Using Ferraris to help girls find their courage

You don’t normally think of Ferraris and female empowerment as going hand in hand. Truth be told — people usually think of exotic cars as a primarily male domain. But the Prancing Ponies Foundation is aiming to change that perception.

Ever since I was 12 years old and my first niece was born, I’ve been interested in helping young girls, particularly when I noticed that the inclination to hamper and restrict girls from achieving their full potential starts at a very early age. When my niece Sandrena was just 6 months old, she just got up and started walking one day. She had never crawled; she just skipped right over that phase. My mother’s reaction was one of horror. Instead of allowing Sandrena to walk, my mother said, “She needs to crawl first!” I was dumbfounded. “She’s walking now. She can’t go backwards,” I said. And I realized that if people start holding girls back at that young age, what will they do when they’re older? That thought propelled me to start helping young girls learn how to be confident in themselves and pursue their dreams, which I’ve done ever since, by mentoring my friends’ daughters and speaking at events targeting the empowerment of girls.

You must be wondering how Ferraris fit into this picture. It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I started to see it. The company I worked for had just gone public, and I didn’t want to fritter my money away. Being a naturally frugal person, I knew that one lavish purchase would stop me from spending any more money, so I decided to treat myself and buy the most expensive thing I could think of. I just didn’t know what that purchase would be yet. One day in the shower, the word “Ferrari” came to me. And it kept on coming to me, day after day. When I drove past the Ferrari dealership in San Francisco. I test drove a model, and that was that: I ordered a custom-made 2015 Ferrari 458 Spider.

My passion for working with girls and my newfound love of Ferraris intersected one day when I pulled up to a stop sign next to Galileo Academy of Science and Technology in San Francisco. There was a group of girls waiting at the bus stop who stared at me in shock. Me — a black woman, driving a car black women don’t normally drive. One girl said to me, “Miss, I like your car.” I responded, “I expect you to get one too someday.” At that moment, I realized that I could inspire young girls to dream big with my car.

This year, I established Prancing Ponies, a non-profit foundation focused on helping teenage girls improve their self-esteem and self-confidence through international travel and cultural immersion. My dream is to send young girls who’ve just graduated from high school to Europe to learn language and leadership skills during the summer before they start college. I believe so strongly in international travel as the quickest way to build courage and confidence.

I worked hard and was able to earn an MBA at the International University of Monaco in 2007. I packed up my life, quit my job, said goodbye to my friends and family in San Francisco, and got rid of my apartment. That was the easy part — but getting on that airplane was terrifying. I was so stressed, I lost half the hair on my head. I had nowhere to go but straight ahead, and that was the only thing that kept me going. But once I found the courage to get on that plane, I felt like I could do anything. My life was transformed by that experience, and I want to share the power of that transformation.

I believe courage will be the outcome for young girls who travel abroad. Learning a new language, adjusting to the idiosyncrasies of a new culture and getting used to feeling out of place — when girls find the inner strength to deal with these things, it makes them so incredibly courageous; no one can take that away from them. There’s a massive opportunity for education — both for them and for the people they encounter. International travel challenges everything you think you know about the world. My goal is to create a community of strong, courageous girls who will be enticed to study abroad during college and ultimately become leaders in their communities and the world.

The inaugural event for Prancing Ponies is an all-female Ferrari rally — the first in the US — departing from San Francisco on August 5 and ending in Santa Barbara two days later. With the proceeds from the rally and sponsorships, the Prancing Ponies Foundation will send ten courageous girls to Europe, where they will learn a language and participate in leadership development projects. There are 15 incredible women participating in the rally, each of whom is a testament to what it looks like to step into your power. I can’t think of a more thrilling way to create a new generation of woman leaders — one girl at a time.