Originally from Colombia, Johanna Gil Bala is the highest ranked Latina woman in her network marketing company, running a global organization that’s quickly expanding in North, Central, and South America, as well as in Europe and South Africa. Based in Dallas, Johanna travels the world more than half of the time, as she believes in working shoulder to shoulder with her team of over 20,000 associates in 18 countries. Her lifestyle today forms a sharp contrast with where she was just 12 years ago—homeless with her three children, not speaking any English, and in poor health. Powered by her exceptional faith and a can-do attitude, she attracted the people and the circumstances that would allow her to lift herself out of a dire situation. She first believed her way out would be through a formal education, so she enrolled in a local college to pursue a nursing degree since her lifelong dream was to become a doctor. When she found network marketing, she recognized it as an even better vehicle to share her talents and live her passion: to transform lives by passing on to others the learning experiences she gleaned from her extraordinary journey. Today Johanna heads up Dinastia Hispana, a movement that teaches Spanish-speaking network marketing professionals about finances, relationships, and leadership so they can achieve their own version of success in business and in life.
Restarting Life in a New Land
Married to an American living in Colombia, Johanna came to the United States in 2003. “This wasn’t my choice,” she says. “I was happy in my country, where we had a very successful business. We regularly came to Orlando for vacations, and one summer my ex-husband decided he wanted to stay. He made it impossible for me to return to my home country and from that point on our relationship turned into a nightmare, as a long process of mental and physical abuse ensued.”
Three months later, Johanna’s ex-husband falsely accused her of spousal abuse and she found herself briefly incarcerated. The charges were dismissed and Johanna was able to leave prison but found herself homeless with her three children and absolutely devastated. Her life as she knew it had come to an end as her ex had taken everything—the house, the cars, any savings—leaving her homeless and penniless.
“Somebody in court gave me $100 to restart my life and I moved into a shelter for abused women,” says Johanna. “At one point I heard someone announce, ‘We have a Hispanic woman with three kids homeless.’ This became a defining moment in my life and made me become what I am now.”
Besides being in a foreign land without family or friends, Johanna had a severe health challenge at the time and the doctor’s prognosis didn’t inspire much hope.
“In a way, it seemed easier to let myself die,” she says. “Instead, I decided to do something with my life, no matter how hard I would need to fight.”
A few people felt mercy and invited her to move into their home for a few days. The first couple of months Johanna and her children stayed in 12 different places. She learned to live one day at a time.
“I didn’t know if the next day I was going to have food or a place to sleep,” she says. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be alive. I just knew I had that day and decided to make the most of it. This created a life philosophy that served me well later in my journey: you cannot manage a life if you do not learn to manage a day.”
As soon as Johanna was out of jail she started looking for work. Having no work permit and no means of transportation, the best she could find was a job as a cleaning lady and then as a waitress in a local Mexican restaurant. This was quite a shock, because where she came from, she had two maids working for her.
Johanna received the support of different bankers who went to her church. They called on some of their clients who owned supermarkets and arranged to give her weekly checks to buy food. “I learned to live on less than $50 a week with my three children,” says Johanna. “That was the only money I had to buy groceries.”
Back to School
Looking for a way out, Johanna reasoned the right thing to do was to go back to school and try to get a degree. She started applying for different colleges and was given a chance to study at one close to where she lived. Every morning she would walk the kids to school and then continue to the college to learn some English and other basics that might get her into a university.
“The first months were hard due to my lack of English,” she says. “I had to study with a dictionary and needed my 13-year-old son to help me with my homework.”
After a year Johanna applied and was accepted into nursing school. Between work and school, the only time she had to study was from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM.
Johanna learned to set goals and made her first dream board on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper which she kept in her bathroom. Some of her goals were being able to finish her degree, renting a little apartment, and getting her papers.
“Immigration proceedings cost me thousands of dollars,” she says. “When you don’t have money, it’s impossible. Little goals that for normal people are insignificant were huge for me, for instance being able to buy the kids a frozen pizza from Walmart once a month. Becoming fluent in English, getting a better job, graduation for my kids, or sending them to a better school—these were all goals I put on my initial small dream board.”
One year into her new life, Johanna was able to save $600 and buy a little car, a used Geo Metro nicknamed “the purple grape” because it was small and purple. “It was ugly, but to me it was the perfect car because I worked hard to get it,” she says. “I was now able to take the kids back and forth, go to school, shop for groceries, and go to the laundromat without having to walk.”
Network Marketing to the Rescue
In 2005 a good friend Johanna had met in Colombia and who now lived in Orlando called her and told her he had an excellent product that could help her regain her health. When she told him she didn’t have the money, he said, “I will give you the product.”
“This taught me that if you have the goals, there’s always somebody who’s going to show up in your life to help you reach them,” says Johanna. “Unbeknownst to me, he registered me as an associate with the company and had the product sent to me.”
After a few months of taking the products Johanna started seeing results. She had more energy and slept better. She was also able to focus in class and study for her nursing degree.
With the products her pain started to subside. Her lifestyle improved, because she became stronger. When she called her friend in Orlando to thank him, he shared the business opportunity with her. Johanna could not wrap her mind around it at the time. “I was not ready,” she says. “I was just into saving my life and my children.”
She continued to use the products and after a year, her doctor was blown away by the changes he saw. This was around the time Johanna was graduating from nursing school. She started working at the hospital, but quickly discovered it was not her calling.
“I love to help people,” she says, “but the current health system doesn’t allow you to do some of the things you may want to do that would alleviate people’s pain and suffering. The instructions are to move quickly from room to room and check to see if the patient is still breathing. It was not my idea of a healing profession.”
The prospect of making $3,000 a month was attractive after having been homeless. But when she realized she would never make more as a nurse for the rest of her life, Johanna remembered her friend’s offer to go in business for herself and thought that might be a better option. Looking at the three months she had before her to study for the Nursing Board exams, she decided to use that time to build her network marketing business.
“I had a dream and a passion,” Johanna says. “I knew I had three months to commit and do everything I could to share this with the most people possible. I knew I had to take massive action. To my surprise, four months later I made close to $7,000 in one month, which was double of a nurse’s salary.”
Johanna knew she had to share this “with everybody who was breathing, because everybody needs this product.” Three months later, she had 250 people on her team. When her local upline, Luciano Fidalgo, saw how committed she was, he started coming down from Orlando to Miami every Tuesday.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” says Johanna. “Luciano began supporting me and doing everything he could to help me succeed. That was a beautiful lesson, which I took to heart and put into practice with business partners in my own organization. This was not like becoming a nurse, where you have to go school for four years and wait to make the $3,000. Using the concept of leverage, I made money right away.”
When Johanna resumed her nursing job after 90 days, her network marketing income remained stable. Eight months later, in January 2008, she quit her nursing job and went full time in her network marking business.
One benefit she had was the experience of having built a successful network marketing business years prior in Colombia where she had reached a top rank in an established American company.
Another key to her rapid success was her determination and a deadline. “I had three months to prove myself I could make it, and I needed to make it,” she says. “My experience of living one day at a time gave me the basis to live with the right habits. What you do daily is going to reflect in your week, your month, and your year. Life is happening every day, so give today your full focus and effort. I call this the Law of Process: proper decisions made daily compound into huge success; wrong decisions made daily compound into huge failure.”
Another factor was that people were having exceptionally good results with the products and they were excited to share their story with others. Finally, there was local support. “Having someone who is committed with you and invested in your success no matter what makes all the difference.”
Finding a Soulmate
It so happened that the same gentleman who introduced Johanna to her company also introduced her to her new life partner Alfredo Bala, a 35-year veteran of the network marketing profession. While the business brought Johanna financial healing, finding her soul mate began healing her heart. When Al and Johanna started dating, he was an executive in charge of international expansion for a field organization of the largest network marketing company in the world.
Through a series of purely coincidental happenings Johanna’s company reached out to Al for help with international expansion. “That’s how Al became the Vice President of my company,” says Johanna. “It was a bit awkward for a leader to become the wife of a corporate executive, so I kind of stopped building my business. I was real close to reaching Presidential at the time, a high leadership rank in the company, but instead I took a sabbatical.
“While I did not put much effort in my business for three years, my residual check kept coming. My business was stable but it didn’t grow, because I didn’t have enough leadership in place that could continue building without me and the company lacked an effective business-building system.”
In 2011, when the company was about to open Mexico, Johanna woke up from her long period of inactivity. She was the only high-level Hispanic leader in the company, so she decided she had to do something. She dug up her dream boards and put the Mexican flag everywhere. She promised Al, “I’m going to be the number one leader in Mexico.”
Johanna didn’t know anybody in Mexico, so she went to a Robert Kiyosaki seminar in McAllen, Texas on the Mexican border where she met a few Mexicans who shared their contacts with her. Equipped with that list she booked a flight to Mexico City.
“On my very first trip to Mexico my luggage got lost,” she remembers. “I took a taxi and told the driver, ‘Take me to the church in town.’ I was supposed to meet a gentleman there whom I only knew from having talked to him on the phone. The cab driver replied, ‘We have at least 10 churches.’ Having no phone and no luggage, I just stayed in the taxi in front of a church for one hour until finally somebody showed up. This gentleman I didn’t know is now one of my top leaders in Mexico.”
Once she had her luggage, Johanna started traveling in a bus to a different city every day, white presentation boards and products in tow.
“We would drive all night and get to a city in the morning,” she says. “I would sleep for a couple hours, then give meetings every two hours. I did that for months in different cities, going home to Dallas once a month. Now 95 percent of Mexico is in my organization.”
Johanna learned a lot about persistence and focus. “When you set up your dream board with what you want to accomplish, things and people will show up in your life to give you what you want. When your intentions are clear, then the mechanisms appear. All you need is mental clarity and also hunger to want to do something extraordinary.”
Building a Legacy
Reflecting on her journey, Johanna says faith has taken her to where she is. “When I was homeless, the only thing I had was my faith in God and my love for my kids.”
Johanna teaches people that when you have faith, it is going to give you the strength to take action. “Faith is the belief that something good is going to happen, so you do what you need to do in order to make sure your faith comes true. I learned from the beginning to act by faith, and everything I do is by faith—faith in God, faith in this profession, faith in people, faith in myself.
“I believe in me. I do everything I can—read, study, learn—to become a better version of myself, because that’s how I become the leader people want to follow. Building Mexico for three years required a lot of faith and tremendous persistence.”
According to Johanna, new markets often have rocky starts as the company tries to figure out the right offer and the most efficient systems for payments and logistics. “It’s hard and it requires a long-term commitment,” she says. “Many of the U.S. and other country leaders went to open Mexico, but they visited once and came home, so the people they signed up fizzled out. The only people left were the ones I worked with, because I went back to support them as many times as necessary to build the bonds and the trust required to hold a large organization together.”
For three years and a half Johanna went to Mexico, leaving Al behind in Dallas. She wanted to show everyone she built it without his help. Now she has a strong organization with independent leaders. “That’s because I worked with them shoulder to shoulder, going everywhere taking public transportation, even when the news was showing all the bad things that were happening in Mexico. My mom would pray for me and thank God, I was always protected. I also believe when you have a positive mindset, you attract good circumstances.”
After Johanna became the first highest-ranked Hispanic leader in her company, she decided she wanted to expand her work into other countries. She grew her team in Europe and is now focusing on South America, starting with her own country of Colombia. She is also building large teams of leaders from Central and South American countries in Dallas and Miami, in preparation for future international expansion into those countries by her company.
Having a business in 18 countries, Johanna is now globally building what she calls the Dinastia Hispana.
“When you are able to pay your bills, when you don’t have to worry about money, you can focus on the passion God put in your heart,” she says. “In 2010 I started creating the Dinastia Hispana, a movement whose mission is to transform the lives of the Latino people by changing their finances, their health, and their relationships. The Dinastia Hispana is spreading in North, South, and Central America. It goes way beyond me, which is beautiful, because I don’t want to be indispensable. I want to leave a legacy of wealth and leadership.”
Education and Transformation
Part of the Dinastia Hispana’s vision and mission is to teach people how to manage their finances. Johanna also educates people about relationships and how to work as a couple. “Most people are not trained to work with their spouse,” she says. “We help couples to become successful at working together. This business also requires you to become relationship savvy. I don’t care how good you are in the business, how many rules you know, how good you are with all the elements of the business building system, if you don’t have a good heart, if you are not honorable and you’re not good with relationships, you can’t be a leader for the long haul.”
Johanna’s passion is to become the first Hispanic Platinum Presidential in the company and build her income up to a million dollars a year.
“For a homeless immigrant this is a big accomplishment,” she says. “The reason I work hard to get there is not because I want the million dollars, which I will be very happy to earn. Most importantly, I want to set up a track for people to run on. I want to show how a woman without money, without friends, without family, and in poor health was able to do it with faith, dream boards, passion, and persistence.”
Johanna says she may not be able to change the world, but in the last five years she changed enough people’s lives so that she can go to sleep at night knowing she made her contribution. She remembers a couple of years ago another leader telling her, “Someday, in some country, somebody’s going to say, ‘Thank you, Johanna. Because of you, I succeeded. Because you never quit, because you decided to overcome and become the person you are today, because of you I believed I could do it, too. And because I believed, I eventually succeeded. Thank you!’”
Johanna says growing the Dinastia Hispana is what makes her jump out of bed every morning at 4:00 AM. “A lot of people die without having done what they were called to do in this world. I want to continue my work so more people can reach their goals, share their talents, and fulfill their God-given assignment.”