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How Josie Arroyo Built the Coolest Brand in Puerto Rico

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment

I bet you didn't even need to see the pictures or what brand I was talking about to guess today's Career Profile. Of course, we are talking about BIEN COOL. The brand that the OG digital marketer, Josie Arroyo built from the ground up on a whim, motivated by the idea of paying off her student loans. 

This entrepreneur knew from the get-go that the key to her success would be her Puertorrican authenticity, humor and of course, ambition! But I don't want to spoil any more details, here is Josie's interview:

What did you dream of becoming when you were growing up?

I wanted to do a lot of stuff! At a time I said a pediatrician, teacher or chemical engineer. I ended up going to college for physical therapy and ended up in advertising. I was never really clear of what I wanted to study. I actually chose advertising because it was the path that included the least amount of math. 

What was your first job before graduating college?

I worked in events promotions with brands like L'Oreal Kids and Pedigree, no alcohol promotions. I didn't want to wear mini skirts for my job. 

One of your first professional experiences was as a Sports intern at Telemundo. Can you tell us about that experience?

I got this internship through Florida International University's internship program. When I was studying my Masters in Investigative Journalism at FIU, I was very clear that I wanted to work in sports journalism. There's nothing that unites a country more than sports!

What did you learn as a sports news intern at telemundo?

I learned a lot about production and editing in digital platforms. 

After that You worked for almost three years in Yahoo. Can you tell us about that experience?

At Yahoo, I started out as a sports intern as well, then I was offered a full time job and I was transferred to Yahoo Mujer to run the LatinAmerican target. Then around 2008, Yahoo had a huge layoff and moved me to International News. That's how I ended up managing Yahoo en Español's homepage and became the youngest journalist managing this section. I loved international news! 

Back in the 2000's, Everything was changing in terms of journalism and how news were made. How was your experience being in the midst of all?

When I worked there, I didn't know anyone from Puerto Rico who worked at one of these big companies, like Yahoo, Facebook or Google. Everything was building up at that time. I remember people asking me where I worked and they were so impressed! 

I learned a lot about monetizing a website, even though I hate sales!

If you hate selling, how have you managed selling your brand, Bien Cool?

Because the nature of my brand is very relaxed. People are usually in a good mood for meetings. 

I have read that you started making greeting cards in order to pay off your student loans. Can you give us some more details?

Even though I had a good salary, I was always on the lookout for a second income. I really felt like paying $600 a month for student loans was crazy! Not many people know this, but when I came back to Puerto Rico I created a Groupon-like website called "Yupiti.com", but I left because I got a job at National University College and I hated selling. 

postales bien cool

One day I saw a meme on Pinterest that made me laugh, but I immediately translated it to Spanish in my head and it turned out even funnier! That's when I figured I could make it into a greeting card. I drove to Walgreens and tried to look for a greeting card similar to the one I had imagined in my head after that meme. I literally texted Mari Nieves, which was my co-worker at the time, to let her know that I had something planned and that I wanted her to design it. I told her "I want a really cool name, like my greeting cards!" So I literally searched if postalesbiencool.com was available and it was! That's how it all started. 

It has since evolved into "Bien Cool", because we are including more merchandise. 

Pic via  Indice

Pic via Indice

Did you ever imagine Bien Cool getting to this level?

Bien Cool is not even at a 1% of how I envision it. It is very different to see your brand from the inside out than from the outside. Sometimes you assume that everyone knows all the struggles that you have to go through and it's not like that.

Are you selling outside of Puerto Rico?

We are currently selling at the Museo del Barrio in New York and we are working on two new retailers in Atlanta. 

Bien Cool is really appealing to the Puertorrican market because of its local jokes. Do you plan on expanding to other parts of the world?

Our plan is to make this a multicultural brand. I believe that Boricuas and LatinAmericans in general are very poorly represented by brands. We tend to have an inferiority complex and think that anything that is well designed is from the States. We have a lot of talent and a lot of emerging artists in Puerto Rico and LatinAmerica who need to be discovered! We want to support artists all around LatinAmerica. 

Pic via  The Media Scoop

You kept working full time during your time at National university college. How did you know it was the time to quit and how did you prepare for the decision?

I realized it was time to leave when I was putting all my heart and soul to BienCool instead of my full time job. One of my good old friends is Arnaldo from Diary of Trips and he was one of my biggest supporters during this time. "You need to quit and see how it goes!", he used to tell me. There will always be an excuse and you will always need more money.

What is the difference between being a Full time employee and being the CEO of a brand you built?

Working for someone else, I experienced physical exhaustion at times. But working for myself, I have never had as much stress in my life than in these last two years! It's different because when it's your brand, it affects you in an emotional level. If you don't get moving, money doesn't come! It's a constant struggle. 

How was that first year after starting Bien Cool full time?

It was very different from now, because I was learning a lot about what I wanted to do as an entrepeneur. By that time I was still using my savings and I launched my store at Old San Juan, which we ended up closing. 

I learned that I don't enjoy running a physical store by myself. Everything that has to do with inventory, prices, visual merchandising, payrolls, etc. isn't for me. I definetely learned to identify the things that I don't enjoy about my business and I will eventually delegate them. 

How and when you jumped on the idea of selling brands that are not biencool, such as bando, in your website?

First of all, I love Bando! I'm selling this brand in my website as a strategy to test the market and see how people respond to lifestyle brands. 

You created a planner! How was that development process?

We worked it along side Muuaaa Design Studio, which is the same agency that helped me build my brand. We sat with them and started planning all our process and see what we could change from last year's to now. 

What's next for bien cool?

We are trying to expand the brand and looking for new investors opportunities.

What is one thing you've learned during this process of running your brand?

You need to be able to let go and let others help you! If I had two "me's" when I was starting out, all the dirty work would've been much easier! Right now I have an amazing employee that goes above and beyond always. I am so grateful for her.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a creative venture on the side but is doubting themselves?

Go for it. There're a lot of things that you can't overthink. The mind is so powerful! Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and is definetely for people who want to do it. I don't blame anyone who prefers a salary over entrepreneurship. It is a cliché, but if it were easy, everyone would do it! You make it or break it. 

Last but not least, prepare financially for your venture. 

Pic via  Facebook

Pic via Facebook

If you could go back to your 25 year old self, what advice would you give yourself?

Read more. One of the things that I loved the most in Yahoo News was exposing myself to information that I would've never look for on my own. I really didn't enjoy reading when I was younger, I was more into pop-culture and mainstream media. But now that I am more of a news junkie, I realize how my mindset has shifted since I started reading more. 

Random Facts about Josie:

  • Vanilla or Chocolate: Chocolate
  • Coffee or Tea: Pff... Coffee!
  • Facebook or Instagram: Instagram
  • AM or PM: I used to be super PM, but now I love the AM and the peace it brings!
  • Book: Somaly Mam's The Road to Lost Innocence and Brian Weiss' Many Lives Many Masters
  • Favorite Destination: Culebra, Puerto Rico
  • Weird Habit: I have to write with blue pens
  • Bucket List: Having a sustainable business that helps me work from anywhere in the world. 
  • Pet Peeve: Loud chewers and farts!
  • Your best quality: I go with the flow. I can get along and have a good time with anyone.

GUEST POST | I Completed a Master's Degree in Barcelona with Zero Debt. Here's How I Did It!

Real Talk, Travel, CareerKrystel SierraComment

People often speak about the midlife crisis, but little is told about the mid-20’s struggle. I was experiencing it at 25, when life isn’t how you thought it would be and childhood expectations vanish in front of you.

I had finished my bachelor’s degree at 20 and had a stable 8-to-5 job. I had been saving money to do a master’s degree someday. Nonetheless, something was missing. I was not happy. I felt stuck, with little to no growth opportunities and a routine that was killing me.

I had searched for jobs in and out of Puerto Rico, and when I got called and interviewed for a worldwide Public Relations agency in Miami, I was super excited. The interview went well but then I was told that the only thing I was lacking was “agency experience”. But how could I get it if no one was willing to give me the opportunity to “train” me? I had decided that if I didn’t get that job, I would do a master’s degree that allowed me to do an internship. After getting rejected, that would be it.

At first I had considered a university in the United States but discarded the idea. I was not willing to take a loan worth a house to pay for a degree. That was when I began considering Europe, where education  is more affordable. Also, I had fallen in love with the continent and its lifestyle since my first vacations. There I felt home, I fitted in. I had spent my whole life putting everyone before me and it had taken a toll on my emotional health. I needed to get away in order to find myself, grow and be happy.

I needed to get away in order to find myself, grow and be happy.
— Krystel Sierra

After a lot of research, I found a great program from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. It was what I wanted: in Public Relations, affordable, with internship opportunities, and abroad. I applied, was accepted and began all the paperwork. I never thought about it so much. If I did, I would eventually be overwhelmed with all that could go wrong. I was leaving everything I knew, a home, and a stable job to move to a city I had never been to, thousands of miles away. I told my plans to my parents, who didn’t hesitate a second in supporting me. I cried when I sent the first tuition payment  because I knew there was no turning back. That day, my life changed forever.

krystel sierra traveling

A lot of people wonder how I was able to pay for it. I come from a very humble family and I had to fully support myself. When you grow up struggling, you learn that money is no joke. Due to that, I was a compulsive saver. One of the things I am prouder of, is that I didn’t take a single loan. I worked hard since I was 17 and saved for as long as I remember. I was a very dedicated student and that paid off too. I had won a scholarship that I saved strictly for educational purposes. I would rather drive my very old car, bring lunch everyday to work, buy clothes one time a year, and go to the movies once every few months than spend a scholarship on material things. I had plenty of spreadsheets to calculate my monthly expenses in Barcelona. I knew how much money I needed, I had calculated the risks and it was now or never.

barcelona

A week before moving, I cried every night. I had the occasional second-guessing but a friend -whom I had previously encouraged to study abroad- told me, “you are scared now but once you land here, you will not know why you were so afraid.” And she was right. I packed two big suitcases, set up my blog Chase the Feeling where I would document my journey,  and moved to Barcelona. I lived in a shared room at the university. The first time I walked around the city, I knew I was where I meant to be.

Of course, despite the beauty of Barcelona, the first two weeks were incredibly hard. It was exhausting to figure out every bureaucratic paperwork that came with moving to a foreign country. So it was adjusting to share a room with a stranger, figuring out the transportation system, doing grocery shopping and learning how the ingredients were called there. It was hectic but it all fell into place. In October, I went to the program’s welcome meeting. We were divided into work groups that would last until the end of the master’s. It was the beginning of the most amazing year of my life.

krystel sierra

A month into it I had mastered the transportation system, the grocery shopping, adapted to the teaching style, and made a best friend whom I call now my sister.

My next goal was to land an internship. To my surprise, the university didn’t have placement, so it was basically like a job search. I applied and sent e-mails to plenty of local PR agencies every day. By the end of November, I had landed my internship. Now it was a matter of balancing an almost full-time job with classes, group meetings, presentations, and adulthood responsibilities. But there’s nothing in life that you can’t do if you work hard for it. My internship experience was enriching. I learned a bit of catalán, my coworkers were very supportive and I earned the “agency experience” I was looking for.

krystel sierra inglaterra

I wanted to travel too. Before leaving Puerto Rico, I had budgeted a trip to Munich to meet with my sister in January. Also, I had set myself a monthly allowance for traveling wherever I could afford. I eventually became an expert at budget travel and visited more countries than I thought I would. My first trip was to Iceland in December to see the Northern Lights -which I didn’t get to see- but I will forever dream of the Blue Lagoon and the country’s breathtaking nature. Then the Christmas break arrived. I spent my first holidays away from my family, but joined my friend and her relatives in northern Germany and later in Girona, Spain. In January, I was beyond happy with my sister in Munich, a city I fell in love with.

My next trips were highly spontaneous and based on opportunities that came along.  I ended up visiting Munich two times to attend football matches (THE dream), Italy, and England. Google Flights is a blessing with its calendar of ridiculously low fares. Traveling within Europe is very affordable. With what you spend on a weekend in Puerto Rico, you can visit three cities in Italy and cover ALL expenses. I would also go out every weekend to lose myself in the city I now call home. La meva Barcelona. I visited museums, landmarks, beaches, markets, and nearby cities like Sitges and Montserrat. But it was not all fun and games.

With 2017 kicking in, it was time for my next goal: to move from the university dorms to an apartment in Barcelona city. Looking for pisos in Barcelona is a nightmare. The demand is extremely high and so are the prices. I had to stay on budget so when I was about to give up, I found a great apartment shared with two people – a guy from Ecuador and a girl from Poland. They became my family and I will always cherish our time as housemates.

Motivated by my love for languages, I searched for opportunities to learn German. Gladly, I discovered a summer program at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. It was perfect and affordable and as my spending projections were accurate -plus I was earning a bit as an intern- I enrolled. After finishing my degree, I would move to Germany.   

krystel sierra
krystel sierra iceland

Back to college life, I will not say that everything was perfect. The teaching style is based a lot on you figuring things out on your own. It’s designed with a professional approach rather than academic. Also, the grading is subjective, rather than based on a mathematical sum of points. Naturally it was a challenge to create our final project: a Public Relations plan for one of the biggest toy makers in the world. However, with countless of hours of hard work, Whatsapp conversations and Sunday meetings, we did it.  We presented our plan to the client in June, had a graduation a few days later, and it was over.

graduation krystel sierra

I had proven to myself how strong I was. I cried, I laughed, I fell, and I got up. I thought that the most valuable thing that I would obtain was a master’s degree, but it wasn’t. My experiences as an immigrant, an international student, an intern, a solo traveler, and an adult away from home made me better, stronger, more tolerant, smarter, independent, more respectful, and optimistic. It helped me believe in myself more, be spontaneous and see the good in people. The people. It was those whom I met and the relationships I developed what I cherish the most. If there is a reason why I would do it all over again, it is so I would have them in my life.

krystel sierra friends
krystel sierra friends

In August I moved to Munich to learn German. It was an intensive three-week course. I took lessons every day, made new friends, experienced the city in the summer and, of course, attended a Bayern Munich football match. I even got my jersey signed by my favorite player. Life doesn’t get a lot better than that. I finished the course and did a 3-day trip to Poland, Czech Republic and Austria. Then I went back to Barcelona. After a year, it was time to get my bags and fly to Puerto Rico. I was devastated for what I was leaving behind, but hopeful for the future. Now I have a different mindset, friends in almost every continent and a clear goal in mind: to eventually relocate to Europe.

The biggest lessons I learned from this experience? The most important thing in life is happiness.

Experiences are better than possessions and material things. You can live with a lot less than you think. Meaningful relationships are what stay when all else vanishes. When you are determined and believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. Set your goals, work on a plan but let life surprise you. And last but not least, when you follow your passions, you are on the right track.

If you have ever considered studying abroad, do it. I encourage anyone to take on the challenge of moving and immersing themselves in a completely different culture. You are not only growing academically or professionally, but also as a person. And at the end of the day, that is the experience you will treasure the most.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 4.33.25 PM.png

   Meet our Guest Blogger

Hello there, I’m Krystel and I'm the blogger behind Chase the Feeling and the creator of the Chase the Feeling Travel Planners. Born in the 90’s, I love music, football ⚽, and The Office. Cat person, old soul, and languages enthusiast -I’m bilingual (English and Spanish), currently learning German. I've also studied Italian and French but I want to improve a lot more. I enjoy writing and learning about different topics. I will always google anything I don’t know and open too many tabs at once. 

 

 

Want to stay in touch? Follow me on Instagram or Twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shop my Travel Planners here

From Copywriter to Business Owner | Annette Borrero from La Vieja Pizza & Beer

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
annette borrero la vieja pizza and beer

I met Annette through my mutual friend, Silvia who you may have heard of since we started a podcast together! She quickly became one of my closest friends and it has been a pleasure watching her grow from copywriter to a badass business woman who truly believes in herself and her capabilities as an entrepreneur. I have to say, hearing her employees call her "jefa" was very inspiring and I felt extremely proud of her. 

She started La Vieja Pizza and Beer a little over a year ago with Elliot Rodríguez, her boyfriend, now baby daddy (they are expecting a baby girl! 👧) and survived two back to back natural disasters called Irma and María. It hasn't been easy, but according to Annette it has been the most amazing experience of her life. Want to learn more about this super inspiring story? Keep reading! 

María Elena: What do you wanted to be when you were a little girl?

Annette Borrero: Soap Opera Actress! Just because that's what I used to watch everyday with my mom and grandmother. 

ME: What was your first job before college?

AB: After a jewelry class, in which I learned a technique using Swarovski crystals, I decided to start a jewelry line. I started selling my creations at school and soon enough, some jewelry making shops started asking me to give classes in Mayagüez, Ponce, Yauco and even Old San Juan. Then that summer I decided to start a jewelry making camp. My mom was my accountant and she even got me business cards. I was only 13 years old, I felt like a millionaire!

ME: What did you study, where and why?

AB: I studied communication with a minor in languages in Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (USC) in Santurce. Why Santurce? At that moment my parents where in the process of getting a divorce and I wanted to leave home (Yauco) and be independent.

Since I really didn't know what I wanted to study and I really wanted to be an actress, I figured communication was the closest I could get to it. What I did know was that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in an office, so studying communication and how the media works was a way to have several options lined up for me.

ME: What was your first job out of college?

AB: At an advertising agency.

ME: What did you learn from your experience working at an advertising agency?

AB: It developed my patience. I don't like to use the term "working under pressure" because it seems mediocre. There is no need to work under pressure, you just need to do the work. Everyone works at their own pace to accomplish their goals. When you put too much pressure on yourself you are going to fail at something. 

I also learned that not anyone can be a boss and your worth is not measured by how much power you have in an organization. It helped me understand that each person, each department and each position is important. Without your employees you wouldn't be a boss.

annette marie borrero olan

ME: When did you know that the advertising industry wasn't for you?

AB: Don't get me wrong, I love advertising and I specially love to work on my business's branding and sending out the message to my target. But I knew that I had to start making some moves about a year in at the agency, when I figured that the bureaucracy behind the advertising industry wasn't for me. 

ME: But you stayed there for almost 4 years! How did you cope with this frustration?

AB: Money wise, I was completely cut of from my parents since I was 22 years old, so obviously I needed to stay there because it gave me some sort of security for a while. But I knew this wasn't going to be forever. Sure, I had some breakdowns, but I handled them with the therapist you recommended me who helped me a lot to overcome this situation. I knew that I had to accomplish some goals and hang in there for a while without being desperate to leave just because I couldn't handle the bureaucracy. 

I was really clear that I didn't aspire to have the life that I saw 80% of the people around me had. I knew that my time at that agency had an expiration date. 

Looking back now, I know I quit at the perfect moment. I was so much more mature, grown and I had a better intuition towards people's real intention, which you really need when you manage your own business. Now I work three times as much than I did working at the agency but I am so much happier. 

ME: How did your family members and close one reacted to your decision to quit your career to open a pizza place?

There is no need to work under pressure, you just need to do the work.
— Annette Borrero

AB: I started to prepare them mentally, specially my dad! My dad is very traditional and it turns out that the same day I quit the agency, he retired from a company he had worked for more than half of his life. He couldn't understand how I could quit a career that required a degree for what he considered "a hobby" and thought that I would waste my time doing this. But I understand where he was coming from. He really didn't want to see me struggle. 

Soon, he started seeing that this was not a whim, it was a real business that we were creating from the ground up and now he loves to brag about me! 

Nevertheless, my mom is one of those people that won't say anything, but she's always there. She can defer from my opinion, but she always responds with a "I know what my daughters give and if you take a decision is because you can handle it, so go for it and I'll be here for support"

ME: What was the biggest challenge before opening La Vieja Pizza and Beer?

AB: Personally, quitting the agency! I felt ready, I believed in myself, I believed in our concept but it was a personal struggle to set a clear date in which I was going to quit and dedicate my time to my own business. When I finally quit, we were half way through the planning process, but it came to a point where splitting my time between the agency and the business was not enough. 

In terms of the restaurant, the biggest challenge was administrative. Getting all the permissions, creating a corporation, financial statements, projections and all that planning process before opening for business was hectic. 

la vieja pizza and beer

ME: How were those first few months after opening the restaurant?

AB: It was interesting. Even though I love cooking at home, I had no experience in a restaurant kitchen and I certainly had no experience cooking in bigger volumes. Also, customer service was a first for me from a business owner perspective. People often look at me and underestimate me because I look young. 

ME: Let's talk about Hurricanes Irma and María. How was that experience with your business?

AB: It was a religious experience for us. Before we opened the restaurant, we created financial projections for the first and second years of the business, but we never contemplated having two devastating hurricanes. Needless to say, we didn't project our losses after this in terms of money, employment, inventory and even infrastructure. We didn't even have a power plant because while creating our business plan we decided it was an unnecessary investment because we projected that at most, we would be without power for three days. Ha! 

For Irma, we lost more than $2,000 in inventory because we didn't prepare. As many other Puertorricans, we underestimated the hurricane. Then came María and we couldn't open the business for three weeks. Three weeks without money flow, but once we opened after those three weeks of not operating, we doubled our sales because people needed to come to the restaurant to eat, since they didn't have power or water service at their homes! That way we were able to recompense all the loses in September 2017. 

la vieja pizza and beer cupey

ME: What is the most difficult part of owning and managing a business with your life partner?

AB: I would have thought it would be making decisions, but it hasn't been like that. We quickly learned to differ and see each other's weaknesses and strengths in order to make important decisions. The most difficult part has been not having a set routine. Our life is La Vieja so we can't have romantic getaways as much as we used to. 

annette borrero elliott rodriguez

But the best part is that we complement each other and we never compete, which has made us closer and stronger. We have learned a lot about each other that we wouldn't have learned if we weren't business partners as well. We are a team! 

ME: Talking about getting closer... You recently got pregnant! How has been this experience now that you have a relatively new business.

AB: It was absolutely not planned. I discovered that the 1% error margin in anti-contraceptives is real, I'm living it. It was a shock! We had plans and goals for 2018 that didn't include a baby. We had talked about having kids as a long-term goal but this has pushed us to reconsider several future business plans. 

ME: What is next for La Vieja Pizza and Beer?

AB: Our brunch once a month on Sundays! Happy hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays and we recently started incorporating wine to our menu. Also, since we had to cancel our OktoberFest last year due to the hurricanes, we want to make it happen this year. 

ME: What advice would you give someone who wants to open their own business one day?

AB: Define your concept and believe in it 100%. If you are not in love with your concept, change it until you are sure of what you're doing. And of course, have discipline! 

ME: What would you tell yourself at 18 years old?

AB: Take more advantage of college while still having fun and traveling like you did. 

 

 


Want to try La Vieja Pizza and Beer?

Directions:  400 San Claudio Ave. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hours:

  • Wednesdays and Sundays: 12PM-9PM

  • Thursdays and Saturdays: 12PM-10PM

  • Fridays: 12PM-11PM

Social Media:

GUEST POST | 12 Ways to Become a Successful Freelancer

Career, Guest PostsMari NievesComment
mari nieves pink studios

Oh, hello! My name is Marii Nieves and I am the Founder of Pink Studios - a full-service boutique digital marketing provider; specializing in digital media presence for small & medium-sized businesses; and you probably heard about me and my story, here.

A little over a year ago, Pink Studios stopped being a part-time gig to become a full-time-with-overtime monster - and I could not be happier about it. Regardless, I feel the obligation to admit that making the decision to quit my full-time job as a Digital Marketing Director at a multimillion dollar company was not easy. Not at all. You can read about it here.

The financial stability, the routine, the classic “what would people say?” and “what if I fail?”, were constant thoughts running through my brain.
Why are we wired this way though? Instead, why don’t we think “I am confident in myself”, “I can do this!”, “I will kick-ass!”, “I will prove them wrong.”

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner.
— Mari Nieves from Pink Studios
beyonce slaying

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner; after that you gotta pull up your big girl pants, be gangsta and say: “I’ll get this shit done!”

Being organized and establishing processes and routines made this journey a whole lot easier. Today, I am sharing with you my favorite tips to becoming a successful freelancer and get things done:

1. Establish some sort of online presence to present your services.

People spend the vast majority of their time online. Whatever your industry is, you need to make sure that if people are searching for people like you - they can find you. Whether it’s a website, Facebook Business Page, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Be there.

2. Update your personal social networks, specially Linkedin.

Everyone you are connected with should be aware that you are now flying-solo and that they can reach you for special projects. ambinity has a GREAT article about it: 10 Ways to Maximize your LinkedIn Profile

3. Create a routine.

When you become a freelancer, you are most likely to work from home; distractions and convenience might come in your way. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you get to wake up at 10:30am, take 3 hour lunch breaks and squeeze in a Netflix marathon. Get up early, fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea, eat breakfast, dress up and get to work. At the beginning, you might find it annoying but trust me, it gets you in the right mindset.

4. Organization + a project/task management app are key!

In order to be successful at #4, you NEED to have a proper way to manage tasks. Something I have learned over this past year is that whether I successfully execute my morning routine or not; if I don’t have a set list of what I need to work on the next day - my morning is wasted! Ain’t nobody got time for that! So, before your day ends make a list of all the things you have pending;  that way the next day you’ll be ready to get stuff done instead of wasting time running in circles figuring out where things were left off the day prior.

But how do I make my to-do lists? Paper? App? Both? This is something I get asked constantly. Paper lists are great until you go to a meeting or to work somewhere else and you left your list at home.That sucks! You can use post-its if necessary for quick reminders; but… hey, we are not The Flintstones - use the technology resources available. There are great tools such as: Asana, Trello (my favorite) and Basecamp that can work wonders. Are you using any of these?

marii nieves pink studios

5. Setup a dedicated workspace.

I need to brag for a second - I LOVE, LOVE <3 my workspace! Now that I got that off my system I have to tell you something. Working remotely and having your office be a home-office is hard! To be able to focus all of my energy on work, I needed to set up a dedicated space where I could forget about all the distractions around, be inspired and really get to work.

A few essentials for me: Macbook Pro, external monitor, bluetooth keyboard and mouse, lamp, lavender candles, comfortable chair, speaker, couch - mostly for visits and when I want to change scenarios a little bit.  Make it work for you!

Shop Mari's Office Must Haves!

6. Get your numbers in place.

Hopefully you’ll start making money soon and once you have to fill your taxes, etc; you’d need to have everything in place. At the moment, I swear by Wave App. It allows me to send estimates, convert them to invoices, send payment reminders, track outstanding balances and expenses. It has worked wonders for me and those I have recommended it to. Try it out and let me know.

7. Use a contract or agreement for every project.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a small project or a large one - you want everything discussed and covered. This will save you a lot of time and headaches. There are different website that provide pre-made proposals, contracts and agreement that you can sign up for such as Proposify. Alternatively, you can also sit down with an attorney to make sure everything is covered.

8. Rate cards.

Depending on your industry, this may be viable or not. Set some time to define your pricing structure. Are you gonna charge per hour? Per project? Per service? Establish those from the beginning, that way, making proposals will be a breeze instead of a nightmare.

9. Limit distractions.

Distraction could be your worst enemy; from watching TV to laying down for a second (that turn out to be 2 hours) and our fatal attraction: social media. I am a firm believer that you need to work hard but breaks are 100% necessary. There are several apps that can help you with this. From Focus (download for iOS | download for Android) which focuses on the Pomodoro technique to Freedom, ColdTurkey (download for Mac | download for Android) and InMoment (download for iPhone) which allow you to track and/or block time spent on social networks or a list of websites you determine for a certain period to allow you to better focus on getting things done.

10. Ask for testimonials.

From past clients, to ex-bosses, supervisors, colleagues, etc… they probably have great things to say about you. The easiest way to compile all of these is to ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn. From there you can extract their testimonials and use on your website and promotional material. It is always encouraged that you let them know that you will be using their testimonials - I highly doubt they will say no, but it is a courtesy.

11. Don’t be afraid to say “no”.

Choose your clients carefully. You are allowed to say “no”. Is this new client from an industry you don’t feel 100% comfortable with? Does it not align with your business values and standards? Do you feel like the chemistry is not there? Are you fully booked but don’t want to say “no” because “it’s a new gig”? Don’t feel bad. That is absolutely okay.  This will happen and you need to be ready to tackle these type of situations. My recommendations, draft a nice email and propose a plan: either let them know that at the moment you are not able to work with them and, if possible, provide an alternative vendor to fulfill their needs.

12. Never stop learning.

Easy as that. Information is at our fingertips these days. Never stop learning. Find ways where you can increase your knowledge on certain topics and trends and even find time to learn new things. Doing so will allow you to stay up to date and be able to react within your industry when something is relevant.


BONUS: The occasional day off is totally fine!

People ask me: “how do you stay motivated every single day of the week” and my answer is: “sometimes I don’t”. Their reaction is priceless. The reality is, this is one of the perks of being your own boss. You set your time and if you don’t feel productive for a moment, it is okay to take the day off if necessary.

ambinity

On days like that I like to catch up on my Netflix queue, watch crappy reality shows (this right here is my guilty pleasure) from Real Housewives of Orange County, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, RHOA and RHONJ, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Botched, Naked and Afraid, Shark Tank and I also love to read a good book, listen to podcasts and try and just pay with Pakko Petardo and Lola Inés del Pilar.


 

Last but not least, make sure you make the most out of your time as a freelancer or entrepreneur. Get stuff done. This is your time. Don’t ever let your creativity die. Do you have additional tips or questions? Leave them in the comments section below.

If you want to reach out to me, I am always available via inbox or you can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. See you there.

mari nieves pink studios

Meet our Guest Blogger

I’m Marii, your Facebook-loving, goal-crushing, digital marketing-obsessed professional. I’m a Computer Engineering turned digital marketing-entrepreneur who believes in the power of helping others succeed in life or their businesses with the right tools by their side. Founder of Pink Studios and The Digital Strategy Lounge and mom of #PakkoyLola.
Wanna know me? Shoot me a message here or here.

Andrea Batista Moved 11,037 Miles Away from Home for a Dream Job in Sydney, Australia

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
andreabatista_profilepics3 (1).jpg

It's not everyday that you meet someone who decides to quit her job and move all across the globe (11,037 miles to be exact) to work at a country with a complete different culture and lifestyle from what you are used to. That's the case of Andrea Batista, who left her job as a Media Buyer in San Juan to take the challenge of becoming Digital Manager at Wavemaker, an Advertising Agency in Sidney, Australia. Yes, you read that right, AUSTRALIA. 

I really don't think this badass needs any more introduction after knowing her big move, so let's cut right to the interview:

María Elena: What did you want to do as a little girl? 

Andrea Batista: Ballerina or dolphin trainer. No idea why, I've never even met a dolphin. lol

ME: Where did you study? 

AB: University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus (Colegio!)

ME: What did you study in college and why? 

AB: I started out as a Computer Engineering major but ended up switching to Marketing.

ME: What was your first job experience?

AB: I worked at a Dance Camp as a camp counselor, but then I worked at Gamestop for a while!

ME: Did you have any internship experiences?

AB: I had a mandatory internship as part of my Marketing degree, so I interned at a local Telecommunications company.

andrea batista with a tiger

ME: Did you enroll in any exchange program during college? 

I didn't! It may sound weird, but I didn't see myself leaving Puerto Rico at that point in my life. Of course doing it would have had it's benefits, but I think there's also value in the amount of excitement I left with, having never worked anywhere else...

ME: How did you land your first "real" job in marketing?

AB: I must have sent resumes to 20 advertising agencies after graduation and got ZERO callbacks. It wasn't until one whole year later that I got a call from Initiative San Juan asking if I was interested in interviewing for a Media Buyer position. I jumped at the opportunity, even though I had no idea what a Media Buyer was or did!

ME: When did your interest for digital media planning started?

AB: As soon as I found out people got paid to talk about advertising on the internet I was like, "uh, I wanna do that".

ME: How did you land your job in the other side of the world?! 

AB: I was on vacation in Mexico and met an Aussie girl who worked in tech in Sydney, and she told me that there were heaps of digital jobs there! Believe it or not, 3 margaritas later, I was applying for a couple positions in Sydney through my Indeed app on my phone. I never thought anything would seriously come out of it, but a week later when I was back in Puerto Rico, I got a call late at night from an Australian number asking for an interview. I literally almost fell out of my chair. 

ME: What is one thing you wish you would’ve known before arriving to Australia?

AB: I knew I was moving to one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, but I wasn't ready to be the only Puerto Rican everywhere I go. It's made me realize the difference between nationalities can be quite extreme at times.

ME: Was it hard to accept the offer and lifestyle change?

AB: It was terribly hard. I had a life in Puerto Rico that I was quite content with, but I'd always known deep inside that I wanted to move overseas for a while. What better way to do it than to go all out and move to Australia.

ME: What has been the hardest part about being so far away from home?

AB: Missing my family and friends, especially while they were going through hardships because of the hurricanes. I also had some health issues that I had to deal with on my own, which was pretty rough. 

ME: What has been the biggest culture shock now that you're working in Australia? 

AB: Work-life balance is very important. My workday starts at 9 AM and ends at 5:30 PM -  staying back late isn't encouraged at all and can be seen as a negative. 

ME: What has been the best part about being a Puerto Rican managing a Digital Advertising team in Australia?

AB: My team had never met a Puerto Rican before. They were super interested in hearing about my country but also what the digital landscape was back home. But the best part is actually that Aussie's are 100% open to different cultures and backgrounds. I've never felt out of place at work. We have a Spanish word of the week, and I've taught them about our music and culture back home. I even had to give a full presentation on Puerto Rico to the whole agency because they kept thinking I was from Costa Rica. lol

andrea batista australia

ME: Did you ever thought you would be living this life? 

AB: I would have never thought a year ago I would be here. I always knew I wanted to travel, but I never thought I'd be living in Australia. It's still surreal sometimes. 

ME: Do you see yourself working in Puerto Rico or the USa again? 

AB: Ideally, I learn all I can from other markets and eventually bring it back home to Puerto Rico. It's not news that the digital landscape is growing and changing at a crazy fast rate. My move was based around throwing myself right in the middle of it, and learn as much as I could. What I chose to do after is still to be determined. For now I'm just grateful my company gave me the opportunity to interview for my role and eventually offered me a role from halfway around the world!

ME: How did you cope with Hurricanes Irma and María while living so many miles away from your family and friends?

AB: It was incredibly hard not being able to communicate with friends and family back home. People at work were extremely empathetic, and checked in on my family's status regularly - but I felt completely helpless. 

ME: What advice would you give someone who is looking for a foreign job?

AB: Apply, apply, apply. You think "Oh I'm never gonna get it" because you're not good enough or maybe too far away, but international companies pride themselves (and are actually evaluated) on being diverse with their staffing! I had 3 video interviews on Skype and 35 days later I was in Sydney. If it's something you're really serious about, research the role and apply! 

Andrea Batista teaching her co-workers a little bit about Puertorrican culture.

Andrea Batista teaching her co-workers a little bit about Puertorrican culture.

andrea batista australia advertising

ME: If you could give yourself one piece of advice back when you started working in Marketing, what would it be?

AB: Take ALL the training you can NOW. 

Random Facts about Andrea:

  • Digital or physical calendar - Digital Calendar and Agenda, but I still get a lot of satisfaction from physically checking something off a notepad.
  • Twitter or Facebook - Facebook
  • Snapchat or Instagram - Instagram
  • Mac or PC - PC
  • Plan or improvise - Plan plan plan
  • Morning or Night person - Morning Person 100% I do my best work from 9am to 1pm
  • Something you can't live without - Google Maps - I have no idea where I'm going, ever.
  • If I weren't in digital marketing I would be ___________. - In cooking school, trying to become a chef or baker.

GUEST POST| I Got Into Law School and Here's What You Should Know

Guest Posts, CareerAna María BaezComment
what to know before you get into law school

We are excited to announce that Ana María Baez is our first Guest Blogger for ambinity! We really hope you like it, so make sure you send her some love by sharing this posts or leaving her a message in the comments section.

It’s no secret that becoming a lawyer isn’t exactly a piece of cake. Pursuing a career in law requires the utmost commitment, responsibility, and perseverance. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I decided to study law; it happened very organically. As I was doing my undergrad in Communications and Political Science, I was struggling to decide what to do after college. I knew I wanted to continue to grad school, but it wasn’t until I took a class on law and the media in my junior year that made me realize how many of my interests aligned with becoming a lawyer!

As a current third-year law student, I won’t lie: law school can be intense. But despite the difficulties and the ups & downs, I have found it to be rewarding in the most unexpected ways. However you come to the decision, if you’re considering law school as a possible option for you, here are a few tips that were passed on to me, along with some of my own:


1. On selecting a school

Choosing where to study law depends on a various amount of factors. From the admission requirements to where it’s located, every detail counts. Take into consideration your lifestyle, financial needs, and areas of interest.  After all, if you’re accepted, this will be your home for the next few years! Spend time developing your own criteria. I would recommend to make a list of schools and research their websites, and if possible, visit the campus you’d like to attend or contact them for more information and clarity.

2. Speaking of admission requirements…

Navigating the law school application process can be tricky, but preparing in advance will ease the stress of the process. Many schools in the United States and Puerto Rico require a test called the Law School Admissions Test, or ‘LSAT’. The exam is divided into five 35-minute parts, testing reading comprehension and certain logic skills. While meeting the LSAT requirements is an important part of your application, take note of any other elements that may necessary towards your admissions, such as additional entrance exams, letters of recommendation or writing samples. Make sure you don’t miss your deadline!

3. Cracking the LSAT

Whether you study alone or with friends, preparing for the LSAT is one the most vital steps in the law school application process. If you’re a self-starter, there are many practice tests and review books are widely available. If you prefer studying in groups and need more guidance, companies like The Princeton Review dedicate themselves to providing tutoring sessions for a fee. In any case, it’s recommended you study at least six weeks before the date of the exam, which is administered a few times per year and has a maximum score of 180. To familiarize yourself more with the requirements for the LSAT, check out their official website for the Law School Admissions Council

Once you’re in…

ana maria baez her campus

Welcome to the madhouse! The first few weeks of law school will be a bit overwhelming: heavy course loads and long nights of reading lie ahead. However, those first few weeks are also a perfect time to explore and familiarize yourself with your school. From joining the law review to pro-bono activities, take note of any extracurricular that interests you. Another tip? Time to work on that résumé. Job fairs are usually held at one point during the semester, and if you want to score an internship early on, it’s best to have your résumé ready to go. Studying will take up a lot of your time, so make sure you’re organized from the beginning, and you won’t miss out on important opportunities.

 

#CareerMode: ON

Going to law school is practically a full-time job on its own, and doesn’t leave room for much else.  However, if you find yourself working while attending law school, time management can definitely become a challenge. In my case, I’ve found that it all boils down to how I organize my tasks. By setting weekly goals instead of daily ones, I found that I wasn’t under so much pressure if one thing didn’t go exactly as planned. I’d suggest that if you find that your course load is too heavy, consider taking a night class if possible in order to shift your schedule, and make more room during the day. In terms of your job, be clear with your supervisors as to how much time you will be dedicating to your studies and to your responsibilities at work. Honesty is the best policy, even with you.

Studying will take up a lot of your time, so make sure you’re organized from the beginning, and you won’t miss out on important opportunities.
— Ana María Baez on Law School
law school students



Find your balance

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far is keeping a positive outlook in law school. One can become so immersed in the day-to-day stress of your studies, it’s easy to forget: you’re allowed to have a life. Many times you’ll have to say ‘no’ to going out or being with friends and loved ones. Even so, I’ve learned that it’s of vital importance to be realistic about the number of hours you study each week. Even though you’ll probably be studying more than you’ve had to ever in your life, locking yourself away with your books all day isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Be mindful of how you feel. Staying consistent throughout the semester will be helpful if you want to achieve higher grades. And while a high GPA is important, always remember to include time for people and things you love in your weekly schedule. Whether it’s playing a sport, making art, or simply meeting with a friend, find a happy outlet that will anchor you throughout this remarkable odyssey.

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Meet Our Guest Blogger

Ana María Báez is a third-year law student and a graduate of communications and political science. She has done freelance content writing for Merodea’s lifestyle section and for HerCampus.com. She has a love for all things media and writing; and she has a passion for cooking and yoga.

What NOT to do on Social Media in 2018

e-Books, CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment

Today, social media is as important as your website and your storefront.

Social media is, for the most part, the first thing people see online and it needs to look consistent, clear, on brand and of course, pretty! It’s your business card and you wouldn’t give an ugly or misspelled business card to potential customers, wouldn’t you? But if you were one of those people who didn't care much about social media, I’m glad you clicked on this post. 👊🏽

As part of the millennial generation, I grew up along with the internet and watched the social media revolution unfold right in front of my eyes. From the MySpace and MSN Messenger days! As an adult, I completed my Bachelors Degree in Public Relations and Advertising, and even though I mainly learned about the traditional media side and none of the digital and technical aspects, knowing the basics really helped me have a clearer perspective towards digital marketing. 

I began my career at the tender age of 21 at a small digital marketing agency where I learned all the basics about social media marketing for businesses. In 2013, looking for ways to express myself in a written manner while implementing everything that I was learning in my full time job, I decided to start ambinity.

But contrary to what some people think, starting a blog wasn't as beautiful and easy as it looks. 

giphy

Yes, I already knew the social media basics, but being a blogger involved learning basic coding, search engine optimization (SEO), photography, and most importantly, finding my niche, just so I could start building a community online. I quickly realized that when it comes to having an online presence, without a community, you are doomed. 

You can imagine that after blogging for more than four years, I have seen quite a few changes in social media, including trends that have come and go. I have even been asked far too many times about tips on social media, which to be really honest, is not something I can just write on an email or text message. It took me a lot of time, research and effort to learn about this crazy world. But before I get into any more details (e-book details! 🎉), I decided to write down exactly what I wouldn't recommend you keep doing in 2018:

What not to do on Social Media in 2018

  • Asking for likes or shares. Yes, this was all the rage back in 2012, but in 2018 it looks tacky and desperate. If you need some type of feedback, ask for comments or make a survey. If you really need those likes and shares, there are plenty of ways you can achieve this through social media advertising platforms without looking cheap. 
  • Thinking that the only way to engage with an audience is by purchasing ads. Even though this is a great way to build an audience, I highly suggest you master organic reach and engagement. How do you achieve this? Testing, testing and more testing. Maybe your Facebook audience responds more in at 6PM on Fridays and maybe your Instagram audience expects a story from you on Mondays at 10AM. It's all about being open to possibilities and changes. 
  • Not having an editorial calendar. Consistency is key in social media. When you're trying to build a faithful audience, they need to know exactly when and where they will find your lovely content. Invest a few hours each month in creating an editorial calendar and you will quickly see your audience engage. 
  • Having different social media handles on different social media channels. I get it. Not all of us are lucky enough to have found our business names on all our social media channels. Nevertheless, try to make it work for you. Maybe you didn't find @yourbusiness, but you did find @yourbusinessPR on all channels. The important thing here is to assume that your audience is lazy and if they can't easily find you the first time, you probably lost them! 
  • Using your social media channels as a hard sales platform. No, this is not the place to share a newspaper ad. No, this is not the place to include everything you want to say in an art. No, this is not the place to saturate your audience with BUY NOW, LIMITED TIME OFFER, MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Enough said? Good. 
  • Not linking your social media channels to your website. This seems obvious, but you will me amazed at the amount of starting small businesses I've seen without their social media channels on their website. Remember, this is how people are going to receive constant updates from you! 
  • Ignoring analytics. Have you linked Google Analytics to your website? Do you invest a good chunk of your time each day to carefully going over what's working for your social media posts and what's not? If not, you're missing time and money. But luckily for you, I talk all about it in my e-Book
  • Ignoring Instagram Stories. I am guilty of this one. For far too long I was too lazy and didn't care about Instagram stories, because I thought it required too much creativity that I was already putting out into creating blog posts. But I decided to start exploring it lately and I have been seeing huge results within my audience. Make your stories work for you!
  • If you have a business, not blogging on behalf of your business. This is a sneak peek into our next e-book! Subscribe here so you know exactly when it launches. 

Did you identify yourself in any of these mistakes? You probably did because even I have done one of these before! But before you panic, I have a solution for you!

Introducing ambinity's first eBook: 

Easy Social Media Management for Small Business Owners and Bloggers. 

WHO is this e-book FOR?

Small business owners or bloggers who want to take their social media marketing skills to the next level. 

How much does this e-Book cost?

The regular price is $30 but if you subscribe to our newsletter here, you will receive an exclusive 30% off discount code right to your email! Seriously, all you need to do is SUBSCRIBE!

What does this e-Book include?

  • Social media basics
  • How to properly choose social media platforms.
  • How to curate content for each platform.
  • Making an editorial calendar. 
  • Working with influencers. 
  • Crisis management
  • Action plans

Final Statement:

This book is a recompilation of everything that I've learned over these years and most of the questions I've received since I began working in digital marketing. If you feel you need to learn about social media or know someone who will benefit from this e-book, it will mean the world that you purchase it! It was a lot of hard work and the profits will help me keep creating free content for all of you to keep enjoying. 

THANK YOU!

Until next time, 

María Elena

 

Agendas for the New Year

Career, LifestyleMaría Elena RodríguezComment
agendas for 2018

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Now that Christmas is over, we are all thinking about the new year... Or is it just me?

Ever since I can remember, New Years was my favorite holiday, because I like to look at January as the Monday of the year. Even though time doesn't ever stop, having a new year is the perfect way to trick your mind into making a fresh start with to-do's and some new goals to make that new turn of the sun the best one yet. So the best way I have found for me to accomplish this, is by having a lovely agenda I can write all things down.

But getting on this agenda hunt is not an easy task if you take it as seriously as I do. Should you get a ring bound or a notebook type? A bullet journal or a Filofax? A weekly or a daily agenda? A vertical or horizontal setup? The possibilities are endless so I put together some of the best agendas for 2018 that I found shopping online to make your experience a little bit easier. Enjoy! 

Kate Spade Agendas

UPDATE: Kate Spade Agendas on sale right now here!

I think this is probably everyone's favorite agenda. They are always so witty, fun and colorful that they are irresistible! Plus they make the perfect gifts. I specially love this one this year since it has a zipper pouch perfect for on the go. 

Lilly Pulitzer also comes out with similar agendas each year, but I don't really love them for this moment of my life, since they are so busy in color and design. 

Ban.do Agendas

These are pretty much like the Kate Spade but a little bit more fun. If you're into stickers, these could be your favorites! I specially like this one that says "I don't work here" if you're into passive aggressiveness like I am. Ha! 

Bullet Journal

This is something that I've tried to get into several times, but I just don't have the patience. You will love it, if you are really into doodling and making lists. This is basically the best way to customize your agenda. The traditional way to use a bullet journal is with a squared or dotted Moleskine, but you could also use it with a regular ring bound notebook like this one. You do you! Here's a cool video to inspire you, from the queen of Bullet Journaling, AmandaRachLee on Youtube. 

10 Year Plan

Looking for planners I came across this one and I knew I had to put it in since it's so different than everything I've seen lately. If you are really ambitious and like to really see the bigger picture, you could go with this planner. 

Shop your favorite agenda:

#MeToo

Career, Health, Popular, Real Talk, Lifestyle, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment

Disclaimer: I feel the obligation to express that I'm well aware that the story I'm about to share doesn't even begin to compare to stories about rape and molesting. I have so much respect and admiration for people like Loraima from Lorriento who are brave enough to share their heartbreaking stories in order to empower other women to do the same. That's why even though I didn't believe I was worthy of being part of the #MeToo campaign, I'm sharing my story in the hopes of raising awareness about the importance of speaking out about men using their power to sexually misconduct. 

#metoo

I was 23 years young, starting my career in the communications industry. It was christmas season and one of the clients at the agency I was working for had a meeting/ christmas party among their business partners in a very well known male predominated industry. I was excited for this event because it would be a chance to network and meet some cool people in my field. 

When the meeting ended, I went over to the self-serving catering counter to get some food, just like everybody else. While I was serving myself some arroz mamposteao, a middle aged man came uncomfortably close behind my back, grabbed me by my waist, slowly moved his hand across it and whispered in my ear "What is the menu for today, sweety?". This man, who I had never even been introduced to or talked to before, was a partner at a very well known advertising agency. An advertising agency were I hoped I would one day work for. 

During the 5-10 seconds that moment lasted, which felt like ages, I remember feeling overwhelmingly powerless and ashamed. So ashamed that I didn't look at anyone in the eye for about an hour.

Sadly, this is not my only story about staying silent after being inappropriately touched or feeling uncomfortable around men. Most of my stories are from my teenage years, from being honked at and cat called by men in cars who saw me wearing my school uniform (let that sink in for a minute) to being touched with the index finger in the opening of my pant "to let me know that my pant's fly was open" by the father of a very close relative's friend. I was 16 years old. 

The worst part? Almost every single woman in my life has gone through a similar or a worse situation than I have. From being abused as a child by a family member to not being able to get a promotion at work because she won't sleep with her boss. It is so common and we are so used to it, that we speak about it as a normality. Complaining but not doing anything about it. Because either people won't believe us or if we speak out it would affect us in some way. 

Breaking the Silence

time 2017 person of the year

Now, it's 2017 and even though the political status is the opposite of adequate, we have a huge feminist movement that is empowering women all around the world to speak up and not only fight for our rights, but to call out all the men who have gotten away with their inappropriate behaviors without consequences. Which is why I was super excited about Time Magazine choosing their Person of the Year as the Silence Breakers. But this morning I saw this top comment on Facebook and felt immediately triggered and disappointed with humanity:

#metoo

Let me tell you exactly why I didn't speak out right away:

  • I thought I was overreacting. 
  • I thought people would tell me I was overreacting. Turns out this was the case in the rare occasion I did speak out as a teenager. 
  • For some damn reason I thought it was my fault.
  • Was it the clothes I was wearing? Did I wear too much makeup? Did I invite him in some way? No, no and definitely no. 
  • I had the delusional thought that people would automatically asume I was this man's mistress.
  • I was raised to believe that women who argue and speak up for themselves are not likable. 
  • I was so embarrassed and in shock that I just stayed there motionless and completely mute not knowing what I should say or do.
  • I thought if I said something I would've made a fool out of myself.
  • I didn't want to embarrass my current employer who had just recently employed me.
  • I didn't want to miss my chance of working for this disgusting man's advertising agency. (Oh, what a fool I was!)
  • I didn't want to be labeled as a trouble maker in the industry.
  • I really thought speaking up would end my career.
  • I was embarrassed.
  • I felt disgusting.
  • I felt powerless. 

What I would've done different if it had happened to me today:

  • I would've told him right away that I felt uncomfortable. 
  • I would've spoken to my employer about the situation. 

Conclusion

Feeling uncomfortable is enough reason to speak up. I repeat: Feeling uncomfortable is enough reason to speak up. FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE IS ENOUGH REASON TO SPEAK UP.

None of the excuses I had for not speaking up would've been valid if we didn't live in a patriarchal society. A society that blames the victim and not the predator. The truth is: I felt uncomfortable, powerless and thought my career would be over if I called out this man for his inappropriate behavior.

That is enough to make us question how we are raising our children. It's 2017 and a woman is still being blamed for their rape and sexual assaults, for the plain reason of being too pretty to go out alone at night, for dressing however the fuck she wants, for wearing makeup and for being herself.

Finally, I really wanted to write what I would've done as a kid or teenager if any of the situations I lived through would've been worse. But I felt clueless. Who would I spoke out to? Who would believe me? Would I be blamed? And my heart breaks, because I know how many of you have gone through the worst case scenario. So please, speak your truth. You will be saving future generations from shame and suffering. 

#MeToo, 

María Elena Rodríguez