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This Puertorriqueña Created A Line Of Risqué And Real Greeting Cards To Pay Off Her Student Debt

Greeting cards are usually a fun, easy way to express your feelings to those in your life. They are usually sweet and a little corny, but that’s what they’re supposed to be, right? Well, Puerto Rican businesswoman Josie Arroyo decided that just won’t do anymore since the way we communicate has changed. Arroyo says she saw a voice that wasn’t being represented in mainstream greeting cards and wanted to disrupt the traditional greeting card industry with some risqué and super Latino cards. Hence, Bien Cool was born to cater to Latino millennials.

Meet Josie Arroyo, the founder of Bien Cool.

As Arroyo explains it, Bien Cool is a modern answer to the traditional greeting card. The cards offer customers modern designs and phrases that millennials commonly use when talking to friends and family, while keeping it sanitized and gentle.

Like any millennial, Arroyo’s idea came from a need to get her student loans paid.

La vida es una, gozatela ?? Disponibles en: goo.gl/BExEs5

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“I was first inspired by my student loan debt. I really needed to find something to do to get a second income to pay off the loan,” Arroyo says. “During the late nights brainstorming from my bed, I decided to do witty and funny greeting cards that really expressed what I want to say and how I actually say it.”

The greeting cards range from fun and silly…

Google se queda corto a lado tuyo. ? Consiguela en: goo.gl/FwLxGv

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Tbh, we all have that one person in our life that is the Google for the crew. Usually it’s mom because we all know that she is never wrong.

To OMG. ?

Feliz día nacional del Hot Dog ? #MiAgendaMeLoDijo

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“The cards in the market don’t speak the way the new generations do, and I wanted to change that,” Arroyo says.

“Hispanic millennials openly talk about gender equality, politics, human rights or sexuality as compared to their past Latino generations,” she adds. “These millennials are the target we are focused on. The ones who dare to express their feelings the way they honestly think and who are not worried about how older generations think about them or their feelings.”

Arroyo, who left her own career in media, saw an opportunity to disrupt an industry and achieve success.

Hay semanas en los que hay unos cuantos.

A post shared by Bien Cool (@biencool) on

“I love the content industry and the power of storytelling, but I also saw how big brands are failing to use this as an engagement strategy to gain younger customers,” Arroyo says about the moment she realized that this greeting card venture could be a thing. “When the idea came to me, I saw a huge potential for disrupting a traditional industry, talking the same language as new generations, sharing their interests, telling stories and making them laugh.”

Bien Cool is the product of Puerto Rican entrepreneurship during a financially volatile time, but that was actually a good thing, according to Arroyo.

#workhardplaytropical combo!

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“Building a business during Puerto Rico’s financial crisis may seem to be much harder, but it’s not impossible,” Arroyo says. “Although people in Puerto Rico may have less spending money, they are still spending. They are deciding to support local businesses and products more and more every day.”

The puertorriqueña entrepreneur believes that we are in a time when doing what you want and love is finally becoming the norm.

Arroyo acknowledges that it isn’t always fun and easy to create your own startup but it is fulfilling to do what you love. The new status quo, according to Arroyo, should be enjoying what you do and doing what you enjoy.

After some significant success in Puerto Rico, with Bien Cool cards being sold in more than 100 locations, Arroyo is making the jump to the U.S.

In 2016, Arroyo says she sold more than 16,000 greeting cards on the island nation and has seen a growing interest in her product among Latino millennials in the U.S.

Don’t worry. Arroyo says that she knows that phrases from Puerto Rico aren’t used across all Latino cultures and she is going to do something about that.

Te quiero comer hoy, mañana y siempre ? #NationalLolliPopDay

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“Puerto Ricans have their own Spanish language nuances, phrases and idioms. Sometimes through our slang, we can communicate things or share feelings like no other language can,” Arroyo says. “Why just say ‘I love you’ when you can say ‘Te adoro, corazón de melón?’ The same thing happens to Hispanics living in the United States. We are collaborating with copywriters from different countries to adapt and translate our messages to other cultures.”

Arroyo says that she is just a part of the upcoming group of young Puerto Rican entrepreneurs.

“Puerto Rico’s new generations are changing their minds and creating their own companies. We are not only starting to create our own jobs, but also thinking globally,” Arroyos says. “I just recently finished Parallel18, the first startup accelerator in the country, which makes Puerto Rico a launch pad for international expansion for the companies who participate from around the world.”

Arroyo says that entrepreneurs working together is going to be what changes the game.

“The biggest learning experience I’ve had since starting Bien Cool is learning from other entrepreneurs’ experiences,” Arroyo says. “Most of the time, they have been my most committed mentors and teachers.”


READ: She Started Her Own Mexican-Inspired Makeup Line But Regrets She Didn’t Quit Her Day Job Sooner

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Meet Michelle Poler, The Venezolana Inspiring Women To Face Their Fears

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Meet Michelle Poler, The Venezolana Inspiring Women To Face Their Fears

According to Michelle Poler’s checklist, her life was close to perfect. After graduating high school in Caracas, Venezuela, she moved to Savannah, Georgia to study advertising. While there, she said “I do” to her then-boyfriend. Once she received her bachelor’s degree, she relocated with her husband to Miami, where she swiftly landed an ideal industry gig. But as she fulfilled each life goal, many of them feats for immigrant women of color in the US, she didn’t feel as gratified as she’d been told she would her whole life.

In fact, Poler, who had always lived life according to the safe and secure to-do list society created for her, didn’t start feeling happy until she ditched the rule book entirely and started uncomfortably facing her biggest trepidations through Hello Fears.

A social movement, Hello Fears empowers people to step outside of their comfort zone, engaging in activities that make them a little uneasy, so that they’re able to tap into their full potential. The project, started in 2015 when Poler was a graduate student at New York’s School of Visual Arts, uses storytelling and media content to help people embrace fear and realize the joyous life they fantasize about.

“The core of this project is to inspire people to tackle daily fears,” Poler, 30, told FIERCE. “We discovered that courage is contagious, so by me sharing my story and other people’s stories, others reading are more willing to face their own fears.”

But before the Brooklyn-based entrepreneur started encouraging her more than 30 thousand followers to be courageous, she had to confront her own terrors. While earning her master’s degree in branding, she had a class assignment that required her to do something, anything, for 100 days. The self-described scaredy cat used the opportunity to help her confront the anxieties that were limiting her from success and pleasure. From there, “100 Days Without Fear” was born.

For the next 100 days, Poler tackled a new fear each day. Starting small, the New York transplant, who at the time was scared to ride the subway alone or be out late at night, found herself conquering those apprehensions. She also ate foods that freaked her out. She experienced the torture of a Brazilian wax. She faced rejection passing out flyers on city street corners. And she dined at a bar alone.

“I started getting confidence as I was facing my fears,” she said. “Achieving those small things and gaining that confidence helped me move to more complicated fears.”

Soon, Poler was tackling horrors that few brave individuals would even dare to think about, from holding a tarantula, to skydiving, to posing nude in front of an arts class. Once she completed the physical tasks she thought she was never capable of doing, she moved on to a bigger feat: facing the fears that were getting in the way of her leading her most fulfilled life. That meant quitting her secure but unsatisfying job in advertising and confronting problems in her familial relationships.

“One of my biggest fears was losing my parents, but I wasn’t going to kill them for this purpose,” Poler jokes. “So I decided to write a letter, a very honest letter as if they were dead, telling them all the things I love and appreciate about them and also things I would like to change in our relationship so we can enjoy life together on this planet.”

The experience was emotional, both for her and the now thousands of followers she had as her project went viral. But the tough and tearful conversation, which Poler shared in a video, were worth it. When it was time for her to face her 100th fear, speaking publicly about her experience at a TEDx Talk, her Panama-based parents were in the crowd, being more present and expressive, just as she had asked of them in her letter.

With her class assignment complete, and now jobless because of it, Poler was inspired to turn her personal journey into a business and movement, one that could inspire others to lead their best lives just as she was starting to. Through Hello Fears, the Latina now helps thousands of people take the first step of welcoming the things that make them uneasy and provides them with the tools to conquer those trepidations. She does this primarily through storytelling, from original, empowering Instagram content, a digital course, a blog where people share their own fear-defeating stories and through keynote speaking engagements. Poler averages about 70 conferences a year, bringing her powerful message of triumph to teenage girls as well as big corporations like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft.

“Fear is so universal. Everyone can relate. I speak to people of all ages, backgrounds and genders, and all relate to fear and courage,” she said, noting that most of her talks are for girls and women.

In speaking with tens of thousands of people around the country, she has found the thing most people are afraid of is failing the people they love. Unhappy wives don’t leave toxic marriages because they’re worried about how divorce might impact their children. Talented artists don’t pursue their passions because they’re scared of disappointing their parents. Partners with academic dreams don’t apply for graduate school because they fear losing income could put their relationship in turmoil.

“The fear of failing others, that’s the thing people take into account the most before taking a risk. But when we think like that and stop taking risks because of our fears of failing others, we start failing ourselves,” she said.

According to Poler, there are two types of fears that keep people from realizing their dreams: personal and culture. The former, which also includes not wanting to fail loved ones, is avoiding hurting your ego. Rejection is painful, and trying and failing is a bitter death to the soul, so we protect ourselves from that hurt by refusing to face the fear. Similarly, cultural fears, the worry of what society might think of you for behaving outside of the status quo, also keeps people in unhappy situations.

But Poler says when we remain in our comfort zone, we risk never evolving into the people we have the potential of being. For her, we grow when we challenge ourselves and we accomplish our goals the quickest when we look fear straight in the eye. She would know. Before embarking on her “100 Days Without Fear” class project, she was tasked to write a ten-year plan for her life. A year later, by braving her fears, she made all the ambitions she thought were slightly unfeasible to complete even in a decade happen in 365 days, from being paid to speak publicly, to starting her own company to building a brand with her husband. Now, just four years later, she started a relationships podcast with her husband, is writing her first book and had her story picked up for a series on Fox.

“If you have any goal in mind, if you face your fears, the probability is you will get to your goal faster and you actually get there at all,” she said.

For those hoping to conquer their fears but are unsure where to start, Poler suggests making a list of the rewards that facing their fear could bring them, from tiny outcomes to possibilities that might at first seem unrealistic. “Ask yourself, what’s the best that can happen? Fill your mind with rewards and positive thoughts that take you back to the reason you wanted to do this in the first place,” she said. She also proposes keeping an accountability partner, someone who will remind you of what you stand to gain by overcoming your terrors and will inspire you when you feel like giving up.

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Yesterday I had the honor to speak to a group of 500 certified Emergency Nurses. And I thought: fearless! The things they see everyday ???? I could not be able to handle it. They have to deal with loss, tragedy, blood and pain (emotional and physical) day after day ???? . What can I teach them? I thought ???? . For some people it takes courage and intention to be at least 10% “selfish” and take care of themselves, for once. These people spend their lives caring for others, so much, that they forget to find the time for themselves. So THAT was my mission yesterday: to challenge them to do something for themselves and not feel guilty about it. . Same goes for entrepreneurs and their work. So many hours working to make it, saving all of our money and investing it back into the business. But, what about us? . When was the last time you got yourself a massage at a spa? Or took a night off to do something by yourself that you LOVE to do? Or splurged at a restaurant that you’ve always wanted to go? Or bought tickets to see a show or a concert? . It is OK to do these things once in a while. Spoil yourself, you deserve it. You worked for it. #noguilt . When we take care of ourselves we feel happy, we bring our best selves to the world and then we will be able to help others, because happiness is contagious ♥️???????? #selfcarefirst #courageis #hellofears #mentalhealth #behappy

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For Poler, facing her fears not only allowed her to live the joyous life that degrees, a career and marriage couldn’t do alone but it also showed her, for the first time, how mighty she is.

“One thing I learned is that I’m way stronger than I thought. I perceived myself as a fragile person who was going to break at any point and needed someone to rescue me. I’m way stronger than that. Maybe not physically — I should probably go to the gym for that — but mentally I’m way stronger than I thought. I can handle myself. I can survive on my own, if I wanted to,” she said.

Read: Venezolana Verónica Sanchis Bencomo Started Foto Féminas To Promote Women Photographers In Latin America And The Caribbean

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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