A family love connection saw Daniela Pacheco move from Costa Rica to the Midwest as a young adult. The ensuing period of major change culminated with Pacheco enrolling at Iowa, where she majored in marketing and made meaningful relationships. And she’s started a firm with her source for inspiration: her mom.
Daniela Pacheco

Degree: BBA in marketing

Hometown: San José, Costa Rica

Future plans: Pacheco and her mother have started Morphological, a full-service marketing company.

Daniela Pacheco’s life has taken her so many places in the last few years, even she has a hard time keeping everything straight.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been everywhere,” she says after making a mistake while explaining her trajectory. From her native tropical Costa Rica to December weather on a Kossuth County farm in Iowa. From Kansas City to Iowa City. From careers in banking and the culinary arts to, finally, starting her own marketing firm before she even graduates from the Tippie College of Business this month.

She says she’s grateful to have found a place at the university to settle in after so much recent freneticism.

“Throughout my years here, I was able to meet amazing people who changed my life forever,” Pacheco says. “Instructors and professors I now consider mentors, friends, even guardian angels. Classmates who became family, who have given me more laughs and joy than I’ve ever encountered before.”

The first 20 years of her life were not out of the ordinary. After high school, she went to the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, graduating at age 19 with a culinary arts degree and the expectation of becoming a chef. The weather was always beautiful and sunny.

Then love struck, as her mother connected on Facebook with a former classmate from when she was a high school exchange student in Iowa many years ago. Their relationship blossomed, and she decided to join him on his farm near Algona. Not long after, Pacheco moved there too, arriving in the middle of December. She was sick for a month as her body tried to adjust to a kind of cold weather she’d never felt before.

“Culture shock is an understatement,” says Pacheco. “I traded beaches for cornfields and flip-flops for Uggs. The future I pictured for myself vanished. Starting from scratch as an adult is terrifying.”

She moved to Algona for a time, then to Kansas City, Missouri, for a year to work at a bank. Then back to Iowa to study graphic design at Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, which led her to a broader interest in marketing.

Not coincidentally, marketing was her mother’s line of work.

“I realized I wanted to study marketing because that’s what my mother does, and I have so much respect for the work she’s done,” Pacheco says. “I saw how interesting it was as she built a project from scratch and turned it into something beautiful. She works so much, but she never complained because she loved what she was doing.”

But the weather wasn’t the only adjustment that proved difficult. The land, the culture, the language, the demographics—all of it different than what she was used to. She missed her extended family in Costa Rica.

“I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t at home,” she says. “I couldn’t have coffee at my grandparents’ house anymore. And every room I walk in, I look different, I’m going to stand out. In Costa Rica, I was one of the bunch.”

She eventually came to the University of Iowa, where her sister, Mary, was studying human physiology and psychology, and majored in marketing at the Tippie College of Business. Here, things started coming together. She made friends, despite being several years older than other students and having lived far different experiences. She met faculty who helped her adjust and map out a future.

“Throughout my years here, I was able to meet amazing people who changed my life forever. Instructors and professors I now consider mentors, friends, even guardian angels. Classmates who became family, who have given me more laughs and joy than I’ve ever encountered before.”

Daniela Pacheco
2019 graduate of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business

Mark Winkler, a member of the Tippie College’s marketing faculty, was particularly helpful.

“He made me stop and think, and he calmed my thoughts and told me that everything was going to be fine,” Pacheco says. “He made a lot of connections for me and helped me find the right path for my future.”

Winkler also encouraged her entrepreneurial instincts: Pacheco and her mother have started their own business. Morphological is a full-service marketing company that already has projects lined up in both Iowa and in Costa Rica. Winkler says Pacheco was a great student because the adversity she endured gave her a different view of the world than a typical undergraduate.

“She has a high level of emotional maturity because she took a different path to Iowa and has made the most of every opportunity,” he says. “She’s a strong relationship builder and a doer, who was never afraid to approach a faculty member for advice, and also follow through on it. Not all students follow through, but she did every time.”

Pacheco points to her mother as her strongest resource. If she has one word of advice for others, it is to listen to your mother.

“My mom has taught me about life for the longest time, and now I truly understand what she meant when she said, ‘All you have to do is live one day at a time,” she says. “Do what you can do today. Enjoy where you are today. We are here because of all the big and small decisions we’ve made throughout the years.”

Produced by the University of Iowa Office of Strategic Communication
Tom Snee
Tim Schoon