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Empower, Educate, Elevate: The Pareja Foundation's Commitment to Change

Updated: Mar 20

Amidst the challenges and triumphs of entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Ariana Pareja's journey stands as a beacon of innovation and social impact. As the driving force behind the Pareja Foundation, she merges her entrepreneurial spirit with a steadfast commitment to empowering women through education, financial literacy, and career development.

This interview delves into Ariana's multifaceted background, exploring how her Polish and Afghani roots have influenced her approach to business, philanthropy, and the relentless pursuit of positive social change.

From her early forays into entrepreneurship to the impactful work of the Pareja Foundation, Ariana shares insights into the challenges and triumphs of her journey, offering a glimpse into the passion and purpose that fuel her mission to empower women through education, financial literacy, and career advancement.

Can you share the unique aspects of your heritage, being of both Polish and Afghani descent, and how it has influenced your personal and professional journey?

In the 1970s, Poland was under communist rule, and by the late '70s, Afghanistan was embroiled in a civil war, just before the Soviet invasion. My parents arrived in the United States as political refugees, making me the first member of my family to be born in the USA. There was always an immense, unspoken pressure from my family to work hard, succeed, and, most importantly, to never take for granted the freedom and opportunities afforded to me as an American.

As a successful founder with exits, what inspired you to venture into entrepreneurship, and how have those experiences influenced your current pursuits in running a foundation and making a positive impact?

I was drawn into entrepreneurship at a young age, primarily out of necessity. The allure of unlimited earning potential and autonomy greatly motivated me to embrace this lifestyle. 

Having experienced exits as a founder, I understood that while money is transient, the opportunity to build something enduring is truly valuable.

This realization inspired me to establish a foundation focused on empowering women. Through our upskilling bootcamps and financial literacy programs, we aim to help women achieve financial independence. My goal is to create a lasting impact by teaching women how to fish, rather than just giving them a fish, thereby enabling them to break previous generational cycles of how to manage personal finances and build wealth. 

Can you highlight one or two key lessons you learned from your experiences as a founder that have been instrumental in your philanthropic and impact-driven work today?

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned early in my business career is the importance of building relationships. This understanding has been instrumental in the success of the work we do at the Pareja Foundation. Without the network of relationships I've cultivated, we would not have been able to implement any of the impactful programs we offer through the foundation.

In your role running a foundation, what specific causes or initiatives are you most passionate about, and how do you go about making a tangible impact in those areas? 

While our programs are designed to assist all women and minorities earning less than $50,000 annually, I am particularly moved by the success stories of single mothers who, through our program, have gained the skills needed for financial independence. This holds a special place in my heart as it contributes to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Witnessing these women transition from earning under $50,000 to achieving six-figure incomes and then investing and building wealth fills me with profound joy and satisfaction.

As a woman with a successful career, how do you approach balancing professional achievements with personal well-being, and what advice do you have for others striving for a similar balance?

First and foremost, it's crucial to recognize that achieving balance is a process that must be actively worked towards. In the early, foundational years of starting a business, expecting immediate balance is unrealistic.

Once you've reached a certain level of financial stability, it's important to strategically hire individuals who complement your skill set, rather than replicating it. Often, we gravitate towards hiring individuals similar to ourselves because it feels comfortable, but the key to building a strong team is to identify your areas of weakness and hire to strengthen those areas.

Additionally, mastering the art of delegation is vital, not just in professional tasks but also in managing household responsibilities. Embracing technology, such as grocery delivery services, can save valuable time. Rather than spending 45 minutes on a grocery run, that time could be more productively spent engaging with clients, exercising, or pursuing other activities that contribute to both your professional success and personal well-being.

How do you leverage your background and experiences to advocate for diversity and inclusion in your professional and philanthropic endeavors?

Leveraging my background and experiences, especially as a woman who has encountered various challenges, I am acutely aware of the difficulties women often face in being heard within the workplace. In my previous businesses, we made it a priority to organize female-led lunches and workshops. I believe creating a supportive environment where women, particularly those at the beginning of their careers, can hone their presentation and public speaking skills is crucial. Our foundation extends this support through monthly mentorship sessions for our participants. We also assign them special projects alongside their academic endeavors, providing ample opportunities for them to practice voicing their ideas and leading initiatives. This approach not only aids in their personal growth but also promotes diversity and inclusion within our sphere of influence.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future, both in your professional endeavors and the impact you hope to make through your foundation?

Through our foundation, I aim to amplify our impact on empowering underrepresented communities, focusing on creating more inclusive opportunities for women and minorities. I envision expanding our programs to reach a wider audience and enhancing our capacity to provide skills, education, and mentorship. Ultimately, I aim to contribute to breaking cycles of poverty and inequality, creating a legacy of positive change that empowers individuals to thrive and lead in their communities.

What motivates you?

My primary source of motivation comes from my children, particularly my daughter, as I understand the importance of setting a positive example for her. Additionally, being in the company of other accomplished and talented women fuels my drive and inspires me to extend my efforts to helping others. This supportive and inspiring environment encourages me to strive for more and make a meaningful difference

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