Founder, podcast host, and Chief Empowerment Officer Marie Ann Altuve is the almost-26-year-old powerhouse running Self Made Babe, a community, blog, and digital platform that empowers career-driven women to achieve their version of success.
She offers aspiring entrepreneurs accessible masterclasses, templates, personal development tools, and career advice over her Podcast, Instagram, and TikTok, with a goal to move the needle forward for women in different aspects of their business. The Leap was fortunate to interview Marie Ann from sunny Miami Florida about her first year as a full-time entrepreneur.
The Leap: Tell us about the moment when you said, ‘F*** it. This is what I want to do with my life.’
Marie Ann: I graduated in fall of 2018 and was applying to corporate jobs that never responded back to me. Maybe it had to do with the marketing positions I applied for or my strong science background, but there was definitely a disconnect. Throughout 2019, I spent my entire year applying to jobs and trying to further my career in marketing through education by taking digital marketing courses. I knew I did not want another bachelor’s degree, since I had done four years [of med school and interdisciplinary studies] and was committed to graduating regardless of if it was going to be biology or marketing… But what really made me pivot was a health scare.
I had a skin cancer scare and, while I caught it early, that alone propelled me into doing what I am truly passionate about or to at least try to do things that make me very happy. No more putting them on the backburner! I had the scare and asked myself, ‘Well… if I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy going to med school? Would I be happy knowing that I didn’t try content creation? That I didn’t try to explore the different passions that I have?!’
I realized that medicine was not the only way to help people. That alone led me into this world of wanting to help women achieve their dreams and go after their careers, even if they’re feeling stuck. I started my Instagram account solely as a way to empower women through inspirational quotes. I realized that, just by posting something as a quote, I could really change the trajectory or someone’s perspective around a certain aspect of their life.
Can you talk about your first products?
My first ebook was $20 USD and my first and last course was $197 for four weeks, but I offered participants a payment plan. When starting out, I understood my audience and knew I had to meet them where they were at. A lot of my audience were in the beginning stages of their digital entrepreneurship and so it made sense to make my digital products accessible to them!
By the end of 2019, I had less than 800 Instagram followers and was doing freelance graphic design work while applying for those jobs. The thing that really opened my eyes was that I noticed a lot of small businesses did not know how to use Instagram properly. I had tips and tricks to make an Instagram feed aesthetically pleasing, which led me to sharing how to build a brand and develop a brand voice by focusing on the aesthetics. As I started to dive deeper into the world of digital entrepreneurship, digital products and intellectual property packaging, I realized that people wanted to learn about these topics as well. So I created an ebook called The Instagram Crash Course in Canva, where I shared ways to optimize a profile and taught different strategies on how to use hashtags and so forth.
At that time, I had a very small account. So it was hard to get my audience to buy something. It was all crickets. But in November, 2019, I noticed there were a lot of Facebook groups for women in digital marketing and I was in multiple groups. I started paying attention and realized a lot of women were asking about Instagram. My first two sales of the ebook were in those Facebook groups. I connected with women who had genuine questions about Instagram, answered their questions and was like, ‘By the way, if you’d like to learn more, you can purchase my ebook at this link,’ and dropped it in. From there, I started trying to grow the platform, seeing what makes people want to buy and follow as well.
How did your initial products evolve?
In 2019, I didn’t take Self Made Babe seriously. But in 2020, I was like, ‘Okay, if no one’s gonna hire me, let me at least put my all into it as if it were a job and see how I can blow up and make this the source of my living.’
I launched my first podcast episode in March. It just felt like the right move. Initially I was inspiring and empowering women just through digital graphics on Instagram. A podcast was the next step because it goes hand in hand. I could use a quote and talk about the quote on the podcast and dive a little bit deeper on the topic or whatever I was feeling that day. So it was very easy. With podcasting, it’s like having a conversation with anyone or by yourself, you know, you don’t have to really take too much time or have to get ready. I would honestly just sit down, grab my tiny microphone, plug it into my phone, record on my phone, upload to the Spotify anchor podcasting app and make it happen. It was easy to transition.
As for videos. I wanted to start a YouTube channel but that’s still in the works. I’m really glad TikTok exploded and made it easier to create videos versus on YouTube, where you have to prepare for it. TikTok led to my video creation; it’s just the evolution of social media. My personal YouTube channel, which I started in 2015, only has like 200 followers. I have been completely inconsistent with it. But starting it in 2015 and using TikTok until now has definitely helped me feel a lot more comfortable [on camera]. Being comfortable helped me step into video creation.
If you could go back to your first year in business and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
I would say to get a therapist, because my mental health was not great. In 2021, I was really down in the dumps. I would say mental health was a big hurdle for me, for sure. But it is what it is. I’m human and I can’t shame myself for that. If you are bottling up your emotions, you will be a bottleneck to your business. That was the only time where I struggled or felt stuck — because of my mental health.
Any other advice for wannabe creators?
A lot of times, people are afraid of what other people think or what their followers think, but you just gotta make what you make and do what makes you the happiest. My advice for those interested in a content creator journey would be to just open up the books. It technically doesn’t have to be a book. It could be YouTube. But just sit down, learn as much as you can and try to be the best at it. That’s just a great way to live life: whatever you put your mind to, try to be the best at it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.