Four years ago, Natalie Lemas Hernandez, now 28, was living in the Bay Area, having just completed an executive training program for Macy’s. Her first assignment as a sales manager was a dismal one: she was to head up the three most poorly performing departments. Six months later, those same departments had claimed the top performance spots.
“I just loved coaching others and building teams and a productivity culture where people wanted to succeed,” Hernandez says.
After all, as she says, “You are the author of your own life story.” That about sums up both Hernandez’s professional and personal philosophies: Make your life matter for something, and surround yourself with a team of positive people.
In the office, Hernandez does just that. As chief operating officer of Commercial Northwest Property Management, she helps oversee more than 750 residential units and 300,000 square feet of commercial space. But for Hernandez, the most important part of her daily job is the relationships.
“I recently had a co-worker say to me, ‘I just realized that your clients are actually just clients, and not your family!’” Hernandez says. “There are a lot of people in our industry lately not treating others with dignity, but I know you can run a thriving business while treating your clients with compassion.”
She also recently obtained a license to sell real estate, becoming part of the third generation of her family to do so. Hernandez works for the Nancy Lemas Team, which did more than $13 million in business last year.
Outside of work, a true passion project for Hernandez is her work mentoring young college students. Her childhood dream was to be an actress and she played roles from Sleeping Beauty to Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, but the seed for mentoring was planted when she was 13 and attended a Rotary Youth Leadership camp. When she saw the things her fellow campers were dealing with, including suicide, depression and drugs, a light came on for Hernandez.
“I was hooked,” she says. “I wanted to help kids remove those limiting beliefs and break free to find the future they’d envisioned for themselves.”
Fourteen years later, Hernandez stood before the group again, this time as camp director. She’s now the one teaching kids about reaching their greatest potential.
These experiences came to mind in 2015, when Hernandez decided to expand her influence and found the TIPPS Leadership Program. She had read a Boise Weekly article saying that out of 10 Idaho teens, only one graduates from college, and that only one of every four who actually enroll eventually graduates.
“People think that college success has only to do with academic preparedness and financial aid,” Hernandez says. “But we found it has to do with connection, resiliency and empathy, as much as anything else.”
TIPPS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students feel connected and supported while in school. The group sponsors a four-day camp, which takes students through typical mental and emotional challenges to teach resiliency, and they have a club on the College of Western Idaho campus, where students meet weekly to study, volunteer and talk together. TIPPS also provides one-on-one mentoring and coaching for individual students.
“The name TIPPS stands for the idea of a tipping point,” Hernandez says. “We’re trying to change the dropout rate, and a small group of people can create widespread change – a tipping point.”
Hernandez and her husband, Hugo, who she describes as “the cutest human (she’s) ever seen,” enjoy walking on the greenbelt and traveling together, along with their dog, Nacho.
Most memorable airplane trip: “I was 18 and boarded a plane to go live in a small town called Machala, Ecuador, as a foreign exchange student. It’s the banana capital of the world. I had just graduated from high school and I remember sitting there, thinking my life would never be the same.”