How She Got There: Passion Planner CEO & Bruin Angelia Trinidad

With school right around the corner, Passion Planner will soon become a quintessential back-to-school investment for most students. As it is so easy to get lost within a multitude of meetings, classes and other important commitments, Passion Planner can help you organize your life and focus on the important aspects of it. Passion Planner founder, Angelia Trinidad, had a mission to help others, and from her ambition Passion Planner was created. Her planner has become a world-wide phenomena, uniting the #PashFam one Passion Planner after the other. 

Her Campus: What inspired you to start Passion Planner?

Angelia Trinidad: I started Passion Planner because I felt lost, and I knew I wasn’t the only person that felt that way. I had just recently graduated from UCLA and went from what felt like 100 MPH, to moving back home with my parents. I held off on getting a job because deep down I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to start. I took a leap and tried making a French Macaron business but after realizing I hated baking, I decided to close shop. Out of fear of making the wrong move, I was stuck in analysis paralysis and the stagnation spiraled me into depression. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone or do anything really for 9 months. It was a really dark time for me. One day, I decided that I needed to pull myself out of this rut and I sat down and drew a mind map of the things that I wanted to accomplish in life and my biggest goal was to help people. Then I thought about the thing that helped me not only organize my thoughts but kept me grounded while I was overwhelmed: my planner. At that time, I wasn’t happy with any planners on the market, so I decided to make one myself. It was already October, so I didn’t have very much time to get it perfect or to second guess myself, which was a blessing in disguise. I actually designed it in Word and Photoshop on my own and sent the layout to my friends for feedback. I put my first design up on Kickstarter and within the first 30 days I raised $48k. I literally started running the business out of my parent’s garage and by the second year when I put out a second Kickstarter, it raised $650k and my whole life changed.

HC: What was your career path before starting Passion Planner?

AT: I started off as a pre-med major at UCLA, expecting to become a doctor, but when I realized I was studying more than I was sleeping and was becoming unhappy and unhealthy, I decided I needed to make a change. I knew that if I was going to be working that hard for something, it should be doing something I love. So without telling my parents, I became an Art major with a minor in Visual Arts Education. I soon realized that being an artist was a very difficult career because your livelihood is in the hands of wealthy people who want to purchase or show your work, and I didn’t want to put the fate of my life in so few peoples hands. At that point, I realized I just wanted art to be for me and not pursue it as a career. Then I thought I’d want to become an art educator because I loved being able to provide a safe space for people to create. Actually, that’s what Passion Planner became. It’s like being that art teacher for people, giving them a safe space to create on a daily basis. Although I love teaching, I wasn’t ready to become a teacher full time, so I started taking a path of entrepreneurship seriously. So much so that throughout college I had read 150 self-help books, finance, marketing, and business books and was constantly studying the minds and lives of great entrepreneurs which really gave me a great foundation to start Passion Planner.

HC: What was the single most difficult part about starting Passion Planner?

AT: Just getting started and dropping the fear of things not being perfect. I pretty much set a deadline for myself, did my best, crossed my fingers, and put it out into the world.

HC: How was your college experience like at UCLA? What were you involved in?

AT: I loved my college experience at UCLA, I loved being surrounded by ambitious, balanced and like-minded people. I came to UCLA to find a community that accepted me exactly how I am, and I did just that. My first two years we’re all about adjusting, finding a rhythm and getting used to a city while balancing academics. My junior year I joined the sorority Chi Delta Theta. That’s actually where I met the current president of Passion Planner, who is also now one of my best friends. My life at UCLA was jam-packed with academics, social/sorority events, and intramural sports. Once I decided to change my major from pre-med to art, I took it upon myself to relieve my parents from the financial strain of putting me through college, and got a job in the sculpture lab and dedicated 2-3 hours every day to apply for scholarships. It was a pretty perfect job because I worked whenever people came in, but when it was slow I was able to spend my time applying for scholarships. I got to kill two birds with one stone and actually ended up graduating making money because of all of the scholarships I got awarded. Having full days from 8 am to 10 pm, I was so exhausted, but I loved what I was doing so I enjoyed the journey.

HC: Could you tell us a little bit about your docu-series that was shot in the Philippines?

AT: This past year, I’ve been taking a leave of absence and enjoying my sabbatical, doing things that bring me joy. I decided to visit my motherland. The last time I had visited the Philippines was when I was 8 years old. While on my scooter, I saw a group of teenage girls playing basketball, which was so rare to me because I never see just girls playing, it’s always one girl in a mix of boys, so that caught my eye. I stopped, asked them if I could play and had an opportunity to connect with them and hear about their lives. I met one girl named Biggs and she reminded me a lot of myself. It inspired me to help them, however I could. All of the girls seemed to be stuck in a cycle that would only lead them to continue a life of poverty so I decided to go back and teach them entrepreneurial skills that hopefully will help set them on a different trajectory. Currently, we are in the editing phase of our project.

HC: What is the most memorable experience in your career so far?

AT: The most memorable experience in my career was probably the first time I gave my employees their holiday bonuses. We did really well that year and I wanted to show my appreciation for my team. During their individual employee evaluations, I asked each of them what would you do with $1000 and after they told me what they were dreaming of, I handed them their bonus check of $1000. Each of them cried and it was beautiful seeing something that seemed unattainable become possible in an instant. A very close second was the moment I announced to my team that they were all going to get full health, vision and dental benefits.

HC: What advice would you give college women?

AT: First, don’t underestimate yourself and overestimate everyone else. You are worthy of that job, partner, home, wealth etc. Just put in the work and have the strength to claim it. It will take a lot of resilience and persistence to succeed, but don’t fear trying. I always have to remind myself whenever I am feeling afraid, “Action cures fear,” and “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to start.” If you have that resilience to chip away at it and take things one step at a time, you’ll soon gain momentum and decisions and life, in general, will start looking up. Secondly, as a woman, you have a lot of things stacked up against you, but draw strength from that your struggles. Women are so strong just from the fact that they have spent their whole lives figuring out ways to survive, and exist in the world that is constantly judging you. Last but not least, I encourage you to be unapologetically yourself. I think women of today are redefining what it means to be a woman and you being yourself will inspire others to do the same.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us! Make sure to keep an eye out on all of Her Campus at UCLA's social media channels as we will be giving away 3 Passion Planners this upcoming week!