Day#2: Benefits for full-time employee (An Entrepenuer’s Story)


Solo day trip to the Getty in LA

A friend’s FB post on the threat of losing Obamacare reminded me of the decision I recently took to have a full-time employee legally in Ecuador. For numerous reasons, I’m choosing to be legit with my employees and business practices here. This may sound odd to some, but there is definitely an option to be hella shady out here. And to be honest, the same shady offerings are in every part of the world; just look at the newspapers for the big crimes that make it to print.

But as my goal is to have an international tea franchise, it is critical that I develop a legal practice of establishing a business and treating employees fairly. What I have learned in my short time as an entreprenuer is that it is very easy to get shady and shifty with money and others. It’s unbelievably easy to not pay employees properly and justify it in an employer’s mind. Backstabbing is a legit biz tool for many because as they say, there are no friends in biz.

What keeps me self-checking? That Cali-Hippie in me that simply won’t die. Besides pot and sunshine, we are known to be pretty open-minded and kind people in Cali. Well, that’s the story I like to tell myself about Cali. Thus, that’s the story that counters any minuscule thought of not being honest with clients, employees, biz partners, and others.

I teach online so I know 100% that expenses will be paid, including my employees’ salaries. Some don’t understand this angel of the hustle — 3am teaching– but I saw what one source of income does to people in Ibarra; I don’t want to be shady to realize a dream. A dream is a good thing, a joyful thing to experience; shady practices just diminishes all “kimochi ii ne” feeling.

So health care & social security benefits for my full-time employee in addition to free English classes and leadership training. If I’m going global, I’m going to need help. Treat people right and they will stay; invest in people and they will want to invest in you/your company; inspire people to be better selves and they will have a bigger vision of world.

I’m going to stop now; that Cali-hippie is starting to flow a little bit too much.



30 Day Writing Challenge: An Entrepreneur’s Story


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2014-12-04 12.42.30When I was writing my last post (after a significant break from writing), I noticed my writing wasn’t flowing. I was lazy with word choice. The ideas weren’t connecting. So I thought, dude, I need to write more to get my flow coming again. Also, I haven’t been reflecting a lot of this entrepreneurial journey.  So I should combined my two weaknesses .

Day#1: Firing & Hiring — The Downside of Entrepreneurship

I hate firing people. It is not a funny experience nor does a fine feeling flowing through me. Yet it is a necessary part in the biz world. If people are not trying to help your biz grow and if they are not invested in the advancement of your business, they are money leeches and must be discarded immediately upon realizing the situation.

Since reopening my teahouse in northern Ecuador, I have fired two people. One person who didn’t like indigenous people. A lifelong resident of Otavalo, a predominately indigenous city, the person was a proud “meztizo.” I had an inkling that there were some racial/ethnic problems in Ecuador, but to hear someone manifest a strong dislike for a group and how he forced — with disgust in his voice and face in retelling this part — himself to speak to them as they passed in front — it was disheartening. As someone who regularly encounters poor treatment in Quito because my appearance isn’t what sales clerks in Ecuador associate with “paying customers of fine establishment.” **This is definitely another post on how poor customer service is weakening the economy.**

Thus to have an employee who would discriminate against someone because of personal prejudices was, and is, unacceptable on a personal level. I won’t go into how all people are potential clients and everyone deserves to receive basic customer service etiquette . But on the fundamental bases of a civilized society, people need to respect each other. There is no community building in wealth and advancement of human behavior without this basic respect. This goes to my idea that standing-in-line is the foundation of all civilized society.  **Another post coming on standing-in-line to build a civilized society.**

A few days later, the fired employee called me. He said he saw that I was advertising for new employees. He asked if we could talk. I thought for a split second. I am understaffed and struggling, but there is no justification in having a negative energy in an environment that is supposed to be uplifting and relaxing. His dislike for indigenous was just the blazing flame of a moment; there was still smoke and ashes of other disappointing behavior that would flame up into another blaze that a firing would have to put out.

“Impossible,” I told him. And more importantly I was telling self. It’s impossible to act like I didn’t see him and his negative ways. Once a person shows him/herself, see it and be done with the person. Oprah and Maya Angelou said this, and it is true.

He was fired for a reason. This is where faith is being reinforced. I need to have the faith that God will provide the correct employee to help the tea biz dream advanced.

**Finding faith in Ecuador**

A Focused Flow of Life (2017 & beyond) — An Entrepreneur’s Story


Art studio of tea cups, Carchi, Ecuador.

Wow! It’s been a long minute since I have written, but life has been charging forward and I am trying my hardest not to simply respond to it, but to direct the flow of it… I paused in writing that last thought, for I have decided to go with the flow of life, but flowing with life with no focus is a hot mess in the making. Thus, how do you flow but be focused on achieving goals?

I’m all about goal setting and creating a specific target for my energy. I can wing some stuff, but keeping it real, winging is b.s.  It’s a tell-tell sign of not caring and low-level living.

I remember clearly people/colleagues disliking me bc of my drive to a specific target. It was that “Who does she think she is?” vibe surrounding me. It used to bother me, but it was at Yachay I learned to overlook this “hater vibe.” Hater -vibe? This is lazy writing like saying people are ignorant so you don’t have to go deeper in your work to connect with others. (My writing is weak bc I haven’t written regularly in a minute.)

At Yachay there was the Ecuadorian vibe of “good enough.” I will do my work in the English department, so it is “good enough” that students will learn, my boss will be satisfied and I will feel justified in receiving my “high” paycheck. I too adapted to this Ecuadorian good enough motto. Until it wasn’t good enough, until I starting analyzing my salary. You see, when I stop liking something, I start trying to justify that thing in my life with a price tag. This pricing police is a tell-tell sign life is moving upon me and a big change is coming. Whenever I am beginning to mentally untangle myself from a job, I start looking at numbers. It’s always that question, “Am I making enough to deal with the bullshit?” or “What exactly do I need this paycheck for?” or “Is this job payign as much as a job in X country bc I haven’t been to X and my wanderlust…”

Money is my internal self-indicator that I’m not flowing in the right direction of life. I’m missing something. I’m not living at my full potential bc I’m normalizing bullshit for financial gains and with two nothing degrees, money has never been the real objective in life — well modification is happening to this idea.

Money as a part of wealth has become a central objective in my entrepreneurial hustle, but with that said, providing something of value aka contributing something to the world is important. I do believe if I discover that “something” that will make the world better for someone if only for 30 minutes (zenzone-why sip alone), money will come and I can build the wealth needed to go back to LA and help my community. In my mind, my mission is clear. Establish a tea franchise, thereby generating revenue to spend on the things that I think are important, which are community improvement bc as a Soc person I truly believe we are products of our society. We are shaped by the people and institutes that impact us on so many levels. Hence, I know I must raise children in my hometown, L.A. Say what you want about L.A. but it’s my home and there are a lot of great qualities that will make my children active participants in community building.

But adoption and childrearing are few years away; hence, back to present day goals of 2017. I have yet to write down all of my goals as I did last year. The goals are marinating in my mind. But I know creating a system for a tea franchise and English center(s) are center; perhaps this is the goal — system developing of Mama California & Global English. Why overcomplicate life with numerous goals to look impressive to others about self?

2017 Goal: Developing a system to easily implement Mama California/Global English in various touristy cities in Latin America & Asia. #chasethedream

The direction of life’s flow has been set. Now I must wait for the rush of living to carry me to my destined place in 2017. As I wait, I will write The Next Great American Novel — Mama California & Espera No Mas: Waiting for God.

Thriving after Being Fired — An Entrepreneur’s Story


August 27, 2016

Today is my birthday, and it is also the one year anniversary of being fired from Yachay; and therefore, the anniversary of being pushed off the cliff of normality/paycheck-job-security and into this entrepreneur’s life.

What a year it has been! Last year this time, I was at a lost. I didn’t know what to do after being fired unexpectedly in the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. My housing was connected to my English teaching job, which meant I was looking at joblessness and homelessness without any prior notice. (Contrary to movies, gringos can fire you without every communicating in a verbal or written from that your personality is problematic.)

My mom suggested moving back home to L.A. I told her that wasn’t even an option. After spending a hard year and a half living with my mom prior to moving to Ecuador to teach, I knew I was too grown to live with my mom. So my mom & bro told me the reality of the situation– “Make it work!” Then they asked me what I needed to do to make it work. I told them two things– I needed to find a new apartment and open my teahouse. And it was really that simple. Find an apartment with hot water for daily showers, and open my teahouse business. And that is how I went forward with my two businesses, Mama California Tea House and Global English Made Simple – GEMS.

As I searched for a new apartment, I visited a Spanish friend’s apartment. (He was returning to Spain after a year of teaching at Yachay.) In his apartment, he asked me, “Why were you fired?” I told my  “please-feel-sorry-for-me” story of being fired without warning and for being too educated, too black and too female. (There is plenty of evidence to back up this story.)

Then the Spaniard asked, “What did you learn from being fired from Yachay?” I said, “Huh?” I had never thought about what I was supposed to learn nor the role I played in being fired. I was caught up in telling my pobrecita-victim-story of being fired. But his question halted that storyline. He made me reflect on the role that I had played in being fired and focus  on the more important story that I was to learn from this life event. As Oprah says, when something bad happens, ask you self, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”

After thinking, I realized being fired taught me that when life/God tells me to move forward on faith, I must flow with life and develop faith as I step forward onto the unknown path. I knew I hated working for an incompetent person who had disrespected me and labeled my ambitions to be great as problematic. Not to mention the ongoing favoritism in the department. But like the majority of workers/instructors/administrators at Yachay, I was unhappy but staying for the paycheck.

By the time my birthday had arrived, I had accomplished my three goals of working at Yachay, yet I was too scared to leave and start my entrepreneurial life. I knew I had no business experience, no cafe/teahouse experience, and no partner to fall back on. It was me, my ideas and my money. So I said, “Naw God!  I’m not ready to leave this paycheck job. I need one more semester of shit work on the plantation, so I can secure my financial cushion.” But God said, “Leave Yachay! Leap and let faith float you.”

Even in the days after being fired, my faith was still struggling to emerge. But now, a year later, I’m 100% sure my firing was a result of life telling me to be the best you can be; leave the flock and create your own piece of the “American Dream.”

So now when I speak of getting fired, I speak my truth: Life fired me from Yachay because I was too scared to step out on faith as an entrepreneur; I knew that paycheck-job was over after I accomplished my three goals (get a professional work visa, get my cedula, and present at PeruTESOL conference). But I doubted my ability to really live out my entrepreneurial dreams. Yes, I had watched the YouTube videos, so I knew people spoke about the fear that hinders most of us. But there was a video that I hadn’t watched prior to being fired. That  video featured a successful entrepreneur speaking on seeing the fear and walking through it to reach your goal. (It would take me eight months of working to realize the reality of walking through fear to begin to touch a goal.) I did hear people speak about the reality of being able to make something out of nothing. But I still didn’t believe that truth could be my personal truth.

In being fired, I fed myself those motivational videos on YouTube.  Every morning while getting dressed, I watched a video. While cleaning up my teahouse, I listened to a business school lecture. I built my belief in self and confidence in self one YouTube video at a time. Now I can look back on my firing and know without a doubt the best decision in my life was not begging some Southern male to continue working on the plantation. (Yachay is on a former plantation.) The best decision was allowing life to take me to that promise land of entrepreneurship.

A former colleague told me the night that I was in shock of being fired that I needed to go home and cry. But I have not once cried over Yachay, the manner in which I was fired and the shadiness of my former boss. There is nothing to cry over. When something is over, it’s over and you keep it moving. This is what my year in Ecuador as an entrepreneur has taught — leave when life tells you to leave. Don’t fight life because life will always win. Thus, it is time for me to exit Ibarra. It is time for me to take my gringo ideas to a more gringo-friendly city – -Otavalo. On Monday the search for a location in Otavalo begins. (Even if it doesn’t work out in Ecuador, there is always Seoul and a normal teaching job. And have I mentioned that I love Seoul? Great city.)

I am truly grateful for Ibarra and Caranqui for a year of developing my ideas as a newbie business owner of a teahouse. This location was perfect for allowing me to figure out my ideas and business vision. As I tell people, this year as an entrepreneur was cheaper than a MBA program. I had never worked in a cafe/teahouse before. I had only visited them. Yes, my year in Caranqui-Ibarra has done me well and set me up to create my tea franchise and writing career.

NO EXCUSE– #MakeLifeWork


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coloring at mama california

June 2016

I tried really hard to think of reasons not to write up and submit a conference summary paper. The excuses ranged from “I’m no longer working for a uni” to “who really cares about my meditation research” to “I need to focus on my real money-making business.” But in the end, the feeling of giving up over took any excuses. You see, it was a personal goal to write up a conference paper and submit it; not for bragging (bc honestly no one really cares about my conference presentations except for me), but for me. It was a completion mark; like applying for a scholarship, wining; preparing diligently for my conference workshop; having a successful workshop; sharing my information and putting my ideas out there; submitting a conference paper.

It’s having little goals that give me encouragement to make the bigger goals.

Regularly, I listen to motivational videos and commencement speeches and the people always say how others thought they were crazy and how daunting the biz path looked and how they had some fear/dobut, but they pushed through.

I’m in a pivotal time for a startup and know not writing that paper and submitting would signify my ability to bs and make up excuses for why various parts of my life/biz sucks. As Oprah and others have said, there’s no knight coming to save me; I have to save myself.It is up to me to make things happen in my life/biz.

So, before I could develop the habit of excuse making , I needed to develop the habit of pushing through. I told myself today “no pity party” as I watched people walk by with ice cream and bread. As the video lady said people have money, so you have to figure out how to get them to spend their money on your product. That is my goal as an entrepreneur.

What I have discovered at the close of another month is that I am providing something special for people who want foreign specialness. I accept that a lot of people don’t want my Cali ways; they love Ibarra and its traditions. I respect that. But I know there are people like me who want a little something different, a little something abnormal, a little something that says, “I’m not just an Ibarreno; I’m a global citizen.”

Now I just need to create a clearer path to connecting with my tribe.

Rebound From Disappointment ASAP — An Entrepreneur’s Story


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June 2016

Jamaica cocktail $3

Tea Cocktail: Jamaica-Me-Crazy (Agua Loca)

Yesterday was a hard day as a  baby entrepreneur. I had two events at my teahouse and no one attended. Add to that, there were hundreds of people roaming around my neighborhood eating ice cream and pan de leche. I heard an entrepreneur say that everyone has some money; the question is why aren’t they spending their money on your product.

This situation and quote make me reflect upon my product. People tell me my problem is location. But I see businesses in “good locations” (center of town) in Ibarra close after a few months. I think it is the packing of my product. I haven’t discovered the way to connect my global mindset to the mindset of Ibarrenos who like their traditions and way of life.

In analyzing the situation, I must find a balance between “global Monique” and “traditional Ibarreños.” I also must rebound quickly from disappointment. Barbara from :Shark Tank” said that how quickly someone recovers from a set back is how successful that person will be in business. I thought about her words as I sat in my teahouse contemplating why life wasn’t bringing folks through the doors of my teahouse.

So I decided to make a video. It wasn’t the best video (Angel and Phillip let me know; love 100% friends), but it was something to keep me moving forward and not get stuck in disappointment. I introduced myself as an English teacher for my English language business, Global English Made Simple (GEMS) without make-up (guess I’m feeling Alicia Keys). Then I made a second video for how to make “Jamaica-me-crazy” cocktail. There aren’t enough tea cocktails videos out (I know hard to believe), so I felt I was actually contributing something to the world.

I felt better after making the videos. I was being productive even if the profits weren’t coming in the present moment. I was investing in my future. I was sticking with my idea in face of setbacks. And from the videos I watch, I know that I must stick with my ideas.

Not many people get this “stick with my idea” situation that I’m presently living. But I also understand that most people don’t want to be a real visionary leader nor do they want to be relevant entrepreneurs. They want that “Korean Dream,” as Jessica puts it– a good job with a good salary working for a good/stable company. Thus, when I see people looking at me in silent confusion, I know they are Korean Dreaming and not my type of fellow entrepreneurs. We need all kinds of folks in the world, so I’m not putting them down; I’m just saying we are different. And it is that difference that is making me rebound quickly and stick with “English Tea” in Ecuador.

“Espera No Mas” & Other Things I’ve learned after 6 months of running a teahouse in Ecuador– — An Entrepreneur’s Story


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Friend: How have u been?
Me: “it’s been a rough week, but i just need to find my groove again. I’m optimistic about tmrrw.”
Friend: Lol


I’ve been really off lately. I didn’t figure in properly how my mini-break (3 weeks in Europe) would affect my work game mentally and physically. Like I knew I would probably have jet lag, but my mind hasn’t fully returned to the work situation. Plus the big earthquake in Ecuador has me thinking – how is my biz going to co-exist with rebuilding a country?

This week has been slow at my teahouse, so it has allowed me more time to reflect about life as of May 2016. And what my mind always wanders to is writing. Les Brown says in one of his videos that we either live our dreams or our fears. And for some reason I’m living my two biggest fears – A. not getting published & B. —.

So how do I make my two biggest goals happen? Like I know, lol. But there must be a correlation btwn somewhat successfully starting my tea & English language biz and failing miserably at the two most impt goals in my life. But what?

So what has six months as a biz person taught me that I can seriously apply to my other areas of life and help me accomplish my two goals?

  1. “Make it work!”  IT being everything. Life gives you what you need to make things happen, you just have to find the courage to do it.
  2. “I can hear you.” (This is what a hella unfriendly clerk in a macaroon store in Paris
    told me bc hmama logo drawings 3.JPGe surely didn’t want to walk over and take my order, lol.) People want someone to listen to them. So I’m like a bartender. People come to me to vent, to ask for practical advice, to feel less lonely, to be encouraged. As my name means counselor, I accept this role. I think my years of isolation/not-fitting-in/being non-cliquey has enabled me to relate to others in a way that helps them feel better about themselves and life. that’s a gift from god.
  3. “Naw, I’m not doing that!” Stay with your ideas but also be flexible. It’s a tricky balance.
  4. “Move Forward!” A lot of Yachay folks – present and former employees&students– stop by to discuss that Yachay life. I listen bc I know everyone wants to be heard; but I don’t get involved emotionally bc Yachay is my past. It served its purpose in my life; thus, my life goes forward and not back. When people ask why I left Yachay, I tell people with a quickness,  “I got fired from Yachay. That’s life!” And everyone agrees es lo que hay. No biggie. I’m still the intelligent Afro-Am woman that I have always been and always will be.
  5. “If you stay ready…” Sometimes I feel myself making a bad first impression. I assume no one is going to show up for tea, so I don’t have all of the items on the menu, which makes me look unprofessional. So as I revise my menu, I need to keep in mind the In ‘n Out approach to biz. I also need to remember I have a biz that is open to the public and I want the public to support, so I need to step my professional game up. Stay ready, yo!
  6. “Love Thyself!” – I’m a fan of life breaks. When I entered UCLA as a burnt-out freshman, I knew life breaks were needed things. (Malia Obama was right in taking that gap year break before going to Harvard.) I just know I work really hard, so I need to play really hard, and playing for me is stepping back from reality if only for an hour nap or 3 weeks in Europe.Mama Break announcement.png
  7. Keep it Simple! Keep it Real! Keep it Flowin! – it’s been my motto in life for more than a decade.
  8. “It ain’t always about you, boo.” I am lowering my expectations and not taking things so personal. I have encountered a lot of people who don’t keep their words, only look out for self and misuse my “friendship.” Because this happens on the regular in this expat life, I’m learning not to have my Cali standards in many situations but to always have my LA skepticism.
  9. “My cup runneth over.” What God has for me, is for me; so don’t hate on others. I often feel the mice-fighting-over-crumps scenario in Ibarra/Ecuador as I try to establish my biz and build biz relationships. I believe in helping people by sharing my knowledge, so when people don’t do the communal things, I’m learning to let it go. Everyone doesn’t want me to succeed; everyone doesn’t like me; everyone doesn’t share in my work ethic. I gotta do me and meet God on the other side.
  10. “You’re not my client. Siga no mas.” I’m ok that not everyone wants to have my products & services. And I won’t lower my prices bc I give highly quality English services and some good tea.
  11. “Espera No Mas” (Continue to wait/hope) – I wrote a book entitled this (of course, no one wants to publish it, but I’m not bitter, hahaha). And it really is the story of my life; things never come when I want them to come; they come when God decides it is time. For example, tonight as I was doing my yoga, the image for my window front came to me. I have been trying to figure out how to make Mama California look nice, and man, it just hasn’t come for 1 year. But out of nowhere, tonight on the floor with my legs high up in the air, the vision arrived. Then confirmation came with a similar image on FB page “Libros y café.” Perhaps my Romeo will arrive in the same fashion, hehe.bruinbutterfly indie covers.jpg
  12. “Don’t chase the money; chase the dream.” “Work on your craft, and the money will come.” “Follow your passion.” “You have to do what you love.”  You should do what you want in life. My decision to do me has confused many people. My mom mumbled her confusion of my lifestyle while we were in Paris. I couldn’t even make out what she was really saying, but it was something like she wasn’t going to waste too much energy giving me feedback/commentary, bc she knew I was going to do me and it might work out, haha. I have chosen to go way off the mainstream path towards the American Dream. Yet this path that I am on is the most logical for me. If I would have not taken my five-year-break-from-life—-IFiesta del vino 5.jpg can’t even finish that thought, bc there was no alternative for me. I had to live LA to be able to live my life and not the life others expected me to live. I wanted to be a writer — you know, write the Next Great American Novel– so I tried, still trying. I wanted to see the world, so I put myself out there in the non-Cali arena and went oh-natural with my hair. And I learned to float with the tides of life. I haven’t sunk, so I guess I’m doing alright.
  13. “Do like a stupid” Ai-san was right– don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh more, sing aloud more, dance more, crack a joke more, wear those “ubiquitous” colors more (an older, white female colleague’s comment on my clothing). #YOLO #TheHustleIsReal #MakeLifeWork #AmaLaVida #CaliONMyMind


Everyone isn’t my client & I’m cool w that — An Entrepreneur’s Story


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I used to want for people to think “I’m nice.” I spent a lot of years not being me because I didn’t want people not to like me. I was angry with myself; thus, I was angry with others. But now, I realize I am what I am, I be who I be, I do what I do, I think what I say, and I live how I want.

I do me.

In this acceptance of self, I also accept and embrace my “Mama California” and my “Global English Made Simple (GEMS)” ideas. And I’m not willing to compromise a lot about my visions. But what exactly are my business visions? What service am I trying to contribute to society to make it better?

Talking with Ecuadorian teachers about my prices for English language services made me really think about who I was creating my business for. One teacher said my writing prices were too high. (i.e., Personal essay = $50) But as a writer, I’m highly sensitive about my writing, and I truly believe this here writing thing is my talent and  I have been honing it since Spring 1999 when I realized, as a Bruin sophomore, I wanted to be a writer. I mean, I’ve worked really hard to get my concise writing, grammar, and teaching of writing skills down. Thus, I can’t give it away for free simply because I’m in a small town in Los Andes. (Hell no,when the Internet is connecting me to all of Ecuador.)

And more over, people are paying my fees already and I haven’t even properly launched my GEMS business. People come off the street and pay my editing prices ($15 basic edit); and, let me tell you, they all know their  writing pieces sound much better after a visit to Mama California. Writing ain’t easy, and concise writing —look ahere, look ahere, look ahere– is hard as a rock for many, especially when English is not one’s first language.

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But what really made me stick with my prices was what a former teaching colleague kept asking, “Who will ask for your help?” So I had to ask self, Who is my client and who do I want my client to be? In answering those questions, I had to reflect on the English students I have taught in the USA, Central America, South America, and Eastern Asia. The students  I really want to help are the people who are self-motivated to go beyond their homeland boundaries — mentally and physically– to play with the big dogs in the global arena. They are the people who realize “good enough” is not “good enough” when others are crafting their art, honing their skills, getting the extra help, and over-delivering their services. I want to work with the people who appreciate my standard of work ethics and living. My bro said my problem is that I don’t like working with C-level people; I really only want to work with A-level people and I get angry when people don’t bring their A-game. This is true; this is who I am. Thus, I need to work with other people who believe that and are willing to pay for the quality of help that will get them impacting the world.

And let’s keep it 100. I’m more than just a native speaker; I got a resume. I did go to decent unis. I have taught for more than 10 years in 6 countries. I have present at international conferences and will present at several more this year. I have published articles. I have led teacher training classes.

And I practice what I preach. I got my hair cut today — lord, did it take a long time to organize my hair event; just a trim of the afro. My hairstylist said it was only $5 because she works from her home now. But I knew that wasn’t right. She did a good job and I was leaving happy. I paid her $10 because that is what she deserved at home or in the salon. I could only think, “Know your worth, girl.”

IFullSizeRender 136.jpg know my worth and my worth is $50 for a personal essay in Ecuador (probably $100-$200 in the USA/Asia). What other Ecuadorians have told me is that in the big cities– Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil– they will pay the money because they know the value of good English. So why wouldn’t Ibarrenos know it? In fact, they do know it. People regularly come for tea and cupcakes at Mama California. Once people try my products and understand I am not lowering my prices, they pay it; “they” being the ones who want my Cali flavor, the ones who want to do something non-Ecuadorian, the ones who want to know what life is like outside Los Andes.  And as they say, “I’ll take you there.”

GEMS– Dropping gems on the world! And we all know gems aren’t cheap. 

A Jump from Practicality — An Entrepreneur’s Story


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I’m a very practical person. Despite my artsy/Cali-hippie/roll-the-dice moments, I follow logic. It makes life easier, and I’m all about that simple life. Thus, me quitting my part-time teaching job is a very non-Monique thing. My decision was in direct response to teaching third-year English majors who did not enjoy my Cali/only-English-in-the-English-class/don’t-give-me-copying-&-pasting-bs teaching style.”English! English! English!” they complained about my class; and some went so far as to blame low test scores directly on my usage of English in the English classroom. (Of course no one wants to take responsbility for not going to office hours, not doing homework and not fully paying attention in class by putting away cellphones/Facebook.) They all agreed that they wanted what they were used to– a bilingual teacher who spoke Spanish in the English classroom.

My decision to remove myself from a place where I was not valued has created a new situation for me. I find myself living completely in faith. And it’s slightly scary.

I mean, no steady income from another person/company/government agency — like WTF?! But I knew two jobs back-to-back where I was disrespected in the office and having ungrateful English students– yeah, time to roll out and lean not on my own understanding. Life has set me up to do me and be my own boss, so I had to jump. And jump I did last week.

And in doing me, I’m boldly creating my vision of what I want my companies to evolve into. This past week — and today– I spoke confidently about what I want to do with my teahouse and my new English language service. Because I listen to motivational videos everyday, I know I must listen to my gut and stick to my vision. I have compromised a lot in my teahouse (selling real food, doing a lot of English things, making paletas/popsicles), but what I’m not going to do is sell coffee in my teahouse now (maybe in the future I will serve international coffee, but now I have to properly introduce “artisanal tea” in coffee land). I’m not going to take a survey of my neighbors to find out what Ecuadorians want from a Californian tea house when I’m the Californian. And I’m not going to take on the money-fear of others who only seek to have a good salary from a job they hate. I need to build wealth and happiness right now. And it’s possible if I stay patient, positive and proactive.

The day after I resigned from my part-time job, I went to the government office to become a legal freelancer in English teaching/editing/writing. Then I heard Steve Harvey talking about jumping and how we must all jump in life to be successful. And I knew I had made the right decision to jump from the safety of a shitty job into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. I jumped and now I’m learning how to adjust to this new feeling of free-falling. There are no regrets because when you know better you do better.



my life to gamble with & I’m betting on self. : An Entrepreneur’s Story


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I took an entrepreneurship course in my hometown before coming back to Ecuador.

“Do you know what today is? It’s our anniversary…It’s our, it’s our special day.”

Last weekend I celebrated three months of operating Mama California. This may not seem like a big deal, but in Ibarra it’s huge. You see, many new businesses close within three months out here to avoid completing legal obligations and paying all the fees for opening. To me, it’s a little odd given it usually takes a year for a new company to see profits. But I think this is a reflection of the need for more government and NGO support of budding entrepreneurs in Ecuador.


One day I hope to open my tea garden in L.A. Ojala.

Ecuador doesn’t lack the entrepreneurial spirit. I have seen one location have three businesses open and closes with in a three month span. People have ideas and a desire to own a piece of the world. The problem is receiving the proper guidance and support to maintain these businesses; all any entrepreneur needs is a little help to develop a dream. I know this as I attended a course for new entrepreneurs in my hometown of Los Angeles. And one day I hope to open my tea garden in the great City of Angels.

So why isn’t the government organizing programs to help? I’m not sure. Why aren’t small businesses banning together to help each other? I’m not sure and maybe there are associations that I am not aware of, which is also problematic given I am a new entrepreneur.


Working on my logo and advertising images.

But I think the main reason I am still standing is because I kept my day job, and I’m taking my time to figure out my business in the local context. My Seoul-Cali ideas are foreign to Ibarreños; my “coffee house” is not the typical cafeteria out here because, for starters, I sell tea and not coffee. I don’t have a bunch of tables and chairs; I have couches to lounge in. It’s also has a heavy “English-speaking” vibe, which could be intimidating; however, people actually want a place to practice their English with a native speaker/EFL teacher of 10 years, which I’m slowly realizing. Being able to develop my brand in the Ecuadorian environment was only possible because I’m still teaching English, which provides a steady income. So it is true– keep your day job until you can really break free.

Another reason I am still standing after three months is because I made a personal commitment to self that I would be open for an entire year. So come next Halloween, I’m either having an anniversary party or going-out-of-business celebration. Having that one-year commitment embedded in my entrepreneurial spirit allows me to tell people the truth: “I’m happy to have my shop and I’m going to be here for at least one year.” Some look at me like I’m a gringa loca and extremely naive; but what this simple sentence does is stop the cascade of doubt and negativity about my business success. This is my life to gamble with, and I’m betting on self. I think people — friends, colleagues, neighbors– don’t realize how negative they are when they constantly ask “Are you making money yet?” “You should sell almuerzos.” “You know, you should move to the center of town.”  Because they don’t believe in their own abilities to make their dreams a reality, they throw shade on me; but, I got a repellent for that negativity; it’s called faith, hope and optimism.

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Developing my tea bowl business

I dream big dreams, knowing that God can dream bigger dreams, as Oprah always says. So why can’t I have a successful tea business in coffee land? Why can’t I have the area’s first English writing school if my talent is writing in English? Why can’t I publish my novels with my own publishing company? Why can’t I do me?

It’s simple, I can, I will, I am. Period.