We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana Paola Vázquez-Rosa and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ana Paola, how do you think about risk?
On January 22, 2015, two days before I turned 25 years old, I was proposed by the Dean of the Architecture Department of the Polythecnic University of Puerto Rico to go on a Study Abroad program that would take place in Madrid, Spain in February. Basically a month away from that day. It was Thursday afternoon, the administrative offices were about to close until Monday, and he asked me to think about it through the weekend and pass by his office on Monday morning. The weekend arrived and my big 25th birthday party was a blast. Monday morning I went by his office and he waved at me saying “when do you leave?” I immediately replied by default “as soon as I can” without any hesitation. He said, “you are good to go, you better decide soon beacuse you need to be in Madrid in less than a month to start your End of Carreer year.” I was shocked, going to Spain was a dream at the moment, but it never crossed my mind that living on the other side of the world was part of that dream. I smiled at him, left his office and went directly to the Registration Office. Without thinking twice I paid the fees with the money I got from my big birthday party. After I paid, I called my mom and told her “Mom, I’m leaving in three weeks to Madrid for three months, I just paid my fees and I’m currently looking at plane tickets.” This was the first time I ever told her about this, at this point there was no going back! At that moment, it never crossed my mind “how am I going to survive for three months by myself at the other side of the world?” I just thought “this is a one time opportunity that I cannot miss.” Since then, I’ve learned that taking risks is the motor for change, for growth, for learning. I took the risk and it has been the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I even met one of my Bestfriends, now chosen family Beatriz, in one of my trips to Morroco! It is amazing how things turned out to be and how much I learned about myself just beacuse I took that risk. If I hadn’t taken that lifetime opportunity, definitely my perception of life and the world wouldn’t be the same. It shaped me into the woman I am today. Beacuse of this experience, I am not affraid of changes or risks. I learned that life will put me in different places and situations so I can grow and learn. As COVID-19 lock down started in Miami, I was discharged from my job in March. At the beginning, of course I was afraid because now I’m a mother and I must think in my family first, but I knew deep inside that this was necessary for me. I took a new risk of starting my own business and this is how MACA+LENA came to life. Life is all about choices and risks, you either take them and grow or ignore them and root in the same place forever. 

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I recognize that my success doesn’t come from pretty easy experiences. In October 2017, I moved to Miami two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed everything on her path. I left everything behind, even my parents, and arrived with tons of dreams of making a successful professional career and my boyfriend, now my husband – which back then we’d been dating for less than 3 months-. At that moment I was a fresh out of school Architect in Training. I started working at an amazing Engineering company where I learned and traveled A LOT. After months, I got tired of all the traveling and accepted a job offer. As you already know, I love taking risks. I really thought I was doing the best thing ever, but this time, I was so wrong! That’s when things started changing. ⁣Two weeks after starting at my new job, I got pregnant and my bosses started to treat me differently. The passionate young professional started to diminish. Little I knew about how bad things would turn for me. During my 14 months working at this toxic place, I was a victim and witness of constant labor harassment and discrimination. This place really affected my self esteem as a human being and as a professional. No matter all the effort I put into something, there was always something wrong, and it was never enough. ⁣I had countless sleepless nights, tears, nerves, frustration and dark thoughts about myself and my potential as young professional. Still, many times I repeated to myself “This won’t be forever, just hold on. The time will come when you’ll be free and empowered, and will help others be empowered too.” As 2020 started, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I had the opportunity to leave that toxic workplace. I started working at another great company but two months after, COVID-19 quarantine started in Miami and I was discharged. ⁣ What am I going to do now with a 9 months old baby, our bills and no job? Honestly, I had and knew nothing related to sewing, but I wanted to learn. I wanted to take care of my child. I wanted to enjoy her every single day. Besides that, I wanted to recover my self esteem. I wanted to feel and be empowered. I wanted to surround myself with kind and supportive people. But most of all, I wanted to be happy and prove myself that I could be successful. Eventhough it was a very challenging and rough chapter of my story, I feel grateful for it because it shaped me into the woman I am today. I’ve dreamt about having my own biz for years, but never imagined I would be realizing that dream under these circumstances. As my business grows, I want to keep encouraging and helping other women to believe in themselves and not let anyone to diminish them. As long as I can do that, I will feel completed and successful.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Day 1 – 1111 Lincoln Road, designed by Swiss Architects Herzog & De Meuron – then they can eat, drink and shop at Lincoln Rd. Day 2 – Perez Art Museum, also designed by Herzog & De Meuron and later on the afternoon Soundscape Park, design by Dutch firm West 8, for a picnic. Day 3 – Wynwoon Walls and would recommend Wynwood Diner to have all day brunch. Day 4 – Rest during the morning. Walk around Brickell area, head to Brickell City Center during the afternoon for some shopping and stop by Dolores but you can call me Lolita later for Diner at a cool spot.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Yes! I think the motor and true reason behind my small business is my 18 months baby girl, Paula Elena. It is amazing how becoming a mother changes your perspective of everything. It really crushed my heart leaving her at daycare every morning and coming home almost 30 minutes before her bedtime. At that moment, I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted to give her. It took me a couple of months and a pandemic, before I was able to make a change, but definitely she is the reason why I took the risk into starting my own business and I am not going back. Also my husband, who has been extra supportive and moves mountains so I can keep working on my business from home and enjoying our baby every second, every day. Last but not least, my mom. Eventhough she is back at my hometown, in Puerto Rico, she has always managed a way of making me feel her close to me every step of the way. Two days after I was discharge from my job, she bought me my first sewing machine so I could realize that desire of learning how to sew. Little she knew that would be what ignited my thoughts on becoming a small business owner.

Instagram: instagram.com/shopmacalena
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shopmacalena
Other: shopmacalena.etsy.com

Image Credits
All images have been taken by myself.

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