Haitian-American Business Executive Director Leaves Corporate America To Pursue Her Own Business
Ever since Cynthia Etheart-Joseph was a little girl, her father told her she could do anything she wanted to — the sky was the limit. This support is something she has held close to her and eventually what inspired her to step outside of her comfort zone, go after what she wanted, and start her own business.
Cynthia’s grandparents immigrated from Haiti to New York in the late 1950s. Although this was right before the Civil Rights Movement, her family relied on their tenacity and Haitian values and settled in America successfully.
With roots firmly established in New York, Cynthia was born in Flushing, NY, raised in Long Island, and obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Minor in French from State University of New York At Albany. Following graduation, she started her career working in fashion at a large department store, but after a couple of years, Cynthia decided to pursue a career in human resources at a prestigious financial services firm.
She spent 20 years with the financial services firm and worked her way from Management Development Associate to Executive Director in HR. During this time, she also obtained her Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University.
In 2008, Cynthia and her husband Gerard relocated to Boynton Beach, Florida. Gerard was working as a nuclear medicine technologist, and his company was looking to expand its operations down in Florida. Moving south seemed like a natural progression for the couple, and Palm Beach County, often referred to as the “Sixth New York Borough,” seemed like the perfect place to start their next chapter together.
Not only did they have family and friends who lived in Florida, but they loved the lifestyle down there. Cynthia was able to continue her role with the financial services firm, working remotely. However, the company was changing its geographical footprint strategy. After a great 20-year run with the firm, Cynthia thought this was her opportunity to take a leap of faith.
Becoming Business Owners with CertaPro Painters® of Boca Raton
Both Cynthia and Gerard always thought about franchising. They liked the idea of owning their own business without having to start from scratch.
“When you franchise, you’re given a playbook, but you have the ability to make it your own and thrive. You also have access to a series of experts and resources who can assist you with all the different dimensions of running a business.”
To help them figure out what type of franchise they wanted to own, they worked with a consultant. Many types of businesses were on the table, including health and wellness, beauty, and home improvement. After being presented with four franchises and told to rank them, Cynthia put painting last on her list. But one day, she had an epiphany.
“The more and more I thought about it, I realized painting was the way to go. We live in Palm Beach County, where everything is stucco and painted. Plus, the vast majority of the homes here are run by HOAs. That means painting is a need, not a luxury.”
While researching opportunities, a disenchanted franchisee of a different painting company suggested looking into CertaPro Painters®. It was a stroke of luck that the Boca Raton territory was available.
“We took the Boca Raton territory as a sign that this was the right move for us. Other franchisees that we spoke with enjoyed owning their franchise, and we immediately felt that we would have the support and resources to be successful.”
Starting fresh with CertaPro Painters® meant Cynthia had to tap into the skills she developed in her career.
“I learned the importance of being professional, polished, and attentive to customers. I’ve always worked hard, and I know how to build relationships, how to speak with customers, and how to determine what’s important. I ask myself: what does the customer need? Not, what do I need to sell?”
Navigating Personal and Business Challenges as a Female Business Owner
Cynthia and Gerard started operating CertaPro Painters® of Boca Raton in the fall of 2018. As property improvement and home decor enthusiasts, the couple quickly found themselves enjoying watching homeowners fall in love with their houses again with just a coat of paint.
“I am drawn to beauty and what color and aesthetics can do to beautify a space. There’s no simpler way to transform a home than with paint.”
The business was off to a great start. However, right before the pandemic hit, Cynthia’s father passed away in December 2019. Keeping her father’s spirit with her, Cynthia thought about the strong identity that Haitians have and how they don’t let barriers stop them. That was how despite her tragic loss and navigating the world’s new normal, Cynthia was able to persevere and keep her business thriving.
Another potential challenge Cynthia faced when entering the painting industry was being a woman in a male-dominated field. But she feels that it hasn’t been that difficult.
“As long as you are confident, assertive, and willing to go toe to toe to demonstrate your competence, you’ll be able to remind yourself and others that you have the right to be here.”
Sometimes, she finds that customers may be a little surprised when they discover that she will be the one handling their job, but they never question her ability or doubt her knowledge. That is true for her painting crews too. She feels respected and seen as a partner.
Creating a Strong Network of Support
Her main partner, of course, is her husband and co-owner. However, Gerard will tell you that Cynthia is the boss and CEO.
“I handle most of the customer relations, sales and marketing, while he manages the operations and administrative functions.”
While Cynthia has the unwavering support of her husband and extended family, she says it’s just as important to develop a supporting team of experts who can help you at every turn.
“I’m still learning the painting business, so I will reach out to fellow franchisees to lean on their experience. Plus, you have to remember to be your own cheerleader. Leave the self-doubt behind, keep pushing forward, and know that you can do it.”
Advice for Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs
Before joining CertaPro Painters®, Cynthia worked long hours and failed to find that work/life balance she craved. Now that she’s her own boss, she’s still working those long hours but feels invigorated and is happy to be where she is.
“When you’re making changes in life, you can get wary or lose confidence. In those times, think about the qualities that have made you successful. Use them, and you’ll continue to grow from there.”
She also advises aspiring female business owners to remain flexible and adaptable to change.
“Do your homework about the industry and space you will operate in so you can demonstrate competence and confidence. Stay true to who you are and what you bring to the table. When you’re continuously in your comfort zone, you tend to stay there. But that’s when you should take the bull by the horns and try something new. I remind myself of this every day, so I can go after — and get — what I want. A fellow colleague recently shared this quote by Neale Donald Walsch, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’”