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Meet Trailblazer Nadine Cruz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nadine Cruz.

Nadine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I currently run my own Graphic Design & Marketing (I guess you can call it agency) agency. I am 31 years old, from Long Island, New York. I have 12 years experience in my field of work. I moved out here about seven years ago. I moved out to San Diego at 25 – I told myself I’d stay two years. Seven years later…

Before I moved out to San Diego, I did a few stints in some other places – I lived in North Carolina, Hawaii, traveled the East Coast as much as possible. I finally got it together (I don’t like saying that – because I am a nomad – but in other people’s eyes “I got my sh*t together) and stayed put in NY and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design & Digital Arts. During school, I juggled two unpaid internships, a full class load, and a part-time job. (I am saying this for a reason, work hard – it pays off.) Anywho – I got offered a job from one of my internships and within two years worked my way up to lead designer/stand-in Art Director at a magazine published in Southampton, NY. Dan’s Papers. I learned most of everything I know now. Literally. Starting from the bottom and working your way up, holds more value than I think people realize. Not only do you know the department and company every which way but you are thrown into so many situations where you just have to figure it out, and you come out on top for it. Also working for a weekly publication – will crush your mind body and soul. We literally used to work through the night to meet our deadline. Being creative, alert and well, sane under that much pressure – will teach ya some sh*t.

I realized I was outgrowing the old hometown and on my 25th birthday, I took a road trip west with some of my oldest friends. I got to San Diego – and within two years every. single. thing. that could go wrong. just. fuck*ng. did.

At this point, if I didn’t have some solid people in my life, I probably would have gone home. But that’s not what happened…

After A LOT of soul searching & getting lost again, I think it’s important to get lost when you don’t know what’s next. Seriously say, f*ck it and throw caution to the wind – you’ll figure it out.) – I got the claws out and started working harder, I landed an opportunity for a role as the Director of Marketing & Design at Fit Athletic Club and all its subsidiaries. After two years in this position, I landed a role as the Brand Marketing Manager for House of Blues San Diego, a LiveNation Company. I am very proud of these two roles I got work in, they were my dream jobs. It’s funny, I never really realize all my accomplishments until I start thinking back (when you’re in it, it’s hard to see). At these positions, I was always challenged – every day was something new. As the marketer and designer working on the management team, you end up working with every single department the company offers. Not a lot of people realize this – haha – time management is so important. But because of this – all the projects & events I’ve gotten to work on were always something I would be proud of. Even if it failed. Because I learned or proved to myself I could do it. I’ve broken records for events, designed huge campaigns, worked with all types of media, met some incredible people and been part of legendary moments & events. I’ve also messed up a lot.

During these years – I’ve also done a lot of fun things – because at the end of the day the only reason I’ve worked so hard was that my top goal in my life is to see the world. I have been 12+ countries & traveled most of the US, lived in Hawaii & North Carolina at some point too. I still have a long way to go. 50 countries by the time I’m 50… I figured San Diego is the best place to put down some shallow roots, eh? Traveling is the most important thing to me – not because it’s what you should do – but because it’s shaped me to be who I am. I truly believe in an uncomfortable situation or place is what makes you be like “I got this” and you know who you are. Once you know who you are – what can stop you? Only your own fears. Not only that, but the people and things I’ve experienced are part of my soul. Every time I come home from somewhere new, I’ve grown an extra inch. I believe solo, down and dirty, lost no internet, old school romantic travel is the way to go. The “do it for the gram age” needs to stop. Just stop.

I also got my skydiving license and have been currently jumping in the sport for almost three years. But that’s another story for another time. I’ve actually pretty much knocked out my entire bucket list – which is something to be said. I started a new one. I can’t wait.

Back to work – After about a year and a half at House of Blues – I started picking up freelancing again to basically pay for skydiving and all my expensive hobbies. All of a sudden, it turned into my own agency.

A year in, it’s been a WILD ride. I’ve gained clients, pissed off clients, lost money, made money. But going into 2019 I am stoked. I broke even my first year and that was my goal. This year, I have some goals to knock off and by 2020 I would love to have a team working with me. Flying solo is rough, especially when I like to teach. I think I have a lot to offer on the mentor part – I’ve been in the field 12 years now. I have gotten to watch interns and employees grow into such badass people. I see what they are doing now and I am so proud I got to be a part of their story. I think having mentors in your career is important. I have been lucky enough to be raised by some serious badass people – you know who you are. They made me what I am today. (Tear, love you guys so much.)

When I decided to start my own company, it was terrifying. I had a badass job at House of Blues with every opportunity/door open to me. Those guys were my family and wanted me to stay (which was an honor) but were so supportive when I left. But every day, I woke up I thought about this – and I knew if I didn’t try it would be something I always thought about. 1 year later, I have six resident marketing clients (ranging from the skydiving industry to cannabis, fitness & nightlife) and about 15 rotating graphic design clients and more pouring in each day. Most come in on referral. A good referral is everything.

So, 2019, I am still figuring it all out – but that’s most of the jist of my story…

Has it been a smooth road?
NO. Fuck no. FUCK no.

Sorry for the intrusive language but anyone who thinks this is easy, let me know what you’re smoking. When something can go wrong, expect it to. If you couldn’t plan ahead and there is no contingency plan when something goes wrong – take a deep breath and figure out. No sense in freaking out – it won’t help the situation.

I’ve dealt with everything from sites crashing on brand launches, events having MASSIVE operation issues, ridiculous reviews and customers losing it, company budgets falling apart, people losing jobs, clients bailing on me, not having any money to fund business and so on. Shit is going to happen. Think on your toes and be prepared for next time. Now, you know.

My advice: People need to remember to work hard, bring it. Seriously – I can’t stand anyone that comes into a job thinking things will be handed to them if you’re on the team be a team player.

The strongest people I know are the ones that are so tired, have personal things going on, fuck up, cry it out in the bathroom, get it together and push forward. These are the people I admire. I’ve watched so many of my mentors be so… composed (I am NOT) haha, and I am like how are you handling this? And it’s because they know, shit happens. On to the next. keep working harder – do better next time. Your efforts will pay off.

But knowing when to take time for yourself I think is also important – self-care is so important – push, yes, but if you’re at a breaking point, stop. Hitting that creative wall is bad for the mind, job, and people around you. There have been so many times where I finally had to take a deep breath and accept I’m going to have to try again tomorrow.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I specialize in Graphic Design & Brand Marketing.

I do everything from designing logos, ad campaigns, digital media, video editing, you name it – I can make it (I think! I always like to try new things!).

Brand Marketing – this is fun. I specialize in Social Media Management, Social Media Content, Email Marketing, all digital media management, advertising management, event management and so on.

My job is basically to take a budding brand or brand that’s redoing its style and streamline it for them. I do everything for them from designing the brand itself – stylizing, building the language so on so forth and running it for their company.

Like I mentioned, currently, I have six resident brand marketing clients and 15 rotating design only clients.

It’s fun, challenging and keeps me on my toes. I work mostly in the skydiving industry but have everything from nightlife to fitness to distilleries and so on!

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
I think if a woman feels she is particularly well positioned for an opportunity – she’s already well positioned for it – no matter what it may be. If she wants it and sets her heart on something outside the “box.” Get it, girl.

If we want to get into it, I do think more leaders (or management positions) should be Women, I say that with caution haha ((not that the men are doing a bad job, I just think women SHOULD KNOW they can do it too!)) It’s just in my experience. Most of the leaders I followed were women – their fierceness to kick my ass and nurture it at the same time is what builds a good employee. I think more women should try to find their way into these management roles.

I think the media keeps focusing on too much of what’s been going wrong and should start looking at what’s going right. Why not spend the time on the women that are crushing it – that’s how you motivate women to realize they get it if they really want. Constantly saying you can’t is a negative vibe, I don’t like it.


  • Graphic Design – $75/hour
  • Brand Marketing – $50/hour

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Elephant logo – is my personal logo! House of Blues Stage Shot – Be Water Photography, John Audley

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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