When Florida International University (FIU) welcomes its alumna, the successful entrepreneur
and speaker, Luly B. Carreras ’00, each year for her “SPARK with Luly B.” event, participants
have come to expect fireworks. Luly and her team orchestrate an incredible day-long event for
female business leaders with empowerment and mentoring, the effects of which extend far
beyond the day.
As a part of the day’s agenda, Luly highlights FIU’s Fostering Panther Pride program to
assist students who were formerly in foster care
or homeless. By highlighting how the event
participants can easily assist the students –
perhaps making a professional introduction,
reviewing a resume or aiding in the purchase of
a laptop for school – Luly reminds her tribe how
much they have to offer others… and themselves.
And they needn’t look far. Their powerful
contribution exists already in them.
This simple, yet powerful exercise helps attendees
see their potential where they might have
otherwise not seen it and helps the FIU students in
the process. How great is that?!
I spoke with Luly about how she created this
corporate social responsibility (CSR) component of her annual event that fits perfectly with the vision of
her company, Luly B, Inc., to empower women daily.
Katie: You and your team create a women’s empowerment event each year at Florida
International University, your alma mater, which has become a “must attend” event. How do
you plan your content?
Luly: Something I always ask myself as I’m planning my business for the following year is
‘what does my community need? What else do my clients need? What is the missing gap?
What’s next for my clients; what’s next for my community?’ Through this process, I get great
content for my clients and great content for SPARK. I also use my life experiences because I’m a
personal brand. What sets me apart is that I’m very vulnerable and very courageous about
sharing my life experiences. And then through that I get to connect with people. I get to share
with them the way I overcame challenges, superseded my goals and accomplished certain
Katie: At SPARK with Luly B., the concept of paying it forward is a key theme. You walk
attendees through the process of uncovering their own gifts and when necessary, asking for the
support they need. Because we all need support sometimes, right? Under the premise that it’s
sometimes easier to see another person’s situation with clarity than your own, you incorporated
special student program: Fostering Panther Pride program, which supports students who are
former foster youth or homeless. How did that become a focal point of your event’s corporate
social responsibility outreach?
Luly: Fostering Panther Pride helps students with everything from housing and job placement to
academic advising and living expenses. It’s an all-encompassing program. Even with financial
assistance to afford tuition, it’s only one piece of what they need. This program helps with all
the pieces, so it sets them up for success.
Through special government programs, we get to match what we fundraise. This is important
because sometimes the impact we have can be greater than we think.
If we raise $25,000, it will come back as $50,000.
I found out about Fostering Panther Pride three years ago. I’m a member of FIU’s President’s
Council, and when I was the chair, the President (Mark B. Rosenberg) came to speak to the
Council about the great need that existed among students who were homeless. There were
more and more students living in their cars, struggling to make ends meet. The day that Dr.
Rosenberg spoke to our Council, I was having the first walk-through of where I was going to be
hosting SPARK, the women’s empowerment event.
There were already so many great events, and I was wondering, ‘how do I make SPARK
impactful?’ My walk-through was at 11 a.m.; the President’s Council meeting was at 9 a.m. I
was able to put the two ideas together in that very moment. So it’s also important for people to
remember that sometimes the best idea for giving back is right in front of you. We look beyond
where we are, but we don’t have to.
Katie: That’s one of the strategies Cabanas Consulting uses with our clients. We help them to
start where they are and work with what they have, just like you did. Now that the program is
such a success, what have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Luly: My biggest challenge is that I want to do more. Understanding where there is alignment
and what my capacity is, and being OK with my capacity. That’s my biggest challenge. The other
challenge was how do I integrate this ‘giving back’ element into my event in a way that was
impactful, authentic and meaningful?
I always knew that I wanted to incorporate FIU into my CSR business philosophy, I just didn’t
know how. And then that day that Dr. Rosenberg came, it was like ‘that’s it -- it’s Fostering
I started asking people inside and outside of FIU’s Fostering Panther Pride program what their
thoughts were. What is the greatest need? I didn’t want to duplicate efforts. I didn’t want to
duplicate just another women’s empowerment event. I wanted to complement what’s out
there and fill a void within the Fostering Panther Pride program.
We want to empower these young women and fulfill their needs and wishes; and if the wishes
got fulfilled, it would be the bridge to the next big thing for them. For me, that’s huge because
that’s what I teach at SPARK. The students filled a void at my event for an exercise of how to
explain and share the power of five pillars for the definition of success of the modern day
woman. They became the “A” in SPARK – how we accept, love and support with grace. The
connection was made in a very organic way.
Katie: Do you have any recommendations for someone with a small business who wants to give
Luly: I would ask two questions: What are you super passionate about? And how does that
connect to your business? Or can you make a connection to your business?
For me, it’s about empowering women because I believe that when we empower women, we
empower families, empowered communities, and we get to make a really, really big difference
in the world. It’s beautiful ripple effect. That’s my drop in the bucket of making a difference in
the world. What’s your drop in the bucket?
How does that align with your corporate values and how your company does business? For me,
in my business, I get to help women create businesses around their lifestyles, step into their
greatness, and remind them of how remarkable they are.
SPARK by Luly B. fits in with what I’m passionate about, and it fits in with the marketing part of
my business. I’m not just writing a check; I’m getting involved. Not that writing a check is bad.
That’s how some people want to be involved. Some people may be frustrated they cannot write
a big check. But instead of giving treasure, they can give talent. Like a roofing company building
a home through Habitat for Humanity – they can do team building and home building, literally
at the same time.
Katie: What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
Luly: To surround yourself with people who know more than you do. Hire the coach, listen to
the mentor, bring on a consultant, like yourself, Katie. I constantly seek out people who I
consider to be smarter and wealthier than me – either in resources or knowledge – to invest in
myself and invest in my business, even when it’s scary, especially when it’s scary. Especially
when you “don’t have” the money.
One of my biggest transitions was when I put $14,000 on my credit card that I didn’t have. It
was for a one-year-long, Mastermind program with one of the BEST coaches for women
business owners in the world. And I am so proud that I took that leap.
I had to get up in front of my group of women, who were rocking and rolling all around the
world, and present. I got up and said if one more person tells me to balance I’m going to vomit
because “balance is bullshit.” And they said that’s it. One woman said, I would pay $2,500 to
spend a day with you and with your brain and your heart – your brain and your heart are just
magic. My book, business all came from that. From surrounding myself with people who saw
what I couldn’t see or didn’t want to see. People who lifted me up and encouraged me to fulfill
my life’s purpose.
Luly, thank you -- that’s both inspiring and instructional! Thanks for sharing with folks how they
can incorporate CSR into their mission. We, too, love working with clients to
develop philanthropy plans that support their brand.
Luly B is be hosting “Spark Your Why,” on various dates this year to help attendees discover the WHY that drives them. You won’t want to miss it! Click here for more information.