Category Archives: working girl under thirty

don’t be afraid of family business

Originally published in San Diego Metro Magazine.

Fights. Families torn apart over money. Shop talk at the dinner table. Tension. These can all be found in one extreme of the typical family business – but it’s definitely not the case in all. Family businesses have typically had a bad reputation – but my story, and countless others, prove that they can be much stronger – and even much more stable – than traditional businesses.

So the question is, what makes some family businesses so much stronger than others? What sets them apart?

In my experience, it is the same as what sets successful individuals apart from the rest of the pack. It takes a shared passion, where all parties are equally involved and entrenched in the business. It takes honesty, integrity, and complete transparency. It takes trust. And it takes an unparalleled work ethic.

At Hughes Marino, four of our five family members work together as a team. My dad is president and CEO. My mom is COO. My brother and I are brokers. Of course, my youngest brother (still in high school) has no interest in real estate whatsoever – but that can change! As a whole, we are 30 people strong – there just happens to be a corner in the office completely occupied by Hugheses.

I have been asked for years if I like working with my family…and the truth is that I love it. There is so much trust and love in our office – and I have those who have my best interests at heart (and are the best teachers I can imagine) training me. We have two married couples in the office, a set of twins, several parents and their children, and my family and I. It’s one big happy family – and so far it’s worked flawlessly.

It didn’t become flawless – and definitely wouldn’t have stayed flawless – if we didn’t make a few ground rules for working as a family.

1. Overcommunicate.

Communication is the key to everything – especially in situations where your emotions and relationships are on the line. There is a lot at stake in working with your family, and it’s easy to take things personally. At Hughes Marino, we encourage everyone to overcommunicate; if there is ever a question or a doubt, ask. Talking about it won’t hurt anything. It eliminates the possibility of letting an issue fester, or worse yet doing something that could potentially harm the team.

We also consistently ask each other, “What can I do to best support you?” We’re lucky at Hughes Marino in that quarterly, my parents invite a motivational speaker and coach to our office to teach us how to more effectively communicate (both written and verbal), how to more effectively work as a team, how to incorporate balance into our lives, etc. One of our firm’s coaches, Mike Robbins (a coach for Google, and countless other greatly admired companies), proposed the importance of this short, sweet, but incredibly important question. If we are constantly asking one another what we can do better to support them, we are much more aware of each other’s wants and needs. And knowing this, we can work infinitely stronger as a team.

2. Keep Work Talk at Work.

One area that I struggled with when I first joined the family business was downtime. It did not exist. Our family loves work – and as a result, we love to talk about it. There were times when we would wake up and talk about deals over breakfast… then work all day…then come home and talk shop over dinner…then move to the couch to “watch” Maria Bartiromo while talking more about work. It’s no surprise that I woke up dozens of times each night in a panic to check emails and write down to-dos to remember in the morning. Finally, after dozing off again, I would dream about work. I realized how important it is to turn off work mode and relax; it’s healthy to have downtime. Now, instead of watching Maria Bartiromo while talking shop, I sit glued to the TV through the Bachelor, Hart of Dixie, Fashion Star, and as many other chick flick TV shows I can fit in my “downtime” schedule. And you know what? It’s had a big impact on my happiness, and my inner peace. Who would have thought a show like the Bachelor can do that for a girl…

3. Trust Each Other, and Let Others Be Accountable. Delegate!

One of the reasons that I believe family businesses can be even more stable than traditional businesses, when executed right, is trust. We know each other better than anyone – we know each other’s expectations and preferences, from the big picture values to the minutia such as favorite fonts and colors. We’re able to execute to each other’s preferences without having to ask the tough questions.

According to the Engagement Survey Best Practices by The Gallup Organization, team members that “have a best friend at work” are more likely to be engaged, happy, and productive at work. I’m just lucky that they happen to be my family, too.

This article originally appeared in SD Metro Magazine.


Star Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino, a San Diego commercial real estate company specializing in San Diego tenant representation and building purchases. Contact Star direct at (619) 238-2111 or to learn more.

picket fences and shiny glass ceilings

Star Hughes Photo 2

As featured in Women In Business & Industry.

When I was younger, the story I wrote for myself and my future was dramatically different than it is today. I would be married by twenty-one, have my first baby by twenty-two, live in a little white house with a picket fence by twenty-three, and be the perfect homemaker.

Slowly, over the years, my goals, vision, and ideology changed. Whether it was the competitive environment of high school, the “Feminist Theology” class I took in college, the desire to outperform the men in my MBA class (where the male to female ratio was 4 to 1), or the impact of the “Lean In Movement,” my life plan today couldn’t be further from that of my twelve-year-old self.

Instead of getting married at twenty-one, I earned my MBA. Instead of having a baby at twenty-two, I’ve put all of my love and energy into a challenging, but exhilarating, career. Instead of buying a little white house with a picket fence, I bought my first condo in a high-rise downtown, my own version of a “bachelor pad,” clad with Vogue magazine posters and “I Love My Dog” pillows. And while I do love cooking, crafting, and decorating – I am far from being the perfect homemaker.

The thing is – this is my generation. The majority of women I know have the same feelings and goals as I do…and some are happy to forgo child-rearing altogether. My grandma got married at nineteen and had my mom one year later. My mom got married at twenty-one and had me one year later. My generation, on average, won’t start having children until we are well into our 30s. And we still lead very full lives.

Instead of starting families in our 20s, we view this stage in our life as career-intensive, travel-intensive, and personal fulfillment-intensive. Many of us aren’t ready to “balance it all” yet – but rather are preparing for it by balancing our many interests in the meantime.


For those of us lucky enough to find exactly what we want to do early on in life, this is the time for it. After graduating from college and finishing my MBA, I knew that I wanted to join my family’s business – and I am so grateful that I knew early on. Whether other women are like me and know what they want to do, or they are excited to experiment and discover their passion, there is no better time than our early years.

We are still in school-mode – we are used to thinking outside of the box, striving for excellence, and pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines. We have more than enough energy to put in 70-plus hour weeks, which will help us stand out from the pack and outperform our coworkers. We don’t have the same responsibilities we would if we had a spouse and children…instead, our pets are our children. Personally, the responsibility of taking care of my two Maltese dogs, Riley and Cami, is more than enough! What better time than now to work harder than anyone else, climb the ranks, save money, and break down that shiny glass ceiling.


For me, and many of my colleagues committed to very challenging careers, our careers are not marathons. They are never-ending sprints. And every water station is a vacation. Travel is my de-stressor. I enjoy working really hard and then rewarding myself with some kind of an adventure. I’m fortunate that my family loves to travel – so at age twenty-two, I’ve been to over forty countries.

Studying abroad during school has helped many women overcome the fear and obstacles associated with traveling alone. Before my MBA program, I had never traveled on my own outside of California. At age 20, mid-way through the MBA program, I made the decision to travel outside of the U.S…and one month later I was on a plane to Singapore and Hong Kong solo to study with my cohort. It was the gateway to feeling comfortable in foreign places on my own, without my parents’ help, without access to my cell phone, and without the comforts of living in an English-speaking country.

Personal Fulfillment-Intensive:

Personal fulfillment can mean many different things – but it all comes down to being happy and taking time for oneself. For me, personal fulfillment comes in the form of furthering my education, whether it is earning a Master’s degree, taking cooking classes for fun, or getting involved with the Symphony. There are so many outlets for continuing education – from painting to photography to language to architecture. It’s exciting that, as of 2011, more U.S. women have master’s degrees or higher than men (10.6 million women vs 10.5 million men2). Personal fulfillment can come from buying homes on our own (more than 1 in 5 home buyers is a single woman1), becoming financially independent, buying Louboutins and Louis Vuittons, and taking care of our health and fitness.

While it certainly doesn’t mean this is the right way – or the best way – of living, it is an exciting time for women who don’t think of their lives as Disney movies, and instead aspire to parade down the streets of New York City in their Louboutins a la Devil Wears Prada.

This story originally appeared in Women In Business & Industry.

Star Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino, a San Diego commercial real estate company specializing in San Diego tenant representation and building purchases. Contact Star direct at (619) 238-2111 or to learn more.

san diego tech week and sharetv

Star Hughes and Chris Richmond talk San Diego Tech Week and Share TV with U-T TV’s Taylor Baldwin.

a spotlight on start up san diego’s tech week, part two

KUSI’s Brad Perry reports live from the Hughes Marino office to kick off Startup San Diego’s SD Tech Week with Star Hughes and Alex Kunczynski from D&K Engineering.

As a sponsor of SD Tech Week, Hughes Marino was proud to host the 20/20 Mentor evening on July 10th, where 20 technology executives and successful entrepreneurs mentored 20 emerging technology companies in round-robin format.

a spotlight on start up san diego’s tech week, part one

KUSI’s Brad Perry reports live from the Hughes Marino office to kick off Startup San Diego’s SD Tech Week with Star Hughes and Jim Welch from Sotera Wireless.

As a sponsor of SD Tech Week, Hughes Marino was proud to host the 20/20 Mentor evening on July 10th, where 20 technology executives and successful entrepreneurs mentored 20 emerging technology companies in round-robin format.

three ways to differentiate yourself in an interview

In my twenty-two years, I’ve done my fair share of interviews, from applying to private high schools, colleges and graduate programs, to running for leadership positions in student organizations, to interviewing for jobs and internships, to being interviewed on TV! I’ve also been fortunate enough to sit in on numerous interviews for potential hires of my family’s business. It’s amazing to experience both sides of the table – the nervous, nail-biting side of the table, and the relaxed, inquisitive side too.



I don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject, but over the years I’ve compiled a few “best practices” that I learned both through my own experiences and through the guidance of mentors. These are not for everyone – and they definitely aren’t for every industry – but who knows? Maybe they’ll give someone the confidence they need to nail an interview and land their dream job.

1. dress with personality

Us girls usually put so much thought into what professional, boxy, black or navy suit to wear to an important interview. We are taught in school to look as masculine as possible. No make-up. No earrings. Hair pulled back into a low pony tail or bun. No form-fitting clothes. And close-toed shoes ONLY. No peep toes allowed. You might as well skip the interview altogether if you even think about wearing strappy heels.

Throughout the past century, women were expected to hide their femininity so as to be seen on a level playing field as their male counterparts. But society is changing. Today, more and more women are embracing their femininity, their curves, their style, and their personalities.

Imagine a room full of women who look identical, showing little to no personality or cheer in their “look.” Now imagine that one woman is wearing a pink Kate Spade dress with a chunky, colored necklace. Who stands out?

dress with personality Source: Pinterest

Yes, we want to be evaluated based on our intelligence. But when all things are equal, who would likely get the job in this situation? The girl whose personality shines – the girl who exudes confidence.

You have a very limited time to show your true colors – so why not do it in the most obvious way possible? With your clothes.

2. tell your story

The best interviews are back and forth conversations. The interviewer asks you a question, you answer, you engage them with a question, and then the conversation flows from there. Interviews in which the interviewer asks the questions and the interviewee gives short responses without truly engaging are the worst – and might even put the interviewer to sleep.

Everyone loves to talk about their own experiences, share their backgrounds, and feel that other people are interested in what they have to say – including the interviewers! Ask questions. Show that you care and are interested in learning more about them. Plus, it’s a great way to get the conversation flowing! The more back-and-forth that the two of you have, the more of a connection you will build.

That being said, it is extremely important that you come prepared for an interview. Not in the handouts-and-flash-cards kind of way (though it IS very important to be well-versed on the company you are interviewing with), but in terms of telling your story.

You have one opportunity to pitch yourself. Tell your story.

How? Read the two sample interviews below. It is the same question – but two completely different stories.

Question: Where did you go to college?

Answer #1: I went to University of San Diego and graduated in 2010.

Answer #2: I decided to stay close to home and attend the University of San Diego. I’m a fourth-generation San Diegan – and nothing could get me to move from this amazing place! My family is here, my childhood was here, and I see this as my home forever. I thought about attending Georgetown, Cornell, and UCLA – but ultimately decided that pursuing an education in my end destination, San Diego, would be the best decision. All of my connections and experiences are here – which will be a huge asset when working for Company XYZ.

Notice a difference? It takes work to tell your story – and it definitely requires preparation. You have to really think about what made you who you are today and how your experiences shaped you. Every word you say should be deliberate, thoughtful, and help to express who you are.

3. focus on them, not you

Every sales book talks about the importance of focusing on the customer – NOT yourself. Take a look at the two below scenarios. Which one stands out?

Background: I am a vacuum salesperson hoping to make a new sale.

Pitch #1: XYZ Vacuums is the leading vacuum dealer in the world – we make more sales than any other vacuum company out there. We sell only the best vacuums, and our sales team can help you find the perfect, most energy-efficient, durable vacuum for your household.

Pitch #2: XYZ Vacuums will transform your life. With better, more durable, more energy efficient vacuums than any other vacuum company out there, you will have an unparalleled experience when cleaning your home. Not only will you save money on energy costs and have a vacuum that lasts a lifetime, but you will also enjoy a cleaner home because you bought the best product on the market.

Both pitches work – and sometimes it won’t make a difference in winning the business. The difference is that pitch #2 is relatable; it tells the customer WHY they should make the purchase. It directly tells them how the purchase of the vacuum will impact their lives, making it more of a necessity than a luxury purchase. It is about the experience – and undoubtedly is far more effective.

The same philosophy goes in an interview. You are pitching yourself – you are your own product. Instead of naming your skills and talents, explain how your skills and talents will make a positive impact on the company and make you an indispensable team member. So what you are organized? What matters is how your amazing organizational skills will completely revamp the company’s internal processes, streamlining what would normally be an arduous task simply by tidying things up a bit. Who cares that you are proficient at Excel? The interviewer will care when they learn how your Excel skills will benefit the company and the team as a whole. THAT’S what sets you apart.


star hughes living - no one can make you feel inferior without your consent

ahead of the curve

Star Hughes and Tucker Hughes, directors at Hughes Marino, explain how to save money and get a head start on your career by fast tracking your education.

If the video does not load immediately, please click here.

spotlight on: rudy francisco + some happy things

This last week, I had the opportunity to attend an amazing event – the Lawyers Club of San Diego Annual Dinner – to support the advancement of women in the legal community (and across all industries too). I left feeling overwhelmingly inspired and grateful. Inspired to make a difference like so many of the women honored at the event. Grateful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with – and the hard work of so many women to achieve gender equality for all.

One of the highlights of the event to me was a “Spoken Word” artist, Rudy Francisco. He presented two poems, in a way that reminded me of slam poetry back in high school, but obiously on a much higher level, and one of them left the audience speechless.

In honor of Mother’s Day month, here is “For those who remind me of my mother.”

other happy things

A 30% off sale at Banana Republic – one of my favorite stores for work clothes – not to be missed! ENDS TODAY!

banana republic

Walks down a country trail…roses galore.

country trail

My dogs’ first day at my condo downtown…yes, Riley is sleeping on a “Hello Gorgeous” pillow.


working girl problem: comfy flats

So, I know this isn’t a real working girl problem. But for women that walk as much as I do for my job (touring clients through office space) – and for those of us that live/work in cities (though San Diego is more of a big town) – comfortable shoes are a must.

Now I love heels as much as the next girl…though I’m much less talented at walking in them than the average girl. Unfortunately, they’re just not realistic for walking the streets of downtown San Diego. So I’ve learned to adapt.

It’s taken many, many tries at finding the most comfortable flats on the market, and here are my top picks. I hope you find them helpful!

1. Patricia Green

I bought these shoes because I was drawn to the bright pink color…but realized that these are truly the most comfortable flats I have ever put on my foot. I feel like I am floating in slippers when wearing them. The squishy sole and soft material makes it heaven for tired feet. The best part? She sells them in every color. I also have these in red. When you find a good one, stock up!


2. Elie Tahari

These Elie Tahari shoes are again a shoe worth buying twice. I have these flats in black and orange! They are incredibly comfortable, flexible, and don’t constrict the foot like most patent leather flats do.


3. Coach

I originally bought these Coach flats for their color – they seemed like the perfect flats for spring and summer! Not to mention that the inside print is amazing…I love the contrast of the leopard and blue. Coach has mastered the flat with this shoe. I’ve tried several of their flats but always ended up with blistered feet and painful walking tours. These were different – and for that reason are in my top comfy flat picks!

Blue Coach

4.Via Spiga

These Via Spiga aren’t as fun as the first three…but they make up for it in comfort! I wanted some navy, slightly more professional flats…and the femininity of these shoes put me over the edge! These too are like walking on air…and after walking miles and miles, I have yet to have a blister.

Blue Via Spiga

5. Marc by Marc Jacobs

These are the prettiest red shoes I’ve ever seen – and I feel like Dorothy every time I wear them! The black bow adds the perfect amount of class, and the shape of the shoe fits my foot perfectly. No heels sliding out. No pinched toes. This is a great investment to liven up the office!



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