Career 28 September 2018
Hailing from Mexico City, Ariadna Madrid is just the ambitious champion of sustainability that this planet needs to survive. She currently resides in Brooklyn and works at Publicis’ midtown office, with the bustling theatre district buzzing right outside her door. Publicis is one of the largest advertising and PR companies in the world, and Madrid is a producer/creator for the Hispanic Division. “For a long time I’d been working at film festivals, supporting the vision of film directors, and then I was working as a producer at production companies,” she says. “I landed an interview in this agency back in Mexico City, I didn’t know anything about it, and I said to them, ‘It just sounds so good,’ because they were a huge company. I said, ‘That’s not real,’” she admits with a laugh. “‘Just give me a contract, if it’s real, then I’ll sign it.’ It was real, and now here I am, almost seven years later.” Compared to Mexico City, NYC is minuscule, Madrid feeling that anything is possible here— especially with her passion and tenacity.
In the first few minutes of talking to Madrid, she mentioned a TED Talk by an American scientist, Jared Diamond, that opened her eyes to the severity of our planet’s declining condition. “[He] talks about evolution and the signs for a society to collapse,” she explains. “There are a couple of symptoms, one has to do with how fast we are blowing our resources...the other recent trigger for extinction is our friendly and unfriendly relations with our neighbors, so if you think about the homeless people, the immigration crisis... Those are signs that we’re really heading in a bad direction. There’s a conflict of interest between the decision makers and the rest of the community when they’re isolated from the consequences of their actions. That’s when the problem gets worse.” Madrid recognized this “conflict of interest” in numerous brands she’s worked with, igniting her desire to dispel this growing conflict.
“There is hope, and the hope is that there are around 120 million environmentally-conscious consumers, meaning that we’re entering the early mainstream that is going to switch into mainstream. That’s going to change everything. It’s going to move the nation and the planet.”
Years went by, and Madrid felt she had hit a career wall, yearning for more and to chase after her larger dreams regarding the environment. A dream that had expanded when she watched Diamond’s talk. “I was ready to make my next move,” she explains, “I felt like I’d learned what I needed to learn, so I decided to follow my heart and do something with sustainability and protecting the planet. I felt that that was not happening within the company, so I found the right time, and I told my boss that I wanted to leave... I was giving him my two weeks notice, and he asked me not to do it and to come back with a proposal for my dream job. I thought that was extraordinary that he asked me to do that.”
“Something is going to happen. I want to prevent that from happening. Or if it happens I want to be ready for it and I want the people around me to be ready for it"
Madrid submitted a preliminary proposal for an environmentally-conscious internal department of Publicis and ended up receiving the most votes, emphasizing its efficacy and its importance to not just Madrid, but to several of her peers.
The next step was to make a video expressing her project’s mission—only a handful of winners would be chosen out of a whopping 3,500. “I didn’t know what was going to happen; I was ready to make a move, you know,” she says. “I was like, ‘if I don’t win, I’m going to continue to try to learn more about sustainability and try to help in other ways.’ I was lucky and, I won; as a result, I was able to go to Paris and receive this trophy in front of the CEO there, and the daughter of the founder and my parents... It was about the opportunity because they would give us 15 minutes with the CEO and his board to pitch our idea, and then they would invest in it if they thought it was worthwhile.” With a sabbatical to research and the funds to travel, Madrid left her apartment and set off to connect with owners of sustainable companies worldwide.
“So whatever you put out there in the world has to be healthy and positive. Always understand that we are in the presence of being better. Once you know yourself, speak your truth"
“I found that one of the common denominators out there is waste. It’s very much a cultural issue because when we throw something away it disappears, but actually that ‘away’ is a landfill or is the ocean. I became really passionate about waste.”
Madrid’s passion was evident. After chatting, she gave a tour of her office building and happened to notice containers of food littering the countertops. She lamented the waste and hoped the food would be saved and used come the end of the workday.
Following her extensive research and collection of feedback from company leaders, Madrid was ready to meet with Publicis heads again, this time with a solid, fleshed-out proposal. “I was able to come up with a department that I designed myself,” she says. “I built a proposal and got a meeting with the new CEO last April, and in the room, there were other CEOs—all these big leaders. I had ten minutes, and what I presented to them was something very simple. It had to be simple, fun, sexy, it had to be something that everyone understands, but so they don’t feel guilty, and want to be a part of it.”
Sitting with a sweeping view of the city, bright red carpet underfoot, Madrid smiles and dives into her green proposal that she pitched to the aforementioned CEOs, consisting of three pillars: operations, talent, and business.
This pillar is about action, Madrid and those working with her needed to “walk the walk” and alter the way things run in-house before expanding their mission. It upholds a few subgoals, including reducing their carbon footprint and becoming zero-waste. “NYC has a couple of aggressive goals,” Madrid notes. “The city wants to be a zero-waste city by 2030, meaning they want to do waste-diversion. The other one is to reduce the carbon footprint by 80%. This requires reducing traffic, by switching to electric cars—these are big challenges, and I think that it would be a great assignment for the rest of the country and the rest of the world. This is the city of the world, so I want to align this first pillar of operation to those goals.”
When talking about the talent portion of her proposal, Madrid describes it as putting “skin in the game.” It involves informing Publicis’ talent about the internal changes and the company’s push for sustainability. Barriers exist, such as the glaring lack of competence when it comes to proper waste disposal. “What happens often is that people don’t know how to separate trash, so they toss everything in one plastic bag, and at the end of the day they send it to a landfill,” Madrid says. “If we inform our talent about what’s going on and we make them be part of it, they can feel that they have a fingerprint on the process, and they can get really inspired. That’s the goal of the second pillar.”
The third and final pillar is business. This pillar seeks to connect already environmentally-conscious events, such as zero-waste concerts, with environmentally-conscious clients of Publicis. Madrid wishes to influence other agencies this way, and facilitate good-for-the-earth events around the city. “It’s not about being competitive,” she says. “It’s about cooperation.” Teamwork is needed to spark the fire of change to have a positive impact.
“My dream is that one day we see Times Square lit up not only by clean energy but by clean ideas.”
Madrid’s loyalty to Mother Nature is inspiring and stems from more than just the TED Talk of which she speaks so highly of; it’s an innate instinct to protect her home. Madrid is cognizant of the urgency as our world is at risk. “I do feel that every year when something happens—like the fires and hurricanes and earthquakes—all of that is a warning sign, and is not a joke,” she says. “Something is going to happen. I want to prevent that from happening. Or if it happens, I want to be ready for it, and I want the people around me to be ready for it.” The next several years will be busy ones for Madrid, but her hours of dedication towards a cleaner future will benefit us all.
“This is my home, and my client is nature...I do whatever she asks me to do, and then once I feel like I’ve done something, then I can start doing other things, I want to shoot a film, I want to create sustainable communities in Mexico, but first I must take care of this, because I can and have been able to open the doors for myself by speaking my truth. It all started because I wanted to quit.”
As a businesswoman with no bounds to her perseverance and to the tireless effort she expends to inspire great change, Madrid is full of advice for go-getters like herself. “Sustainability, abundance, happiness... Everything starts in your head,” she says. “So whatever you put out there in the world has to be healthy and positive. Always understand that we are in the presence of being better. Once you know yourself, speak your truth. I’ve had this track record of following my dreams and making them come true, that’s why I’ve lived in so many countries, but I’d never tested the limits as I did now, where I’m like; ‘I know that I’m quitting a big job, it’s NYC, I don’t know what’s going to happen after that, but I don’t feel happy, and I know myself, and I’m not going to go through it. That was a big lesson. I’m still an immigrant, I’m a woman, Mexican, so it’s kind of against the odds, but I work for nature, and nature tells me I can do it. She gives me beautiful sunsets and beautiful lakes, birds, flowers, and I’ll do anything to protect her.”
Nobody knows what it's like to be sh*t out of luck like Suzy Batiz. Maybe that's why her million-dollar idea was a spray to stop your sh*t from stinking.
Yes, this woman is on a mission to keep your bathroom dos (and don'ts) on the DL, and she is doing it all with a hefty dose of personal philosophy and spirituality. It's hard to pick just one place to start with a maverick like Batiz. Though, maverick doesn't quite do her justice.
We could talk about her early life, growing up poor in Arkansas with two parents struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Or we could discuss her two bankruptcies and a lifelong history of failed hustles and side-hustles. Then there's her personal life; she's been divorced twice, has three kids, and is a survivor of abuse. You could say she's been through some sh*t. (Okay, the poop jokes end here, I swear.) If this all sounds too crazy to believe already then you better stop reading now because it gets wilder. This woman is all that and then some.
But, there's no time like the present, so I guess we'll start there.
Suzy Batiz is one of the richest self-made women in America with a net worth of $240 million. She's currently working on uplifting other business owners and creative-thinkers with her personal and professional philosophy of "alive ideas" as well as running her own companies, Supernatural, a 100% natural cleaning product company, and Poo~Pourri, the famous odor-eliminating toilet spray line that started it all with a bang (or a plop). (Okay, now the poop jokes are really done.)
Poo-Pourri's first commercial, which has now garnered almost 50 million views since its release in 2013, absolutely blew away viewers with its hilariously crass yet poetic verbiage surrounding this lovely woman's "cavernous bowels." Even I remember first seeing it almost seven years ago. Though I wasn't even sure if it was a real product at first. I was so busy laughing that I almost missed the line: "Yes, it is a real product. And yes, it really works." No one but Batiz could have thought up an idea so new, so wild, and at the same time so deeply necessary for people everywhere. It seems that poop is the market's natural equalizer.
(Seriously though, how good is this commercial?)
She's reached some of the highest peaks of success when it comes to consumer goods, but Batiz's newest venture asks people to turn inward and evaluate their thoughts and personal processes to support a culture of deeply conscious creation. Alive Ideas represents all of the lessons in both entrepreneurship and spirituality that Batiz has learned firsthand. Because, for her, the entrepreneurial and the spiritual are often one and the same. In her own words:
"Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out."
She takes this marriage of philosophies very seriously and infuses it into every level of her business, offering her employees training in transcendental meditation (a non-negotiable daily activity for Batiz) and Headspace app subscriptions. Batiz knows that good work has to start from the inside out, and that's why she's so keen to share this philosophy with the world and help other people realize that, too. That's what this new enterprise is all about.
Alive ideas are those twinges of inspiration that you can feel in every inch of your being — the ones that are just bursting to take shape in the world. Take Poo-Pourri as a perfect example, it was something that no one could have expected. A product that needed to exist, but a need that had never before been conceptualized (let alone actualized) by anybody. Until Batiz, that is.
She's always been a "natural creator," so it's only natural that her current state of being revolves around bringing to life new ideas and products. But even that could only have come about through what she describes as the "luxury of losing everything."
It took 38 years and a lifetime of both personal and professional hardships before Batiz was ready to call it quits. After all the hustles, there was just no hustle left in her.
So she took a four-year spiritual sabbatical, during which she realized that she'd spent her entire life thus far "selling out" and "making deals" for all the wrong reasons. "Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it!" That was what really set her off. "It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing." There's those alive idea's she's talking about!
Suzy Batiz is the antithesis of your stereotypical entrepreneur. She wears flowing skirts, makes poop jokes, and has the vibe of a fun-loving guru. She basically spent her entire life trying (and failing) to find success through financial means, only to lose everything and then some. It took hitting rock bottom to realize that she needed to start fresh. It was only once she'd chucked all of the typical toxic motivators out the window that her real genius could shine through all the bullsh*t.
Full Interview Transcript
1. How would you describe your climb from growing up, to bankruptcy, to millionaire? And how does it feel to have come so far?
I grew up in Arkansas very poor, with a mother that was depressed on pain pills and a father that was a bipolar alcoholic. From an early age, I had the impression that money was my way out. If I could just make money, I would be somebody and I would mean something in the world.
By the time I was 22, I'd already been married, bankrupt (for the first time), divorced and attempted suicide. Shortly after that, I met and married a wealthy man who turned out to be abusive. I clawed my way out of that terrible situation to find myself divorced again and homeless with two boys under the age of 2. I continued to work multiple jobs and soon met my ex-husband of 26 years. He was a drummer who didn't have much to offer aside from his love at the time, which sounded like a dream after the last situation I was in. I constantly hustled and side hustled, but all my business ventures typically ended in failure. At 38 years old, I lost funding for a dot com recruiting platform that I'd invested our life savings into, leading to my second bankruptcy and what I call "the luxury of losing everything".
I vowed to leave business behind entirely and went on a four-year spiritual sabbatical. I looked back and realized that I'd spent my whole life husting, selling out and making deals that felt wrong in order to get something I thought I wanted. Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it! This is when everything changed for me. It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing. I was no longer living for external validation, but rather from the inside out. Ironically, it was once I'd sworn off business and chasing money that my success and wealth came.
2. You seem to be innately entrepreneurial person, was there any moment or experience in your life that made you really think: "This is what I have to do."
I've always been a natural creator. Growing up we had very little, so if I wanted a new outfit for my Barbie, I'd sew it myself. I've always had that spirit in me — but at one point I actually believed I was the worst entrepreneur in the world. I had more than a dozen failed businesses and two bankruptcies by the time I was 38, so I swore off business altogether. It wasn't until I realized chasing money and success wasn't making me happy and I did my internal work that Poo~Pourri was born.
A few years later, a friend of mine was interviewing and asked how I knew which ideas to follow — how could I tell which ones would turn out to be successful? The question piqued my interest. I realized it had nothing to do with the analytical or rational reasons a business should succeed. Rather, I remembered the feeling in my body when I first got the idea for Poo~Pourri. I felt a zing up my left arm, I got chill bumps, it felt like everything went into hi-def and I had so much energy to research and create because the idea wouldn't leave me alone. My curiosity continued and I had a conversation with Dr. Bruce Lipton to ask him a burning question: Can ideas be alive? His answer, in short, was: absolutely! He said that everything, including thoughts and ideas, has energy, and "every living thing is seeking more life-force energy." This was my aha moment. When I focused on ideas that gave me energy, that felt ALIVE, they turned out to be more resilient and successful. I followed the breadcrumbs of what made me feel alive and it's led me to here — what a wild ride!
3. What drives you to keep moving forward in life and in business after all the success you've attained thus far?
My ultimate goal is to reach my highest evolution in this lifetime. I strive to be lit up daily in my personal and business life and follow only things that resonate (though it's a practice and I misstep all the time). I love bringing alive ideas into physical form, and my businesses are those manifestations. I truly believe that I was lucky enough to have the luxury of losing everything. I know that at any time I can lose it all, and if that happens, I want to make sure I can look back and know I had a damn good time.
4. A lot of people feel that there is a big disconnect between capitalism and spiritually, but you seem to have found a sweet spot for both yourself and your business ventures. How closely intertwined is your spirituality with your entrepreneurial ventures? And why?
I don't think of things as being a part of my work life or a part of my personal spiritual life. It's all the same for me. Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out. Daily transcendental meditation is my number-one non-negotiable. Starting my day with space to clear out the noise of the outside world has been just as essential for my business as it has for my personal wellness. I share this gift with Poo~Pourri employees as well by offering TM training and Headspace app subscriptions and providing only healthy fuel and snacks in the office so we are all operating at optimal levels.
I also believe that there's nothing wrong with wanting money and success. Who wouldn't? But where I've found the most impact is in my actions. If I'm doing something or chasing an idea only to get money, it doesn't come. When I do my internal work and follow what's resonant because it feels good within my being, wouldn't you know that's when the money flows.
5. If you could go back in time and tell your younger self that you'd one day be one of America's richest self-made women by way of selling poop products, how do you think you'd react?
I'd lose my shit and probably laugh in your face because it would be so far beyond what I could have imagined. When I was little, I had the dream of working in a factory or at the post office because those were steady and consistent jobs. I wouldn't have ever even known to dream of being the one to finally break a pattern of generational poverty.
Breaking these types of patterns, the ones that are outdated and no longer serve us, is a huge passion of mine. I've got the world comfortable talking about shit, now what else can we get people to talk about?