Interview Part 4: Angela as an entrepreneur; how to face challenges as a Woman
My next question is how would you define success? What makes a person successful?
Angela: I think that the definition of success has changed a lot over the years for sure. For me personally, success is when I can have a life that allows for all the things that are important to me to flourish. For example a life where I can have a team at work that is kicking ass. That I don't have to be there 24/7 but I can be there enough to continue to keep them accountable and inspired to do the work that they do. Also success for me is having the time to be with my kids, so I can be the mother that I want to be for them. That has been a difficult thing to kind of navigate because in the industry that I work the perception is that you work yourself 24/7 into the ground. And I've certainly known that and when I did it my life kind of like cracked. I don't do that anymore, I’m making enough where I don't have to do that anymore. I have shifted some of that energy that I was putting into the restaurant into family time.
Me: It’s interesting that you say that because a lot of times we see success as individualistic but the way that you describe it is more of a collective success. You see success in having an empowered group of people as your team and also in the quality time that you give to your family.
Angela: I think the reason is because I know that my purpose in life is not just to cook or run a business. I think that my purpose in life is to nurture. So I try to find ways to do that, I do it at the restaurant, I do it with my kids and in other areas. So in that way I can expand myself.
Me: That’s a great perspective honestly. What has been your main challenge as a female business owner and how did you overcome?
Angela: That’s so funny because I get that asked as well a lot. That’s
all that I know, you know, I am female business owner. I don't have another perspective. I know that for example, with Miguel, that was a huge challenge. It came from the side that it was a cultural thing (in Mexico there is a lot of machismo) and it was also a gender thing. I'm sure that if I would’ve been a man, even though I was younger, that it would’ve been completely different.
I have surrounded myself with a really amazing, strong group of women. A lot of the people that work for me are women or transgender women. So I do surround myself with that female energy. Of course I have men that work for me too but it's a very different dynamic. With women you don’t necessarily get that power struggle. When you're in a position of leadership, you don't really have to settle into something that doesn't work for you. You get to build the kind of work environment that you want. I think that’s super powerful.
Me: I think that in itself is one of the advantages of being a business owner. What else do you consider as the pros of being a business owner?
Angela: I would say that even though one of the biggest challenges is that the liability is huge, because you're responsible for so many people's livelihoods. I feel like I do get a chance to make a difference. So the choices that I make really count. What I do for my employees counts. How I speak about being an immigrant really counts. How I represent being Colombian counts, all of those things make a difference. I think that as a business owner I get to make certain choices that have an impact.
Me: I think it’s important that you mentioned that because there are a lot people out there that want to be business owners. And it’s very important for them to be aware of the influence that will have on so many people’s lives. Could you please share any piece of advice for all the women out there looking to start their own business or open a restaurant?
Angela: So I've had lots of meetings with women about this that have come to me and have asked me. One thing that I tell them is that it’s just like getting married. There's this romanticized idea about what owning a restaurant and opening a business is. And it can be really great but if you're not in it 100 percent, 300 percent, don't do it. Because it doesn't get easier with time, it gets harder. But if you’re really invested in it, you will figure it out.
Me: That’s the perfect way to describe it because that is exactly how marriage is haha. So many times we have this idea that everything is going to be perfect and magical but it is really hard work.
Angela: Well I have plenty of “me too” stories and I think for me there were two things that came up when all this first appear on the news. One was that when I was growing up, my mom and dad were never married and they were only together for two years from the time they met until my sister was born. My mom never got into another relationship and she would say later on that she never got remarried or in another committed relationship because she was always afraid that whoever was going to come into her life was going to have ulterior motives. She had been abused by her father, her adopted father. But she never explained any of this to me. I have been collecting pieces of information from my life. It was not until this past December that she actually told me that. I was like, oh, that makes sense. She told me that that was the reason why she never got married because she didn't know if whoever she married would want to be there for her or for my sister and me.
So when I made the decision to leave my husband that was flashing in my head. I was like, oh my God; would I ever be able to be in another committed relationship? I have two daughters as well and I have to protect them. All this was reinforced by my mom's experience and I had to do a lot of work around that. I am in a committed relationship right now, but we don't live together, which is really great. But how I have approached the “me too” movement with my kids is that we had a conversation about it. I asked them what they knew about it. I shared with them the conversations that I’ve had with my mom. Things that are age appropriate for them. I have a 13 year old that looks like an 18 year old, so I’ve had a lot of conversations about sex with her about what’s appropriate or not and about self-respect. So it's a conversation that we have and that is present but it’s super scary to me as a mother
Me: For sure, I think that it is really good that we are finally having this conversation more openly because sexual harassment has been happening since forever. And I feel like the #Timeup and #Metoo movement have allowed for people to say, OK, let's talk about this. Because we all have our personal “me too” stories and it's interesting because I have a story that is very similar to yours. I never lived with my dad growing up and when my mom married my stepdad she was always super over-protective over me. To the point that she didn't want us to establish a father-daughter relationship, she was afraid of us getting to close and him maybe overstepping a boundary. So there was always a separation. But just like with you I never really understood why because she never talked about it. It wasn't until later on that she told me that she was always afraid that he would abuse me or my little sister. She always had that trauma or that fear. It’s ridiculous how much and for how long women have had to endure in silence. In Latin America, and everywhere else for that matter, sexual harassment is very prevalent and nobody talks about it. The Time’s Up movement is doing a good way to start the conversation.
Angela: Yes, I think it's important to talk about it and to make sure that there’s an open line of communication between you and your kids. That's really what I want. I want to make sure that I’m always sharing with them. That is something that my mom didn’t do. They’ll probably tell you that I overshare because I'm always like, hey, let's talk about this and they’re like here we go again (laughs).
Me: (laughs) Yes I tend to overshare a lot as well.
Angela: I think it is also an opportunity to emphasize on the importance of healthy boundaries because a lot of times, that is something that us women, don't know how to do very well.
Me: Preach, that is why I think that we need more conversations about what a healthy relationship looks like. Personally I had to learn what I was comfortable with sexually and in my relationships by making a lot of mistakes. And I feel like we need more conversations at home or in school about how to establish healthy sexual relationships.