Pink Petro member and petropreneur™ Claudette Hayle is known for being her own boss. Claudette, with all of her
experience with start ups, provides consulting services as well as access to capital for financing partnerships aimed at providing profitable solutions that incorporates Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors for solving local and global challenges. I got the chance to talk to her about her business ventures, as well as what she does when she isn't hard at work managing her firm, Cygnus Energy Group, LLC.
Me: Where did you go to school? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Claudette: I attended York University, where I studied Math and Computer Science. At the time, I was a young parent. I worked for the CVS Superstore for Financial Systems, and three years later, I started my own company. I began by providing technical professionals to work as consultants. This was during the time many companies were going from paper to online. This began my journey as an entrepreneur. I sold the company and began advising other women led companies about capital raising and capital structure. I found myself on Governer Pattacke’s board of advisors. I began to get more involved with women entrepreneurship. I learned how to be a government contractor. More specifically, I learned how to leverage your skills and how to leverage your opportunities.
Me: Did you think that you would end up working in energy while you were in school?
Claudette: Not exactly. I wanted to be in technology and entrepreneurship. However, it was visible that energy and finance converged. As I looked at the hedgefund market, I saw how people traded energy, and I became very interested. From an entrepreneurial perspective, I wanted to be on the side where the fuel was going to be a refined product. Upstream takes a different kind of capital and a different kind of skillset. Downstream is where a lot of the action takes place.
Me: You have been in various positions, one of them being a congressional candidate. Could you tell me about your experience? Would you do it again?
Claudette: It was a great experience. As an entrepreneur, you think about politics and taxes and regulations and how it will affect your community. As a congressional candidate, it was my job to think about the issues, community development, and to really see how entrepreneurship plays into the community. I was invited to do it, and through the experience, I learned that I did not want to be a politician. The whole experience gave me a lot of perspective, but I don’t believe I would do it again.
Me: You are a mentor to students at Baruch College. How do you think mentors had a role in your career?
Claudette: I had very significant mentors. My mentors made me look at business from a common sense perspective. They taught me that human capital is very important, and most of all, they taught me to always be my own boss. In my experience, you are handed opportunities to make a difference. It is your job to always go in from a perspective to make things better. Have a passion. For me, that was running a business. Business becomes a person that you are obligated to. There are multiple days where the day is longer than your typical 9-5 job. It becomes more of a 24 job, but it is important to remember that employees come first. Sometimes you will make sure that you take care of all the business before you take care of yourself, but it is important to remember that for the business to thrive, you have to thrive.
Me: As a mentor, do you do any work to empower women and help advance their careers?
Claudette: I have a different mentor guide for young men and women. They have different issues that they are thinking about. I worked with a young man who was very bright, but also had to be very grounded. When someone outside of your direct circle is telling you that you are able to do something, it can be affirming and they can go out and perform well. It is all about the evolution of confidence.
Me: What is the best piece of advice a mentor has given you?
Claudette: Whatever you have decided that you are going to do in your life, you have to be passionate about it because if you are not passionate about it, you will not sustain when difficulty comes. Be excited about your work. When you do so, your brain is working in a heightened state. Accomplish the things you are passionate about. Passion is your fuel.
Me: How do you achieve your perfect work-life balance?
Claudette: Schedules! Also, setting a list of goals. I am organized in my mind so I am motivated to accomplish certain goals. I also take a day off where I don’t work at all. Instead, I turn my phone off and read, allowing myself to recharge.
Me: In all your different projects, did you ever have to deal with any discrimination?
Claudette: I understand that discrimination exists, but I never go into a situation thinking that someone is going to discriminate against me. I was raised in Jamaica and came to the US when I was 18. I grew up seeing people of color being the people in positions of power. I never thought anyone was going to discriminate me because of the color of my skin. I never let that stop me. Your mind is a powerful tool, greater than any external forces. You control the way you are perceived and what you can accomplish. Your mind is your power. Don’t attract negative energy to you.
Me: Of all the things you have pursued in your career, which has been your best/most memorable experience?
Claudette: One of my most memorable experiences was when I was on an interview to pitch to a government contractor who had planned to give a huge contract to the subcontractors who were selected. I went in as one of the only minority applicants and they looked surprised. I pitched my company well and in the end, my company was awarded the grant. In fact, the man who was at the head of the contracting company became one of my mentors. Never judge a book by its cover, and don’t let things discourage you too much. They might think you are just a fly on the wall, but it is your job to show how hard you can fight to win.