We had the good fortune of connecting with Cecilia Claudio-Torres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cecilia, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am from a very small town in Puerto Rico called Arroyo. Its a bit of a full circle for me because I was born and raised in the town of the Bucaneros and ended in the Buccaneer town of Tampa, FL. Both of my parents were the first of their families to go to college which was a huge deal for their generation. They both came from very humble beginnings and busted open many doors to get where they are. We are very close, even though I now live in the states and they remain in Puerto Rico. The tapestry of my life is colored by their values, their amazing work ethic, and their unconditional love. They always showed my sister and I that we could accomplish anything we dreamed off if we put in the work. Reading books for fun was a must, giving back to the community was more than a duty, and spending time with family is what refuels us. When I decided to go to college in the states, even my neighbors would stop my dad and ask how I was doing. When hurricane Maria devastated the town, everyone pitched in to rebuild. Something that I witnessed with every hurricane that hit our town throughout the years. My businesses, my clients, my colleagues, they all see how I operate and treat everyone, and its all from how I was raised and where I am from.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I have two businesses. The first one found me while I was going through postpartum depression. I was a stay at home mom and I was going through a rough patch when my sister invited me to a Mary Kay party she was hosting. While I was there I kept thinking, “I can do this. I can sell to women, I’ve always sold to women.” That day for the first time in months, I found myself smiling and feeling a bit like myself. I signed on and its been four years and with it I have been able to raise money for Hurricane Maria victims, given back to local women shelters, helped a small local inclusive ballet company and so much more. It helped me get back and feel better about myself and even be a better mom.
My second business is called Elegant Evening Events. I co-own it with my best friend, Maria Parrilla. I never dreamed of starting a business, it all happened by pure accident. I was a manager at a bridal shop when a bride called because nobody could bustle her dress at her reception. I clocked out for lunch, went to help her, and her father handed me $100 for fluff services. I had no clue what that was, but thanks to word of mouth, brides were calling to hire me for fluff services (learned later what that was!). From that, I stepped in to help coordinate a wedding when the wedding coordinator didn’t show up, and suddenly I had a potential business! I asked my best friend who is a very talented and amazing at all things creative (I am so not!, lol), if she would want to give this a shot with me. Its show been 5 years, more than +4000 brides, and an amazing ride. The best lesson learned, find something you love and enjoy and it’ll never feel like work! We are a women-owned, minority-owned (we are both hispanic), and veteran-owned (She is) company and we work with small local businesses that fit one of those three categories because we want to help others like us grow their businesses too.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh so many! First off, all you can eat pancakes at Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe before enjoying a day at the beach! Its a must and it always reminds me of the beaches back home. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa perfect for picnics, they sometimes have events open to the public (Winter Village is really cool) and you would be smack in the center of a couple museums like the Glazer’s Children Museum and the FL Museum of Photographic Art. Food, so many BUT, Columbia Restaurant in Ybor is delicious and historic all wrapped up into one! Armature Works also has amazing places to eat, great view of the water, and Zukku Sushi is an explosion of flavors. Depending on the time of year, you must either go to a Lightning hockey game, a Tampa Tarpon or Rays baseball game, or a Bucs game. I am a huge conservation advocate so ZooTampa at Lowry Park (they were showcased by National Geographic Secrets of the Zoo) and the Florida Aquarium are great places to go and enjoy an outing. Also, Tampa has AMAZING coffee shops! And I know, I have probably scouted them all out! So, make sure you grab a show at Stageworks Theatre and then cross the street to Ginger Beard Coffee, if you are in town for business, grab a chocolate lava latte at Networking Leads Coffeehouse, and if you need a bit of shopping at Citrus Park Mall, drive over to Sips Coffeehouse and grab an orange cranberry muffin! I am also a salsa dancer, so make sure you come on a Sunday for Sundays de Sabrosura hosted by Tato Salsa Dance studio. Oh, and for the best baklava, head on to Tarpon Springs, walk the sponge docks, and catch their arts and craft festival.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mother is my compass. She’s always supported me, even in all my crazy entrepreneurial moves, she has never doubted how far I can go. She got her Master’s and Ph.D. while we were in school and she was always there at our events and never missed a thing. She is an amazing grandmother to my munchkin, she is the “Captain, my captain” to her students, an incredible educator, and the love of my father’s life.