On-the-rise entrepreneur — with buzzy a manufacturing business — makes time for a second, and profitable, passion outside of work.
Executive: Marilyn Santiago, 54, is partner and co-owner at Creative Architectural Resin Products. The Fort Myers company makes resin-based, faux architectural elements that mimic the look of natural materials, such as wood and stone. Firm was recently named Startup of the Year at the 2019 Industry Appreciation Awards in Fort Myers.
Side hustle: Voice-over work. Before starting CARP with her partner, Steven Russell, Santiago had a long career in media and entertainment, where she did radio work, media consulting and representation for entertainers and other clients. “I love doing voice-over work because it keeps me close to an industry that I have always loved,” Santiago says. “It gives me a sense of confidence that I’m still there and still doing something in an industry I love.”
Start out: Santiago did her first voice-over while working at a radio station while in college in Puerto Rico. “One of the guys from the production department said, ‘I like your voice,’ and he asked me to record a PSA for them,” she says. “And he liked it so much afterward that every time he had to record a commercial with a female voice, he was always asking for me.”
‘If you have something that’s there, give it some time, and become better, and work at it. It may become a side gig; it may become your official job. If there’s a need for your service, and you like doing it, go for it.’ Marilyn Santiago
Hold the phone: Santiago has done voice work for commercials and phone systems for companies including McDonald’s, Payless ShoeSource, Toys R Us and Bally Total Fitness, predominantly in Spanish. Current clients include Walgreens and Liberty Mutual. “If you call Walgreens in Puerto Rico, I’m the one who says, ‘Thank you for calling for Walgreens,’ and that’s pretty cool,” she says. “For Liberty Mutual, I’ve done audio for commercials, but also if you call them in the U.S. and press [the option for] Spanish, I’m the one who says, ‘Thank you for calling’ and gives the prompts.”
Screen time: Santiago’s voice can also be heard in Spanish translations of movies including "Good Luck Chuck." That kind of work can be more challenging. “Most of the time, the amount of words and syllables that you use in Spanish are more than the ones used in English [to say the same thing],” she says. When there’s only so much time available to match the existing movie, she says it can require some creativity to fit the Spanish translation in.
Create a cushion: Having a side hustle gives Santiago some extra money to play with as she and Russell continue to build their young business. “It helps me save money,” she says. “I’m blessed to have a salary from CARP that I count on for my monthly responsibilities. And then the money I get from my side hustle, I save it.” It does allow for the occasional splurge, like the trip to Italy she and Russell took in December — their first vacation in years. “But normally, I try to save as much as possible, like 80% of what I make on my side hustle,” she says. “It’s a good cushion in case something bad happens — or there’s something good you want to happen.”
Feel-good moments. Santiago doesn’t just do paid work. She’ll do free voice-overs for nonprofits or other organizations that might need help with Spanish-language audio for a website or another area. “If I can help somebody with my talents, why not?” she says. “Once you bless somebody, you will be blessed back.”
Juggle it all: Because of her years of experience, Santiago is able to be very efficient when doing voice-over work. “I try to do my recording as early as possible in the morning, so I can move onto my day,” she says. “It’s just a matter of having good relationships with people and making it work and scheduling accordingly. If I have an issue with a long recording on one day, chances are I’m going to work late that day because of the reality of my job at CARP.”
Pursue a passion: Santiago has no plans to quit her day job. But she’s the seen the benefits of having a pursuit outside her day-to-day work. “If you have something that’s there, give it some time, and become better, and work at it,” she says. “It may become a side gig; it may become your official job. If there’s a need for your service and you like doing it, go for it. It just takes a lot of determination. You have to work for it.”