It’s Sunday morning and a miracle is taking place; I’m driving in my car before 8 am and it’s not a school day. I’m heading to Alegre Ramos’ home. She is my dear friend, and this is the only time she has available for our interview before she hops on a jet later today.
As I swing a left on to her quiet street I immediately become aware of a petite woman hustling down the sidewalk. She looks like she means business as she stops short to yank a water hose up and begins spraying the curbside lawn.
My first thought is, “Of course, it’s Alegre!” My second thought is, “She found time to water the lawn this morning before leaving for Hawaii? I’m not sure I’m even awake while operating heavy machinery with my nine-year-old in the back seat, and Alegre is out here sprinting up and down the block at 8:58 am watering succulents?!”
We settle in for our interview and before I get to click record on my Mac her hubby, Sean, peeks his head in and in his best let-me-clear-my-throat-because-I-just-woke-up voice, asks Alegre what to do about their daughter just waking up too?
I think, “What would the world do without mommies?” We are true superheroes. But I’ve known Alegre for almost five years and she takes it to a whole other level. She is a Badass!
“I’m only going to be around on this planet for so long, and I really want to see what I can do.”
TRW: You describe yourself as a serial entrepreneur on your website? What does that mean to you?
AR: Well, sometimes serial entrepreneur means people who start a business and then sell a business and start a new one. In my case, I’ve usually had two businesses going at the same time. When I owned a store called, Green and Greener, I also invented a food product called Gazpacho Shots. And I was running them simultaneously. So, what serial entrepreneur means for me now is that I have all my cooking related things, workshops, the cookbook I’m working on, and my video cooking series I’m working on. But I also do a fair amount of public speaking, which I love. I just like to get out and inspire people to do their best.
TRW: That's exciting! I’ve known you to do several other things as well and I’m just so impressed with the fact that whatever you put your mind to you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. You just do it. Where do you get your go-get-‘em-spirit?
AR: I come from a very entrepreneurial family. My grandfather owned a hobby store. He was also an amazing painter and a very adept ukulele musician.
My father, in addition to being a doctor, at one time owned a car dealership. My grandmother ran a restaurant. So, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and I just get excited about things. I get passionate about them and then I want to see them become a reality. I’m only going to be around on this planet for so long and I really want to see what I can do.
TRW: That’s just amazing! You studied entrepreneurship at UCLA: The Anderson School of Management?
AR: Yes. I got my MBA there.
TRW: Was that helpful? I’m asking because there is starting to be a little bit of a question as to whether young people really need degrees now. Everything is so accessible on the web. There are so many businesses that can be started at your fingertips. Would you say that it's still beneficial for someone who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur to actually go to school to study it? Is the debt accrued from going to university still worth it? Or do you think one can just get what they need guerrilla style?
AR: I think you can learn everything you need to learn in the school of life. Though my degree helped me in some ways that maybe I couldn’t have gotten without school. But let me just start with - I didn’t go into a lot of debt. When I went to UCLA it was a very affordable institution. It was the University of California. Now, it’s a private school actually; the MBA program. The tuition is much more expensive now, and I had scholarships, so I didn’t go into debt. And I would not advise going into debt to get an education. Go to community college and transfer. That is the smart thing to do.
When I decided to go into business I felt like I needed some confidence that I could to go into business, because my undergrad degrees were in anthropology and political science. And you can’t put a price on confidence, especially as a woman. When I went to business school there were so many women who I felt were like my sisters. They were women like me - doers. My business school was 90% men. So, you have to be very comfortable in a male-dominated environment. And all the women who were there were those types of a woman because you had to be. It was nice to have a network of these types of women. These women are still some of my closest friends. It gave me the confidence to know, “Okay maybe I don’t know everything, but I know a lot more than I knew when I started.” And I didn’t go into debt!
TRW: You’re a mother as well. Your daughter is seven. You are very involved at her school. What are some of your hopes and dreams for her?
AR: How much time do we have? (Laughs) I could talk for 60 minutes about that!
I really just want to be supportive of my child’s interests and nurturing of her talents. I feel like my job right now is to expose her to a lot of things and to see what she’s interested in and support that. So I co-founded a co-op for her. We just started 18 months ago. It has room for eight children. There are five right now. And a parent from each family has to spend one day a week there. We only go Monday through Thursday, but we don’t take summers. We have three-day-weekends every weekend and we do four two-week-vacations sprinkled throughout the year. I really think it’s an interesting model because I hear so many times parents saying, “I want to be more involved but I don’t want to be the only one doing it.” And what we've done is pooled funds, public and personal, to hire a teacher who is the main instructor and the parents are really just there to be assistants to look out for the social/emotional needs of the children.
“Be purposeful with your time.”
TRW: What advice would you give to a mother who might be reading this right now and wants to be an entrepreneur? What advice would you give her to get started? What would you say to her about finding balance?
AR: “You can’t change your life until you change something you do daily.” That’s a John Maxwell quote. When you’re starting a business, if you're making earrings, make a pair a day. Or spend 30 minutes a day making earrings. Just that little bit of activity will encourage you. You’ll start wearing your earrings. People will start commenting on them. You’ll make another pair. Or maybe you’ll start an Etsy site. Look, I only have one child. I joke and say I’m a starter mom. I have nothing but the highest respect for people who have more than one child. But you have to do a little bit every day. And you just have to be satisfied with the fact that progress is the success because you can’t move as fast when you're a mom. It’s just reality. Everything was so much faster when I didn’t have a child. So I’ve had to learn to be satisfied with the fact that I’m making progress and that’s good enough. It takes a little longer, but still, you do reap the benefits when you add up enough of those days in a row. So, doing a little bit every day is key. Be purposeful with your time.
TRW: What about support?
AR: There are so many wonderful support groups for mompreneurs now. One that I belong to is called Playdate Connection run by a wonderful woman named Michelle Arevalo. She puts on events that are mommy focused but also mommy and child accommodated. So sometimes there will be an event going on and in the back, there will be a caregiver who is entertaining the kids or supervising the kids. Or sometimes they’ll be fully integrated mom and child events. And there are so many things like this now available because of the internet. Look at Facebook groups. Look at Meetups. Talk to your Chamber of Commerce. If you went to university reach out to groups that are dedicated to women. Look for those support networks.
TWR: You have a workshop called, Intuitive Cooking. What in the world is intuitive cooking?
AR: I feel like a lot of people are handcuffed by recipes. Where they say, “Oh I can’t make this because I’m missing one thing.” What I teach in Intuitive Cooking is how to substitute. So if you don’t have sugar, you can use?
AR: You don’t have honey you can use?
AR: Maple syrup!
TWR: Oh, now I’m getting it!
AR: I’ve always enjoyed cooking but this following experience solidified my love of cooking: My parents were defrauded out of a debilitating amount of money and my mother was catatonic for weeks. I am the eldest. My brother and sister were four and two. And my Dad was like, “Can you cook? I have to work. Can you make food?” So, breakfast was cereal and lunch was cheese sandwiches. But I knew how to cook one thing and that was sliced hotdogs and scrambled eggs. And I made that every single night for dinner for a few weeks. And I just remember feeling so proud that I could contribute. I think that sense of pride and nurturing and supporting my family just really solidified in me the love of cooking.
So, I’ve always been a cook and I’ve always been a self-taught cook. My mom loves to cook so much that it was like her bubble bath time. We had a lock on the kitchen door. She would lock us out so she could cook because that was so enjoyable for her. So to this day I still can’t cook anything my mom could cook. I’m completely self-taught.
But what she instilled in me is a love of food, because she’s an amazing cook. She instilled in me a curiosity about it because if she has to lock the door it’s gotta be good, right? I was like, “What’s going on in there?” And third, she never used recipes. She experimented.
There’s actually a book called, Play, (http://amzn.to/ 2jzeji9) that talks about learning through experimentation. Through hands-on play, you learn to be a much more creative problem solver. And yes, you’ll make mistakes but are you going to learn something? Yes! Are you going to have fun along the way? Yes! Sometimes, is your mistake going to taste better than what you were planning on making? Yes! And that is so much fun. And that’s what I give people permission to do - to experiment.
TRW: What are you up to? And where can we find you on social media?
AR: Visit www.AlegreRamos.com. If a company wants to fly me out I will travel for classes. I provide private cooking classes for individuals, families, and for businesses as team-building activities. They also make for great birthday parties. I also have public classes located locally in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley at Los Angeles Valley College, and soon in other parts of LA. And I’m working on a cookbook that will be like no other cookbook you’ve ever seen before because there will be NO RECIPES! (Laughs hysterically)…
Alegre Ramos is a mother, wife, cooking instructor, public speaker and author residing in Los Angeles, California.
Her social media links are:
Alegre’s upcoming events: tinyURL.com/LAVC-REG
What's Alegre’s daughter reading these days?: Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed The World by Ann Shen http://amzn.to/2wmkyvM
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky http://amzn.to/2fsoQaa