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Conversations with the Inspiring Sandy Diana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandy Diana.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story begins in 1979, two years prior to my birth. My parents, immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador respectively, embarked on a journey beyond their wildest dreams. They left their home countries in pursuit of a better life. I believe this desire for a better life led them to Los Angeles, where they found a new life and each other, on Hoover Street near USC. I was born in 1981 and a few months after my birth, we moved to the City of Bell in South East Los Angeles. I lived there until I was 13 and then we moved to Bell Gardens, which is also in the South East.

In March 2019, I was on the freeway on my way to a culmination event for a small business program I completed at USC when I noticed I was passing by the exact same neighborhood in which my parents met, fell in love, and invited me to be a part of this world. At that moment, my eyes welled up with tears of joy and gratitude for them and for the universe conspiring to give me the life I have the privilege of living. My identity as a daughter of immigrants is what fuels my drive, my convictions, and my desire to make our region, Los Angeles, a model for shared prosperity in the 21st century.

We are nowhere near that vision- but I do believe it’s achievable if we can commit to tackling complex problems differently. I believe that if we figure out how to blend public policy and social entrepreneurship with wisdom and intuition, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
F*ck no- it has not been a smooth road! I think the hardest part of embarking on your journey is the willingness to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and become who you are.

I have experienced success based on societal metrics: I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, I earned two master’s degrees from the East Coast by the time I was 26 and accomplished rewarding professional milestones in my early 30s. However, by the time I turned 33, I felt anxious all the time. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn off the voice inside my head that was constantly going over “to-do lists” from the moment I woke up and throughout the day. I figured something was wrong with me but didn’t know what to do. It was not until a colleague shared with me that she was seeing a therapist that helped her that I asked if it was okay with her if I saw him. She was gracious to share his contact information with me. I began to see him in August 2014 and by September 2014, I decided to pursue life as an entrepreneur. I walked away from a professional career that I began in 2003, eleven years in the making, directly into a life of uncertainty and the unknown. As I built my consulting business, I experienced many highs and lows that come with being an entrepreneur. What I was not prepared for was the anxiety and other mental health challenges, including trauma, that I experienced on and off for five years. The weight of unprocessed shame I carried made its way to the surface and demanded to be seen and acknowledged. The more I refused, the more it insisted that it be heard. Finally, I acquiesced, and in doing so, I found the real me- the me that simply is and that is full of life, joy, and longs to serve the people of Los Angeles. From April 2019 until now, I work with a therapist on a weekly basis. It has been a game changer for me.

I am grateful I survived the highs and lows because the path I took led me to become who I am today. As the first in my family to start a business, I want my business to serve people like my family, friends, and neighbors. I believe in the power of public-private partnerships to support me in this endeavor. When focused on service first, I believe they can result in shared prosperity and value for all. My business was created to contribute meaningfully in this manner.

My advice to young ladies is this: start with writing a letter to yourself. Thank yourself for making it this far. Forgive yourself for the times you harmed yourself and others. And most importantly, don’t ever forget that you matter. If you are still breathing, please know that “there is more right with you than wrong with you.” When you do this, it is as if the universe begins to conspire on your behalf and that’s when the magic truly begins! Also, if you have not already done so, get yourself a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist- it is a life-changing book!

What should we know about 1781 Solutions? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
1781 Solutions provides its clients with a collaborative and intellectually curious approach towards solving complex problems in the governmental and philanthropic sectors. Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles on Grand Avenue, 1781 Solutions exists to serve the people of Los Angeles and beyond. Los Angeles is home to some of the most complex social problems in our country and I created this business to contribute meaningfully towards helping to develop creative solutions to address this.

Specifically, I work with clients in the areas of strategic planning, project management, and fund development. One of the projects I’m working on is intended to support the County of Los Angeles in its organizational capacity to apply for and acquire federal, state, and philanthropic grants. Many of these problems require extensive amounts of resources, hence why it makes sense to bring together the power of the public and private sectors to leverage their respective strengths. I am eager for the day in which we receive millions of dollars from external entities to support our efforts to create a prosperous Los Angeles for all. Part of why I am able to do this work is because previously, I was able to design and write a grant proposal that received $500,000 from a national foundation in 2014. At the time, over 1,500 organizations applied for these funds all over the U.S. Only 50 received the grant- the proposal I developed was one of the selected recipients.

In the future, I hope to add a training component to my consulting practice. I want to share the skills I have gained over the last 20 years since graduating from high school with the next generation of public servants.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
I am inspired by women who give themselves permission to be powerful. My mom’s advocacy on my behalf immediately comes to mind. Thousands of children across our country are currently being denied of their right to an equitable education. I know this firsthand as a graduate of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and as a former teacher in the South Bronx. I too was at risk of succumbing to the consequences of educational inequity. Luckily, my mom did not allow her limitations to dictate whether she had the ability to intercede on my behalf.

Though she came to the U.S. with an elementary education from El Salvador, she took it upon herself to demand that I receive the best possible education. My dad would drive her to LAUSD’s headquarters in the mid-90’s, where she lobbied to enroll me in Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet Senior High School. Tired of her persistence, the staff sent her directly to the school. Once there, the principal, a former advocate from the Chicano movement, agreed to allow me to enroll despite a waiting list of over 300 students. My mother showed me and fueled my belief that “power concedes nothing without demand.” I find her example inspiring especially now. My mom and women like my mom are living, breathing examples of the contributions that women, and in particular, immigrant women make on a daily basis to make our country better.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 333 South Grand Ave. Suite 3310
    LA CA 90071
  • Email: sandy@1781solutions.com

Image Credit:
Sandy Diana

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