Our current I Witness Herstory series is collecting stories from Women-Owned Businesses during the time of a global pandemic.

It is not every day that you come across a women-owned business. Society has crafted limiting stereotypes about women that make people believe it’s just to exclude women from the same opportunities men are granted.

Despite these barriers, women entrepreneurs consistently exemplify their talents and capabilities through success stories. These stories help uplift other women while motivating them to remain resilient in their journey to owning a business.

A specific success story, native to San Diego centers around Puzzle Pieces Marketing, a woman and minority-owned marketing business that aims to amplify the social impact of nonprofits and ethics brands through their unique skills and talents. Founder and president, Angel Mason Broadus made her vision a reality back in 2009 when she started up the company.

Angel holds many positions in valuable social organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater San Diego,  United Way of San Diego, and the North County Philanthropy Council. Angel’s passion for helping others and giving back to the community has earned her many awards such as the Women Business Owner of the Year and the North County Philanthropy Council’s Volunteer of the Year just to name a few. Angel has mastered strategic marketing skills along with her niche for market development campaigns, generating leads and accelerating revenue with limited marketing budgets.

Alongside Angel is her business and life partner, Kristine Mason Broadus, an avid human and animals rights activist. Kristine has also served on the board for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation and volunteered with organizations such as the United Way of San Diego and the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego & San Marcos. She earned a BA in Psychology and an AS in Respiratory Care. It was my pleasure to be able to have a conversation with Angel and Kristine to get to know them and their business better.

After the interview, my spirits were high and my heart was whole from conversing with two people who feel their best when given the chance to make others happy.

Q: As a marketing business, one of the areas you seek to specialize in amplifying is nonprofits. Nonprofits have significant honorable impacts on the communities well-being. What inspired you to focus on nonprofits and what challenges do you come across when working with these types of organizations?

A: We both came from health care, volunteer and nonprofit backgrounds so it was important for us to continue with careers where we can give back in a way and do better for their community.  Back in 2017 we rebranded to better fit the past experience we had and decided to specifically work with nonprofits to ensure that we work with clients that align with our mission to make a positive social impact. Growing up, Kristine had been influenced by her mother who ran a non profit which inspired her at first to do social work. In a way it was embedded in her.

The biggest challenges lie in marketing a product or service to people who will not even be able to reap the benefits. For instance, when attempting to market for non-profits the audience is the donors. However, the donors do not necessarily directly feel the impact of the nonprofit’s work. Therefore, at Puzzle Pieces we take the time to tell their stories in inspirational ways to motivate donors to fund their missions.

Q: As a Black-owned, women minority and veteran-owned business, you may have faced a lot of barriers when attempting to establish your business. If you did, could you tell us a little about how they disrupted your mission and you overcame them? If not, what do you think about the people and or resources you used to allow you to not run into so many challenges? How did you come up with the name puzzle piece marketing?

A: One of the biggest challenges is being given the opportunity. We feel as if any chances are being passed over us because we are a minority women-owned business. Lately, there has been an increase due to people wanting to diversify their partnerships. However, we want to ensure that those who work with us do so because they align with our mission and recognize our talents and not just check a box for diversity quotas. Thankfully, we get to pick our clients so it all works out.

Q: How did you come up with the name Puzzle Pieces Marketing?

A: When I founded the business back in 2009 it had a very basic name and I thought pushing every service I had was beneficial but I realized this was limiting me and excluding opportunities from clients that may only want one service. The former name was no longer fitting and I realized I could provide pieces of the larger marketing puzzle.

Q: Other than being a minority women-owned business in itself, how do you use your services to uplift Black Voices? How do you see your company expanding on this in the future?

A: Though the type of clients we work with, we really try to work with clients that align with who we are and our values system. Any organization serving and working to uplift a community we want to help, we see fitting as a way to uplift individual voices. We also give out two scholarships, one for a racial minority women through the North County African American Women’s Association and another for a minority LGBTQ applicant.

Q: How do you see yourself expanding on your mission in the future?

A: We want to expand our team and continue to work with people in the community. We also have an internship program through several universities in San Diego and throughout the country. In addition we help our non profit clients write proposals for grants all while educating them on their resources.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work? How does this motivate you to stay true to your mission and goals?

A: Working with nonprofits from addiction services to behavioral health and immigration. The work we do truly makes such a difference in our community. The reward is far beyond a dollar amount. It is about the impact that helping non profits have on the bettering of the community as a whole. We would never turn away a non profit simply because they are a smaller organization, we care more about the work they do.

Q:What have been some of the most fruitful projects/ organizations you worked with/on, why and what did you learn from them?

A: We love all our clients and all the projects we work on. One that stands out is the rebrand of Casa Cornelia Law Center who had a really outdated website and chose us to help them. Seeing the client proud and in awe of their website was amazing. Knowing that we are supporting them in getting people they help they need is a key driver in why we do what we do.

We also redid the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program website and their annual fundraising campaign. Through these experiences, we could not ignore the fact that anyone could be in these situations where help is needed. It is eye opening to see how many people truly need the help that these organizations provide. Also, since the lawyers we work with are volunteers, seeing the number of people who volunteer their time illustrates a community in which the people give what they can whether it be time, money or talent. We have also come to appreciate how the people involved are so dedicated and passionate about their work and the positive difference it makes.

Q: What & who inspired you to pursue an entrepreneurship path? What piece of advice do you have for anyone in a marginalized group pursuing entrepreneur goals?

A: The opportunity presented itself. Owning my own business was never in the plans. After I got laid off of my last position I realized the fragility of putting finances that support a well being in someone else’s hand. I decided to try to start my own business and twelve years later here we are. It sounds cliche but I want to have control over my own destiny.

Advice- Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. It is not going to be easy but if you remain resilient it will be worth it. Align yourself with people who are already where you want to go. Ask questions, find a mentor, and be honest.

Q: How did you adapt your business during the covid- 19 pandemic?

A: Thankfully, the transition to remote was not difficult for us, we were already set up for remote work. It even gave us the challenge of being more creative in presenting things remotely?

Q: Did you have to balance caregiving at the time? 

A: Personally not us, but some of our team members did. We wanted and think we offered flexibility during those times for these instances.

Q: Were you using your business during these tough times to support others?

A: If there was ever an opportunity for us to use our resources and use our connections to help other minority owned businesses we did so. We had media connections give exposure to black owned businesses who were forced to close during the pandemic.

Mia Alarcon, Women’s Museum of California Intern

This interview is part of the I Witness Herstory series.

I Witness Herstory invites women to submit their reactions and experiences to developments locally, nationally and globally that effect women. The collection of these submissions will be used in future WMC programs to help educate and inspire current and future generations on the experiences of women.