A Conversation with PINC Internship Founder Lisette Miranda
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lisette Miranda, founder of PINC. After indulging in a deep love affair with Madrid, Lisette launched her own business to help women from all over the world intern in Madrid, experience the city like locals — and perhaps, indulge in their own affair with the city. In this interview, Lisette shares what inspired her to start PINC, the challenges of running a business, advice for women entrepreneurs and more.
We were excited when we came across PINC! What inspired you to start it?
I would love to say that I woke up one morning and felt the urge to start my own company based on my life experience after college and abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been the first one to sit down with a young woman who needed a sounding board and remind her that – “it’s all going to be ok! That it may not make sense now, but it’s all unfolding as it’s suppose to.” These were words of reassurance that were all too often said to me after I graduated from college and began working in NYC in the middle of the 2006 crisis.
But alas, that is not how PINC came to be. I started developing PINC during my fifth year of studying and working in Madrid. I was working in a teacher training academy and met hundreds of study and internship abroad students. I loved chatting with them and showing them all the nooks and crannies that travel books didn’t provide. I slowly was becoming a self-proclaimed Madrid enthusiast, and I realized that a lot of student programs weren’t providing the real 360-degree experience of living and learning abroad. The integration, language, culture and personal growth that Madrid gladly offers each visitor wasn’t being cohesively brought together.
And so here we are–I launched PINC in January 2014. PINC offers internship and immersion programs in Madrid and is female-focused. We have already had three successful programs with amazing students from across the U.S.
When did you fall in love with Madrid?
November 15, 2008. I know the date because it was the day after my sister’s birthday. I was in Madrid with my friend from France, who was studying abroad in Spain. While in Madrid, we met up with her French friends, who called their Italian friends, who called their Spanish friends and before I knew it, I was drowning in a sea of romance languages, and I had no lifejacket. It was actually in this moment of distress that I absolutely fell in love with Madrid!
In that moment of fight or flight, I chose fight. No one wants to be a wall flower, and I had no choice but to watch in silence because my high school Spanish wasn’t quick enough to keep up with the multiple conversations in multiple languages. I became green with envy watching the French speak Spanish to the Italians to decide which bar would be perfectly suited for this evening of debauchery. Or the Italian girl who translated Spanish to me in English — show off! It was in that moment I remember how my whole life perspective started to shift. Being a proud New Yorker, I wasn’t unfamiliar with foreign languages but I always had the safety net of English near, and in Madrid, this was my free-fall and the adrenaline rush was addictive.
I can happily and confidently report that I speak Spanish fluently, and I listen to music in Italian, Portuguese and French because I can, and in some cases, because I understand words and sentences. While I grow my business, I often think back to November 15, 2008 and wonder if the Lisette then could have ever imagined that that moment of displacement would have been the catapult moment that led her to the Lisette of today.
What has been the most rewarding part of creating PINC so far?
All the young women I meet and talk to are truly inspiring. I entered college in 2002 and graduated in 2006 – yup, proudly dating myself. And since then, think about how so much has changed with the advancement of technology (I sound like my mother). But seriously, I am so fascinated to see how much young women are driven and passionate about subjects, and I think it’s largely due to how technology has allowed them to break gender stereotypes and norms because they can connect with anyone across the globe.
You can now see successful people who look like you, speak your language, share your religion and values and it’s not just within the four walls of your home. At the end of the programs, the students tell me “this experience changed my life,” “this has been the best summer of my life,” and “I feel like I’m a different person,” and I always tell them that each and every one of them has changed and inspired me. It’s an invaluable experience for me as much as it is for them.
What were the biggest challenges to getting the business off the ground when you started out?
“Seeing the face of your baby.” PINC is my baby. I can feel it, I have an idea of what I want it to be like and where I want it to go. That being said, with each program and each day, I am getting a stronger sense of what it actually is. Some, including myself, struggle with letting the evolution happen because it may weave in and out of the box you want to place it in.
PINC started off just as 8-week internships! But students kept asking, “Do you have anything shorter and similar?” My first reaction, in my head was, ‘What do you mean shorter and similar? I designed this perfect 8-week experience, how can I change it all around now?’ My actual response was, “Let me see what I can do” and POW, I created a 3-week immersion program and more students enrolled.
When “your baby” starts to weave in and out of your idea, consider the questions, ‘Is this a positive, beneficial change that still holds true to my mission and ultimate goal?’ and “Will I make money off of this?” Mine still worked! Like a parent (which I’m not), you are there to guide and be responsible for “your baby.” But don’t shut down other variables that can make it an even more valuable service or product.
Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of their business?
Build a tribe and a network. Your tribe includes people who “speak your language” and are in the same wheelhouse. For example, I run internship and immersion programs abroad in Madrid. My tribe consists of people who offer housing abroad in Spain, provide international insurance, run Madrid tours (food, wine, excursion, etc), and other internship and immersion companies. We can sit down over a bottle of wine and have a conversation about our accomplishments and struggles, without explaining terms and/or processes. We all speak the same language.
Your network is people outside of your wheelhouse, but whom you will inevitably need, like designers, lawyers, accountants, marketers, consultants, etc. Attend events for various interest groups because when something unexpected happens and you need to call someone for assistance, you won’t have to Google some “Joe Schmo.”
I once went to an event and only spoke with one person. I left the event thinking maybe I should have talked to more people, but she was a cool lawyer who was starting her side hustle of photography. Like after all events, I followed up with an email and kept her contact info on file.
Months later, I drafted a contract and needed someone to review it – and quick. I started Googling lawyers and placing calls. I was floored when I learned how much I was going to have to pay. In my moment of lunacy, I stopped and thought, ‘I go to all these events–I must have met a lawyer, and I would much rather give them my money than someone else.’
Voilà, the photographer with a law degree! I sent her an email, and minutes later she replied and said it would only take her 20 minutes to review and to give suggestions, which she would gladly do–free of charge! She mentioned that if she saw that it really needed long edits then she would let me know and quote me a reasonable price. In the end, it needed a few edits and suggestions, and I sent over a gift certificate as a token of my appreciation. The power of your network and tribe!
What do you do when you’re not running PINC? Where can we catch you on the weekends?
That’s simple. Living the 3Fs. Family, friends and fun! Fun with the family includes acting like tourists in NYC (no seriously, we have never been to the Statue of Liberty). Or we watch an episode of a reality show together–I obviously suggest Shark Tank. Fun with friends completely varies but you can always count on me encouraging some sort of spicy food with an alcoholic beverage.
What’s next on your travel list?
Some days traveling to my bed is a journey. Of all the questions, this is the hardest for me to answer. I don’t know, but in a way, that’s what makes it all the more exciting.