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career profiles

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:

Intern Diaries | Samaris Pagán's Journey at Merodea

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
Picture by  Rocío Lugo

Picture by Rocío Lugo

I first met Samaris Pagán at a makeup brand launching party. Not at the bar or in the dance floor, but at the makeup display, admiring everything shiny and new. We quickly started talking about makeup and our fascination for Tati Westbrook. So once I learned she used to be an intern at Merodea, I knew I had to interview her for the Intern Diaries Series. Because let's be real here, If I were in college right now, I would've died for an internship at Merodea, so the fact that she's already writing for the website and is one of the publication's faces (similar to Lucie Fink for R29!) before graduating college, amazes me. 

So get ready to get some serious advice from this girl! 

What are you studying in college and why?

I currently study General Communications with a minor in Journalism at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan. I've always loved writing but I felt like I could definitely learn a lot from other areas so that's why I decided on a General Communications Bachelors. I've taken all types of classes from marketing, advertising and public relations to radio. It wasn’t until I took an Introduction to Journalism class that I knew this was the path that I needed to take.

I'll finally be done by December this year. I am so beyond ready to put on that cap and gown and scream freedom.

samaris pagan - merodea at libros ac


How did you learn about the internship at Merodea?

It's actually a really random story. I had met Andrea Devoto, Merodea's Social Media Manager, at an event before, but then I literally never saw her again. Fast forward to a Journalism class we took together, we got to talking on all things fashion, Glossier and tacos. She mentioned that Merodea was looking for interns and next thing you know, I was getting interviewed the next week. So it’s all thanks to Andrea for giving me the heads up and in a way, motivating me to go for it.

Before Merodea, I was an intern assistant to both Beatriz Rodriguez and Margarita Alvarez. I helped them with all kinds of miscellaneous tasks for around 4-5 months and it was an amazing experience. They are such strong and creative women who, to this day, still inspire me. 



How did you imagine your first day at Merodea?


Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I've followed Merodea almost since the beginning and I’ve always admired everything they do. The thought of going on coffee runs everyday never had crossed my mind but I did imagine doing really simple tasks. I feel like with internships, you can’t expect to do anything major or groundbreaking. It’s a slow process where little by little, you start showing your potential in some areas and where you shine best. 

It’s a slow process where little by little, you start showing your potential in some areas and where you shine best. 
— Samaris Pagán
Samaris with fellow M-Intern, Laura Molina.

Samaris with fellow M-Intern, Laura Molina.


How did your first day go by? 

My first day was very scary but it was all from my part. I always tend to psyche myself out and think of the worst scenarios possible. But overall, it was a super chill first day. Everyone from the Team was so nice and they made me feel very comfortable. I did some pretty easy things (exactly what I had expected) like looking for potential social media images, generating captions for them, potential posts ideas for the website, etc.

What type of tasks were you assigned at the beginning?

I pretty much did the same duties I mentioned before. I didn't do any writing at first. I usually helped Andrea with social media duties. After that, I felt a lot more comfortable and I was able to express my interest in writing. The Team was open to the idea, so I was given creative freedom and it helped me develop a lot more confidence in my work.

I remember my first article, which was 5 things to do in Guánica and I was beyond ecstatic because it performed really well on social media. I got good feedback and even a cookie from Double Cake so I was over the moon.



What was your biggest challenge as an intern?

It definitely came down to one thing: English is my first language so it became a bit of a challenge writing certain things because I would literally translate them. It’s something I struggle with every single day. So when I would send my posts for revision, I would see all of the mistakes I was making, but I didn’t take this the wrong way. On the contrary, thanks to this, I have improved so much. I took advice from Andrea and started reading a lot from Vogue Mexico and España, which helped me even more with my writing. Apart from that, the only big challenge was preparing myself mentally for the end of my internship. [Insert violin sounds here]

From left to right: Andrea Devoto, Kisai Ponce and Samaris Pagán. Source: Facebook.

From left to right: Andrea Devoto, Kisai Ponce and Samaris Pagán. Source: Facebook.

What was your favorite part of the Internship at merodea? 

I love how creative the women I work with are. I swear if you could sit one day in one of our brainstorming sessions, you would be amazed. That definitely had to be my favorite part of being an M-intern. Seeing how these women would make up concepts and later make them come to life and even being behind the whole process and scene of it all was truly rewarding.

 

Merodea could be considered a startup/ small business. How do you compare your internship to the experience of some of your peers that perhaps were doing internships at big and stablished corporations?

The grand majority of my friends would do internships at pharmaceuticals or engineering companies. So it's safe to say that they would do very different tasks than I would do. That doesn't mean that what I do doesn't matter or that it's less important. It still adds some kind of value to someone, somewhere. But at the same time, people have this incorrect perception that the job I’m in is super fabulous because I get to go to events, assist photo shoots and receive goodies. You can’t even imagine how wrong that is. Sure, it’s super fun to be able to do all of that but at the same time, it’s hard work. There are so many details that you have to keep in mind that even forgetting one can change anything. So regardless if you’re doing an internship in fashion or engineering, or if the company is small or big, you’re doing important and valuable work. 

Regardless if you’re doing an internship in fashion or engineering, or if the company is small or big, you’re doing important and valuable work
— Samaris Pagán



How were you offered the job as a writer?

I had started interning around April and by September/October, I was offered the writer position which in my case was altered for beauty and lifestyle. I was extremely surprised and humbled when Melissa, our CEO, sat me down and offered it to me. I couldn't believe it. One of my favorite local publications wants to hire lil' old me? I had various “pinch me I’m dreaming moments”. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that have been brought to me. 



Not only did you become a Merodea writer after your internship, you ended up being one of the faces of publication. tell me a little about your experience representing Merodea in social media?

Again, it has been insanely humbling to represent in any way or form the face of Merodea. I don't want to sound snob-ish but it's an awesome feeling. Simply because like I said before, I feel like doing these things: creating content, doing live first impressions, I’m helping someone with a problem whether it's which face mask in the market is better or if the latest beauty trend is worth your time and money.

 

Was it something that came in natural or was it a process of adaptation?

I'll admit: it didn't come super natural. If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m the most millennial person you’ll ever meet and I may seem pretty confident at first but I do have my shy moments, especially when cameras are around. This is where my insecurities get the best of me. But I find them very normal and in no way or form should they be hidden. We all have insecurities and we choose when and how we want to work on them but I think the best way to confront them is to stop avoiding them and attack them immediately. Exposing myself to these little things, whether it’s leading Merodea’s Instagram stories or being on the cover photo of one of my posts, has helped me be more open and confident to whatever comes my way. 

samaris pagan merodea


Do you have any organization tips or tricks to keep your academic and work life at check?

As I mentioned before, I am the most millennial person you’ll ever met. I say words like slay and lit and Glossier and Milk Makeup are my mains when it comes to beauty. But when it comes to organization wise, I’m so old school, it’s hilarious. I got my trusty old daily planner from Anthropologie to keep me as organized as possible. Besides Merodea, I work in retail and I go to school so this planner has definitely saved my life because my weeks never look empty. So whether it’s a digital calendar or a physical planner, get one please. They will be your mom when she’s not always around.



What advice would you give other students who are looking for a paying job after finishing an internship?

I would tell them that they need to be open to anything. The word “no” can’t be an answer when you’re interning. The possibilities within internships are endless so denying them would be a shame. I also learned from Melissa that if you see something that is wrong or can be fixed, do something about it. Whining and moaning will get you nowhere. Do your work and if any bumps in the road come your way, find the way to deal with them. 


What have you learned from the Merodea Team?

Persistence is key. You can’t just give up because things get hard. If that were the case, we would all be lost. Also collaboration over competition is very important. As a team consisting of all women, it’s essential for us to always remember to be inclusive because we know, at the end of the day; the job gets done with much ease when we work together. 

Part of the Merodea Team at the #MerodeaSummerCabana this past June. // Picture by Adriana Corbet

Part of the Merodea Team at the #MerodeaSummerCabana this past June. // Picture by Adriana Corbet

As a team consisting of all women, it’s essential for us to always remember to be inclusive because we know, at the end of the day; the job gets done with much ease when we work together. 
— Samaris Pagán


Based on your current work experience and skills, what advice would you give yourself back in your first day of college? 

You’re going to be fine. Stop stressing so much. Breathe, little one. Those are some of the things I would say to 17-year-old Samaris right now. To me, starting college was, in a way, the end of all things regarding my childhood. I avoided adulting as much as possible but I’m glad I got over my silly fears and faced them. Sometimes, I still avoid adulting but taking on so many responsibilities, in my work place and university duties, had done a great deal for me, professionally and personally. 

Random facts about Samaris:

Dog or cat: Dogs
Coffee or tea: Coffee
Lipstick or liquid lipstick: Liquid lipstick (Kylie and Kat Von D)
Snapchat Stories or Instagram Stories: Instagram for aesthetics, Snapchat for silliness
Favorite local brand: LUCA, Necromancy Cosmetica, Sally Torres Vega, Luiny
Favorite blog: Into The Gloss, The Anna Edit, Man Repeller, Atelier Dore
Person you admire: Leandra Medine & Daenerys Targaryen, unapologetic women who don’t give a shiz.
Favorite local shops: Moni & Coli, Love is You and Me and Collective Request.
Favorite makeup brand: Hard question because I’m always rotating but at the moment, Glossier and Burberry Beauty. 
Favorite branding: Glossier forever. Emily Weiss can do no wrong. 
Heels or flats: Flats
Favorite scent: I’m very into woody and smoky scents. 
Must have fashion accessory: Rings


BONUS! Want to be an Intern at Merodea? Send your resumé to info@merodea.com. Good luck! 

Career Profile | Mari Nieves, President and Founder of Pink Studios

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
Mari Nieves with her business partners:  Pakko and Lola!

Mari Nieves with her business partners: Pakko and Lola!

I believe this will be the most personal career profile I’ve ever made, because even though I've personally known Mari Nieves for a little over 6 months, I knew about Pink Studios before I met her and she knew about ambinity before she met me as well! It was the first time that I had met someone who we mutually followed and even had brand crushes on each other (aww).We literally went to lunch one day, clicked and I asked her to be one of my career profiles, since her story is of course, inspiring and fearless. What a love story! 

She has a broad experience coming from a computer engineering background, being a former Etsy Shop owner, managing a digital marketing team and now as a online marketing boutique agency founder. But what I've always admired about Mari is her online brand presence. She has a firm brand identity and a digital strategy that is clear from her business blog to all her social media channels. I mean, even her two poodles, Pakko Petardo and Lola Inés del Pilar are insta famous! The girl knows business, to the point she was even asked to talk to a group of psychology doctorate students about the importance of building a brand during a Business Development for Psychologists course!

So without further ado, here's the interview:

little mari nieves

What did you want to be as a Little girl?

I wanted to be a teacher, a pathologist or a veterinarian, but only for small dogs!

When did your passion for brands and marketing started?

I would say high school or a little later. I always liked computers, so my mom told me I should study something in that field. I've been creating websites since Sophomore year of high school, so fast forward to Senior year, I decided I wanted to study something that had to do with advertising and Internet. But they told me that didn’t exist! All I knew was that I liked computers, Internet and advertising! So since they told me it didn’t exist, I decided to go for the Computer Engineering major at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico (PUPR). Pleasing everyone who believes you should be a doctor, lawyer or engineer to succeed in life. 

During college, I really didn’t feel passion for computer engineering. But I excelled during classes that had to do more with Internet, e-commerce and project management. To the point that I was recommended for an internship at the Bioinformatics Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). 

Mari during her PUPR graduation

Mari during her PUPR graduation

You have experience in graphic design, but you didn't study anything in this field. Tell me a little bit of how it all began? 

I decided to stay in Palm Springs, California after my internship and even though it's a beautiful city, there is really not much to do there. But since I couldn't find a job, I decided to not get bored and started playing around with PhotoShop and Illustrator and sold my designs through my own Etsy Shop: Pink Studios

During my Etsy days, people asked me to design graphics for their businesses, which were mostly wedding and baking related. Then one of them asked me to create a blog website and from then on, the word of mouth kept spreading until Pink Studios became what it did.

Where did the Pink Studios name come from and why did you decide to create it?

It was originally going to be Ink Studios, because I wanted it to be all about prints and designs, but then the domain wasn't available. I asked myself "what about Pink Studios?" And I responded, "Pink Studios it is!" 

The problem is that a lot of people think that it is a super girly stereotype! 

How did you promote your Etsy Shop?

It was truly all word of mouth! Back then social media hadn't had the "big boom" and I also had an "ok" website, so I really didn't invest a dime at the beginning of my business.

But I did build a lot of relationships through Twitter! At that moment I wasn't that busy so I had enough time to go out of my way to tweet to people for business follow ups. 

How was your experience jumping from web development and design into social media strategy at a Telecommunications company?

They hired me and someone else in order to manage their newly launched social media channels. I remember this was during the first days of Facebook Ads and all we wanted was just like $20 to test out boosting and it would always get denied. We were such rookies. 

How was your experience managing digital communications for a private University system? 

After the telecommunications company I was hired to be a web master and social media manager at technical college. Then one day while my boss was on vacation, she put me in charge of media buys. It turns out I loved digital media planning so my boss slowly let me have more control over these topics. After that, I worked my way up the corporate ladder. 

How was that transition from mid level to upper management?

I was promoted by seniority and because I had the most hands on experience in the digital field. My co-workers were actually really nice about it! The only way I had to change was in terms of co-workers relationship. I used to be one of them, so I had to draw the boss line with them. That was the hardest part for me! I wanted to be a cool boss but also be respected. But in the end I realized there's no way to be a cool boss. 

Nevertheless, my second promotion was a little bit more difficult because it's when the company decided to join the Digital and Traditional Marketing Teams, since it was spread out in different business units. I became the manager of my entire team and let's just say, it was pretty competitive! I was also very young and bubbly, so it was harder to gain other people's respect. 

What did you learn from your highest position in this company?

I learned to prioritize, to plan ahead, to create systems and trackers for everything. I have a Type A personality so organization is essential. I also learned that you need to draw line between coworkers to keep a healthy work environment. 

Overall, I learned that tomorrow's a new day and sometimes you can't complete everything "today"; healthy breaks are good to boost productivity. Also, working together as a team is what brings the success of the team; it's not what I do, or you do; it's what we do together. 

What did you like the most about managing a team?

Helping each other grow and becoming a family! 

Mari Nieves and her former team.

Mari Nieves and her former team.

What were the top three lessons you learned from managing a team?

  1. Being friends with your team: Even though I told you earlier not to be one, I do believe it is good to be a family. If they love and respect you, they will do a better job.

  2. Try to find a way to identify with your team: Let them know that you are also working really hard beside them.

  3. Let them know when they do a good job!

Tell me a little bit about the health reasons you decided to quit?

Once I start something, I commit to it. But unfortunately my father was diagnosed with cancer and went under surgery while I was starting my new managing role. 

That's when I started to develop a condition called Costochondritis, which is basically really intense chest pains, but I just kept going with pain killers. I even started to have a weird pain in my toe, which I later found out it was all somatization, which is a way the body looks for other ways to release the stress. 

Now, don't get me wrong, of course I can handle stress! But the level I was in, I needed some type of solution, so I looked for it and look at me know. 

When did you decide to go full time with Pink Studios?

Almost a year ago I decided to quit and give this a chance, even though I loved my duties in my full time job with passion. But I wasn't happy and it was harming my health. I figured that if Pink Studios didn't work out, there's always LinkedIn and Monster, but if I never tried I would never know if it actually worked. I calculated to see how much time I could live off my savings and until now I have been able to achieve my monthly finance goals effectively. 

My decision to quit my full time job was one of the hardest I've ever made, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am now. I am not a millionaire, but that is the end goal! I would've never met you, or thought that I could be making the income I am making on my own, in my beautiful office with Pakko and Lola and working with such important brands. 

mari nieves pink studios

Did you have any stablished clients once you decided to quit your full time?

No one! I left because my health was being compromised. 

Your brand appeals a lot to feminine qualities. Did you have a clear idea of who your ideal client was?

It certainly helped me attract cool clients like wedding coordinators, event planners, bakers, etc. But it wasn't on purpose.  In the end of the day, I'm not such a pink person, I like all colors! 

I do know it could be a down side because some people think that I'm just an innocent girl behind the company. Sadly, in any industry, when something is too girly, is not that good. 

What is the most difficult part of having your own business in the digital marketing field?

Competition. I'm not the best or the worst, but I've worked really hard to be where I am today. If you think about it, the digital marketing world started in 2008, so anyone who tells you they have 20 years of experience in the digital marketing world is lying. But it's such a brand new industry that there's a lot of ignorant people who think that they know what they're talking about. 

There's also a lot of agencies and freelancers that promote themselves as experts, but they really aren't. So they go ahead and give these ridiculous prices to create or manage something the wrong way. This usually leads the client to look for someone who actually knows what they're doing and once you charge them more, they're thrown away by your prices! 

pink studios digital marketing puerto rico

What would you tell someone who wants to make it in the digital marketing field?

Get educated, read every day and go for it! It is an ever changing industry, where the competition is fierce. 

What do you think has helped you succeed in your career?

What helps me effectively execute in digital marketing is my web development knowledge and experience. I am not a super web master or web designer, but having that knowledge helps me give accurate directions while working with clients.

What advice would you give yourself right after graduating college?

I would tell myself that "what-ifs” get you nowhere. In life you have to take risks in order to follow your dreams.

The things that we want in life rarely come out of nowhere, but some people have a lot of luck! But if you never take a risk you will never know if your dreams could become your lifestyle. It sounds cliché, but it is better an "oops" than a "what if". 

mari nieves pink studios

Random questions with Mari Nieves:

mari nieves pink studios
  • Plan or Improvise: Plan, but I like to improvise every once in a while.

  • Favorite Social Media Channel: Facebook

  • Social Media Story: Snapchat! Since I have a social media strategy for all my channels, I am more selective with who I accept and I can be more free.

  • Home Office Essentials: A fun bulletin board, pins, notebooks and an agenda.

 

Career Profile | Lio Maldonado, Hair and Makeup Artist

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
Picture by  Marcos Caballero/ Sky Lens Media  // Hair by Lio Maldonado

Picture by Marcos Caballero/ Sky Lens Media // Hair by Lio Maldonado

Every three months I go to my routine haircut with one of the funnest and talented persons I know: Lio Maldonado. I first met him back in 2012 when I walked into It's Miranda Salon in Guaynabo and asked for a hair stylist that liked to work on long hair, because I was so tired of hairstylists cutting my hair too short! (I bet we've all been there). They immediately told me "Lio is your guy!" And I've been trusting that guy for the last 5 years with absolutely no regret. 

He's the only hairstylist that I feel completely confident telling him to have fun with my hair. Plus, every time I sit on his chair, it's like I'm talking to a friend. We talk about hair, makeup, fashion and Beyonce, of course. But, I'm always mesmerized by all the advances in his career, by all the celebrities he's been booking and all the traveling he gets to do with them! He's living the life he loves and he has been achieving it by his talent and charm. I always knew I wanted to interview him one day for you guys and the day is finally here! 

What did you want to be as a child and why?

When I was a little boy I always thought I would be a cartoon animator. I loved drawing!

When did your interest in beauty and fashion start?

Lio and his dad // Pic provided by Lio

Lio and his dad // Pic provided by Lio

It's a funny story because I was never too attracted by beauty and fashion. I honestly started in this industry thanks to my dad. While I was enrolling at Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico (EAP), I had to move from Hatillo to San Juan and my dad couldn't afford my entire tuition. So he randomly suggested I took a cosmetology course before I started School so I could work at a beauty salon in San Juan and help him cover my tuition. 

It was super weird and random to me, but once I started studying cosmetology I liked it, so I stayed. Even though I registered for my first class at EAP, I decided to stay in cosmetology school since I already had a job at a beauty salon. 

What was your first experience doing hair and makeup?

Since this was such a random decision, my first experience was in the classroom! I had never done makeup on anyone before. Even though I was always really good drawing and painting, I was terrified of doing makeup. 

What was Your first experience in a beauty salon?

It was at a salon in Arecibo, where I stayed for about 8 months. Once I started getting called for all these shoots in San Juan, I decided to move closer to the fashion scene. 

You grew up miles away from san juan's Fashion Scene. how did get your foot in the door?

Once I started studying cosmetology I was more inclined to fashion. I remember going to Walgreens and seeing a magazine called InFashion and knowing that's what I wanted to do. And I don't know how, maybe by faith, but my first job in San Juan was precisely for that same magazine! A friend of mine, who happens to be the brother in law of one of the Ecliptica designers referred me. We clicked and people kept calling me for their shows from that moment on. All by word of mouth! 

What did you end up studying?

I have a degree in barbershop. Once I started cosmetology school, I knew nothing about the beauty world, so I wanted to learn about everything! I decided to start by what I knew and liked less, which was barbershop. My plan was to finish barbershop and then start studying cosmetology, but I decided to stop at barbershop!

Then how are you so good at makeup?!

I learned my makeup skills from Youtube. I already had a good hand because I had drawing techniques. But I was terrified of makeup! I had no idea of what was a foundation or face powder... That's why I started with hair styling.

Makeup wasn't like I was used to with painting, it was a person's face! It doesn't get more personal than that.

Do you believe that formal education is i important in order to be a hair stylist or makeup artist?

It's all about practice. Whenever someone comes to me and asks me how I do this, I always tell them to be realistic with themselves about their art skills. It is much more about practice than theory. Unless when it comes to hair coloring! 

Who was your first celebrity client?

I don't remember clearly, but I do remember I was very excited when I first started having celebrity clients! ¡Me jayaba! I didn't care that much about having them in my portfolio. I really wanted to satisfy every single client and be nice to them so they would call me back and take me into consideration for other events. 

I really wanted to satisfy every single client and be nice to them so they would call me back and take me into consideration for other events. 
— Lio Maldonado

How did you end up at it's miranda salon?

When they called me I had several offers from other salons and I was really indecisive about which decision to make. But I remember that at one of the Ecliptica shows, Sandra Miranda (It's Miranda's owner) came over to personally make me the offer. I loved how spontaneous and fun Sandra was! Her vibes clicked with me instantly and once she showed me the salon, I fell in love with the place. 

Even though a lot of hairstylists switch salons quite frequently, I have stayed here because I love that we all get along great and the management is super flexible with my bookings. 

To what do you owe your success in the fashion industry?

Lio Maldonado and Annie Jo Galib // Pic provided by Lio

Lio Maldonado and Annie Jo Galib // Pic provided by Lio

I honestly owe most of it to Annie Jo Galib, who was in my opinion, the best stylist Puerto Rico has ever had. 

I still remember that she recommended me for one of my first photoshoots with Gustavo Arango. He told me to do something a vanguard, so I got inspired by an Alexander McQueen runway for the model's hair. But once Annie Jo saw the model, she screamed: "She looks like Frankestein's wife! Take that off right now. So ugly!" I literally started crying while undoing the model's hair.

I really though they were never going to call me back but the complete opposite happened. She was actually the person who introduced me to Kany Garcia! She's definitely my mentor. 

What have you learned about styling big celebrities like Roselyn Sanchez, Tommy Torres, Denise Quiñones, Giselle Blondet, Juanes and Kany García?

The most important quality a stylist needs to make it into the celebrity scene is to be discrete. You can't be a celebrity worshipper if you want to gain the celebrity's trust. You could be out of the game in no time! 

I try to please them as much as I can. They know how the celebrity world works, so whatever they ask for, I deliver. You have to establish your creative stamp, while still pleasing them.

The most important quality a stylist needs to make it into the celebrity scene is to be discrete.
— Lio Maldonado

You were April Carrión's hair and makeup stylist for the reality show, RuPaul Drag's Race. How has that experience helped your career?

I have known Jason Carrión since before he became April, so once he entered the RuPaul Drag's Race, he asked me to be his stylist. 

Even though it was all behind the scenes, it expanded my network a lot. The art of the drag queen or transformation is not very well known in Puerto Rico, so once I helped April in RuPaul, I've had female clients come to me, just because they know my work in the show! 

Lio Maldonado and April Carrión // Pic provided by Lio

Lio Maldonado and April Carrión // Pic provided by Lio

As a makeup and hair stylist with thousands of followers, what social media advice would you give an aspiring artist? 

Social media is the most assertive way to reach people. I can say 85% of my clients are people who know my work from social media. 

I used to have personal accounts where I would share some of my professional work, but it wasn't my priority. Just recently I opened a profesional Instagram account and a Facebook page that have helped me a lot. 

Also, sharing Facebook videos of my makeup transformations has been a huge boost in my career! I really didn't want to do makeup tutorials because I am really private about my makeup secrets, but I wanted to share videos of my work so people could see my artistic skills. I wanted to show that my job is #nofilter!  

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

Working with L'Oreal as a Brand Ambassador is one of my proudest moments since it is one of the most complete and important brands in the world. 

Also being able to travel with Kany García is super huge for me. I'm so lucky to be able to travel doing what I love. 

What advice will you give someone who wants to make it as a hair and makeup and stylist? 

You better work bitch! Honestly, give it your all and be objective with your work. Go the extra mile, look at your job from another perspective and listen to people's opinion. It's all about image! It's very important for people to like your work. 

Who's your dream client?

Obviously JLo is every makeup artist's dream! But it sounds funny and random, but I would have to say Belinda. I used to love her face since I was a little kid. She's so gorgeous! 

Random facts:

  • Eye Shadow Palette - Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani (sold out!)

  • Highlighter - Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit

  • Lipstick - Zoe's Red by L'Oreal Colour Riche

  • Blush - Infallible Blush by L'Oreal

  • Brows - L'Oreal Brow Stylist Definer

  • Foundation - L'Oreal True Match

  • Concealer - Nars Creamy Radiant Concealer

  • Bronzer - I don't use bronzer.

  • Shampoo - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Conditioner - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Leave In - It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Plus Keratin

  • Hair Mask - L'Oreal Total Repair

  • Curls, Blow Dry or Straight Hair - Blow dry always!

 

Shop Lio's Favorites:

From Intern to Full Time Employee at DOT Communications

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
karla hernandez dot communications

Kiara was the first person who ever contacted me to send me some products from one of her brands she works with at DOT Communications, back when ambinity was just a baby. I still remember the excitement! She was one of the first people who clearly believed in me and has been a great supporter of ambinity ever since. She even referred me to Alfredo Monterola, the Makeup Artist & Spoke Person for L'Oreal Paris Puerto Rico, so I could interview him for one of my firsts career profiles

I always admired that with such a young age (she's currently 23!), Kiara has that much passion and dedication towards her job. She even describes her job's creative process as feeling butterflies in her belly! I mean, who wouldn't feel passionate about working with Maybelline, Garnier, Essie, NYX and L'Oreal?! So when I found out she was an intern at DOT Communications before going full time, I knew I had to interview her for the Intern Diaries series. Hope you enjoy it!

What did you study in college and why?

I studied Advertising and Public Relations in the School of Communication at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras Campus. 

My dad was a radio host for a long time, so that's where I first got my influence in the communications industry. And to be really honest, I first heard about the term "public relations" from Kelly Cutrone back in high school. In that moment I wanted to do what she was doing because she was THE boss. I loved that she didn't wear trendy clothing or wear a lot of makeup. 

Did you have good grades in college?

Yeah, I really did. But I wasn't a nerd; I would study to get good grades, but I wasn't a book worm. 

Do you think it was important to have good grades in order to do your job right today?

I don't believe that having a 4.0 should be your only goal in college because I honestly feel like your experiences are your presentation card. Like for example, if I had the chance to hire someone for my team right now, I would value much more their experiences, their internships or studying abroad programs. All those things open up your perspective to the world and give you empathy for other people. 

I always recommend to do two things during college: 1) Do an internship and 2) study abroad. 

Have you traveled?

Yes, I studied abroad at the Universidad de Málaga in Spain. 

College can help you a lot in your growth as a person, but if you don't travel to different places you will never value what your are taught at home. I am more aware than ever that the UPR is outstanding. I came back prouder than ever to say that I studied Communication at the UPR!

kiara hernandez dot communications
kiara hernandez dot
kiara hernandez
kiara hernandez dot communications
intercambio en europa upr

What was your first job during college? 

I was a student assistant at the Jose M. Lázaro Library at the UPR. I did a lot of things like checking everyone's bags to make sure no one was stealing stuff and worked at the information desk to make sure people knew where to find the right information they were looking for.  

I also received a lot of academic journals that I had to catalog, which was an experience that really helped my career. That's how I got informed about news from around the world. I learned how to step out of my shell and get comfortable with the world's media.

Did you have any other jobs that helped you grow during college?

My first "real" job before graduating college was at the Puerto Rico's edition of the Real Estate Book Magazine. Here I did a little bit of everything; from sales to coordination with designers. Since it was such a small team, I learned a lot about account management. I even once shot the cover picture of the magazine! 

How did you balanced work and school?

I’ve been working since I was 14 years old, so I’ve always known that if I want something, I have to work for it. You could say I’m a hustler!
— Kiara Hernández

I did my internship while working as an assistant student and every weekend I would go back to Fajardo, my hometown, to work at my uncle's tripleta business, La Jaltera. I did these three things for like a year! Even though I had the privilege of having parents who could provide the basics for me, I still had to go grocery shopping, pay for gas, my personal expenses and so on. 

I've been working since I was 14 years old, so I've always known that if I want something, I have to work for it. You could say I'm a hustler! 

dot communications kiara hernandez

But did you have a social life?!

I did have a social life. I feel like my last year of high school and my first two years of college were really my time to party. But after that, I really wasn't interested in going out that much. Even to this day, I would rather do nothing at home. That is my guilty pleasure! 

Just breath deeply and if you have to cry, cry. If you have to laugh hysterically, do it!
— Kiara Hernández

I also believe that once you start working at such a young age, you have a sense of responsibility that helps you balance life. But don't get me wrong, I still had days where I asked myself what am I even doing?! Is this even worth it? But that is normal, because I always had a clear goal in my mind. Just breath deeply and if you have to cry, cry. If you have to laugh hysterically, do it! 

How did you find out about the internship opportunity at DOT Communications?

During my time in COPU I had the opportunity of doing an internship for university credits, which is not mandatory, but I still enrolled. We had to do three different interviews in different work environments, and I ended up here: in my version of Kelly Cutrone! 

How was that interview like?

The person who interviewed me was Deliana Olmo (DOT Communications' president) and it was actually a very quick interview. But she did asked me for a portfolio of my school projects. 

How was your first day at DOT Communications?

Everybody was super welcoming and I had a few mentors, which is great. I was like, "this is it! This is my Kelly [Cutrone] moment!" I remember I came into the office in heels and a full face of makeup for like a week. Now I am all about a messy bun and a little bit of moisturizer and we're set! 

What was your first duty as an intern?

Since it was the first day, clippings and reports. Basic intern duties! 

What was your most memorable event during your internship?

During my first week, I had already attended a press event, where I had to work at the press registry! I was super nervous, but I really appreciated the opportunity. Usually you hear about internships where interns are just running for coffee and basic errands. But in DOT that was really not my case. I assisted in a lot of events; from simple sit down lunches to big events like San Juan Moda. I really love that DOT gives interns the opportunity to do more than just clippings. 

How did you control the nervousness of the first few days?

By practicing and actually doing what I was asked to do. That is the most important thing. Instead of just saying "this is not my thing" or "I'm not doing it right, I'm doing something else", just do it. That is the only way you will eventually find the confidence you need. 

What was the favorite part of your internship experience? 

Everyone still receives me with open arms. It is not an office where people don't talk or look at each other. The DOT culture is very friendly and welcoming and we really try to cultivate that each day in order to bring more joy into our environment. 

Also I really enjoy that they give interns the opportunity to do so much more than just the basics. That is the way to open your eyes into what the industry actually is. 

dot communications, public relations puerto rico

How did the full time job position came about?

Everything was kind of a chain of events. I did my internship from September to December 2014, but since there was so much work during my last month, they asked me to stay for a little longer. So that's how from December 2014 to June 2015 I was a part time freelancer by coming to the office three days a week! Then in June 2015 I became a full time employee. 

What has been your favorite part of working at DOT?

I love working in a place where I get to develop and express my creativity daily. From basic planning to massive national campaigns. Everyday is a new stepping stone in my position and with everyday come new challenges and exciting moments. And obviously, who wouldn't love working in the beauty industry surrounded by endless choices of lipstick?   

What would you tell other girls who want to make it in Public Relations?

This is not what people tell you in the streets, it is not what they tell you in college, and it is definitely not what it seems. A lot of girls ask me how I got my job, because "it's so cool", but it is not about sitting anywhere and putting on makeup. This is hard work and you HAVE to like it in order to voluntarily be in all the stress we are constantly in. If you don't love what you do, you won't be happy. There's no happy medium. 

What advice will you give to someone who wants an internship in public relations?

Be humble, because there’s a good chance you will be working for free at first and it won’t necessarily be a dream internship.
— Kiara Hernández

Do a good research so you don't accept whatever offer comes your way. Also, be humble, because there's a good chance you will be working for free at first and it won't necessarily be a dream internship. But don't waste opportunities! You never know which doors will open. It's all about networking. 

What mistake you remember making during your first days at DOT communications and how did you fix it?

I used to assume that everyone had the same work ethics as I do. You have to learn to work with other people, because the way you do your job is not necessarily the only way or right way to do it. I am not saying I work better than other people, but it is a learning process. I still struggle with this.

Do you feel like your experience in Public Relations was more important than your education?

It is not about good grades, but my experience at the UPR helped me break out of my shell. I don't think education is important in terms of being a nerd or book worm, but it is key in terms of opening up your mind to new perspectives. 

Weather you like it or not, the UPR helps you be super independent! 

What is the biggest lesson you have taken out of all these experiences?

Regardless of all lessons I've had, the most important has to be that I did not settle. I learned to step out of my comfort zone if I don't feel at my full capacity. That's how you know this is not the place or industry for you. Make sure that you're doing what you know you are meant to do. 

What advice will you give your 18 year old self?

Don't be afraid and don't doubt yourself. Always have a next goal in mind!

What is the best part about working in Public Relations?

Even though DOT is a PR firm, we do a lot more. I love everything that has to do with the creative process. Like executing a digital strategy and taking it to the next level. That is what fills me with energy! Once you start developing that idea and you see the end result it's like BOOM! Star moment! And you feel all the butterflies in your belly. 

kiara hernandez dot communications

This or That with Kiara:

  • Dog or cat: DOG!
  • Coffee or tea: Coffee
  • Heels or platforms: Platforms
  • Lipstick or liquid lipstick: Lipstick
  • Snapchat Stories or Instagram Stories: Snapchat
  • Morning or night: Night
  • Mansion or yacht: Yacht. I am from Fajardo, Puerto Rico!
  • Beach or countryside: Beach!
  • Shoes or purses: Shoes, because I hate purses. If it were for me, I would use a man's wallet every day. 
  • Smokey eyes or cat eyes: Cat eyes

INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY!

If you are interested in applying for the internship program at DOT Communications, you can email your resume at info@communicationsbydot.com. Just remember to include your college year, name of school, in which area would you like to work at and why you should be chosen to be part of DOT's intern team. 

If you would like to read more career profiles like these, click here. As always, don't forget to share this post with your friends if you found it useful and subscribe to my newsletter so you never miss a blog post. :) 

Until next time, 

María Elena

 

 

 

Career Profile | Alex Beadon, Youtube Star and Founder of TheSparkLounge.com

CareerMaría Elena Rodríguez8 Comments

About three years ago, I was having one of those sucky days when you just wake up feeling sad and unfulfilled with life - this is when I first found out about Alex Beadon. I was about to head out for work and I knew I needed some motivation. So I got onto Youtube and searched something along the lines of, “How to live the life you love” or “How to fulfill your passion”, or something similar when I bumped over one of Alex’s videos. The girl clearly knows how to SEO her content!

Her energy and enthusiasm is what first caught my attention.She made me want to watch more and more of her videos and just like that, she became one of the influences that helped me put my fear aside and launch this blog. Just by listening and internalizing her Youtube videos on my way to work. Isn’t that amazing?

So being the influence she has been in my career, I decided to go ahead and send her a Snap (because she rules at Snapchat: TheAlexBeadon) telling her that I really wanted to interview her for my blog, which was extremely nerve-wracking to say the least! Her response was so nice that I decided to send her an email pitching my career profile, which she clearly accepted. I was thrilled.

Her career has been quite unusual and a dream for anyone who strives to live a life with intention and passion. I mean, she went from a wedding photographer to an internet marketing guru, making more than 6 figures a year and she isn’t even 30 years old yet.


She gives a whole new meaning to “content creation” by bringing her spark and joy over to Youtube, Snapchat, blog and online courses. So in case you didn’t notice, I am extremely excited to take you into the world of Alex Beadon, the girl behind AlexBeadon.com, Feel Good Blogging, The School of Killer Impressions, and her most recent launch, The Spark Lounge, which I am proudly a part of. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

What did you want to do when you were little?


When I was a little girl, the very first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut. I just thought that going into space would be the coolest thing ever, but then my neighbor told me there were space aliens that would kill me, so I was like ok – I guess I’m not going to be an astronaut! Then, I wanted to be a doctor and a singer. I basically went through so many different transformations of what I thought I wanted to be when I was young.

By the time that I graduated college, I knew that what it was expected of me was to go out and get a corporate job, but I wanted to be a photographer because I loved photography. And it made no sense because I never studied photography and I had no experience, but for me it’s always worth taking the risk and putting everything into making your dreams a reality because at the end of the day, it’s not easy to follow your dreams and do what your heart is telling you to do.

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. What I feel about what I do, is very, very important to me, so I always knew that I wasn’t going to be happy doing something that didn’t light me up and excite me. I knew in my heart that I really wanted to follow my passion and do what I love. When you follow your intuition, your passion, and you do what really lights you up inside, it can never lead you into the wrong direction.

When you follow your intuition, your passion and you do what really lights you up inside, it can never lead you into the wrong direction.
— Alex B.

What did you actually study in college then?

I studied management with marketing. I was always interested in advertising and really thought it was fascinating how companies could communicate with their audience. I was particularly fascinated by pop stars - how they market their music and how they get their message out - especially, when you see people doing it in a really different and unique way like when Lady Gaga first came out; she really mastered the art of becoming famous! Or, if you look at Beyoncé today when she drops these albums out of nowhere and they do really well, it’s like a surprise visual album. It’s like when our parents used to buy tapes or CDs and listen to albums the whole way through from start to finish, but today we just listen to singles and we don’t give the full album the attention that it deserves. As an artist I love how she (Beyoncé) came out with a way to get around that and make sure that her albums are getting the full attention from her best fans. I love when artists achieve what they want to achieve in unique ways that get people’s attention.

That was a very different way to round up your question! But yeah, I always definitely had an interest in marketing.

 

Okay, so I have to ask this. Every time I watch any of your Youtube or Snapchat videos, I always get so much energy! Were you always an extrovert or do you consider yourself to be an introvert and you just become this fierce character in front of the cameras?

I’m definitely not like this all the time. Some people who watch my videos and then they meet me in person for the first time, they think that I’m going to be super extroverted and super energetic throughout the whole conversation, but I’m actually quite reserved in social situations and I’m definitely more like an introvert.

I love spending time alone. I love reading, I love journaling, I love meditating, I love dance. I do a lot of those things by myself when I’m home alone, which I think are very introverted qualities. But I feel that when I’m on camera or even on my coaching calls, there’s always this little voice that says, “What if you can’t help them? What if you’re not going to be able to be your best today?” and I slowly let it go and let it pass, like cloud. Then, the coaching call starts and I feel this presence that it just comes out of me… I don’t know where it comes from… She’s like a boss! She knows her stuff! She takes over with such confidence and with such ease… I think what it comes down to is that I’m super passionate about these topics.

I believe in the concept “lifestyle design”. I really do believe that every single one of us should be constantly creating our lives to reflect the things that we most love and the things that we most desire. I noticed that whenever I talk about these topics, it’s like I light up as a human being. That’s really where the energy comes from. That’s just the outcome of expressing what you’re passionate about.

I never see bullying in your posts! That’s a blessing, since you have a lot of followers.

I don’t really get hate on my blog, but I get some hate on my Youtube videos, since it’s just like a black hole of people.

So how do you manage the bad comments?

I’m just so aware of my intentions and I know they’re good. I’m here to help people and I think that what I’m doing is really courageous because I put myself out there a lot with content and videos, webinars and advice. Basically, I put out a lot of free goodness for people. So I think that when people respond negatively about you, it says so much more about what they’re going through in their lives, rather than what you’re actually doing.

I also really love constructive criticism and there’s a really big difference between that and people who just comment to say really stupid things that have no value. When people deliver constructive criticism with love and kindness, it is something that I really cherish versus when people deliver nasty anonymous comments. It’s like, if you’re not actually in the arena with me, creating content and not bringing anything to the table, your opinion means nothing to me. I mean, the first time it happens, it takes your breath away, then the next time it does, it’s like, “Cool! Another bad comment”.

 

I think you’re really courageous about it. I remember this video you made about how you deleted 15,000 people out of your mailing list. That takes guts! I respect the fact that you decided to eliminate people who weren’t opening your emails.

I was at a point where I truly wanted the people on my VIP List (her mailing list) to actually cherish my emails... so if you’re not opening them, I’m just going to get rid of you and delete you. By doing that, I believe it strengthens the relationship with the people who actually open your emails and enjoy your content. It was actually way easier than what I thought it was going to be!

Okay so I don’t want to take your whole day making random questions! Did you get a job in your field right after college or did you just take the leap right into photography?

I moved home right after college because I knew that if I moved to the city, rent was just going to be through the roof and I really needed to get on my feet.

I really just started taking any second shooting photography jobs that I could find from multiple wedding photographers. This was an experience that just showed me that I really did not want to become a wedding photographer, which is what I thought I really wanted to do.

But I think that it’s different for everyone, because some people go and get the wrong job but get so much experience that they can use in the long run. But for me, it was just something that I never really wanted to do… I can’t explain it, but I was just like, I’m going to do this solo and figure this out as I go.

So you just started your own photography business and figured it out on your way?

Basically, I started my business off as a photographer and then I realized that it was really frustrating because I could only sell a certain amount of shoots every week because I could only be in one place at one time.

So, I was making these Photoshop actions for myself, which are very similar, in essence, to Instagram filters, where you just press a button and it edits your picture. And at one point, I was like, ‘Hey, I should sell these!”. So I started selling them online. That was actually my first successful business in which, between a year, it was already a six-figure business.

From that experience, I learned that I really loved selling digital files and the fact that I could sell a million of these and never run out. There’s no limit to how much money I can make. I noticed that I get really excited by limitlessness, is that a word?! I don’t like feeling like I’m in a box and with photography, I always felt like there was a limit on how well I could do. So I knew that I needed to make some changes if I wanted to grow, continue, and expand.

Honestly, when I came out with the Photoshop actions business, I swore that I just figured out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And then a few years after selling Photoshop actions, my passion for photography completely disappeared. It went from me being so obsessed with it that I wanted to get a tattoo of a camera… to the point that it defined me so much that I just woke up one day and knew that the last thing I wanted to do was touch my camera.

At that point, I knew I was in trouble and it actually took me about six months to a year to actually decide that I was going to stop doing photography. I thought it was just a creative block, but looking back it was just my intuition telling me, “Okay, time to move on to the next thing!’ . That's really the running thread through everything in my career. It’s like I’m always following my intuition, my passions, and what excites me.

At that time, I was really into helping other people sell their products online and doing all this coaching work for free. So, I knew I was going to start my path as someone who helps other people do what they love for living and teach them how to sell themselves online.

One of her many online business resources. Click here to watch it.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from being a wedding photographer?

Wedding photography, even though I love it as an art form, was not for me. Working on the weekends, being on my feet for 10-14 hours non-stop without taking a break, and not having meals was not something I wanted to do.

The biggest lesson for me was that, if I’m going to be self-employed, I’m going to make damn sure it’s super enjoyable.
— Alex B.

I learned that even though I have a lot of energy, I should spend it in ways that I want to spend it. I learned that the whole point of being self-employed is to not feel stressed out, and to feel like I can have the freedom to be very flexible. The biggest lesson for me was that, if I’m going to be self-employed, I’m going to make damn sure it’s super enjoyable.

Puerto Rico is going through one of the worst economic crisis right now, which is the main reason a huge part of the younger generation is leaving the Island in search for a better future. What do you recommend to Puerto Ricans who want to have creative careers and own their own businesses in the midst of the crisis?

Investing time into entrepreneurial activities and investing time towards building a business is possibly one of the smartest things that people in situations like this can do. Especially in this date and age where we have the Internet with access to a lot of people with a lot of investing power anywhere in the world.

It’s tough being around people who can’t understand why you’re doing all these entrepreneurial activities when they think you should be worried about getting a 9-5 job and playing it safe. I think that is one of the worst things that you can do. Like sure, if you have to get a 9-5 job to get by right now, do it. But when you get home, hustle to make sure your business is going in the direction you want to be in.

For anyone reading this who feels discouraged because they have to work a 9-5 job, I would say to really focus on loving and embracing the stage of your life that you’re in right now. And at the same time be super excited about what is coming.
— Alex B.

People look at me now and they say, “She can take the day off whenever she wants.” [.] Yeah, but when I first started, there was a huge amount of hustle, forward motion, planning, strategizing, and really working hard to get myself until this point. For anyone reading this who feels discouraged because they have to work a 9-5 job, I would say to really focus on loving and embracing the stage of your life that you’re in right now. And at the same time be super excited about what is coming.

What would you say to people who are bashing others because they are looking for success out of the Island and “not helping make Puerto Rico a better place”?

At the end of the day, you have to do you. And as far as I’m concerned, we are all citizens of the globe and staying somewhere because you feel guilty or you feel like you have to contribute is really not a reason to stay.

A real reason to stay is because you not only love Puerto Rico, but you are dedicated to turn things around and be part of that movement. But I believe that if that’s not something that you feel in your heart, then you don’t have to stay.

Trust that the universe has everything figured out and it’s using the right people to stay and fight the Puerto Rican fight. It’s all about trusting that you are going to do what you feel it’s right for you.

How did you start Youtube? Did that came out of a whim?

My sister came over one day and told me, “Alex! Video is the next big thing and if you don’t get on the van wagon now, you are just wasting time.” So, I was like “Okay!”

I think video is one of the most important things that I’ve done for my business and so many people hire me solely by watching my Chatty Tuesday Videos. It’s something that I’m truly grateful for and it truly excites me because when my mom was my age, she could’ve never done this. The fact that it is so new and fresh, even though it’s been here for so many years, makes me feel really excited about future generations.

What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own online business?

The biggest challenge is staying in your own lane. I think the Internet is such a blessing because it connects us to so many people, but it’s very, very easy to always be looking at what other people are doing and be hard on yourself because of it.

My advice to anyone who’s starting an online business is to know that you should be so busy and excited and passionate about your projects that you shouldn’t have time to look and see what other people are doing and get down because of it.

How do you keep yourself in such a great mood? You’re always creating content and making us smile on all your social media channels!

I only create when I feel like it and want to. If I feel I’m in a bad mood, I don’t create.

So many people force themselves to create, and even though I feel it’s good to challenge yourself, at the same time, I feel like it’s really important to listen to what you are feeling and only do it when you are excited to share something. When you feel like you have something that is going to add value to people’s lives, and not just doing it for the sake of doing it.

A great example is when I moved to Trinidad and Tobago from Tampa, I did not want to create, so I stopped creating content for like a good 6 months. I was still making Spark Lounge Videos and using Snapchat, but I gave myself full permission to not do anything if I didn’t feel like doing it.

Talk to me about The Spark Lounge! How did it all started?

When I give so much of myself online, it sometimes feels very draining , because there is only so much of a connection you can have with people in the comments sections. I wanted to create a space where I could be closer, intimate, and more available to people. I wanted to create a space where people could come together and really feel love and support from an incredible group of people who are like-minded, believe in the power of positivity, and who are also entrepreneurial-spirited.

It actually started through a free Facebook group, which was super overwhelming for me. There were thousands of people in this group and it didn’t have enough boundaries to really make it a magical place. I decided that if I started to charge for it, it would create a steady income for me. It was great because when you have to pay for something, you show that you are dedicated, committed, and that you value something. That makes sure that I’m attracting only the people who want to be there.

In The Spark Lounge, I basically show myself on a more regular basis and in a less formal basis. I know that I can just upload a video that I just recorded from my iPhone and not worry about editing it and the whole world to see it. We are such a loving and caring community in there, so I can say things and be more vulnerable in a way that I can’t on my Youtube channel.

What is the next big thing for Alex Beadon?

Constantly experimenting with new offers for my people and detaching from the results. Up until this point every time I do a launch it’s super exciting and super stressful at the same time, because I know how much money I want to make, how much I want to sell, how many people I want to reach, etc.

My big thing right now is focusing on ‘here is this thing that I made, take it or leave it and I’m cool either way’. I’ve been coming into my business with that energy and it’s completely different than where I was earlier. It’s really exciting and challenging at the same time!  

I’m at this place in my life where I know that my priority is how I feel in the inside. Being in alignment and knowing why I’m showing up to do my work. Knowing what I want my outcome to be, but also knowing that if I don’t get that outcome, I’m cool.

What advice will you give someone who wants to start their own business?

To find five people who are already doing what you want to be doing and learn as much from them as you possibly can. Even if you have to hire a coach I really believe in the benefits of shortcuts and you can shortcut a lot of pain if you can hire someone who has already been there.


And lastly... Some fun facts about Alex Beadon (because I clearly can't get enough of her!):

  • Favorite TV Show: SuperSoul Sunday

  • Coffee or tea: Flavored Green Tea

  • Movies or Netflix: Both, it depends on my mood.

  • Cat or dog person: Dog but I would probably be a cat person I just never had a cat.

  • Indoors or outdoors: Outdoors!

  • Favorite social media: Snapchat first and then Instagram.

  • Youtube or blogging: Youtube

  • A Role Model: My Auntie Joanne.

  • Favorite website: Youtube

  • Morning or night person: Morning

  • Any tattoos?: I don’t, but maybe one day.

  • A beauty product you just can’t live without: I love highlighters but I can’t live without concealer!

I had such a great time interviewing Alex through Skype and I really hope this interview captured it. But most importantly, I wish you take every single piece of advice she gave us [in]to heart, just like she did (and continues to do) right when I started blogging].

Did you know about Alex Beadon before this post? Let me know on the comments below and share some love! :)

Until next time, 

María Elena

Career Profile | Zahíra Domenech, Wedding Planner behind Eventus by Zahira

CareerMaría Elena1 Comment

"I love working with down to earth people and I don't like people who mistreat their employees. My life vision is to work with people who are grateful, spiritual, holistic and who always give their 100% in everything they do. People who collaborate and believe in community.  I believe in genuine relationships and  loyalty in business and in life". - Zahira Domenech.

Ever wonder if your BFF could be your wedding planner but then remember she's too busy being your Maid of Honor? Or maybe you thought you could produce your whole wedding on your own but then remember all your family drama and thought you'd be better off with a wedding planner (insert raising hand Emoji here).  Yup, all of these things (and many, many more) come to your mind right after someone puts a ring on your finger. But luckily for me, I've always found the wedding business quite interesting. Not for the clichés, but because I've always wanted to meet a wedding planner and ask her if her career is just crazy as I think it must be. Just imagine the pressure of producing the day that has to be, for most people, one of the most important days of their lives.

So luckily for me, I've been in contact with Zahira Domenech, the founder of Eventus by Zahira, because I just love how she markets herself online and I knew I had to interview her for you guys. You can take a look at her websites here, here and here. And don't even get me started on her social media skills.  Her Instagram account is a wedding fairytale! "My website was custom designed in order to be an extension of me... I'm very girly and sparkly.. but I wanted it to be very inspirational. I want it to look like a luxury magazine", she expressed when I told her how fabulous her websites are.

She has ben recognized as one of the best wedding planners in the world by JuneBug Weddings, as an A+ Wedding Planner by Destination Wedding Magazine and winner of Wedding Wire's Bridal Choice Awards for several years in a row (seriously, look at her reviews), among many other recognitions.

If you thought she had enough in her hands already, Zahíra is engaged to the talented photographer Jose Ruiz and as a response to her fans, she now has a blog were she narrates the excitement of how a Wedding Planner plans her own wedding

So the fact that I interviewed her one week before I got engaged was kind of crazy. Specially since my now fiancé took the photos during the interview. Crazy huh?! Oh I can only imagine his nerves. LOL. To be honest, being with Zahira felt like talking with an old friend and there is no wonder why she's now my wedding planner.

So without further due, here's one of the funnest interviews I've ever done:

ME: When did you know you wanted to be a wedding planner?

ZD: I used to work at a very prestigious Public Relations agency in Puerto Rico and my job was to do corporate events, product launches, social events, galas, etc. That's how I fell in love with this world because I did everything from designing the event to creating the experience. I loved it.

But one day one of my good friends called me because she wanted to get married in The Plaza in New York City and asked me to plan her wedding. She couldn't trust anybody else and I really didn't know anything about it... but I said I'll do it! 

When I came back to Puerto Rico after her wedding, I was definitely not ready to work for anybody else. So I started taking courses and educating myself for the big leap that I knew had to happen.

ME: So how exactly did you make the big leap to the wedding business?

ZD: Eventus has been both a blessing and a challenge. I come from a very humble family and I believe that all my success is thanks to my dad. Since I was 5 years old he always took the time to tell me how important and valuable I was and that I could be anyone I wanted to be. He used to tell me so many wonderful things that I started to believe them! That's why I believe I'm the person that I am today. A person who will just go for it in any situation, no matter what. I'm not scared of failure, because I believe that failure is the only thing that will guide you through the right path. They are the way that God lets you know that you are off track.

So Eventus is basically that. It was a risk that I took while having a secure position at a Public Relations firm. In a matter of three months I basically quitted my job and founded Eventus by Zahira.

ME: But did you have a backup plan? Like a savings account or something?

ZD: I had nothing. Just my last paycheck. If you wait for the perfect moment you'll never get anything done. If you really want something just go for it with whatever you have at the time and you can start building something from the ground up.

I used my last paycheck to design my logo, put an ad out there, create a website and that was it!

My first client was my friend's wedding in NYC, and since she was Asian, the ceremony and the protocol was so much different than what I was used to. It was a great challenge! It was in New York and I had no contacts for vendors or anything. So I took a week of vacations from my current job to travel with her and help her start looking for vendors and just like that I planned the wedding! I basically did her wedding, quitted my full time job and started my own business in 2004. That was it!

ME: How do you have so much engagement in your social media platforms? You have so many comments!

ZD: I think it's due to my openness. I don't let what other people think affect me. Being authentic and expressing my fears even though it makes me feel a little uncomfortable, it's my way to connect with people. Many people think that Eventus is so huge, but I'm just like any other girl! I am dreaming big and building something for me and my family to enjoy. I think it has to do with the fact that when I write something people feel relieved to know that it happens to other people too, and that in some way, it makes it ok for them.

ME: I definitely agree! I remember you once posted an Instagram picture were you shared a very intimate but inspiring story and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! 

ZD: Thank you! Just remember, if your dreams and goals don't scare you, they're not challenging enough and you will not grow!

ME: Tell me about #TuesdaysTogether?

ZD: This is part of The Rising Tide Society in which I talk about community vs competition in the small business owner world. Tuesdays Together is a reunion with creative business owners that takes place the second Tuesday of each month. We talk about different topics that help small business owners grow by knowing the difference between community vs competition. This is a beautiful project that I enjoy so much! I love giving back and helping others so this is a great fit for me and what I stand for in my life and in business. If you want to know more you can join our Facebook group or search our hashtag: #tuesdaystogetherpr.

ME: What about Zahira Domenech Signature Brands? How did it all started?

ZD: Cancer was the biggest blessing of my life. It changed my life perspective in every way. And Sebastian, my son, was my biggest rock during chemo. So even though I was cancer free in 2012, I started life coaching in 2011. People really wanted to know how I created what I have now, so I ended up creating what Zahira Domenech Signature Brands is today: our women entrepreneurs coaching branch. 

It wasn't until last year that I decided that I was at a spiritual and mental level in which I felt it was the time to launch everything for the public. 

ME: So Sparkle and Bliss is inside your Signature Brands umbrella?

ZD: Sparkle and Bliss is our live workshop that started successfully last year in which I give training to small business owners on how to use Instagram, gain followers, create branding and a profit plan. One of the things that differentiate us from other workshops is that we challenge all our attendees to grow in a personal level too. We challenge them to work from the inside out by facing fears. I'm firm believer that if you don't grow as a person, you can't grow your business. As small business owners, our businesses are the reflection of us, so it's so important to grow as a human being by challenging ourselves so we can grow stronger in business too.

And as an extension of these workshops, one of the things that we created this year was our online course were you can learn more about things like how Instagram works, how to get published in media, how to market yourself, how to establish your prices and much more. 

Sparkle and Bliss is one of the most amazing things I have professionally right now. Eventus is super special for me, because it's my baby you know? But this workshop is something else for me. It gives me the opportunity to give back what I've been blessed with over these years. It's my way of healing and letting other people heal and grow. This is the area of my life that I wish to develop in the years to come in order to help create awareness that us women have a huge role in society. Our women instinct makes us want to take care, educate and make sacrifices for others. This is why I have made it my mission to make women search for their value within without comparing themselves to others.

ME: What do you think helped you be in the position you're in right now?

ZD: Perseverance is key! My dad had 0 tolerance whenever I spoke badly about myself or others and that is the way you should live. I mean, you should have your moments to cry and complain, but having that mind set has helped me with my spirituality and understanding that everything that happens to you has a deeper meaning. Some moments make you learn and grow and some of them are made to enjoy what you worked so hard on. 

But most importantly, I think my success is thanks to my love for everyone, doing good no matter to whom and that I have no fear of failure. If I fall, I pick myself up and keep going. If I was wrong I ask for forgiveness. This is the way that I try to make everyday better. 

ME: What do you love most about the wedding industry?

ZD: Being a wedding planner has opened many doors to my creativity. I love working with so many talented and creative people. It helps me to stay challenged and on track.

Also, I love being a Destination Wedding Planner. Not only am I able to promote my beautiful Island, but I get to know so many amazing cultures. It has opened so many doors into bringing more tourism to Puerto Rico and it makes me extremely proud to know that my clients enjoy our service and accommodations. It makes all those challenging hours of hard work feel like I'm not working at all. Because I love what I do.

ME: What do you love most about the coaching industry?

ZD: Being able to help other people. Specially people who didn't have the opportunities I did when I was starting. When they call to tell me that they booked 10 new clients thanks to the services we provided is amazing! 

The thing is I feel great when I hear about other people's successes. When I started out people used to tell me that I was creating a "wedding planner factory". But to me the only competition is myself... The only way I look at my business is by how many people I gave service to, rather than how many weddings I did. When you see life this way you don't feel you have competition. You should be paying attention to yourself and what you should do to improve! 

ME: Every career profile I've made so far, has one thing in common: the person always has some type of vision board. Do you have one?

ZD: OMG this is the first time I talk about this! How embarrassing... I have a gratitude journal that I use as my own little magazine.  I create these journals from magazine cut outs and I even create my own editor's letter with all the things that I want to accomplish and have accomplished. 

I write everything good that is happening in my life as a way to program my brain to focus on positive things. This is the way I count my blessings. If you focus on these things you create more of the good things without even trying. 

ME: What has been the most challenging situation you've had so far? 

ZD: Keeping the right balance between being a mom and an entrepreneur. Since I love working so much, it makes it really hard, specially when he calls me out on it! When you're a mom it's like you automatically feel guilty for everything. 

Even though society is so much more advanced now in which women work and accomplish their dreams, we have a huge pressure to be super moms! 

ME: How do you find time to do everything you do: Wedding Planning, Life Coaching, Social Media and Blogging?

ZD: The key to success is being organized. In order to be a multi-tasker you need to be organized. I use the app gTasks, which is my life saver because it helps me prioritize my to-do lists. I try to go step by step. For example, instead of adding "Create a workshop" to my to-do list I just write "print out promotional items". That way I don't get overwhelmed.

There are no excuses... You have 24 hours a day, just like Beyoncé and JLo!  

ME: What are your normal duties as a Wedding Planner?

ZD: First of all, we create a budget. Then we get to meet our clients before we start looking for vendors according to the size, look and feel. We specially love to know how they met in order to incorporate it in the wedding. It's very important for me to make weddings that are personalized and unique. Nothing cookie cutter or copy pasted. 

ME: What has been the most significant moment in your career so far?

ZD: Actually, it's happening right now: Eventus is expanding outside of Puerto Rico! But I can't say where yet... Stay tuned! 

ME: What advice would you give someone trying to make it as an event planner?

ZD: First of all, you need good branding. You will need to have the guts to be genuine and not copy others. Also don't compare your beginning with someone who has had many years of experience in the industry! Being authentic will be the key to your success.

ME: What are the rules of etiquette to work with your wedding planner?

ZD: Know that your wedding planner is a professional. There can only be one planner, not your mom and not you. You have to let it go and let us do our job without stress because we do weddings almost every weekend. And also be grateful! We'll be there with you for the entire process... Our job is very complex and some people can't see it... we can even be therapists and seamstresses!

Random Facts about Zahira:

  • Favorite Scent: Gardenias
  • Favorite Music: 80's and pop music
  • Favorite Book: The Secret
  • Favorite Way to Unwind: Daily Yoga
  • Favorite Restaurant: East
  • Favorite Social Media: Instagram
  • Favorite Coffee Shop: Le Macaroon
  • Favorite Drink: Addicted to Pepsi, but I'm in recovery!
  • Favorite Home Decor Piece: Much more than a decor piece, it's having a good terrace. I need it for my daily 5:30AM yoga.
  • Favorite Fashion Accessory: Shoes and big jewelry!
  • What are you most proud of: My son
  • Necessary Luxury: Traveling and doing my hair at the salon
  • What's next on your bucket list: That Eventus continues to grow, to indulge in a 2 week vacation and to help more and more women feel empowered.
  • Best Place you've ever visited: Madrid. I have great memories in Madrid dancing with my Flamenco team when I was a little girl.

So there you go! A little glimpse inside a (fabulous) wedding planner's life. If you are engaged and would love to receive advice right to your inbox, you can subscribe to Zahira's wedding newsletter here. But if you're a Creative Small Business Owner or you have or are planning on having a business in the Wedding Industry you can get tips on how to grow your business by subscribing to her newsletter here.

Hope you enjoyed!

XO,

María Elena

Career Profile | Patricia de la Torre, Former Editor-In-Chief of Caras Puerto Rico

Career, PopularMaría Elena1 Comment

Patricia de la Torre is the former Editor-In-Chief for Caras Puerto Rico, a magazine that closed its doors after 25 years full of great articles targeted to intelligent and curious women. But her high profile career never went to her head. "I am the person who in the middle of meetings stand ups and looks for coffee for the person I'm meeting with", she expressed with pride. It may be that one of her mentors was the graceful (no pun intended) Grace Mirabella... but we'll get into details about that soon.

Even though you can still tell Patricia misses Caras Magazine since it closed this past winter, she is finding inspiration in her new job at Puerto Rico's Bank of Economic Development, where she feels constantly inspired by upcoming entrepreneurs. "It's kind of weird because in my generation they taught us to think about who would we work for, rather what we were going to do. Since millennials are growing up in such hard times, you've developed business skills and see opportunities in places that maybe our generation doesn't see", she expressed. 

"This job has sparked an illusion in me to search for what I can do and has awaken an entrepreneurial spirit in me", expressed the also owner of Patsee, a handbag brand she hand-makes.  (You can order custom handbags by emailing her at delatorre.patricia@gmail.com)

Interviewing Patricia in the beautiful rooftop at Olive Boutique Hotel, has been one of the highlights of my career since she is not only recognized for her amazing career journey, but for being a strong feminist without losing her charming personality. When I told her about my little dream of being an intern for her during college but I never had the guts to tell her, she immediately started laughing and told me that I should've emailed her. Which made me regret being so shy. So college students, take notes! This is how you make it in the magazine publishing industry:

ME: You have a BA and Masters Degree in fashion?

PT: I did my undergrad in Fashion Merchandising from Marymount College and then I did a Masters Degree in Fashion Retailing at NYU.

ME: Did you always know you wanted to work in the Fashion Industry?

PT: Definitely! When I took off for college, studying fashion was not as popular as it is today. To tell you the truth, it was difficult to find schools with fashion majors. The cool thing about Marmount is that since it was a Liberal Arts School, I had the opportunity of graduating with a minor in Creative Writing.

Then, when I graduated with my bachelors degree I was like "do I really have to go and work now?! How terrible, this can't be happening!". So it was way easier to go ahead and study a Masters Degree instead of just accepting that I had to be an adult. So I enrolled in NYU, which was an spectacular experience... It was right in the city where I always wanted to be. But of course, my parents wouldn't let me go for undergrad... which I think was a good idea because I would've been a major disaster!

ME: Tell me about your internship experiences?

PT: Since during that time, pattern divisions were huge, I worked with Vogue Patterns for a semester in college, which was amazing... it was at Vogue's same building! It was super interesting because in Fashion Merchandising we had to work a lot with seams, pattern making, sizing and so much more. They trained us to be able to choose the best garments by turning clothes inside out in order to actually see what material they were using so you would be prepared to work as a buyer for a store someday. I even took chemistry classes while I did an exchange program in London School of Fashion! It was a required two semester course that taught me to be able to understand textiles.

After that I did an Internship at Mirabella Magazine, which was wonderful! The magazine was directed by Grace Mirabella, former Editor in Chief at Vogue, before Anna Wintour took charge. To this day I still remember how hands on and what a special woman she was. It was a really small staff and she was very involved with everything.

I worked in their closet as the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant and sometimes I had to wake up at 3am to get to photoshoot after looking for everything that was needed in the office and take it to the van, go to the location and pick up the editors and models. But I still had the opportunity of being with Grace during meetings, while being an intern! She even invited me to some of her events at her beautiful brownstone home in Manhattan with all of her staff. I remember one day I found myself at Grace Mirabella's house with all of these designers and I was like "Oh my God what am I doing here?!". The thing is, this fashion world is a little intense and complicated, and she was a great person.

ME: How did you get these amazing internships?

PT: I feel like these days, finding internships is so much more difficult. In those days it wasn't very common to study fashion, so that's why I think that there were more opportunities. I really don't remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember it was pretty easy. 

ME: Who did you most admire when you were growing up?

PT: My mom. I literally ended up studying fashion because of her... She sacrificed so many things so my sisters and I could have the best dresses and shoes, which I believe is to truly be admired. We were these little schmucks and she would take us to Oui Boutique and Nativa Boutique, because she loved spoiling us. She has impeccable taste and she has a lot of common sense, which are things that have really influenced my sisters and I. 

ME: You mentioned on an interview that you entered the magazine world by accident. Tell me a little bit more about this.

PT: It really was by accident. I studied Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Retailing so I was supposed to be a buyer for some store, but it never happened. But I've always loved writing.

When we were kids we used to visit my dad's family in Spain and he always made us write a paper about our experiences. But not only that! When we came back to Puerto Rico, he would make us write an essay about our trip. He even copied our essays and sent them to our professors and it was horrible! But that made us develop a writing discipline that helped us express our experiences in paper later on. 

That's how I started having an itch to start developing the art of writing and journalism. Then while I was doing my undergrad, I decided to minor in creative writing. And once I entered (the magazine world), I was hooked. 

ME: How was your experience at Imagen?

PT: When I came back to Puerto Rico, I started working as an Assistant Fashion Editor at Imagen, and when the Fashion Editor left, they gave me the position. It was a very interesting experience! I was there for four years and I remember that during that time we didn't use Photoshop. We did everything by hand. One of my mentors was the magazine's photographer at the time, Raul Torres, because he was an artist of airbrushing with just brushes, pencils, erasers and sprays. He did everything by hand! No Photoshop.

ME: You worked for a while at GFR Media's deModa. How was that experience?

When this project started, GFR Media called me to join their team. I started as the Fashion Editor and when the magazine started taking more form and direction, they gave me the opportunity to direct it. I had the experience of seeing how a publication went from a newspaper to a newsstand and this is how my job changed from doing only fashion, to actually creating a magazine from scratch. This was also my first experience directing a magazine, which entails so many other things. You have to be in charge of graphic design, photography, client relationships, editing and everything. Even developing a brand! I stayed there for 8 years. 

ME: How did you take the big leap to Caras?

PT: Marisol Malaret was the Editor in Chief of Caras for many, many years... and when a position opened I got it and stayed there for 13 years. The best thing about Caras was our staff. We had the best journalists, photographers and graphic designers. Everyone went to work with a good mood and giving it their all, because Televisa (the magazine's publishing house) gave us a lot of editorial opportunities. Caras had an international look and feel because it was made for educated women who traveled and wanted to know about everything, but it was still a local magazine. Interviews were local and fashion was local.

It was also very important for us to have a balance between articles of interest and social pages. We wanted to have a complete magazine so that any type of person could find something of interest.  If you wanted to know what was the hottest restaurant not only in Puerto Rico, but in New York or Paris, we had an article about it. If you wanted a travel article we also had it... if you wanted something about art and culture, we also had it. We even had a Hollywood correspondent! 

We had brainstorming meetings where everyone had to bring out a topic no matter if it was from their department or not. It was like gathering with friends... we all had different interests, expertises and points of view. That's how we payed such close attention to editorial content. 

If it's not relevant for readers, it's not relevant for advertisers. A magazine is a business and the only way to make money out of it, is by having a quality product. You can't sell your soul to the devil. The moment to turn your magazine into a commercial product, you're doomed. Your readers and advertisers will leave. In order to make your articles relevant, you need to not make your articles look like a non paid political advertisement. The moment you start selling editorials, you're dead.

ME: What was the hardest part of working for a lifestyle magazine during your 13 years in Caras?

PT: I believe that in general, the media still hasn't found the perfect way to adapt to all the changes happening with the Internet and social media. They are still finding the "perfect" formula of how to work the constant changes in media.

The most important thing to think about is to look at it as a brand. Not a magazine, not a blog, not a newspaper, not a radio program or tv program. For example, Caras Magazine was part of the Caras brand. So Caras was a social event, a trip, a clothing line. Everything has to integrate with the brand and the magazine has to be part of it. There has to be a bigger picture; you need to give the customer a 360 experience... An all inclusive: web, social, events, licenses, franchises. 

ME: I loved that Caras had professional profiles! You once said that "women love knowing about other women's stories" and I totally agree.

PT: Women still have a long way to go in equality when it comes to jobs. I love listening about women who are successful and specially when they form part of board of directors. Important decisions are still, in great majority, in hands of men. In Caras, we did a really great effort to find women who gave us a good story and trust me, there're a lot of them! 

I highly recommend the documentary Miss Representation, which is about women leaders and the importance media has in highlighting women as professionals and as cultural and political leaders. I even had my two boys watch it! 

ME: What is the best memory you have in the industry?

PT: Wow... There's a lot of them. But not too long ago, they called me to talk about fashion history in Puerto Rico for the local documentary film Anatomía de un Vestido and that felt really good! It is a very well made local film by Flora Pérez Garay.

ME: Who's the person you most enjoyed interviewing?

PT: Arnaldo Roche. Even though he's really reserved, he let me come inside his workshop. I felt like he was letting me inside his world, and once that happened, we have developed a really beautiful friendship. It felt like a privilege. 

ME: What advise would you give someone trying to enter the magazine world in 2015?

PT: Learn about everything... you need to know how to do everything. Read, read, read and learn new languages and history. Travel. Be curious, have initiative... All that knowledge you thought you were never going to need will become useful when it comes to have an open mind. Even to engage in conversations with whomever! You always need a good conversation piece.

Random facts about Patricia:

  • Favorite Scent: Musk oil by Kiehls
  • Favorite Music: 80's rock
  • Favorite Book: Everything written by David Sedaris. He's so funny!
  • Favorite way to unwind: With my family and boyfriend (actor Braulio Castillo who she describes as a blessing in her life)
  • Favorite Restaurant: My brother in law's restaurant Bricolage in Brooklyn New York. It's an amazing Vietnamese gastropub. 
  • Favorite Social Media Platform: Instagram
  • Favorite Coffee Shop: Café Cuatro Sombras
  • Favorite Drink: Johnny Walker on the rocks.
  • Most have Home decor piece: Pictures! Of everyone. A home without pictures is not a home.
  • Most have fashion accessories: A good pair of jeans. I can pay anything for a good pair.
  • Most proud of: My two sons.
  • Necessary luxury: A nice trip once a year.
  • What's on the top of your bucket list: A nice getaway! I am dying to visit Turkey.
  • Best place you ever visited: There are so many! But no matter where I am, if I am with my family, it's the best place ever.

As I said before, I feel really honored to have had the opportunity of sharing this interview with you. Patricia is someone that I've admired for so long for her career journey and grace. She never lets the industry get to her. I really wish you find the same lesson I got from this interview: Follow your dreams and surround yourself with loving and talented people. Somehow, the world will conspire in your favor.

Thank you so much to Olive Boutique Hotel in San Juan for giving me the opportunity of interviewing Patricia at their amazing rooftop. Did you know The Real Housewives of Atlanta stayed here during their visit to Puerto Rico?! For more information about bookings visit www.oliveboutiquehotel.com or call 787.705.9994. You won't regret it!

Career Profile | Fernando Rodríguez from Aaron Stewart Home

CareerMaría ElenaComment
If you are running and you keep looking at people around you, you slow down. But if you keep running and look forward, you forget about the world and just do what you need to do.
— Fernando Rodríguez

That's one of the many memorable quotes I got from Fernando Rodríguez, co-owner and Lifestyle Curator at Aaron Stewart Home and Aaron Stewart Lifestyle who agreed on doing Ambinity's first career profile.

If you have ever been around Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is no way Aaron Stewart Home's bright colors and impeccable taste hasn't catch your eye. So you can only imagine my excitement when Fernando, who has an amazing résumé, agreed on doing this interview. 

It was a Saturday morning and I had just posted a selfie on Snapchat announcing what was about to happen. All of the sudden Fernando's bright smile appears from the other side of my car's window. Umm.. Embarrassing! "Nice to meet you María Elena! Please come inside", he said in the friendliest way, shooking all the awkwardness away. My sister (who assisted me with photography) and I went inside to start the interview and suddenly Backstreet Boys music started playing from his iPhone. I immediately new this was going to be a great interview.

He offered us water and invited me to sit in one of his lovely tables to start chatting while my sister started taking pictures. For the next hour I sat there listening about his incredible career journey and the risks he took that led him to New York and back to his home town, Puerto Rico where he has experienced great success. 

"My favorite word is trust", he said at some point in a way that you can tell he's a very loving and spiritual person. To say that his calm voice and contagious smile will make your day brighter is an understatement.

"Some things are very superficial, but memories stay with you", said Fernando while recalling how his dream of opening Aaron Stewart Home came from childhood memories.  He used to visit Old San Juan with his family just to see the beautiful display windows of luxury stores like González Padín in Christmas Time. "When we opened the store I told myself that I wanted to bring back that vision to the Island. So last year we brought a snow machine so that it will snow every day in our display windows", he said with sparkle in his eyes. "It's my mission to create great things and I want to bring kids to San Juan so that people bring back those traditions that are part of who we are", he added.

So without further ado, here's how the interview went:

ME: Tell me a little bit about how you started working in the fashion industry? 

FR: I worked in corporate America companies like Colgate-Palmolive, GlaxoSmithKline and several pharmaceutical companies since I graduated grade school until I turned forty. I felt like a circle trying to fit into a square. I think that when you are growing and trying to figure out what your ambitions are in life, sometimes you don't look at the bigger picture and you may think that the things that are very inspiring to you are not a reality.

I always wanted to be in the fashion industry and I wanted to go to Parsons or Pratts, but they (his parents) sent me to business school. By the time I was growing up there weren't as many opportunities to kind of have an open mind to say 'this is your call'. In my time it was more like 'look, your dad has a business and your mom wants you to study finance so you have to go to business school'. Long story short, at 40 years old I was in New York and I will never forget the day I was at doctor's office with one of my medical detailers and I told myself 'what am I doing here? I don't belong here... this is not who I am'. Then I literally resigned (from his current position) and gave away company cars, stock options and my corporate credit card and started knocking on doors to get into fashion.

ME: You worked your way up at Hickey Freeman? How was that experience and how do you think it helped you in your career? 

FR: It was a rude awakening when I started knocking on doors at 40 years old, trying to find an entry level job that someone who just graduated from Parsons could do for far less money than I would've. I already had a big career behind me in the corporate world which is why nobody wanted to employ me. They told me that I was too old and that I didn't have the skills, but I just kept networking and reaching out to people through LinkedIn and to friends that I had in New York and someone finally gave me a chance.

This is when I started working at Hickey Freeman. They had a new brand that they were bringing out to the market and they gave me the opportunity of opening their new store in SOHO. I basically said 'I'll take it! I'll do whatever I have to do'. So as I opened the store they realized I had style and a huge business background. I did really well and they quickly promoted me to Brand Director. So in a matter of two years I went from Ugly Betty and The Devil Wears Prada into running a brand and going to Florence and working with designers.

It was kind of my dream come true... I was super happy and finally doing what I wanted and then the recession came into New York and the brand closed. Then I started working at Joseph Abboud as their Brand Director, where I worked on everything that had to do with branding and showing the brand to the market, except design. 

ME: Tell me about your experience as Regional Manager and then General Manager at women's fashion giant, Tory Burch?

FR: After Joseph Abboud I went to Tory Burch and stayed with them for about two and a half years. That was a great opportunity going from men's to women's and getting to do both and learn that market with a completely different pace and different demographic. It was super fun and super challenging running 13 stores all over the Northeast. Now Tory is opening a store here at The Mall of San Juan and the Regional Director came to the store the other day where we sat down for an hour just talking about the market.

It's funny how things come full circle. I always say you have to be good and make an impact with people in a positive way because you never know when they will come back to your life. That says a lot about yourself and your personality. It's really easy to reject something and leave it behind, but when you take the bull by the horns, that's when you develop character as an individual. You need to finish everything in good terms. 

ME: Tell me about your experience at MANHATTAN Magazine?

FR: After Tory Burch, a fashion lifestyle magazine asked me to be their Fashion Director and run every ad that went into those magazines. I was in charge of making all the relations on all marketing events and getting brands to advertise with us. Brands like Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Stella McCartney and Chanel.

I'm very blessed because I was able to do things that people dream of and I don't take it for granted because it's part of what has brought me here. Part of the success of my brand is due to the fact that I've been exposed to all the big brands.

ME: Do you think these experiences in the fashion world helped you open your store? 

FR: The skill that I mostly developed from being in the fashion world was creativeness. I've always had it (being creative), but I think it allowed me to become more in tune with those things. Living in New York and working in fashion is a schooling by itself... walking by the street everyday and seeing the diversity of people, the way that people dress, the way that people shop, the way that people enjoy life. Everything is schooling.

I think the store is a mixture of Aaron and myself being able to travel the world for work and for pleasure and being exposed to many things that are now part of our DNA. That's what really helped us do something special here. Most of these products are things that we used in New York or our friends' own the brands. And we love helping our friends come to a new market!

ME: How did you meet Aaron and how long have you been together as life and business partners?

FR: Aaron used to work for a bedding company called SFERRA as the Creative Director and I was the Brand Director at Hickey at the time. We shared the same vendor (a girl also from Puerto Rico) at a sample sale in New York. She was always telling Aaron about this guy from Hickey and telling me about this guy in SFERRA because she thought it would be really nice if we met. I was like 'yeah, yeah yeah. No, no, no'.

So like six months went by and we were in the Hamptons and I saw him at a party. The next day I stopped him because I saw him walking down the street and I told him 'Hey I saw you yesterday at the party!' and he told me 'Yeah I saw you too!'. I thought he was lying until he told me 'you were wearing a Yankees t-shirt and aviator sunglasses' and then I asked him to buy me a drink and we started going out since that day.

We actually met on our own... It was serendipity, it was meant to be. If we had not met that summer on our own, we were still going to be introduced by our friend in common. We've been together for eight years now. 

ME: How's been the experience working together? 

FR: We went from partners to business partners when we moved here (Puerto Rico). We went from having different jobs, responsibilities, categories and fields to all of the sudden doing everything together. It's been a really cool ride.

I think that when you're meant to be with someone, life molds you in a way that it becomes really organic and we quickly realized what were my strengths and what were his strengths. We don't step on each others toes... when I'm down his up, when I'm up, he's down. We are never down at the same time.

It's very Ying and Yang, and I think that the attraction of human and spirit when to people are meant to be together created this really great formula for us. When you have this type of bonding, it sheds all the bad stuff away and you can focus on many other things.

ME: How did Aaron and yourself decided to open the store?

FR:  Aaron and I decided to 'close shop' and come to Puerto Rico to open this brand (Aaron Stewart Home). We made the decision on January 2013 and opened our store doors in November 2013. We came to Puerto Rico without really knowing the market, but we just knew we had a great idea. It's tough, but when you have a point of view and a clear vision of who you are, it makes it much easier to maximize efforts since it's part of your DNA. We knew we had something very special.

ME: Why open Aaron Stewart Home in Puerto Rico?

FR: I left and amazing job to move back here in a time of financial crisis in the Island, not knowing the market, but we took a big risk. I think life pays off when you take risks, because they allow you to generate new experiences in your life. Fear can be very decrementing to your life and it will hold you from experiencing many things.

I grew up around famous stores in the Island like González Padín and Velasco and there was so much elegance in these stores. I remember that the way they packed their stuff was very beautiful. From the way they packed with paper to the little presentation cards. It wasn't that it was expensive, it's just that it was special and that was my inspiration when opening this type of store in Puerto Rico.

After those stores closed, there was nothing like that here. So we started working on our packaging and making sure that everything looks really pristine and beautiful all the time. The packaging has a ribbon that wherever you go with that silver and blue ribbon present, they know it's from Aaron Stewart Home. We used Puertorrican luxury in those days (1970's-1980's) as the inspiration to open this store.

It's nothing new, we just want to bring back that customer service; if you can't come to our store, we'll deliver it to your home. It's very personal. This is not a place where you come in a rush. You can even drink champagne or juice!

ME: What is the hardest part of owning a business? 

FR: The most challenging part is that you know what needs to happen, but you don't have enough time in the day to get it done. Having people around you that don't completely understand what you are trying to do is kind of difficult too. Sometimes there's a lot of growing pains, but its part of the journey of having your own business and I don't see it as a mistake. I see it as an opportunity to learn something new so I don't do it again and I find a solution to the problem.

There's not a lot of things I don't like about owning my own business. The freedom of doing things at my own pace is the thing that I most like about it.

ME: In this economy, why do you think you have a successful business?

FR: By finding opportunities everywhere. I think our success has to do with that we came from the States and we had a very different way of looking at things. When you come from a different place you don't see things the same way. It doesn't matter if it was Puerto Rico or Miami, you always find that your way of doing things is different than what all the people are doing.

That's how we saw an opportunity of something that was not here and we marketed this store true to what we are. We haven't changed, we are who we are and I think that having the right products, something different and having amazing customer service are all part of the success.

There's no room for failing. Like, there's no crying in baseball! I root for myself. Some people used to tell me to not rent this space because there is a sewer in the front and it may cause the store to flood if it rains. And I was like, why am I going to stop getting an amazing space because somebody is telling me this? Let's fix the sewer!

The thing is to follow your instinct and ignore the rest.

ME: What advice would you give someone trying to get into the fashion and luxury industry?

FR: You have to stay up with it because it changes all the time. You can't rely in just what you know. You have to keep learning and reading and look at things with a different eye. You don't have to love it, but you have to appreciate it because it's part of your world. I think fashion and luxury evolve all the time and you have to be on top of that and you need to appreciate it so you can keep evolving with your brand in tough times.

You have to put your time and effort to learn the industry in order to be successful. Be humble and do whatever you need to do to develop the skills you need to become a master at what you are working on. Just because you planted that seed in the soil and the plant is not yet on the surface, doesn't mean that it is not starting to create roots.

When you have a vision or a virtue, you can't let it go. I think that when you have a desire of doing something you just have to really do it.. there's no room for fear. Fear is your worst enemy... you just have to keep trying until it works. As long as you know that you have that skill in you and you just need somebody to give you an opportunity. But once you get that opportunity you have to work really hard. It's not just going to come to you and that's it.

ME: Talk to me about wonderful Clooney

FR:He's human! I wanted a dog forever and since we used to live on a tiny apartment in New York, Aaron never agreed. But I kept asking him and sending him dog pics until one day I found a dog breeder online. That is how I found Clooney who is half cocker spaniel/ half poodle and I sent the picture to Aaron and he was like "when do we pick him up?!".

Clooney has become a beautiful part of our lives. He can do no wrong.

And last, but not least... Fun Facts about Fernando!

  • Favorite scent: Gardenia
  • Favorite music: 80's music
  • Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 
  • Favorite way to unwind: Playing tennis
  • Favorite restaurant: Santaella and Yamburger (both in San Juan)
  • Favorite social media: Pinterest 
  • Favorite coffee shop: At home from my Nespresso
  • Favorite beverage: White Tequila
  • Must have home decoration piece: Good sheets/ good bedding
  • Most proud of: Having no fear and doing what we did. I am really proud of being where I am right now. 
  • Necessary luxury: A good watch. You can be in jeans and t-shirt but the watch says a lot about you.
  • What's at the top of your bucket list: Taking a vacation for 14 days. Excluding the flying and coming back and forth! Two full weeks of vacation.
  • Best place you've ever visited: Florence, the Amalfi Coast and Capri. I love Italy!

So if you live in Puerto Rico or are just visiting and you still haven't come around this store, make sure you give it a try. I assure you'll be in for a treat. ;)