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THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
“I was working in a factory… a chocolate factory.”
When Ivelisse Rivera told me she worked at a chocolate factory, I couldn’t help but think of the classic “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and her best friend, Ethel, worked on the assembly line trying to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyer belt. The episode was hilarious. They made the job look fun but also stressful.
While that episode might offer a fictional glimpse of the stress from that kind of work, the reality is, factory work can be really tough. Then, add to that the racism that Rivera says she experienced in the community where she lived.
You quickly realize, it wasn’t a great start for her after she moved to the Midwest from Puerto Rico.
INDUSTRY: Aviation/Tech Education (Avionics)
Nov. 2019 (Forming ideas and strategies)
Jan. 2020 (Pursuing resources)
July 2020 (Incorporated)
Sept. 1, 2020 (First training class offered)
LATINO CONNECTION: Born in Puerto Rico
EDUCATION: Started at the Universidad Central de Puerto Rico for a pharmacy-related degree, but she left to come to the U.S.
Anamarc Educational Institute – Medical Assistant training program
Instituto Biblico Internacional – Currently pursuing a theology degree
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “I wanted to be a model.” She took classes at the age of 15 and participated in mall fashion shows.
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “That my company grows enough, and I can be a means of helping others.”
“I want to have a women’s conference – to help women [and] say, you can do it. Let me give you directions [to help you].”
TESTS IN LIFE
“I had to pass a lot of tests in life.” Rivera's first marriage ended in divorce and the experience was devastating. She was left broken in spirit and had a young son to support.
But there was something inside she seemed to always have: an ability to lead. From being chosen class president in school to quickly becoming a supervisor when she started working in the medical field, people around her took notice.
“It’s not just sit in the chair and do this and that…”
She believes in “show and tell”; you have to set “a good example.”
GETTING OVER “THE ACCENT”
Rivera was self-conscious about her accent, but she didn’t let it stop her progress. “This is not my language. So I can do my best to learn…but this is not [an] impediment for me to continue to grow.”
She studied to be a medical assistant. Here’s the thing: She did well. She made a solid living. And she devoted about 18 years of her life to it.
But it wasn’t enough.
DOING A 180 DEGREE CAREER SHIFT
Rivera's brother in Puerto Rico gave her the idea that would let her spread her wings. He was in the police force and was also a pilot. He had opened three successful avionics technology schools in Puerto Rico where students would get the necessary training to operate the electronic communications equipment (radios, GPS, antennas, etc.) in aircraft.
Her brother told her he saw a need for the same in the Tampa/Clearwater area. Plus, her new husband was studying to become an avionics technician.
“In the beginning, [you’re] scared. You say, this is new for me.” But Rivera found the hook: they would offer the classes in Spanish and English.
With $20,000 she’d saved, she found a location at Tampa Executive Airport. “I had to start by faith to buy all the equipment.”
The Small Business Development Center helped her. She got a mentor. She got direction and tons of free advice.
She was able to secure a fuselage of a plane where students could get hands-on training. This semester, the Florida Aerospace Training Center has seven students.
With six months of training, the students get the skills to apply for an FCC license as an avionics technician. They get help finding a job that pays, generally speaking, between $25/hr. and $45/hr., according to Rivera.
But Rivera got much, much more in terms of personal satisfaction.
“I’m passionate about what I do. To me, airplanes are fascinating… I love working with people who get to learn something new.”
And she loves being the example to others who are apprehensive about their accents. “I don’t want people to say, hey, because this is not my language, I cannot be successful… We can do it! We can do it!”
THE TIP JAR... (tips passed out courtesy of Ivelisse Rivera)
STARTING OUT: “Whenever you have an idea, always have a notebook and paper handy. Write down your idea.”
“Start collecting a list of people and resources who might be able to help you.”
“Network wherever you can.” She suggests starting with a local chamber of commerce.
“If you’re a woman, find all of the organizations and agencies where you can join.”
“Become involved in your community.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career):
“Lose your fear.” She says you need to lose your fear because the opportunities are out there.”
“Get out of your comfort zone.”
RIVERA’S PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: “I was earning really good money. I had a great position. But if I didn’t leave my job, I wouldn’t have what I have now.
“I always said, I want to do it [start a business]. I would keep saying, I’ll do it. But I never did. It took me injuring my back (which I see as a sign from God) for me…to step out of my comfort zone.”
“It doesn’t matter that you’re in a different field. It’s always good to learn something new.”
“You can keep on working and continue preparing.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN:
Rivera says she’ll never limit herself again. According to her, there’s a “a lot of stuff [resources] that you can use and you don’t…because you limit yourself.”
RIVERA’S PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: When the pandemic hit, she assumed she wouldn’t qualify for any COVID business relief grants. Sure enough, Rivera was told she had to have her business for at least 2 years to be eligible. Now, she realizes she should’ve asked what other kinds of help might be available, anyway.
“No matter what they say, it’s still good to check it out…They can offer something else.”
She’s now taking her own advice. Rivera says she has a meeting next week to learn about what other business funding opportunities are available.
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: Rivera is going with her dad’s advice.
“No importa cuan alto llegues, nunca pierdas... tu humildad. Mantente siempre con los pies en la tierra."
TRANSLATION: “It doesn’t matter how high you climb, never lose your humility. Always keep your feet on the ground.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
IS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING RIGHT FOR YOU?!
One thing I've learned from covering entrepreneurship: Becoming certified as a federal government contracting has been a game-changer for many small business owners. Curious about it? Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 3rd. That's when you can get the low-down on what's involved and the four types of contracting programs. You'll also learn how to not only get registered, but also certified, as a federal government contractor. Follow this link to learn more and register for the webinar:
U.S. SBA (Small Business Administration)
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help, especially when it comes to emotional health:
GETTING REAL ABOUT RESILIENCE
We’ve all gone through struggles at one time or another. Finding a way to bounce back and using that strength to face the next challenge is critical. It’s called resilience. And since small business owners have to deal with another layer of difficulty with business challenges, this FREE webinar can help build your resilience. *Facebook’s VP of Small Business, Rich Rao, explains how you can thoughtfully face challenges, while keeping your personal growth and mental health at the forefront. It’s from the SBA’s recent National Small Business Week Virtual Summit. What’s nice is that, even if you missed the summit, you can still learn about resilience when your schedule allows. Follow the link to register and view the recorded webinar:
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)/FACEBOOK
*As always, I like to be transparent with you. Facebook is my partner with this newsletter, which is published on Facebook's newsletter platform, Bulletin.
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE: People who don’t have accents can’t fully understand how that can affect a person’s confidence.
Some people have an affinity for learning new languages. Others don’t. Some people can speak a new language, but never lose the accent. For others, it doesn’t matter how many years they practice English, the accent never leaves them.
While my dad has an accent, he doesn’t care how it’s perceived. Whenever I correct his pronunciation of a word, he looks at me, smiles and just jokes, “When are YOU going to learn to speak English?”
My dad is in the minority. Most of the people I know who have an accent are self-conscious about it.
Then, of course, there are the stereotypes. For those who are native English speakers, they may mistakenly equate a foreign accent with a lack of intelligence. One has nothing to do with the other. We’d like to think we don’t judge people that way, but many people do. That’s reality.
So I was excited to learn about Ivelisse Rivera because she not only went into a field that had nothing to do with her personal work experience (of course, having a brother in the field helps), but she worked through the accent and didn’t let it limit her vision for what was possible.
She still evaluates her success in terms of her accent. She told me, “I see myself now and I say, wow. Wow. I came 25 years ago with an accent.” But she also realized she could do much, much more in life and now helps other people realize their potential.
She went from wanting to be a fashion model to actually becoming a different kind of model – a role model.
We need to see more examples in our community like that. We can all contribute in some way, accent or not.
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