Posts

How to Keep Your Business Dreams Alive in Times of Crisis?

It seems impossible sometimes, but it is not. Keeping your business dreams alive in times of crisis requires creativity, innovation and perseverance. Today we tell you the story of how two Puerto Rican entrepreneurs are doing it.

This has been the case for Arlyn Vázquez, owner of a pastry business called Chic & Divine Sweets, and Elizabeth Vázquez, creator of Medic-Citas, a micro-business dedicated to transporting disabled or at-risk people to medical appointments and personal events. These two inspiring women work hard to keep their business dreams alive. Dealing with the impact of the pandemic on an island that was already affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and several earthquakes earlier this year.

Chic & Divine Sweets is a business dream that came true thanks to Arlyn Vazquez vision. Photo Credit- Holly Stratton-Unsplash

Chic & Divine Sweets is a business dream that came true thanks to Arlyn Vazquez vision. Photo Credit- Holly Stratton-Unsplash

The Birth of Two Business Dreams

ALINE CERDÁN – Tell us a little about your business, how did it come about?

ARLYN VÁZQUEZ, CHIC & DIVINE SWEETSI had been thinking for a long time about the idea of ​​establishing my own business. I come from a merchant family. My parents had a grocery store for more than 30 years and almost all my brothers have businesses. So, I took community entrepreneurship classes in the city where I live and then I started taking various baking courses. In the process, I realized that not many people knew what macarons were, and those who did, thought they were too delicate to make. So, I started to perfect my technique. I started selling to friends and family while still working for a company.

In 2016, just when I lost my job, I participated in Saborea Culinary Fest, one of the most important gastronomic events in all of Puerto Rico where the most recognized restaurants participate. That helped a lot with product acceptance and gave me the courage to talk to more people.

ELIZABETH VÁZQUEZ, MEDIC CITAS Medic-Citas is a micro-company that specializes in transporting elderly, children, youth and adults with functional diversity to their medical appointments, treatments, dialysis, laboratories and private or family events. Our vehicles are equipped with a ramp to move them in a safe and comfortable way.

Before starting my business, I decided to quit my job with an airline. It was closing its base in Puerto Rico and I would have had to move to the United States. My parents were very sick at the time and my main responsibility was to be with them until the end. I was in charge of taking them to their appointments. Getting them in the car was always a struggle. Then, someone told me about a company that offered this type of service. The service was requested at the Veteran’s Hospital for my dad and I was fascinated with the type of work they did. I learned about the process of having that type of job, the requirements, etc. That is how I decided to start this business that fills me with satisfaction, love and empathy for clients who are mostly elderly.

Medic Citas is Elizabeth Vázquez business dream - Photo Credit- Unsplash

Medic Citas is Elizabeth Vázquez business dream – Photo Credit- Unsplash

Adjusting Business Dreams in Times of Crisis

AC – What transformations have been necessary to keep your business dreams alive in times of crisis? What adjustments did you have to make after the pandemic?

AV – Unfortunately this crisis has affected all entrepreneurs, but especially small businesses. I have focused on staying positive, looking for alternatives and products that people can consume and work from home. For example, I started selling boxes with cakes clients can decorate at home, an alternative where the whole family can participate and then enjoy a homemade cake. In the same way, I began to offer empanadillitas (mini turnovers) so that people can fry them at home on a Sunday as a family while having a day by the pool.

EV – These events have shown us how vulnerable to any natural and man-made situation life is. Difficult times that have affected our economy and health. My business dreams continue to be firm in these situations. I think it has been a time to analyze, study the situation, remain calm and confident, and save money.

AC – What are some of the biggest challenges as a post-hurricane Maria business owner?

EV – Hurricane Maria paralyzed our services for a month until medical appointments were normalized. It was the first time my work routine was affected. But the appointments resumed, and we started working, thank God. That made me analyze how to prepare financially for an event like the hurricane or worse. The biggest challenge is to continue believing in what I do and to not allow myself to fall when confronted by any situation that might appears. Everything is about being assertive, protecting what you have, feeling passion and waiting for the exact moment to start or continue growing. Never stop no matter what.

AV – Thanks to the fact that we have a power plant, we were able to make the product and deliver it to all the points of sale quickly. We didn’t have much time between making and storing, so we made the food and delivered the same day. However, they say that “the misfortune of one is the grace of others” and one of the points of sale that we have now was thanks to the fact that another company that made desserts couldn’t continue to supply.

Practicing solidarity economy helps multiple businesses achieve their dreams.

Practicing solidarity economy helps multiple businesses achieve their dreams.

Important Lessons in Times of Crisis

AC – What do you think is the most important thing you have learned about how to keep your business dreams alive in times of crisis?

AV – Stay focused and positive. Always look to learn from others and look for alternatives that fit the market’s needs and the moment.

EV – Believe in my dream, love what I do, have passion for my business, don’t let it fall without fighting first, move obstacles, reinvent myself, open doors and close those that are not convenient.

AC – What recommendations would you make to other small business owners fighting for their dreams and businesses at this time?

EV – I recommend that they don’t give up. That they fight for their dreams. It is not always easy but it’s never impossible. They will encounter obstacles, but their dreams are bigger. I’d recommend they start their business with a business plan they can follow through each step. Don’t start a business with debt. Go little by little. Don’t be anxious, the business will grow slowly.

AV – That they never give up, that they persevere and that they believe in themselves. There are always difficult moments in a business, but we have to know how to learn from them and move forward.

Photo Credit-Alysha Rosly-Unsplash

Photo Credit-Alysha Rosly-Unsplash

Solidarity Between Puerto Rican Businesswomen

AC- How does your business impact the local economy? What is the best way to support small entrepreneurs and businesses in our communities?

EV – Positively! First, the local government injecting capital by giving jobs and paying government taxes and patents, being a self-sustaining company. Second, I serve as an example to motivate others to become financially independent.

Being in solidarity with small local companies. I like to use the services of my people and consume what my country produces. That is what stays here in my homeland and in this is how we support the communities to grow and expand.

AV – The best way is buying their products and promoting them. Currently we are the first in the Google search for macarons in Puerto Rico. Anyone who likes to taste a fine dessert such as macaron, calls us. They are a dessert that is used at parties and even as gifts at special events such as weddings.

AC – Where do you find the strength and inspiration to keep going when everything feels most difficult?

AV – My family is my greatest inspiration and my strength to keep going.

EV – First, in God who guides me and has never abandoned me. Then in the testimonies of people who have gone through difficult situations and motivate us not to give up. It strengthens me remembering where I was before and what I have achieved so far.  That gives me the drive to continue fulfilling my dreams and goals.

Solidarity Economy in Action: Inspiring Puerto Rican Businesswoman

Lucy Carrasquillo is committed to a solidarity economy. She believes that every businesswoman has what she need inside her to get ahead and not only keep her dreams alive, but help the dreams of other small entrepreneurs flourish.

The inspiring Puerto Rican businesswoman is in charge of Centro Gomas Savarona, a family automotive business that she and her siblings have managed to transform and keep afloat through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the current global pandemic.

After earning a master’s degree in management, Lucy joined her husband at ConsultCom, a company dedicated to helping those considering starting a business through training and personalized attention. But in addition to being an indispensable part of the survival of both companies in times of crisis, Lucy supports efforts to rebuild her country by investing money in local companies. How? By creating and supporting responsible projects and entrepreneurs interested in a better and fairer world.

Her philosophy exemplifies the values of the Solidarity Economy, which aims to inspire a social transformation to give rise to fairer, more supportive, planet-conscious societies interested in making the global and individual changes necessary to prosper. Organizations participating in this movement are committed to creating opportunities, encouraging education and development, changing their consumer habits and finding ways to adjust politics and the economy to the needs of the majority.

According to Lucy Carrasquillo, every woman entrepreneur has all she needs to succeed inside her.

According to Lucy Carrasquillo, every woman entrepreneur has all she needs to succeed inside her.

Female entrepreneurs doing great things

Solidarity Economy: Supporting the Dreams of Others

ALINE CERDÁN – Can you tell us a bit about ConsultCom and Centro Gomas Savarona and how they came about?

LUCY CARRASQUILLO – In my career, I started to manage the businesses almost without realizing it. In the case of Centro Gomas Savarona, when my oldest daughter started school, I had time and needed to earn some extra money. So in 1997, I approached my dad’s business and started in the administrative part since I had a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in secretarial sciences. There, I started as the owner’s daughter with managerial functions. Little by little, together with my brothers, we began updating and innovating in my dad’s business, which started in 1985. When my dad died in 2014, I started to have shares in the business. In other words, the second generation managed to keep a successful business. Here I started out of need, but as time went by I realized that I was a businesswoman. I was in charge of compliance management, marketing, human resources…

ConsultCom is a business that my husband started and which I later joined after completing my master’s degree in management. I love it because we are dedicated to providing training and business support for people who want to start a business. With that in mind, we created a local model with a methodology to provide people with the basic tools and guide them through the initial process of starting a business. I am fascinated by what we do because it is not only providing business training, we include accompaniment and we go further with our entrepreneurs. In many cases we know their stories and their setbacks, we listen to them, we encourage them to identify that in themselves the strengthsthey need to achieve their business dreams.

In our model the key is to be there for the entrepreneurs and the fact that we promote another way of doing business,from a different logic: the Solidarity Economy. That is why we create alliances, support local businesses, care for the planet, treat and pay workers fairly. Success is also achieved by companies that help others. Problems like global warming, labor injustices and inequality move us to create another way of handling the economy.

Lucy Carrasquillo de ConsutCom es un gran ejemplo de una emprendedora que apoya a emprendedores- Photo Credit- ConsultCom

Lucy Carrasquillo de ConsutCom es un gran ejemplo de una emprendedora que apoya a emprendedores- Photo Credit- ConsultCom

How to Keep Dreams Alive In Times of Crisis

A.C.– How has your business had to transform to keep your dreams alive in times of crisis? What adaptations were necessary after the pandemic?

L.C. – In the case of the automotive business, we shut down for two months. We got a loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which helped us keep our workers and established a cleaning and disinfection protocol. We all wear masks for protection and respect physical distance. Here I am very concerned about the safety of our workers and clients. I am always on the lookout for complying with protocols for everyone’s health. “If I take care of myself, I take care of others.”

On the other hand, at ConsultCom, it has been a challenge since we work in group training and our design includes a lot of contact. We do group work and individual business advisory meetings. But in the face of the pandemic, we moved our training to a virtual platform and, to our surprise, we managed to retain 75% of the participants. Some were unable to continue with the training due to problems with the internet, lack of equipment or personal situations such as caring for their children and older relatives.

Training and support have been a challenge since it is not the same as when it is in person. But given the circumstances, we have managed to maintain a relationship with the majority and, even in this circumstance, seven businesses were established, ten are in the permit process and another eight are prototyping.

A.C. – What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as the owner of your own business post-hurricane Maria?

L.C. – In 2017, when our island was hit by Hurricane Maria, the situation was very depressing. For months we had nowater and no electricity, it was quite a challenge. With the automotive company, we had a cistern and a generator and we were able to continue providing services.

In our consulting company, all services stopped. The energy was poured into surviving and supporting our community’s basic needs. There were calls, meetings and community activities, and solidarity emerged to support each other. Solidarity was what helped us all get back on track. Emotional support was very necessary to help lift us up as a country. At ConsultCom it took us 5 months to restart our work.

The challenge was maintaining a positive attitude and keeping the faith that this difficult time was going to end and we had to move on. I had to be strong and encourage others. When you focus on helping others, it helps you focus on working for a better future.

The solidarity economy promotes a more equal world where we all live better-Kelli Stirrett-Unsplash

The solidarity economy promotes a more equal world where we all live better-Kelli Stirrett-Unsplash

Another great female entrepreneur who empowers women

Resilience: The Fundamental Ingredient In Times Of Crisis

A.C – What do you think is the most important thing you have learned about how to keep your business dreams alive in times of crisis?

L.C. – After having experienced Hurricane Maria in 2017, the earthquake in the south of our island in January 2020 and the pandemic in March, times certainly require us to be resilient. We have to be in constant change mode. In times of crisis the attitude must be positive and flexible. Always looking for ways to innovate. If it doesn’t work one way, we move on to the next. Always paying attention to what the client needs and working with them. This pandemic is also giving birth to a new, more demanding and digital consumer.

A.C – What recommendations would you make to other small business owners fighting for their dreams and businesses right now?

L.C. – These difficult times require us to identify that vital force that moves us. Every businesswoman has what they need inside to get ahead. That strength, persistence, and shrewdness. Every businesswoman has potentials that she must awaken and start using. In our training, we talk about business self-esteem because the engine of a business is the person. If the entrepreneur becomes aware and identifies her abilities and what she needs to grow, she will look for how to develop those. She will experience an inner liberation and conceive herself as capable. And that awareness will help her achieve her business goals.

The majority of the people in our training groups are always women. For example, in the last training group we completed in June 2020, 56% were women. This data indicates that women, in their quest to complete their entrepreneurial dreams, take action to prepare themselves and become an entrepreneur. They take time to go throughthat process. We have several success stories from business owners such as boutiques, the first co-working in Caguas, pastry shops, catering, beauty salons, event coordinators, transportation and others. We are also currently working with a restaurant, life coach, pet groomer and others.

Women have management skills (at home) and those same skills are put in place to manage businesses wisely. We know how to take care of physical resources and to manage funds.

The advantage of being part of the solidarity economy is that people support each other. Photo Credit-Content Pixie-Unsplash

The advantage of being part of the solidarity economy is that people support each other. Photo Credit-Content Pixie-Unsplash

Buying Locally Is Part of The Solidarity Economy

A.C – How does your business impact the local economy?

L.C. – In the automotive business we have 10 workers and therefore we are the livelihood for their families. Purchases are made from distributors in Puerto Rico. Our business has been providing services for more than 30 years and I have been managing it for 23 years.

At ConsultCom, by promoting the creation of charitable businesses we also create awareness of supporting local businesses. (A principle of the solidarity economy.) When we asked the most recent group we completed in June 2020 if the program helped them broaden their awareness of the importance of consuming locally, 100% said yes. In these moments of crisis, one of the ways to contribute to the economy is to buy from Puerto Rican businesses, since that way the money stays in our country.

A.C – What is the best way to support small entrepreneurs and businesses in our communities?

L.C. – Promoting another way of doing business taking into consideration the solidarity economy and empowering our people so that they have the ability to create their own businesses. In Puerto Rico, according to economist Manuel Lobato, for every 1,000 inhabitants, 12 businesses are created. That statistic is very low. We at ConsultCom contribute to raising awareness and provide training to change that reality. We can all be businessmen and businesswomen. Those who decide to get their hands on the process and achieve that business goal will make it happen.

It is a matter of will and seeking support in order to bring the business to fuition. The best way is with business training aimed not only at the technical aspects of how to establish a business, but also including the emotional aspect that can accompany you through the process.

A.C – Where do you find the strength and inspiration to keep going when everything looks so difficult?

L.C. – When things around me are difficult and even depressing, such as after the hurricane, I take even more refuge within myself to regain new strength to deal with whatever comes. I am a person with values and convictions, and I have a purpose in life to help others discover their inner potential. So, I must be connected with myself, with my inner strength and my light. And that light comes from God.

You can contact Lucy Carrasquillo at lucy@consultcompr.com

Facebook

LinkedIn

Help Small Women-Owned Businesses Affected by COVID-19

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had an impact on businesses all over the world. Not surprisingly, small-business owners have found themselves in seriously unsteady waters, with female entrepreneurs being hit especially hard during these times of crisis. In moments like these, a little support can go a long way and it’s vital if we want to help small women-owned businesses affected by the pandemic survive.

In addition to threatening small businesses that could be forced to close permanently, the changes brought about as we adjust to our new “new normal” could also undo the progress made in the rise of female entrepreneurs. Especially since many of these female-led businesses are part of some of the most vulnerable industries, including the hospitality and beauty sectors.

Support local women-owned businesses. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder- Unsplash

Support local women-owned businesses. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder- Unsplash

COVID-19 and its Impact on Small Women-Owned Businesses

The past five years have seen a rise of 21% in the number of women-owned businesses, with companies owned by Black and Latinx women growing at an incredible rate. Unfortunately, these tend to be small businesses employing fewer than 500 staffers, many of which won’t make it out of the pandemic without at least a little help.

According to American Express, around 22% of all small women-owned businesses are included in the “other services” industries, comprised of companies like nail and hair salons and pet groomers. Female entrepreneurs also own 16% of the hospitality and food service industries.

On top of the ways in which coronavirus has made it impossible –or at least very difficult– for most small companies to stay up and running, female business owners often face banks and financial institutions that’ll deny their loans in order to favor pre-existing costumers. Laurie Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation, explains that women “tend to have less of a track record with banks” because they borrow less than men.

This isn’t very promising for entrepreneurs who had been having issues securing capital before all small business owners began to need it.

Women-owned businesses have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. They need our help to survive. Photo Credit: Brooke Lark- Unsplash

Women-owned businesses have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. They need our help to survive. Photo Credit: Brooke Lark- Unsplash

Information and Funding for Female Entrepreneurs

Many organizations have begun to find how to help small women-owned businesses affected by the pandemic. In addition to donations and funding, some have offered resources to help entrepreneurs stay informed as well as webinars to help them navigate different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The Tory Burch Foundation supports the empowerment of women entrepreneurs, providing access to capital, entrepreneurial education, mentoring and networking opportunities. Their site is currently dedicated to information and guides for female entrepreneurs struggling with the effects of the pandemic. From applying to PPP funding and well-being tips to webinars helping small businesses stay alive.
  • Hello Alice works similarly, helping small businesses “get back to business” by providing e-learning guides, mentorship and immediate $10,000 grants to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Recipients will also continue to get support from the community, which offers tools and opportunities for specific businessowners.
  • The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has showed its dedication to “elevating and supporting women through entrepreneurship” by teaming up with GlobalGiving to create The Red Backpack Fund. The fund will give $5,000 grants to female entrepreneurs in the United States who have been affected by the crisis.
  • The IFW COVID-19 Relief Fund will provide microgrants to women-owned businesses that have been impacted by this crisis. You’ll have to create a crowdfunding campaign through their website to be considered for a grant.
  • Ladies Who Launch has created a thorough guide that includes articles, information on grants and funds, websites on wellbeing and staying healthy, workplace tips, finance resources and different tools to help entrepreneurs work and manage their businesses from home until it’s time to get back to business.

    Photo Credit: Aw Creative Fl - Unsplash

    Photo Credit: Aw Creative Fl – Unsplash

Six Ways to Help Small Women-Owned Businesses

If you’re not a small business owner but you’re interested in how to help small women-owned businesses affected by the pandemic to stay afloat during these unprecedented times, there are some ways you can contribute without having to leave the safety of your home.

1Identify Small Women-Owned Businesses in Your Neighborhood: They could be closer than you think! There are directories available online and chances are that a little bit of research will lead you to at least a couple of women-owned businesses in your area. This is the perfect opportunity to buy their products. Many of them will probably deliver them to your door depending on what it is you’re looking for.

2Support your Female Friends Who Own Small Businesses: It’s always good to start helping those closest to you. So, before you expand your help, look around. Can you support your female friends, colleagues or relatives promote their business? This is a great time for care packages. How about surprising people in your network by sending them your friend’s products or services? We recently organized a “quarantine surprise campaign” with Christtine Organic, the small manufacturer of the best alfajores de dulce de leche you’ve ever tried.

3Find Small Businesses Online: A lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs will have a website, app or social media profile where you can contact them and buy their products or services. Some of them will only ship locally, but you may be surprised at how many will find you wherever you are (for an additional cost, most likely.) You can find anything, from clothes and art to food and drinks. Do a little digging, you might find something you’ll love and help someone who really needs it. Here’s the story of the founder of our partner Lola Ramona, the company that creates shoes with an attitude. 

4Support GoFund and Other Campaigns: Some small companies have created campaigns to raise money on platforms like GoFundMe, their Facebook profiles or their official websites. Through these, you can usually donate as much as you want directly to them and help them cover payroll and other important expenses. A lot of them will even tell you how they plan to spend your money.

5Invest in their Future: Some sites have started to offer gift cards to restaurants, cafes and bars around different cities. These gift cards will be exchangeable when business is resumed, helping these businesses stay afloat while they’re forced to keep their doors shut. Help Main Street!, Support Local, Rally for Restaurants and Give Local are some of the options out there.

6Don’t Forget to Share: The power of social media is great, so make sure you share and encourage others and show them how to help small women-owned businesses affected by the pandemic. Promote them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, give them positive reviews and recommend them to friends and family.

Think of surprising friends and colleagues by sending them something awesome from one of your female business owners. You'll help them spread the word and make someone's day a bit brighter. Photo of Christtine Organic Alfajores

Think of surprising friends and colleagues by sending them something awesome from one of your female business owners. You’ll help them spread the word and make someone’s day a bit brighter. Photo of Christtine Organic Alfajores

 Support Black Women-Owned Businesses

This is also an opportunity to show your support to the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community by investing in businesses owned by black women in the United States. According to the Washington Post, African American owned-businesses decreased by 40% as a result of COVID-19 and the government mandated shutdowns.

It won’t take long before you find a magical bookstore, delicious bakery, Etsy shop or whatever it is your heart desires.

Help however you can. It’s a great time to be there for each other and show some sisterly love.

Staying Creative During Challenging Times

Elaine Del Valle is a true renaissance woman. The award-winning writer, actor, director, casting director, producer and philanthropist has done a little bit of everything and spoke to us about staying creative during challenging times and what it took to get where she is.

Elaine realized early in the game that if she wanted to see real Latino stories out there, ones she could connect with, she would have to tell them herself. This realization has since led her down a prolific path where, it seems, she’s determined to create as much as she can.

Her one-woman-show “Brownsville Bred” received several awards even before an incredibly successful off-Broadway run in the summer of 2011. The stage play was later on adapted into a young adult novel called “Brownsville Bred: Dreaming Out Loud,” released in early 2020 and available most places where books are sold.

Del Valle’s work can be found all over the place, though. You can watch her movie “Me 3.769” on HBO, and some of her earlier work, like “Final Decision” and “Reasons Y I’m Single” are available through Amazon Prime. Elaine has allowed her personal beliefs to inspire and inform projects the world can connect with and has found  her voice in a simple but powerful concept: Stay True to Yourself.

We had a chat with the multitalented Latina and talked about her creative journey, the things she’s been reading, watching and listening to these days, and some tips and thoughts on staying creative during these challenging times.

Elaine del Valle Director in action

Elaine del Valle Director in action

 

From Actress to Renaissance Woman

Aline Cerdán – It seems like you’ve done a little bit of everything, can you tell us about how you got started on your creative journey?

Elaine Del Valle – I began my career as an actress. I studied acting for many years but found myself pigeon-holed as a commercial actress. While I was having some great success in the commercial and voice over markets, I felt like my craft was not being fully exercised outside of my professional scene study classes. I began writing material to present to class and ended up writing what would soon become an awarded, off-Broadway stage play.

“Brownsville Bred” was my true coming of age story and depicted my life as a Latina growing up in the crime capital of NY, Brownsville, Brooklyn. The play really changed my life and made me realize that if I want to see real Latino stories reflected in art, then I really had to be a part of creating them. The play also increased my visibility and allowed people to understand the real me – it also got me job offers in front of and behind the camera.

AC – Do you feel at home dabbling with it all professionally, or is there something that feels closer to your heart?

EDV – I love every aspect of creation, whether that be creating a character or weaving a cast of characters together for a project. That said, the most fulfilling role I have taken on is as a director. I love informing the story by way of camera angles and working with actors to achieve their best performances. I am able to speak to them in actor lingo and really get the performances I want.

Rosemary Rodriguez is another one of the few female directors in Hollywood!
Brownsville Bread by Elaine Del Valle

Brownsville Bread by Elaine Del Valle

To-Do Lists and Turning Hardship into Art

AC – What do you feel have been some of the hardest aspects of staying creative during challenging times?

EDV – When the quarantine first came, it didn’t really pose a big change in my life… for the most part. I am always at my computer writing, casting or producing. Knowing that the quarantine would be long I decided to make a very long “to do” list of things that I’d been putting off. I have long been using a “list” method to accomplish tasks. There’s something about crossing things off that list that makes me feel like I have achieved something.

My father died when I was a teenager and so I have never taken time for granted. I always want to make the most of my time…and that doesn’t have to mean being creative. Sometimes I work on just the business side of things. I work best when I am multi-tasking and plowing through a tough workload. I am a “by the seat of my pants” creative and so when I get creative, I dive deep and don’t come up for air until I am done. I wrote my play in three months, and I adapted my book in about the same time. I finished my first procedural drama in three days and wrote my first film in an airplane ride.

I don’t put pressure on myself to stay creative because I find inspiration everywhere. Also, I pride myself on having put in the work to develop my various crafts, which  allows me to turn to craft when I am feeling outside of my creative zone.

Want to unleash your creativity? Say yes to change!
Elaine del Valle Director teaches us about staying creative in challenging times

Elaine del Valle Director teaches us about staying creative in challenging times

Staying Creative During Challenging Times

AC – You’ve turned a tough childhood into a novel and a play, can you tell us about the creative process when the material you are using is autobiographical?

EDV – It’s wonderful to lean into the facts and honest examination of the people you know and love. It has been my ultimate joy to represent my loved ones in a way that makes others come to love them, regardless of their flaws. I began my writing by depicting my milestones. Every individual has milestones and those are the things that truly shape us. I have found that people from all backgrounds can somehow all relate to milestones universally.

My process for writing the play came easily because at the time that I wrote it, I was immersed in professional scene study classes at Carnegie Hall under the tutelage of the legendary Wynn Handman. I understood scenes and what made them powerful. I had fertile ground at Wynn Handman Studios and a safety net of trusted and respected actors that made me feel safe. I owe lots to my class and my teacher.

The book was something I had to learn to write. I immersed myself in YA (Young Adult) novels and would circle moments that made me laugh and cry and wonder. I devoured books and it got me into a mode that I was also able to dive into. I adapt easily and pivot to use all of my talents and crafts in whatever I am working on. I also studied through Sundance Collab where I practiced ways of free writing to bring the material beyond where I’d first imagined, and to trust my instincts.

AC – Do you think that the challenging times we’re currently going through could actually become a source of creativity?

EDV – Necessity is the mother of invention and I think we are currently witnessing many creatives working together, and apart, outside of their comfort zones to continue to deliver entertainment. Artists must create. It is a deep need inside of them. An art teacher once asked, “Why do we paint?” the answer was “to prove we exist!” That is a deep need behind the work, and nothing can stifle that desire.

My advice to anyone who is not feeling creative is to go out and learn something new. Read a book. Read many books, take on-line classes. Participate in the webinars and creative livestreams that are keeping raw art and learning still available to anyone who wants it.

AC – What do you think is the role of the arts and the importance of staying creative during challenging times?

EDV – Art always reflects life and the role of art will emerge from the artists creating it and the audiences taking it in. It always has and it always will. We reflect and we create, then we reflect on what we have created, and we evolve. People ask me how I choose what I work on next. Is there a foolproof recipe to getting a film sold or hot on the festival circuit? I always answer that the only person who has to really and truly like it is the artists themselves, because it is surely their passion that will bring it to the finish line and nothing else should matter than being true to yourself. The more specific a story, the more universal its reach.

I always create based on my core beliefs. In “Brownsville Bred”, both the play and the novel, my belief was that if you knew them, then you too would have loved my father and mother and even found value in living in a place like Brownsville. That hope and how you can’t judge a person’s worth based on economics exists everywhere.

“Final Decision” (Amazon Prime) is based on my belief that when our loved ones die, they are still with us, guiding us. “Me 3.769” (HBO) on my belief that females will and are overcoming their fears for the sake of helping the future generation and that there is deep power in “telling secrets” that you never wanted to. In “Princess Cut”, my latest project, my belief is that we all can find common ground. And how many can and do get away with their indiscretions because of money.

Work from your core belief and the work will hit home to many, even those you never imagined you’d have things in common with.

Passion by Ian Schneider- Unsplash

Passion- Photo Credit: Ian Schneider- Unsplash

Immerse yourself completely— One great way of staying creative in challenging times

AC – Do you have any tips for people who would like to express themselves creatively to get started during isolation?

EDV – A tip is to find a random photo and write a story about that photo as it relates to your childhood. Everyone can do it and every story will be interesting and different and yet they will all derive from the same source of inspiration.

Another thing I practice is to not put a deadline on the quarantine. Know that you will endure it, no matter how long it takes, and be ready to face the truth of it. A deadline is a sure way to lose hope.

I also recommend that whatever you want to create, you should immerse yourself in. If you want to write a memoir then you should read memoirs. If you want to write a screenplay then read books on writing screenplays and then read screenplays. If you want to write poetry, then immerse yourself in poetry. If you immerse yourself in art, then you will become it. My teacher, Wynn Handman, used to say, “Marinate in it”. If you marinate long enough then the you can’t help but be flavored and juiced by it.

Also, if you feel stuck then stop the creative and move to the other necessary parts of how you will get your creation out once it is complete. You can learn so much about anything by just going online. If you want to perform a play, then you will also have to sell tickets to that play or submit it into festivals. That’s how one can stay active in the growth of your vision rather than allowing it to wilt during creative dry spells.

AC – What are some of the books, movies, albums and TV shows that have inspired you to stay creative in times of isolation?

EDV – Features: I love to watch documentaries on any subject. Anything on HBO is usually phenomenal. As for movies I really love to examine story and cinematography when I am watching films,  so I use them as a learning tool every time.

TV shows: I love “Ozark” and “This Is Us”, which always makes me cry. There are few shows that I can get lost in but those two always make me forget about my craft and just involve me in the story.

Music: My Pandora stations go from Marc Anthony to Garth Brooks to Adele, passing through Ed Sheeran, Elton John and 70’s & 80’s stations. I also love 80’s and 90s rap.

I listen to music when I am writing; music makes me feel and I think those feelings end up in my writing. I practically wrote the entire “Brownsville Bred” play while listening to salsa music.

Books: I have to say I enjoy YA more than any other genre. I love Gayle Forman and Gary Soto.

You can connect with Elaine Del Valle via LinkedIn

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Mónica Peraza’s Passion

Self-made Mexican businesswoman Mónica Peraza O’Quigley believes women are stronger together. Her great passion? Empowering female entrepreneurs and helping them thrive. Her creativity, commitment and discipline helped her achieve success at home and abroad. Success she now uses to propel other women and their businesses forward.

A firm believer of transformation and its ripple effect, she is dedicated to help eradicate extreme poverty among women by providing access to markets. With this mission in mind, Mónica co-founded The Etho with Sydney Sherman. The online marketplace built by and for women with the goal of empowering female entrepreneurs around the world to manage their businesses and scale them successfully.

The Etho holds the women on this virtual marketplace to a high standard, making sure all products are sustainable and respect mother nature. Mónica – who learned confidence from a grandfather that served as her very first mentor and encouraged her to work hard – holds herself to that same high standard both personally and professionally.

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplashThe Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho and its Mission of Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

Red Shoe Movement – Can you tell us about The Etho and its mission to change the lives of women around the world? How was it founded and how did you come to the conclusion that together we are stronger?

Mónica Peraza O’Quigley – Sydney (Sherman) and I met in January 2019 through an advisor and in a matter of 15 minutes we began to consider the possibility of joining forces and creating a company together. She brought the ethical verification process to the table and I brought the curation system for female-owned businesses. That’s how The Etho was born. We are Co-CEOs and we love it since each one focuses on what we like the most and when we have to make any decision it is much easier to make it together. We have absolute respect for each other and from the very beginning we made the pact that our relationship would always be the most important thing.

We are both committed to empowering female entrepreneurs around the world and eliminating extreme poverty, and the best vehicle to accomplish this is by offering access to markets that will pay fair prices for their products.

Monica Peraza O'Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

Monica Peraza O’Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

How does this platform empower women?

RSM – How does The Etho work? What is the process for an entrepreneur to sell their products on the platform?

MPO – We have an ethical verification process and once an artisan, designer or businesswoman passes the verification, they have access to our platform where they can sell their products and ship them directly when they receive an order.

RSM – You have done a great job raising funds for The Etho. Can you share the most important tips for investors to understand the value of your proposal?

MPO – The Etho is a company with great impact that is perfectly aligned with two global movements that are highly relevant at the moment. On the one hand, the empowerment of women through access to markets and on the other, sustainability through products that not only care for the environment, but that are made by companies that offer fair wages and safe conditions for the women who work there.

In addition, we have a team of women who have extensive experience helping to grow global companies and that gives investors confidence.

Finally, our pitch deck and executive summary are very complete and cover all the issues that investors need to make a decision. Fundraising is largely directly proportional to your network as the decision to invest depends on the trust they have in the entrepreneur to execute. Something only people who know you directly or through someone else know.

Get inspired by a successful shoe entrepreneur!
Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Building Future Female Entrepreneurs

RSM – Talking about empowering female entrepreneurs, you are a serial entrepreneur yourself. Could you tell us what this means?

MPO – A serial entrepreneur is a woman who has founded several companies, usually one after the other.

RSM – What are some of the qualities that young businesswomen must cultivate to become great leaders?

MPO – Working on your self-esteem is essential. Recognize ego, don’t let it blind you and learn to see things objectively. Being a leader is a position of great responsibility and personal work is a catalyst to become a better leader.

RSM – How can you introduce the importance of giving back to the community in the minds of future female entrepreneurs?

MPO – It is very important to give back to the community since the more we have the more responsibility we have to share. I especially feel like as a Latina woman in the US it is our obligation to open the road to other women who come after us.

RSM – Why do you think it is so important to have committed mentors? Can you tell us a bit about yours?

MPO – A mentor has the power to change your life. I have been fortunate to have several mentors in my life, but Teresa Lozano Long has been the person who has most influenced my life in the last decade. She has been very generous in sharing her immense wisdom with me and has taught me so much that her impact on my life and my business is impossible to measure.

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash