Marian Bacol-Uba is the founder of Thriver Lifestyle and Thriver Con. She spends her day helping womxn, people of color, and non-binary entrepreneurs fully express themselves and hone their public speaking skills in order to achieve competent expression.

Thriver Con is an intentional and diverse virtual conference that took place on September 22 and 23, 2020, highlighting BIPOC entrepreneurs and providing them a platform to speak on their expertise.

Bacol-Uba has attended countless conferences; it seemed like diversity and inclusion were always an afterthought.  She intentionally sought out women of color with diverse backgrounds and expertise in order to create a multifocal conference.

The conference featured a total of 18 speakers; they were Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Asian, non-binary and queer speakers who all shared their stories and strategies on entrepreneurship, marketing, finance and video content creation, subsequently integrating them with self-care practices such as breathing exercises and meditation.

“When people talk about diversity and inclusion, [they] were always a part of me. I am a Filipina, I am an immigrant — going into the business world, I realized I had not seen anyone who looked like me. They were predominantly white cis men so I didn’t really relate. It made it seem that success was unobtainable as a Black or Brown person.”

Originally the conference was supposed to be held with all attendees at a venue, however, with COVID-19 and no real end in sight, Bacol-Uba decided to change the format of the event and to develop a virtual platform so that everyone around the world would be able to tune in.

Bacol-Uba painstakingly organized the conference in less than two months.

She was ecstatic to share that 10% of the ticket sales net proceeds from Thriver Con would be donated to AnnieCannons, a California-based 501c3 that transforms the lives of survivors of human sex trafficking and gender-based violence into software engineers and entrepreneurs.

Planning for Thriver Con has already begun; it’s tentatively scheduled for March of 2021. She is seeking out more corporate clients who have bigger budgets so that the speakers can be paid more as well as offering more scholarships for BIPOC entrepreneurs.

From Victim to Survivor, then Thriver

Thriver is a paramount word and belief for Bacol-Uba, which led her to her powerful transformation.

Bacol-Uba was born into a family with very strong and independent matriarchal figures on a small island called Camiguin in the Philippines. When her mother immigrated to America, she was left in the Philippines to live with her maternal grandmother and lesbian non-binary aunts. Her two aunts were venerated for their wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit.

She jokes that her family life resembled one of a Filipino drama: when Bacol-Uba’s mother gave birth to her out of wedlock, her father was married to another woman and had his own family. She was raised in Camiguin until she finally immigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old.

Bacol-Uba reminisces about her arrival in the United States, “In high school I was freshman class president, on the honor roll, and that student who always sat in the front row and raised my hand for every question. I was that girl.   No one knew that I lived a double life, by the time I was 14, drugs and alcohol were my best friends — when I was drunk and high.”

Bacol-Uba pauses for a moment and then starts, “I was able to numb my pain and escape my reality. I was depressed and suicidal. When most people think of home, they think of a safe and loving place but for me, it was where my father would sexually abuse me for seven years since I was 10 years old.”

She remembers before the sexual abuse, her father was an angry person and took out a lot of his aggression and frustration on her.

 “I was a victim and survivor of incest and child sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addictions. I have tried committing suicide multiple times.”

There was a pivotal moment in Bacol-Uba’s life in July of 2014 when she overdosed and had an out-of-body experience. She described in detail, seeing her friends distraught and crying.

 “I always looked outward to fill a void, whether it was relationships, work or substances, but for the first time ever, I went inward and sought for self-help books, counseling, and meditation.”

Bacol-Uba based the Thriver Lifestyle program on her life, while she made conscious decisions and moment-to-moment choices to thrive instead of relying on the mindset that she developed during her victim or survivor mode.   

“I made the choice to move from Los Angeles to Miami with no job, no plan. Barely any money and no friends.”

The change in mindset and scenery were monumental for Bacol-Uba. She knew that, if she stayed in Los Angeles surrounded by engrained vices, she would eventually fall back into toxic habits.

Leaning on Tools of Transformation During Times of Stress

Meditation, counseling, and breathing exercises are part of a multifaceted and holistic approach for Bacol-Uba.

“These tools are something I lean on every day. It’s not an overnight fix — healing as a person of color is continuous while we live in a world [full] of triggers, people who are uneducated or ignorant, and traumas.”

“We need to take care of ourselves to show up fully and serve our community if we’re serving from a place of scarcity and sickness. This whole idea of martyrdom that we were taught [from a young age], that’s not sustainable.  People burn out, mental health issues that arise from that, because of that old paradigm. We need to shift from that [philosophy] and take care of ourselves in order to serve from a place of abundance.”

Bacol-Uba believes that tapping into the power of community is imperative.

“I found the courage to confront my father, and we’ve been estranged ever since. But I was able to speak my truth and to help others.”

  •    Victim Consciousness: You give all of your power away, you take no accountability for your thoughts, your words or actions, and you operate from fear and scarcity.
  •    From Survivor Consciousness: You might take some accountability, but you build a wall, and you disconnect yourself from authentic and vulnerable connections because you are still afraid of failure, rejection or getting hurt again.
  •    A thriver is someone who flourishes, grows, and prospers despite adversity.

Thriving on the Horizon: Creating a ripple effect of good; collaboration and community go further than the positive actions of an individual.

Bacol-Uba has huge goals for 2021, plans for Thriver Con of March 2021 are going to be bigger than ever. She wants to invite more corporate clients in order to get more sponsorships for emerging BIPOC leaders.

The second part of the Conscious Public Speaker Mastermind program resumed in early 2021; it is a six-month program Cohort model. It’s a safe space that will function to solidify what the speaker’s signature talk is, their messaging, and hone them in order to shape them into a business model.

“You may have been a victim of something, but it is your choice to remain victimized for the rest of your life. You may have survived something terrible and traumatic, but it is a [conscious] choice to operate in survivor mode or you can change [your mindset] and turn your pain into purpose. [Change] your trauma into triumph.”

Bacol-Uba wants to encourage everyone to tap into their networks, find like-minded individuals who share similar values and goals and collaborate with them.

Bacol-Uba wants all of us to create and nurture our network of like-minded cohorts, she exclaims, “We are stronger together, don’t try to do everything on our own!”

Celebration and gratitude will shift your mindset into being more positive; being resilient and adaptive is a part of life, insists Bacol-Uba. Failure is also an opportunity for great growth.

“I want everyone to know that no matter what is happening in the world, we have the power to thrive.”


This is a part of an SFGN series on local BIPOC leaders making a difference in the community. Check out the other stories at sfgn.com/bipoc.