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How Josie Arroyo Built the Coolest Brand in Puerto Rico

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment

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

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

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

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

What was your first job before graduating college?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

postales bien cool

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

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

Pic via  Indice

Pic via Indice

Did you ever imagine Bien Cool getting to this level?

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

Are you selling outside of Puerto Rico?

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

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

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

Pic via  The Media Scoop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You created a planner! How was that development process?

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

What's next for bien cool?

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

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

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

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

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

Last but not least, prepare financially for your venture. 

Pic via  Facebook

Pic via Facebook

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

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

Random Facts about Josie:

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

Letras con Tacones' Experience as an Intern at ELLE

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
paola letra con tacones puertorrican blogger elle

First of all, happy new year!!! So glad to start 2017 with this new series: Intern Diaries, so let me know how you like it in the comments bellow! :) 

I have known Paola from Letras con Tacones for a while now. Not only as a Puertorrican blogger peer, but because I had the chance to partner with her with one of the brands I work with at the Agency. She's not only super sweet, classy and has awesome style, but she is also super responsible and dedicated to her work. 

So when she told me that she was going to study fashion in New York City and nevertheless, work at ELLE, I knew I had to interview her for you guys. And of course, she gladly accepted. Hope you guys enjoy this interview as much as I did! 

What are you studying in grad school and where? 

I am currently doing a Master in Professional Studies (MPS) Fashion Marketing at LIM College in New York. 

How did you get an internship at ELLE? 

I arrived at New York City on August 16, 2016 and classes began the next week. I had already started thinking about working during the day and studying at night, so that Friday I decided to go to FreeFashionInternships.com, a website recommended by my blogger friend, Yulia from Hidden Fashionista, which is where she got her internship at Jimmy Choo. I applied to five companies: Saint Laurent, alice + olivia, Marc Jacobs International and Oscar de la Renta, in that same order. 

paola carolina colon elle fashion internship
Hearst Tower. Photo Cred: Foster and Partners

Hearst Tower. Photo Cred: Foster and Partners

Two weeks afterwards I received the email from ELLE asking if I was still interested on the internship, and what date I was available for interview. That email was a Wednesday and I confirmed the interview on that Friday at 10AM. After researching to be ready, I went to the interview super early so I didn't get lost on the subway since I was such a newbie, haha. 

The Hearst Tower is located at Colombus Circle. Hearst is Elle's, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen's  publishing house and they're all located in the same building. 

I arrived for the interview at the 24th floor and my heart wanted to explode. The person who interviewed me was the Fashion Assistant who asked some questions such as what are you studying and for what,  what was my experience in fashion and what are my short and long term goals and basically why Elle. Finally she just told me: "Congrats! You got the internship. When can you start?" I literally died. 

In which department did you work at? 

The internship was at the Fashion Closet, which is where the fashion assistant and freelancers work at. It is pretty much the spine of the magazine, since it is where all the designer looks are stored for the photo shoots. I was in charge of manageing everything that came in and out of the closet. I had to notify, evidence it and keep it organized, cleand and presentable for collaborators or stylists. 

How did you imagine your first day at Elle? 

I thought that I was going to receive a tour and training for every task but it was completely the opposite. I learned along the way and every time they called me out for something wrong. There were SO many details that I had to keep in mind, that every time I made a mistake I wrote it down on my agenda to make sure to NEVER do it again. 

There were SO many details that I had to keep in mind, that every time I made a mistake I wrote it down on my agenda to make sure to NEVER do it again.
— Paola

So how was actually your first day?

My first day was quite interesting because I had no idea of what I was doing and if I was doing it right or wrong. Everybody was so busy and on their own world, so nobody had time to answer my questions unless it was extremely necessary. To be the first day, it was significantly a lot of work, but the excitement was too much for me to care!

What was your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was to avoid mistakes. Magazines work as a chain and if someone makes a mistake, the rest of the people are affected by them. From the stylist to the department editors. You have to be super diligent, have a problem solver attitude and be willing to do whatever they ask you. 

What was your favorite part about working at Elle? 

elle magazine headquarters

Everyone that I saw daily inspired me somehow. Watching Robbie Myers, the Editor-in-Chief, Samira Nasr, Fashion Director and María Dueñas Jacobs, the Accesories Director were my daily doses of goals. I wasn't seeing it on Instagram or Pinterest, I was watching it in real life. From what they wore, the gifts brands gave them according to their styles and the conversations they had at the closet about trends. Everything was part of the experience. 

I do have to admit that the highlight was the first day, when a Puertorrican greeted me at the lobby. It felt just like home! haha. 

Another great thing were the presents. There were a lot of things that the brands duplicated or nobody wanted so the interns took advantage of it. (Yas!)

As a Puertorrican woman doing a high demand internship at the Fashion Capital of the World, do you felt like you had a bigger responsibility than the rest of your peers in your position? 

We were five interns in total. Three of them from the US, one from Barcelona and myself. Two of them were studying at Columbia, one of them took the semester off to complete the internship and the last two of us were from LIM. I was the only intern doing a masters so that was my motivation to be better every day. I always have in mind the huge responsibility of representing Puerto Rico by giving it my all everywhere I go, no matter if it's school or the internship. 

I am extremely proud to be from Puerto Rico and super grateful for the opportunity at Elle. <3

Describe a normal day at Elle.

You can sum it by saying hectic, nonstop and exciting. But a normal day would be: 

Elle Magazine Itern

Arriving at ELLE's Fashion Closet at 9AM to move the pictures from the camera to the software. We had to take photos of all the items in the closet and assign a code for each. There was a board to make the respective check ins and check outs with all the items for photo shoots. During the entire day I received garment and shopping bags of different designers and I had to equally schedule messengers to return the looks that had already been shot.

The most frequent task was reading emails to be in constant contact with publicists or the Fashion PR company that represented each designer. They were usually Karla Otto, PR Consulting, KCD or HL Group. 

They would give me a list of brands with a theme, like for example, "skaters" because they had to do a photoshoot inspired by that theme. So my job was to search around the Internet and find the coolest looks from each brand and set them up so Samira, the Fashion Director had a clearer view of what she wanted. 

We had a photo shoot practically every day, so we had to help to create mood boards for inspiration and visualize the story the stylist had assigned or the story Samira wanted to tell. And of course, look for Starbucks! 

What is your biggest lesson after the internship? 

Everything is possible when you have the talent, perseverance and passion. You have to be patient and give it your all every day, because in New York there is no time to lose. It is true what they say: "If you make it here, you make it anywhere". This city is not easy, but if you survive and accomplish your goals, you are ready to live anywhere in the world. 

What is your next goal now that you've finished your internship at ELLE?

The next step is to apply for another internship, but this time from the designer's side. I am in the stage where I have to explore all the areas and see the other side of the coin. I want to experiment the communications and marketing department inside luxury brands. So stay tuned... You will get more Intern Stories! 

 Did you ever imagine yourself as an Intern at ELLE?

I always had it in the back of my mind. I am very positive to accomplish what I set my mind to. The first time I saw The Devil Wears Prada (my favorite movie) I knew that I was going to be doing that one day. And after 10 tears, that day is here! It sounds cliché, but so true. 

fashion intern

Do you feel like your Blog Letras con Tacones helped you reach this goal? 

Every time I take a step forward I am super grateful to have created Letras con Tacones. This is my biggest asset when it comes to interviews, because it is my own. I can talk about my vision and how I pretend to use it in my career. Also, as a journalist, I need a presentation card that helps me express my passion for fashion and social media has been the perfect platform. 

Was your internship anything like The Devil Wears Prada stereotype?

To be really honest, it is not too far away from the reality. The movie exagerates some things but other things are super accurate.

That fast pace environment is completely true. I was at ELLE from 9AM to 5PM because I took classes from 6PM to 9PM, but the interns that didn't have class at night stayed there way after hours. Also, whenever I had the chance to lunch, it had to be in front of the computer. I always had to work really hard during lunch and if there was an emergency, I had to stop eating and resolve it. 

Running errands was really challenging too. Sometimes I found myself with two garment bags and two shopping bags in the middle of the city praying that it could survive rain or a subway ride back at ELLE. If the bags were TOO heavy, they called an Uber, if not, you'd just have to wing it as a mad woman through Manhattan with thousands of dollars in merchandise. Just like Andy! haha. 

The outfits in The Devil Wears Prada were an exaggeration. Most women at ELLE wore snickers, boots and Gucci Flippers combined with high waisted jeans, dresses or cute tops. I loved that everybody was super comfortable and practical while being super fashion forward.
— Paola

The outfits in The Devil Wears Prada were an exaggeration. Most women at ELLE wore snickers, boots and Gucci Flippers combined with high waisted jeans, dresses or cute tops. I loved that everybody was super comfortable and practical while being super fashion forward. Adidas and Converse were my bff's during the entire semester. :)

Also every time the Editor in Chief entered the closet, people stopped talking. So the movie was pretty accurate in this... just in a lower scale. Oh and Starbucks is so true! I had to look for coffee all the time!

starbucks fashion intern

What advice would you give someone who wants to enter the fashion publishing world? 

Follow your passion will always be my advice. A lot of people think that communications field is saturated and that is a mistake. Our biggest challenge is to create our own jobs and projects. You will always have to make sacrifices but I promise you that it is worth it. Just have patience. 

The key is taking risks, learning and educating yourself the most you can in order to get the job "a million girls would kill for".

Shop ELLE Staff's casual clothing staples:

So that's it guys! #CareerGoals don't you think? Hope you loved this interview and please let me know if you would like more like these. Let's see if Pao is ready for the next Intern Diaries! ;)

Make sure you follow Letras con Tacones:

  • Blog: http://www.letrascontacones.com/
  • Instagram: http://instagram.com/letrascontacones
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/letras.tacones

Until next time!

María Elena

*All the pictures in this post were provided by Paola Carolina Colón, unless otherwise stated.