Who doesn’t remember the anxiety and excitement of going to high school for the first time? For Romy Jurado, 9th grade was an even bigger milestone. It was the first time she was allowed to take all her classes in English. That’s because, ever since the 5th grade when she arrived in the U.S. from Peru, Jurado was an ESL (English As a Second Language) student.
And even though she only knew two other Peruvians, and one of those ended up becoming her future husband, she never felt sorry for herself. She says there’s a certain mindset you have to adopt when you go after a goal. “Stop thinking of yourself as a victim”, she says.
She followed her own advice. She doesn’t remember wanting to be anything but an attorney. She was inspired by her grandfather who was a judge in Peru. Since the age of 15, Jurado worked toward her dream of becoming a lawyer by working in various jobs at law firm after law firm.
She has taken it one step further, not only working as an attorney, but as a small business owner in Miami. She opened her own law firm nearly eight years ago. Jurado now helps others realize their dreams of becoming business owners. That’s her specialty.
STARTED BUSINESS: Almost 8 years ago
LATINO CONNECTION: Born in Peru
EDUCATION: Florida International University
Juris Doctor of Law
Bachelor's Degree - Public Administration
DREAM JOB AS A KID: Attorney
SÍ, HABLO ESPAÑOL
To have an edge in Florida, she says, it’s critical to know Spanish. But not the way you might expect. Jurado quickly realized there was a vast market of foreigners wanting to do business in the U.S. And while they spoke English, she noticed, they only wanted to speak in Spanish when it came to legal matters. So she says, if you can’t fully communicate with them in Spanish, you’re not going to get them as clients.
There’s another factor that works in her favor. She understands the differences between the various Latino cultures, even from the same country. “Someone from Bogotá is very different than someone from Cali.”
So how do you learn the differences? “Travel, read and talk to people from there.” She says, until she went on maternity leave, she spoke to at least 20 people in person, on the phone or via Zoom every week.
NO COMPUTER, NO INTERNET, NO PROBLEM
Her focus on reading and research comes from her dad. Her nearly 80-year-old father taught her the value of doing the preparation and then just being persistent. He didn’t come from money, and the internet and computer certainly weren’t around when he was young. His solution? He researched and wrote letters to countless politicians in the U.S. and the world to try to find a way to study abroad.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
His persistence paid off so well, her father ended up with a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Nebraska. He also ended up with a Ph.D. in Agronomy and Plant Genetics. Not only is it a testament to the power of persistence, but it’s also a case study in reaching out to anyone and everyone who might be able to help.
And, once you get help, help others. That’s why she became a SCORE certified mentor and recommends aspiring and current small business owners reach out to SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to get paired up with a mentor for free advice. She says another great resource in Florida is Pino’s Global Entrepreneurship Institute at FIU (Florida International University).
A DIFFERENCE IN MINDSET
But above all, Jurado says her ability to ignore the word “no” has helped her reach her goals. “No” doesn’t shut her down. Instead, “no” makes her want to try harder. And that mindset is the difference.
She says, “I have clients that are very negative, and they keep on suffering. And I have clients that, no matter what happens, they bring out the positivity in something. And good things happen to them.” The attitude is one of “I’m still going to keep on living. I’m still going to have a happy life, and they do.”
It’s been a happy life for the Peruvian girl who once stood out in school because she didn’t speak English. Now, Romy Jurado stands out because she’s helping others achieve their American dream.
THE TIP JAR (Tips passed out courtesy of Romy Jurado)
STARTING OUT: Make sure you have liability insurance. Even a little lawsuit can turn out to be very expensive for a business. She says a lawsuit could end up costing you your license. Jurado also says don’t take on more than you can handle. For example, if you’re an attorney, and it gets to be too much, work with other lawyers to limit your liability.
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): Refocus and re-evaluate. Jurado believes your employees are your biggest assets, or they can be a big liability. That’s why you need to take periodic inventory of the following:
-Who does what?
-Who has access to what?
STARTING OVER: Research, research, research.
For ex., if you want to start a food truck business, learn the following:
-Where are all the food trucks?
-Go eat with the owners
-Go talk to the workers
If it’s a restaurant, learn how to do all the jobs, from knowing how to cook to knowing how to do the dishes. Because, she says, the time will come when you will have to do every job yourself.
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: Jurado says she’ll never hire an outside marketing company again. At least in her case, she said it was a waste. Once she realized that, she took matters into her own hands and learned some marketing skills. Here are the ones she learned that she advises other current and future business owners also take the time to learn:
-What SEO (search engine optimization) is and how to apply it
-How to send out newsletters
-How to do webinars
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”:
Jurado admits it’s controversial, but she says her mom’s advice served her well. Her mother drilled into her head, “Ser productiva, no reproductiva.” Translation: “Be productive, not reproductive.”
Jurado followed her mom’s advice. She says she was married for 15 years before she had her first baby. She has since had a second daughter. She’s convinced that waiting and being productive with her life allowed her to focus on school and then focus on building her business.
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
Mark your calendars: Sept. 13-15, 2021
Get ready for 3 days and 20 sessions of small business help. From resources to interactive networking to advice for keeping your business or business idea afloat, you'll get all kinds of ideas and help at the National Small Business Week Virtual Summit. The annual event, hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is FREE and chockful of resources for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. Take a look:
U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION - NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK VIRTUAL SUMMIT
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because, let's face it, our culture has a hard time asking for help:
Working from home during the pandemic can trigger feelings of isolation that can lead to anxiety or depression. NASE (National Association for the Self-Employed) reminds us to take stock of our emotional health and do little things that can counter negative effects to our mental well-being while working remotely:
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS ISSUE: I’m often puzzled at how expectations seem to drop when a kid is a Spanish-speaker learning English in school. As a former ESL student myself, I find it misguided. It doesn’t equate with intelligence, determination, discipline nor desire to learn. That’s why I was excited to find out that the attorney and small business owner I wanted to profile also happened to be a former ESL student.
What I also find frustrating about society’s perception about ESL students is the incorrect assumption that those same kids are undocumented, or that they won’t become productive members of society. As Jurado has shown, she not only has been productive, she’s created jobs, guided other aspiring small business owners and also donated her talents and advice as a SCORE mentor. She went from getting a “helping hand” at school to becoming a true helper in the community.
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