Entrepreneur/Black American/Business Owner/Persevering/Authentic/Travel Enthusiast

My name is Gusti, which means a strong gust of wind. I had to grow into my name and today I am proud to be a force that won’t stop. I’ve learned to not downplay things about myself to make other people feel comfortable. My unique qualities are the very things that helped make me succeed and reach my goals. I also know that, my success does not rest solely on my shoulders. I am successful today because other people have given me opportunities. This is what fuels me every day: to be able to provide opportunities for others so that they too can thrive.

I am a Seattle native that spent the first 10 years of my life growing up in the hood of East Oakland California. I am the 3rd born child out of 4 children to a single mother who gave birth to her first child as a teenager. We didn’t have much growing up, but my mom always made sure we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. It was the summer of 1991 when my 16 year old brother was gunned down on the streets of East Oakland.

Consequently, my mother relocated us kids back to Seattle where the rest of my family resides. That experience was life changing for me. From that day, I vowed that I would never let my brothers death be in vain and I would do any and everything I could to bring my family out of poverty.

In Seattle, there were a lot of programs for low income families that I always qualified for. These programs taught me new things and exposed me to more. This fed my hunger to want more and ultimately, demand more out of life. I simply couldn’t accept being less than, less deserving of or not living in the way I envisioned my life. I began to realize I was succeeding by being apart of these programs and given opportunities.

When I reached high school, I was accepted into the Upward Bound program; a program designed to help low income students get to college. Prior to this program, college wasn’t a topic of conversation in my household.

College wasn’t a topic because my mother had a 9th grade education and feeding us, providing a home, and instilling strong values in our household were her biggest priorities. In my household my mother always instilled in me to always “try your best”. She would always encourage me to participate in different activities and sports and she would never let me quit. No matter how much I didn’t like something. It was important to my mother that I always finished what I started, especially in the moments when I didn’t like things; that’s when I learned the most. It was never acceptable to give-up without trying. There were so many times I wanted to participate in something but felt fearful or lacked confidence, and my mother would always push me to do it anyway.

Since I was raised this way, my tolerance for grit and sticking things out is very high. I don’t give up on the first “no” I get. In fact “no’s” challenge me to find the “yes”.  Despite college not being a typical conversation in my immediate surroundings and thinking college was only for rich families, the values my family ingrained in me made college seem like a reality for me.

With the help and encouragement of Upward Bound coupled with my grit, I began to thrive. I began to actualize my potential, and even more so my vision.

I was the first person in my family to go to college, graduating from the University of Washington. From that point, I was unstoppable with my determination. I was like a dog with a bone unable to give up on my dreams of living a better life.

I have always had a natural curiosity about cultures, languages, and people and it has reached another level as these are the very things that helped make me succeed and reach my goals.

Ever since I was young, I spoke Spanish and danced Salsa even though I am a Black American. Growing up in the hood where there were Black and Brown people, it was just a natural part of my upbringing. My cousins teased me wondering if I came from a different family, but in the end I had to be my authentic self.

Thankfully, my authentic self and curiosity have brought my dreams to life. Today, I am proud to say that I own and operate 2 business – Prime Meridian HS and Prime Meridian Travel. These are both my babies that were birthed out of my passion for providing people opportunities for advancement (just as others had done for me) and experiencing varying, yet rich cultures throughout my travel journeys.

As a woman of color, I’ve had to jump through more hurdles while establishing my businesses than necessary; which is why sticking it out matters. I got so many “no’s” in the beginning because people didn’t believe in me or my brand. People have intentionally slowed processes to throw off my progress.  I’ve had people in my network that were supportive of me when I worked a full-time job, but the moment I opened the doors for my business, somehow support dwindled. While people that I thought were closest to me were falling away, people that I met over 10 years ago began stepping back into my life showing me encouragement. In spite of the hurdles or setbacks, I have a vision and must stay the course…always.

My vision has captivated me since I was a child and will not grow old any time soon, if ever. In the next 5 years, I plan to make my company the first choice for Global Educational Travel for entrepreneurs, business leaders, innovators, educators and students.

Want to stay connected to Gusti and her work?

ig: Choklate Dora Explora

Businesses:  Prime Meridian HS and Prime Meridian Travel