On a typical morning, Pegine Echevarria wakes up around 5am in her home in Jacksonville, Fl. to write what she is grateful for in her journal. She says she has a lot to be thankful for — not only is she married the love of her life, but she also has her very own multi-million dollar company which helps others manifest their dreams.
Next on her morning agenda is meditation and visualization which enable her to see where she is going.
“I actually see it,” says Echevarria, author, motivational speaker and CEO of Team Pegine, Inc., a motivational training and consulting firm focusing using role-playing and event planning to create success within the military, federal government, manufacturing-focused organizations, and among women and Hispanics. “My vision is to inspire billions to lead.”
The path for her, and others, wasn’t always so clear. At 14, the Puerto Rican from the Bronx, NY found herself in a gang, yet something didn’t feel right. She says she got an intense desire to not end up dead like her sister who died from a heroin overdose.
“In my head I always knew I could be something more,” says Echevarria, adding that her single mom becoming an assistant principal was an inspiration to her. “I wanted to be an expert and I wanted to be bilingual. It was a thing in my head to be real Latina, I had to speak Spanish.”
Soon after, when she was 18, Echevarria made the decision to leave the gang.
“I put names of a few countries in a hat, and I went by myself to Spain,” remembers Echevarria who only had $1,000 in her pocket. “Back then it felt like I just needed to survive.”
She returned to the U.S. after 3.5 years in Madrid and helping open three nursery schools there. As running businesses seemed innate to her, she excelled in sales back in the states. She says always being one of the only females and always the only Latina, she became fascinated with how women and minorities held themselves back from moving up rank.
“It became really frustrating to me to see women and men of color always say, ‘Oh I can’t do that,’ or ‘I’m not ready for that,’” says Echevarria. “It drove me crazy.”
She says she finally found her chance to be an expert.
“I couldn’t be an expert without education,” says Echevarria who ended up getting a BA in education and theater and an MS in social work. “Everything I’ve done is absolutely perfect for what I do now — it’s wild. I didn’t plan it, but I knew what I loved.”
With her degree in social work and her life experiences under her belt, she says she started running programs for drug-abusing moms and girls involved in gangs.
“That’s how I got into motivational speaking,” says Echevarria, who became known nationally once Montel Williams invited her and the young gang members she was treating onto his show about six years ago. “They had my three girls on, and three girls who were still doing drugs, and they brought me on as the expert. I clicked with a girl and just transformed her.”
After being on the show 32 times, then the Ricki Lake Show, and almost every talk show except Oprah and Jerry Springer, Echevarria says Montel asked her, “What are you doing? You should be a speaker.”
Echevarria says that pushed her to join the National Speakers Association, and eventually becoming the only Latina inducted into The Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame. She says it might not have been a formal plan, but now her vision is clear — to be a feisty, fearless, focused, fun female leader, and she recommends other Latinas to see themselves the same way.
“Now I look back and see those traits helped me,” says Echevarria who feels she still isn’t feisty enough sometimes. “In Hispanic culture we’re taught to keep your mouth shut, don’t let the neighbors know, don’t tell your problems to other people, but what you want to do is ask for support and help to solve the problems. It’s not about being a whiner, it’s about being a winner.”
The motivational mogul says reading “Secrets of Six-Figure Women” really transformed her life. She says the disparity between women’s and men’s salaries is related.
“Part of the problem is negotiating and asking,” says Echevarria. “The guy in your same level will ask for way more than you ask for. And then we complain. The organization didn’t do it, you did it. We tell our friends to ask, but we won’t do it for ourselves.”
She says you have to know where you want to go.
“I just knew I was going to get out of a gang,” says the author of “Sometimes You Need to Kick Your Own Butt, and three other self-help books. “I held on to being an expert for eons. I was slightly dramatic, with a huge imagination.”