“Mom still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up!” my 14 year-old son elbows me as he jokes with his dad. He’s a perceptive boy: the truth is, I’m still exploring. But I couldn’t do any of that investigation without the support I get from my husband and two kids.
Finding a path, growing a business, making a schedule—and living—that works has been (and still is!) quite a ride. My career path looks a bit like the DNA strands my daughter is currently studying; it weaves in and out, coming together at certain points, and then branching out again. It’s been pretty low and rocky at times…but the smooth parts, and the highs, are definitely worth it all. In my case, it’s always been a family affair.
After my daughter was born in 1990, I went back to work as a full-time college professor. This worked out well, until, less than two years later, I became pregnant again. Then I knew I wanted to do something so that I could spend more time at home. I knew I wanted to take care of the kids, but I also wanted to create a career for myself that would give me the stimulation I craved, along with the flexibility I desired. We moved in with my parents (was supposed to be very temporary and we ended up staying for two years!) which provided me with the opportunity to afford the luxury of time with my kids—and the exploration of possibilities for my own business. Though my father had always dreamed I’d take over his graphic design studio, he also instilled a philosophy in me: Do what you like, and things will work out.
I took my dad’s words to task. In 1995 I started a small business based on areas I felt passionate about: teaching and writing. I combined my background of teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish and started a company called “On-Site Language.” It provided the custom-designing and teaching of language classes to people in their workplace. My first job was at a catering company and I simultaneously taught the management Spanish, and the mostly Spanish speaking staff English. This class was successful in many ways; it was so much fun, convenient—and an idea that I could see worked really well and could be applied to different workplace situations. This job confirmed that I was onto something—AND it also reminded me that I loved to be around food (I secretly harbored the desire to become a chef!). It was also great fodder for publicity; I wrote a press release and submitted it to the New York Times. They picked it up and wrote a long article—with photos. That landed me a great contract with Restaurant Associates in NYC; I started teaching many classes in their restaurants (Café Centro in Grand Central, as well as in their cafeterias in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, and more). I made great connections with people, and took notes about what worked well in the classroom.