aspirations, and unique stories.”

Her experience reminded her of the power of digital platforms to amplify voices “that might otherwise go unheard.”

“Being a part of this dynamic industry means that I am at the forefront of innovation, using technology not just as a tool for business growth but as a means to inspire and enact change.”

She particularly remembers helping a fellow Dominican woman rebrand and create a digital strategy for her small yet ambitious, eco-friendly fashion brand. “She was one of the first to give me a chance to work on her brand when I left the corporate world,” Elsi remembered. “This project was not just about refreshing a website or crafting a new logo. It was about encapsulating the essence of sustainability and ethical fashion in a digital narrative that resonated with conscious consumers.”

A threefold advice

And for Latinas and women of color who are considering starting their own businesses or pursuing a career in digital strategy, Elsi Pacheco has a threefold advice:

Embrace Your Authenticity: “Your unique perspective is your greatest asset,” Elsi recommends. “The digital landscape thrives on innovation and authenticity. Don’t shy away from weaving your personal experiences, values, and visions into your work. Your authenticity will set you apart in a saturated market and help you connect with your audience on a deeper level.”

Cultivate resilience: “The path of entrepreneurship and navigating the digital world is riddled with challenges and setbacks. Embrace these as opportunities for growth,” she adds. “Cultivate resilience by setting clear goals, staying adaptable, and maintaining a lifelong learning mindset. Remember, every setback is a setup for a comeback. Your resilience will not only carry you through tough times but also inspire those around you.”

Seek Out Your Community: “No one builds a business or a career in isolation. Surround yourself with mentors, peers, and a network that uplifts and supports you,” she concludes. “Seek out communities of women entrepreneurs and digital strategists. Share your knowledge, learn from others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Together, we can challenge biases, break barriers, and create more inclusive spaces in our industries.”

She also shared her keyword for 2024: Boundaries.

For Elsi, boundaries help avoid burnout and ensure you have time to recharge, which is “crucial for maintaining creativity and motivation.”

Looking ahead with pride and new goals

Elsi Pacheco is undoubtedly a badass Jefa. She has taught in arenas and coliseums all over the world. While she has big plans for Link Up Level Up and herself, she knows she must keep things grounded.

“I want to grow our reach, helping more small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world,” she said. And she’s doing so by learning more each day, becoming a better leader, and staying true to herself.

“It’s about growth, impact, community, and staying true to what matters. That’s the journey ahead for me,” Elsi concluded.