Jennifer Ramirez is the Founder and Executive Director of &Rise, an Illinois-based 501c3 nonprofit that empowers women to be the ultimate versions of themselves no matter what adversities they’ve faced. Jennifer is also the CEO of &Flourish which is a faith-based company where she coaches female survivors of abuse to get rid of their emotional pain once and for all so they can flourish.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Jennifer Ramirez: Entrepreneurship, to me, means taking a leap of faith on yourself to go forward with a passion or vision you feel can help others to make their lives easier or better and having faith in yourself to do all the things you need to in order to make it happen.
How did your company come to be?
JR: I Initially started doing “women’s empowerment” events out of my living room because I loved sharing my story with other women. By the third event we secured a venue and we sold out of 150 tickets on Eventbrite and that was my “ah-ha” moment where I realized that this could be a nonprofit and that is when &Rise was born.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
JR: I wanted to pursue &Rise full time so Friday, March 13th 2020 was my last day of full time employment and then the following Tuesday we went into the stay in place orders. I was terrified because I had planned to do tons of events but had to completely pivot my plans. The pandemic was a blessing in disguise for me though because I saw so many people suffering from anxiety and depression so I that is what gave me the idea to create support groups for women. What started off as a support group for women suffering from anxiety and depression led to support groups for females that have survived sexual, domestic, and emotional abuse and we have grown from one weekly online event to two in-person and one virtual sessions per week! I continue to see a huge need and not enough resources which is confirmation we are on the right road!
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
JR: My proudest moment was deciding to leave my cushy full-time job to pursue this passion of mine. I had no idea what I was doing or if it was going to fail or be successful, but I have a burning passion inside that led me to what I am doing now and I am proud that I trusted in myself, event when others tried to tell me it was too risky. More proof that you should follow your heart when it comes to doing what you love. The lowest point for me was when I first started and realizing that I had no idea what I was doing. When I quit my 9 to 5, I was positive I had all the skills I needed to start my businesses, but I had no clue! I was wise enough to hire coaches and consultants to help me along the way instead of trying to figure everything out myself which is one of the smartest things I have done for my personal and professional development.
How is your company changing the landscape?
JP: &Rise Is changing the landscape because we are an organization that is meant to SERVE. We believe that money should not be a reason why people can’t move forward with healing and being the best versions of themselves which is why I believe in having all of our offerings as free or affordable. We offer women in Illinois free counseling, free in-person and virtual support groups, and all of our events are free or affordable so that anyone who wants to attend can do so without worrying about money. We have proudly served over 500 women in less than two years and it is my mission to help millions over the next several years.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
JR: I have a degree in Business Administration, and I thought I had so much knowledge of the business world, but college only teaches you the basics. I had no idea about client avatars, how to message your ideal clients, or how to sell myself as a coach. I honestly would not do anything differently though. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and because of my lack of knowledge in so many topics, I was hungrier to learn and grow, which I have done a lot of in the last two years.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
JR: The best advise is good things take time to grow. When I first started I had extremely unrealistic expectations of where my business would be and how much money I would be making. I began to become so focused on money at one point that I had to take a step back and remember the reason I started doing all of this. I started my two businesses to empower and help women. So, I went back to square one, changed my focus to solely serving others which then opened so many more doors and the money came without me even trying. I am a woman of faith so my personal mission statement is “put God first and he will guide you to where you need to go and what you need to do, even if it is not easy.” My professional mission statement is “empowering women to be the ultimate versions of themselves no matter what adversities they’ve faced.”
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
JR: God. Praying and reading the bible is where I find comfort. Self-care is also huge for me too. Speaking to a counselor on a weekly basis, getting massages, bible study, and spending time journaling helps me so much when I am going through rough times.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
JR: I used to think that success was when I could buy a Mercedes Benz and buy a huge house but, to be honest, I do consider myself to be successful even though I am not at the point where I could buy those things yet. I consider myself successful already because I am able to serve women all over the world. Whether it be through my nonprofit or my coaching business. The fact that women trust me to be the person to help them through their struggles means the world to me. The fact that I am a single mother that put myself through college and created two businesses during a pandemic is pretty impressive and I do not give myself enough credit for how far I have come In less than two years.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
JR: Yes. The pandemic showed me what was really important in my life and allowed me to refocus on those things.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
JR: I work alone in my coaching business but I work with two coaches who guide me to have the best business I can have. For &Rise, I have a team of volunteers that I oversee. My advice is to hire and bring people into your organization who are passionate about the mission and care for it just as you do. I have such amazing volunteers who love and support the mission which makes the work they do more enjoyable, and it shows.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
JR: I wake up late. I know this goes against what so many preach but I love my sleep and sleeping in makes me feel good so I do what makes me feel good. Once I wake up, I pray and ask God to guide me through the day and to speak his message through me when I am working with clients, then I get to work. This is a newer routine as I never used to pray before anything eight months ago.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
JR: My kids, God, and my passion for the work that I do. I truly love what I do!
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
JR: I want to be known as the woman who loved helping and serving others without wanting anything in return. I hope that my influence and words stick with people so that they can one day impact others in their own way. Empowered women empower women and it can be a beautiful domino effect.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
JR: “This too shall pass.”
Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
JR: Yes, I have worked with some amazing coaches who have helped me personally and professionally. I learned early on to invest in myself and it has been the best money I have ever spent.
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career? How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
JR: I have a sales coach and a business coach. My sales coach helped me beyond business, she helped me so much personally as well. She helped me find my faith in God again and has prayed over me and with me in so many tough times and I will always be thankful for her forever. My business coach is super smart and always praises my hard work and ideas and working with her shows me I am on the right path, even when I don’t feel confident.
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