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Diane von Furstenberg's Latina CEO Sandra Campos shares 7 crucial keys to success

"If anything sticks out from my journey, it’s survival,” says the successful Texas native and first-generation Mexican American.
Sandra Campos, CEO of global luxury fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg.
Sandra Campos, CEO of global luxury fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg.DVF
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“I always knew I had to work hard to get what I wanted,” says Sandra Campos, CEO of global luxury fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg.

A Texas native and first generation Mexican-American, Campos first moved to New York City after college to chase her dream of becoming a fashion executive and start a family.

In 2018, after more than 20 years working in the fashion industry, she was named CEO of Diane von Furstenberg (DVF).

Before joining DVF, she worked as co-president of Global Brands Group, where she led women’s apparel lines like Juicy Couture, Bebe, BCBG, and Herve Leger. She also co-founded a fashion brand-building company that worked with celebrities like Selena Gomez, Cee Lo Green and Eva Longoria among others.

CNBC: Invest in You sat down with Campos to reflect on her career and her continued work to inspire a growing community of women and Latinos in business. She provided her keys to success.

1. There is no shortcut around hard work.

As a first generation Mexican-American, Campos says she always knew that she had to work hard to get what she wanted.

“My parents were entrepreneurs, much like many immigrants, and they taught us that ‘there’s no free lunch.’ My mother prioritized education and tried to make it fun by letting us win money for every book we read or for every A we got,” Campos recalls.

Campos, right, with her mother, Rosie, and sister, Linda.
Campos, right, with her mother, Rosie, and sister, Linda.Courtesy of Sandra Campos

Having “what we needed” in childhood is something Campos defines in terms of her parents’ example: “My parents worked and sacrificed to ensure they could provide for six kids.”

2. Teach children about money, and lead by example.

Campos says people in her family talked a lot about money, and led by example. “My mom learned how to save very early in her life,” she recalls. “My grandfather instilled this in her, which I find to be quite unusual in the Hispanic community, and she has always had excellent financial acumen. She was always attending courses, getting degrees, and never stopped learning and still continues to do so today.”

3. Make mistakes, learn to not repeat them, limit regrets.

Campos described herself as always ambitious, a leader in organizations, and very active within school communities. “I envisioned having big success in my life,” she says.

But growing up in a suburb of Dallas at a time when having dark brown hair “stuck out” led her to seek out new worlds. “I knew I wanted a diverse and more accepting community,” she says of her early move to New York City.

She says a key to corporate success has been learning from mistakes so they are not repeated, while also trying to limit regrets.

“I’ve been in corporate organizations and have also been an entrepreneur. I’ve been married and got divorced. I’ve raised three kids on my own for the past 14 years. ... I never considered any other option and have pivoted as I’ve needed to in order to progress in my career through various learning experiences and networks I’ve developed. If anything sticks out from my journey, it’s survival.”

4. Latinas should lean in to existing support networks.

While Campos says she does not believe that there is a bias against her community because of its heritage, Latinas (and Latinos) need to be better prepared for the workplace and need to overcompensate for any potential assumptions, and take advantage of the community’s existing supportive structure.

Sandra Campos, CEO of Diane Von Furstenberg.
Sandra Campos, CEO of Diane Von Furstenberg.Adam Jeffery / CNBC

“The passion, community and work ethic that I’ve seen in the Latin community, in my opinion, is the most important reason that Latinos will be future leaders in force,” she says. “We are used to being with family or having parties every weekend, supporting extended family members or members of a church community. We are used to being a supportive and selfless group, by nature. That is a huge asset in the workplace.”

5. Once you’ve had success, become a mentor.

Campos says that while she will continue to build and transform businesses, she also is focused on supporting women by creating a non-profit to help Latinas become better prepared for the workplace.

“There are a lot of women’s clubs that have been popping up and I want to create one that isn’t exclusive. I want to create one for Latinas of all ages and all income levels. Through mentoring, partnerships, and education I would like to help the next generation, so they can have the professional support group that I didn’t have.”

6. No. 1 piece of money advice: Save.

Campos says that in conversations with members of the Latin community she more often than not hears people saying, “you only live once, you’re not going to take the money with you.”

She has another view: save, save, save.

“I have been paranoid for years that if I don’t save I will be mopping floors when I am 80 years old. It scares me,” she says. “I love a clean store or a clean house, but I don’t want to be doing it when I’m 80 out of necessity. ... If I were able to give my younger self advice, I would insist on saving more and spending less on every area of my life. I still need to remind myself of this.”

7. Biggest money restriction: Credit card use

“My most important money rule is to have only one credit card, otherwise it becomes a slippery slope,” Campos says. “I have an emergency one that I try not to touch if I can at all help it.”

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