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Need help? Me, too. A woman's view: 'It is time we support one another and speak up'

September 29 2020 – Maiara Candido

By Pilar Guzman Zavala

I consider myself a strong woman. I am the owner and CEO of Half Moon Empanadas. I am also the CEO of my home, where I am helping raise two wonderful children along with my husband and business partner.

Recently I had an interview with a panel of community leaders. The idea of this panel was to understand if I could be really someone who can commit to making a difference in Miami, to leading the way, to helping bridge the gap between the poor and rich. We talked about my experience over these years and their questions took me back to some of the most painful moments of being an entrepreneur. Like the time we suddenly got a notice of eviction, both from the business and our apartment. I left the restaurant to go to my car, sat in there and screamed. Or the time when my first child was born, I remember being at the hospital after the c-section and learning that the checks were bouncing because we did not have enough money in the bank.  I remembered how stressed and scared I was; I vividly remember the pain I felt.  I talked about how in the past two years, we tried really hard to focus on streamlining the operation and created a structure that finally set us in the path of growth, and made us the 2016 Best Concession Overall for Miami Airport. And how proudly we did it.  This also took me back to the many dark places I had been, how much I have fought, how much I had sacrificed to be where I am today, to have what I have today, to be who I am today.

During the interview, they asked me where I thought I could use help personally. I went straight to my entrepreneurial side and spoke about my operational challenges, but the panel pressed on and asked again what help I needed. Nothing else came out. 

I left the interview thinking about all of the things I didn’t say, and should have.  But there was no time to pause or think. This day was like many in my life where the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, business owner, and daughter took over. I had to pick up my kids and take them to a play date that I had promised. I was grateful to have had 20 minutes to speak with my father, which I rarely do because of time, but which I cherish so much. Then there was my Facebook feed full of friends posting #MeToo and me sharing the same two words. It was all so overwhelming.

That day I kept thinking of the question, “How can we help?” I wish I could have said “Of course! Of course, I do need help, I need help in all fronts of my life. I still feel lonely; I still would like to have a woman that I can look up to. I still would like to have another woman entrepreneur to just talk to, and for that someone to understand how I feel. I feel stressed many times. I am afraid I am not doing the right things as a mother. Am I a good example of this “working mom”, or do they need more of me? All of these questions that sometimes, more often than not, cross your mind. I wanted to tell them how hard it is to be this woman, but I couldn’t.

I had a hard time sharing my story during the interview. I talked about the hard times. I almost cried, but I controlled myself. I said that I am a true believer that entrepreneurship is the best equalizer force, that despite all the ups and downs and the sacrifices, that I truly believed my business was helping me make a difference. 

"I want to say that it is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I have learned that the life I chose as working/wife/mom/entrepreneur is about trade-offs, and that perfection doesn’t exist."

This day reminded me how strong I am, and how far I have come. I, ME TOO, struggle, and continue to stand on my two feet, despite it all. I have shared my story and days like this with other women, and I realized how lonely we all feel, and how little help we ask for.  The overwhelming statistics of gender inequality say it all.  I wanted to share this story because I understand that our lives as women, business owners, and mothers is hard.  I want to say that it is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I have learned that the life I chose as working/wife/mom/entrepreneur is about trade-offs, and that perfection doesn’t exist.  I have learned the importance of creating a support system around oneself. I continue to learn to be kind to myself, and to understand that if I take care of myself first, I will be a better at all fronts. And that quality is 10 times better than quantity with my children.

I still have a way to go. I want to be the best kind of mother my kids can have. I continue to dream Half Moon Empanadas will become a national name. I even just started a new business, and I also want to be able to make a difference in my community. I want to continue to work hard, and dream higher. I want it all.

But most of all, I decided that I am OK with being this strong woman who sometimes doesn’t have it all together, and who sometimes needs to reach out for help. I think it is time we all support one another and speak up.

Pilar Guzman Zavala is the owner and CEO of Half Moon Empanadas, based in Miami.  She is a mentor for women entrepreneurs in Miami with the WIN Lab Miami from Babson College and the FIU Startup Food Lab and is a Ricardo Salinas Scholarship recipient for the Aspen Institute and a Young American Leaders Program fellow from Harvard School of Business.

READ MORE ABOUT HALF MOON EMPANADAS IN THE MIAMI HERALD: Passion, perseverance powered empanada maker through tough start 

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