GCVCC Voice of Business: The Women's Issue

Page 1


SAVE THE DATEs 2022 SOUTHWEST ARTS FESTIVAL January 27 - 30, 2022 Empire Polo CLub

INDIO CALIFORNIA BBQ STATE CHAMPIONSHIP AND FESTIVAL November 6, 2021 | 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM Daily The Lights at Indio Golf Course CITY OF COACHELLA STATE OF THE CITY, EXPO & BUSINESS AWARDS October 15, 2021 | 4:30pm Coachella Library Outdoor Breezeway CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS STATE OF THE CITY EVENT October 21, 2021 Desert Hot Springs Health & Wellness Center CITY OF INDIAN WELLS STATE OF THE CITY EVENT October 27, 2021 | 8:00am - 10:00am INDIO STATE OF THE CITY LUNCHEON, EXPO, & BUSINESS AWARDS November 10, 2021 | 4:00pm - 6:00pm Coachella Valley History Museum LA QUINTA STATE OF THE CITY EVENT Coming 2022

INFO@GCVCC.ORG | GCVCC.ORG | 760-347-0676


Jeff Levine Board Chair Asher and Asher Consulting

Toni Merrihew Immediate Past Chair Chandi Group USA

Carmen Contreras Chair Elect State Farm Insurance Carmen Contreras

Jay Chesterton, Treasurer Vice Chair Fantasy Springs Resort Casino – Cabazon Band of Mission Indians

Rich Ramhoff Treasurer Desert Care Network

Valerie Ward Secretary Burrtec Waste & Recycling Services

David Nola Alpha Media

Vicky Franco Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries

Julie Frazier Frazier Pest Control

Blaine Carian Growing Coachella Valley

Daniel Harris Farmers Insurance Daniel Harris Agency

Lesa Bodnar Coachella Valley Economic Partnership

Victoria Llort Coachella Valley Water District

Mike Etheridge Western Water Works

Andrew McDuffie First Bank

Austin Beneteau Modern Woodmen of America

Julio Figueroa AT&T

Mickey Jumapao Envoy Mortgage

Tatiana Yturralde-Morales West Coast Cannabis Club

Jeff Fishbein Coldwell Banker

Scott White Greater Palm Springs CVB

Bob McCauley NBC Palm Springs

Joshua Bonner Coachella Valley Public Cemetery District

David Roth Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney, LLP

Tom Niva LocaliQ – Part of the Desert Sun

Sandy Lee Hardin The Lock Shop

Alba Cruz - Rosales Pueblo Viejo Grill

Jason Cabanyog Imperial Western Products, Inc.

Marcelino Maldonado Velarde Auto Group

Victoria Martin Augustine Tribe of Cahuilla Indians




















Kathy Armstrong Co-Owner, Do It American Manufacturing Company

Griselda Beck

Dianne Callahan

Success Coach, Expert Strategist, Author, and Motivational Speaker

Motivational speaker and 3-time cancer survivor




Emily Falappino President/CEO, Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce

Robbie Motter

Founder & CEO, Global Society for Female Entrepreneurs



Karen Spiegel

Riverside County Supervisor, District 2 and Board Chair


Sonja Prince

Founder, Divine Truth Talk


Arvee Robinson

Master Speaker Trainer, International Speaker & Author

Doors Open @ 7:15 am Networking Breakfast Exhibits Program Begins @ 8:15 am Program Concludes @ 12:30 pm


Dr. Cassandra Sanders-Holly

Dr. Alia Rodriguez CEO, Corona-Norco United Way

Jan Steiner Professional Speaker, Mentor, and Connector of Entrepreneurial Women

Founder, Leaps & Bounds Pediatric Therapy



Tickets are on sale now!




45 65



Register now at MyChamber.org/WLC


ATTENDANCE OPTIONS: IN PERSON Crossroads Church 2331 Kellogg Ave., Corona 92881


Ask about Exhibitor spaces and Sponsorship opportunities! Call (951) CHAMBER



elcome to an inaugural edition of The Voice of Business: Women of the Coachella Valley. We are proud to dedicate this edition of the Voice of Business to women who live, work, and serve the Greater Coachella Valley with their presence, time, and leadership. Being new to the Coachella Valley, I am proud to have joined a community of such diverse and talented women.

as a woman in business. Generally speaking, women in the workplace and women in the entrepreneurial space are increasing in numbers. As a segment of the workplace, we’re evolving and growing our place in a variety of industries. I’m excited by this. I know that women bring unique perspectives and skills to work with them everyday. And, when we do we create impact and results.

The women featured on these pages reflect the diversity of women in this Valley. No one woman is the same and we are here to showcase the wonder of that. Personally, I am inspired by the unique stories they each share. They demonstrate that talent and leadership exist at every level of business and education. Success and career satisfaction have less to do with titles; and more to do with heart and hustle. I’m inspired by the heart and hustle these ladies demonstrate by their passionate pursuit of service and excellence in all they do.

Did you know that women own 36% of businesses worldwide? And, that California has the highest proportion of women-owned firms in the US? Did you realize that women launch more than 1,200 new businesses every single day in the US? And, that women-owned businesses generate 1.9 trillion in revenue annually? Whether you are an entrepreneur or employee - you have an ability to impact people and places with your presence. As women, we generate results and impact. In the Coachella Valley, we have more opportunity and resources than many other places throughout the State. Women of the Coachella Valley - I encourage and implore you to lead with your heart and hustle. Keep aspiring, evolving, and sharing your successes with one another.

As you embark on your own journey of professional development, I hope you refer back to the stories on these pages often. I hope you identify with something in each of them; or, better yet, I hope you identify attributes in these women which inspire you to evolve and grow

Citation Source: https://legaljobs.io/blog/womenentrepreneurs-statistics/

Jeff Levine Asher & Asher Consulting

Julio Figueroa AT&T

Emily Falappino President and CEO

Chairman of the Board, Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce

Chair, Business Legislative Advocacy Committee

Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce


Announcing Eisenhower Medical Center as the new local Kaiser Permanente Affiliated Hospital We are excited to announce that beginning on October 1, 2021, Eisenhower Medical Center will be a Kaiser Permanente Affiliated Hospital in Coachella Valley. This means that members will go to Eisenhower Medical Center for inpatient hospital care, labor and delivery, and specialty surgical services. Additionally, members will also be able to access Eisenhower’s three urgent care centers located in La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs. We are pleased to provide members access to Eisenhower Medical Center, in large part because many have requested Eisenhower Medical Center to be an ‘In Network’ hospital where they can choose to receive care.

We’ve got you covered—the health care team you know and trust Kaiser Permanente Members will receive more information in the mail about the newest additions to our network and should rest assured that: 3 In most cases, members will keep the same primary care physicians and specialists. 3 Kaiser Permanente doctors help coordinate your care before, during, and after your time in the hospital, regardless of which hospital provides care. 3 Our network in the Coachella Valley Area is ready to address the health care needs of our members. 3 In fact, more physician specialists have been added to our network in Coachella Valley thanks to the addition of Eisenhower Medical Center. 3 Members will continue to have access to all covered medically necessary health care services. 3 No additional costs are anticipated as a result of these changes. Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing our members in the Coachella Valley continued access to affordable, high quality inpatient care. As always, we remain committed to our members and community. It is our privilege and honor to provide the high-quality care and coverage so many have come to expect. Should you have questions about the updates described here, please visit kp.org/coachellavalley and if you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to member services at 1-800-464-4000.



harissa Farley is a powerhouse in the Coachella Valley. As a woman leader in our community, Farley exhibits her business acumen as the owner of Farley Interlocking Pavers, Wildest Restaurant & Bar, and Coachella Valley Yoga, Power Pilates Gym and the Fitness Channel. In addition to being the only woman in the country to hold the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute’s Advanced Residential Contractor Instructor certification – along with serving as host of local TV shows in the past – Charissa also employs a strong team within her companies. Many of those are women who bring drive, talent, skills and compassion to the table. Charissa believes strongly that complex solutions require everyone to be in the conversation. With that, let’s take some time to get to know Charissa and a few of the women that work with her. Charissa Farley, Founder of Farley Interlocking Pavers Recognized as the 2014 Corporate Businesswomen of the Year by Palm Springs Life magazine, Charissa is proud to be known as the “Queen of Pavers” for her commitment to growing the country’s interlocking concrete paver industry. 8 | GCVCC.ORG

Charissa purchased the first ever Optimus T-11 Paver installation machine in North America utilized for mechanical installation of streets and parking lots. This reflects her commitment to create better quality and efficient installations. Farley Pavers is also a five-time National Concrete Award winner in the Residential Pre-Cast category. Capi Grace, Project Coordinator-Accounting, Farley Commercial & Residential Capi facilitates all projects for Farley Commercial & Residential, and oversees the internal operations of those projects. She has been in her current position for 4 years and has over 15 years of experience in project management, department management, customer service, contract administration, diversity development/ reporting, commercial supplier, and vendor management. Capi believes that if your actions create a legacy that inspires others to learn more, achieve more and become more with a good heart – then you are an excellent leader.

Maria Kiner, Contract Chief Financial Officer, Farley Interlocking Paving & Multiple Companies Maria is the Contract Chief Financial Officer for Farley Interlocking Paving and multiple companies. With over 25 years of experience, she found herself navigating a new world financially for clients due to COVID over the past year. Maria believes that women shouldn’t undervalue themselves and that we should always be supportive of other women. “It’s far harder to be a woman in business – with family and other obligations – so we must take that all on.” Gladis Lizarraga, Executive Chef, Wildest Restaurant + Bar Gladis has been in the restaurant industry for almost two decades and a chef for over ten years as well studying chemisty. Gladis has worked alongside some of the biggest names in restaurants, including Bravo’s “Top Chef “Brian Malarkey and Cohn Restaurant Group’s Deborah Scott. She is known for her focus on farm-totable along menu influences from around the world. Gladis believes that women leaders should pursue mastery – the key to overcoming many boundaries we face in the workplace. “As a woman, when you’re able to demonstrate you’re the most talented and hard-working person for the job, it’s much easier to break through the glass ceilings we face. Never stop learning.” Jennifer Farley, Vice President, Farley Interlocking Pavers Jennifer is vice president of Farley Interlocking Pavers and the mother of two small children. Jennifer is the epitome of work/life balance. She began school on the east coast originally in biomedical engineering, switched to engineering, and then ended up in the family business. There might have been some pressure, however – from her mother, of course -- to recruit one of the brightest candidates in the country. After 15 years with the company she became the vice president and took over the day-to-day operations, reigning over one of the most profitable years in the company’s history.

Kathy Talbot, Controller for Kaswit Originally from New Hampshire, Kathy Talbot is the Controller for Kaswit. Kathy lived in the Northeast for 30 years and in Kansas City for a time before calling California her home for the past 10 years. Kathy has been a controller for over 25 years and before that an office manager. She has renovated and flipped mobile homes and is an online seller of clothing and housewares on eBay. She has two sons, one living in Oregon and the other lives here locally. One word that comes to mind to Kathy for women in business is perseverance. She believes you have to be assertive and willing to go the extra mile as well as wake up and treat every day like it’s a brand new day. She says it’s an adventure, it’s a challenge and it keeps her busy and going. Gaylynn Leonard, Studio Director, Coachella Yoga Therapy and Wellness Gaylynn Leonard is the Studio Director for Coachella Yoga Therapy and. Gaylynn has been a fitness instructor for over 25 years. She is a certified Yoga and Pilates trainer as well as a corrective exercise specialist. A corrective exercise specialist works with people who are finished with physical therapy and takes over where the physical therapist left off. She experienced some challenges that turned into opportunities during this past year’s shutdowns. Many of the classes were transitioned into online classes via zoom which gave her some new and unique ways to connect with people she doesn’t normally have to opportunity to interact with in a normal yoga or pilates setting. The key to success for her over the past year was working with people that had to overcome their own unique circumstances like being high risk or caring for someone who is. Her main piece of advice for women in business is to obtain a broad spectrum of knowledge in many different areas. In her earlier years working, technology wasn’t available or necessary, but during the past year she had to gain knew skills and knowledge. She says to keep learning, eventually things come full circle. For more information about Farley Interlocking Pavers, visit farleypavers.com.


FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS: FIND FOOD BANK MARCHES TO THE BEAT OF THE COMMUNITY Once the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world into lockdown, the floodgates opened for food insecurity. FIND Food Bank faced the perfect storm; they had an extreme increase in the need for food assistance and a drastic decrease in the availability of food and volunteers. Story by: FIND Food Bank Staff


s a leader, it was important for the CEO of FIND, Debbie Espinosa, to dig deep and utilize the knowledge she gathered from over 30 years in the industry, drawing upon the collective experiences she received from her mentors and colleagues. In this moment of a major disaster, it becomes critical to take advantage of all the tools in one’s arsenal. To resolve this trifecta of issues, Espinosa had to understand the urgency to push and drive solutions forward balanced with partnerships and people in the community who were also trying to respond. She wore many of her old hats to help the community through the crisis. She performed the duties of a CEO to drive the higher-level relationships with county supervisors, community partners, donors, and funders. In addition, she fulfilled positions that she held before to give operational and programmatic support to ensure her heads of departments could be successful. Espinosa shared how inspiring it was to see her team push themselves beyond their perceived capacity to achieve FIND’s goals. As a leader, it was important for her to encourage but also expect them to perform to better serve clients. FIND strives to meet the needs of the community, and her job as CEO is to remind her team what those expectations are.

Coming in full force allowed FIND’s Volunteer Program to branch into an entire department with AmeriCorps NCCCs, VISTAs, and the National Guard. Once they doubled their number of drive-thru mobile markets, the Outreach team efficiently learned to multi-task, including case management for CalFresh programs to help supplement food for the thousands who suddenly could not afford groceries, let alone other major expenses. Espinosa shared Rosy’s story, a mother of two furloughed from her job in the tourism industry, last April. Despite applying to over 20 jobs, none could hold under the economic pressure of the crisis. Rosy mentioned how far the food went to ease her budget, “That extra $40-$50 a week I would spend on groceries I could put towards another bill, a car payment, or an electricity bill.” “Her story reminds me why I was working 17-hour days for 15 weeks on end; our community was pushing so hard to make ends meet and the least we could do was ensure they did not starve,” recounts Espinosa. As Espinosa looks into the future, she emphasizes the importance of understanding the capacity by which the community needs FIND to serve. Now that California has reopened, FIND is starting to pick up some of the work they began before COVID. Their core work will always be to feed people, but now they are expanding into the root causes of what brings people to a food bank to help decrease the lines little by little. While also recognizing there are people in situations that may cause them to be with FIND for a long time, they are okay with that too. FIND’s ultimate goal is to end the cycles of hunger today, tomorrow, and for a lifetime.


Local leaders discuss women in business and leadership Story by: GCVCC Staff The Greater Coachella Valley of Commerce has developed a series of articles called “Kitchen Table Talk” – which allows the readers to essentially “sit down” with some of our local leaders and hear from them about a variety of issues. In this edition of the series, we talked with Elaine Holmes, the Mayor of Indio; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a Council Member for the City of La Quinta; Jan Pye, a Council Member for the City of Desert Hot Springs; and Josie Gonzalez, the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Coachella.

The first Kitchen Table Talk topic discussed was based on perceptions of women in business:


osie – who works with Riverside County’s Child Protective Services and hopes to open a small bakery in Coachella one day – would like to see more women in business. “We need more women in business. It’s the natural next step for a woman to do well in business. We manage our homes and wear many hats. To me, women are made for business. We have what it takes if we can continue to work on our people skills. As a leader, I put a lot of energy in the relationships I have in business. Once you have established a relationship, they know who you are and what will – or will not -- be tolerated. If I want them on board with my vision, I need to structure my communication to them in a way that connects to their values and what’s important to them.” Elaine agreed, adding: “Long before you become selfemployed, everything you do leads to being a strong woman in business. Being a small business owner takes everything we’ve learned and gives you the tools to thrive and succeed, as well as how to understand and be successful. While I grew up in a family-owned business, I never thought I’d be in the business I’m in (a trophy company). As a result, it got me involved in my community. We need women in business at every level. Being a small business owner is really eye-opening – you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ until you get in there. For business leaders in the Coachella Valley, all this circles back to how we can work together to build a thriving economy 365 days a year, balancing quality of life and business culture here. A landscape architect by profession, Kathleen used to buy manage design and construction contracts for the park system in the City of Los Angeles. “It prepared me well for being on the City Council. When I started, I was one of so few women not only in my field but who were in professional positions at all – especially in architecture. I’m very active in the Ophelia Project, and I often talk to 3rd graders about the multitude of job


opportunities because I feel it’s important for young people to realize that there are more options than being a police officer, a server, a bank teller, or a nurse. I encourage them to go to College of the Desert and take general classes because those will expose them to something new. I always felt I had to do my job 150%... and still do to this day. You want someone to say ‘she did it’ so that other woman can do it too.” Being in management in business, Jan noted that your approach can make all the difference in how people react to you. “At City Corp, I was in management, and some had a problem with the way I did my hair. Some in this situation might have sued, but I didn’t want to risk the job. To anyone who is in business, you need to have a form of negotiation. You don’t always put out there who you are, but when you feel you should, you put it out there politely. I like to tell people I play chess. That says a lot about your ability to strategize.”

The conversation then transitioned to what these leaders are seeing in terms of female-owned businesses in their cities. “I know there are several small businesses owned by women in our community,” said Kathleen. “One of my friends started a business as a hobby and has gotten so busy that now she wants to sell! We see more equal partnerships. Interestingly, we have very few men in director positions in La Quinta. What’s missing is that going into public service isn’t something kids consider.” “In Coachella, we are seeing a lot more women owners of cannabis businesses,” added Josie. “However we get there is fine – as long as we arrive. I see a lot of spouses who are offering support in the background, too.” “I was in dentistry for a while and one of the things I found was that the women ran the business even if the doctor was a man,” shared Jan. “Like marriage, you have to know who is best at what. When the man knows their

because it doesn’t minimize the strength of your convictions. There are a lot of people who are involved and engaged, and you need to have that in order to make the best decisions for your community.” “In my job, interacting with parents and children made it easier for me to transition to public service by being able to ask the right questions,” added Josie. “The role I play with my team is to be a mentor. I coach them, and I go on ride-alongs so they can hear how to navigate those tough conversations. It’s a skill I’ve developed over the years. I tell my team that ‘you know you’ – it’s who you are as a human being. I believe in propping other women up and showing them their strengths.” female partner is the best one for running the business – they do well. In our city, we hire the best person for the job. Our City Manager is a man, but promoted the woman who was also interested in the job yet didn’t feel she had enough education. We’ve also had a female Police Chief in Desert Hot Springs.” “There are a lot of female-owned businesses, but I don’t see a lot of female directors either,” Elaine concurred. “I went the corporate route because I didn’t have that exposure to other jobs. I was an English major but didn’t want to be a teacher. We all can do better at exposing everyone around us to many opportunities. We need to keep having career days but be reflective of the community (male/female, people of color, etc.). We set a goal of microbusinesses, and we saw a lot of women who were able to pivot and be successful.”

“I find that when you are nice to people, they give you everything you ask you and more – because they like you,” said Jan. “In terms of women running for office -when I got on the City Council, I wasn’t supposed to be there. I had bought a house in Desert Hot Springs and went to City Council meetings to see what was happening with my house. I applied to serve on the Public Safety Commission, but what actually happened was the City Clerk put me in for a City Council appointment instead – up against 10 men. I learned that God does not put you in a place you shouldn’t be. To keep me grounded when I’m at a meeting, I just keep writing ‘What Would Jesus Do?’.”

So what about jobs women don’t think about, like perhaps running for office? “My theory is you have to know yourself enough to not be intimidated,” said Kathleen. “I recommend waiting until you’re at least 45. I used to be the staff person on the other side, giving the report to the elected officials – and term limits changed so you had 15 people who wanted something in their district every other year. I spent a lot of time on the other side of the table. It’s not for the faint of heart. You have to get the point where you don’t take it personal and you’re comfortable enough to do that. You often don’t hear from people unless they are unhappy. There are still times where people approach women differently than men. You do develop a thick skin. Women balance situations well – we tend to look at the myriad ways to get there. We’re able to not look at things the same way every time, and women tend to be more resourceful. I do think it is important for councils to get new, young blood.” “As a business professional, those who are in management tend to find their inner roar,” Elaine shared. “On the days you don’t wake up ready for it, you have to find a way to capture it. There is no reason to not have respect for the people getting the job done,

Lic.#0K10720 81709 Dr. Carreon Blvd., Ste #A5. Indio, CA 92201 760-347-1530 | www.Insurance760.com


The Kitchen Table Talk rounded out with thoughts on the future of politics in the Coachella Valley: Kathleen’s thoughts are: “I don’t view myself as being in politics, but rather a public servant. Our City Council takes politics out of the equation, and I would hope we could continue to do that as a community without becoming politically charged. Some of the things we do well is because we are small individually but still big collectively. Our 9 cities work together pretty well and exemplify the fact that we try to do everything we can by promoting CVAG and coming up with regional resources for the homeless. I’d like to really see us focused on solutions rather than politics while recognizing we must be part of the region’s politics which push the progress of the collective goal.” In Jan’s eyes: “I see us in Desert Hot Springs as the city on the hill. I hope that we stay together collectively. That’s important. When we were facing bankruptcy, the City of Rancho Mirage came to rescue us. To me, we have to be together. We should all have our own economy, but we have to want to work together rather than just being forced together. Kathy DeRosa – former Mayor of Cathedral City – mentored me a lot. As women, that’s what we need to do to support each other.” Elaine weighs in by adding: “Our cities and our region are going to continue to grow into a major metro area – and to the extent that we can – the regional approach can work. In any situation, we have to be careful that we are moving forward in lockstep and not try to derail each other. The festivals are a microcosm of what we need more of – using these concerts as a catalyst for every one of the cities to continue to grow and stay focused on that forward trajectory, encompassing businesses and education. Politics have been around since the beginning of time, but our ability to work with the political machine for the greater good is the goal. For those who are afraid to step up and be community leaders, it’s important to keep fostering and empowering them to use their voices to lead. Those who have strength and conviction, and involvement and engagement – we need to get them to the next level. We need to cast the net and raise up others who are involved in our community. Josie closes with her insights: “Our city is less built out so we want to have room to grow with the proper infrastructure in order to remain a healthy community. We are more interconnected with other cities than sometimes we even want to believe. Each city should be celebrated – we should all wish for strong budgets. And we are all in a similar position in terms of what COVID has presented in our communities – but we’re still afloat! If the labor force is coming out of Coachella to work in our tourist communities, we must uplift each other. Being emotional can also mean being passionate about what we do or believe – we are all students of human behavior.” 14 | GCVCC.ORG

“ALL ABOARD!” Hop On The Next Adventure That CVHM Is About To Embark On!

In partnership with the CITY OF INDIO, INDIO WATER AUTHORITY, LOWE'S, and HOT PURPLE ENERGY we are excited to begin a new adventure on our campus. The 2020-2021 GARDENS & RAILWAY projects will encompass a 15,000 square foot lot on the northeast corner of the campus that will feature an array of drought tolerant desert gardens along with an immersive and interactive railway exhibit that will prominently feature a Southern Pacific Train Car.


We are inviting YOU and your friends to join this epic adventure for the Coachella Valley History Museum. To be part of this monumental opportunity for CVHM and the Coachella Valley, we need YOU. Contact us for naming rights and limited sponsorship opportunities and be part of this spectacular endeavor! “ALL ABOARD!”

For MUSEUM HOURS Please Visit Our Website Plan on holding your next event at CVHM!

Grounds available for use include Water Tower Promenade•Gazebo Lawn•Medjool Auditorium 1909 Schoolhouse•Date Garden•Pioneer Hall

Contact info@cvhm.org or 760.342.6651 82.616 Miles Ave. | Indio | CA 92201 www.CVHM.org

THIS IS MY MOMENT Fantasy Springs restaurant manager reflects on her own farm-to-table experience. Story by: Michael Felci


smeralda Flores has a unique perspective on the popular farm-to-table movement. To her, it means something else entirely.

The 40-year-old mother of three has experienced it all first hand — from the back-breaking labor of California’s agricultural fields to the upscale culinary creations served daily at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. The Watsonville native was raised in a family of migrant workers, toiling in the fields of Northern California, Guadalajara, Mexico and right here in the Coachella Valley, depending on the season. With the hot sun beating down, together they hand-picked grapes, tomatoes, and strawberries, and boxed them as fast and as efficiently as possible, from sunrise to sundown. “When I was 13 or 14, my back was hurting constantly and one day I woke up and couldn’t walk,” Flores says recalling her former life in the fields. “I cried, but it also made me realize how strong my parents were and it inspired me to work even harder.” Today, Flores and her husband, Alan, have their own family: Three boys ages 2, 4 and 13. And after 13 years working as both a server and a hostess at POM Restaurant inside Fantasy Springs, she was recently promoted to Assistant Manager. “My Dad said to me, ‘Esme, do you see how you are with people?,’ ” Flores recalls. “He said, ‘You have something special, you have charisma. You make people happy with your personality.’ ”

However, the position came with its own set of elevated expectations, and at first Flores doubted she’d be able to make the transition. But with a renewed sense of purpose, attention to detail, a commitment to exemplary customer service, and the full support of upper management, she was able to make the leap. “I asked my manager, ‘Do you think I have what it takes to become an assistant manager?” Flores recalls. “To my surprise he said, ‘Yes! You have so much more to give.’ So they encouraged me to take the next step.” Flores quickly realized that succeeding as a manager didn’t require perfection. Talents such as problem solving and the ability to learn quickly were more important. “It took me almost 20 years to be in this position, but maybe before I just wasn’t ready,” she says, reflecting on how her career has unfolded. “I had my kids and we have a family. I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m ready for this challenge. This is my moment.” Reflecting on her sunbaked days in the fields of California and Mexico, Flores has seen her life’s journey come full circle. “Now that I work in a restaurant like POM, I realize I used to be there with those tomatoes, those strawberries,” she says. “I know where they come from. It makes you understand and appreciate when you’ve been in someone else’s shoes. Most people [in the fields] don’t get an opportunity to do what I do now. So I’m very grateful.”


SPOTLIGHT ON: PUEBLO VIEJO Born in El Salvador, Alba Cruz-Rosales spent the first 7 years of her life on a farm surrounded by crops of fresh produce such as beans, oranges, avocados and bananas. She remembers sugar fields, and her grandmother’s house made of adobe walls. Story by: GCVCC Staff


fter moving to America, her father and mother made tamales and sold them out of their home. “We were busy making tamales year-round,” explained Alba, “and the tamale-making process would invade our entire kitchen. Our overall dream was to sell these tamales wholesale to restaurants, delis and chain stores.” In 2004, Alba’s family dream evolved into the restaurant business. “Dad shared his vision with me: to open a nice sitdown restaurant with a delicious Mexican menu. I love a challenge, so naturally, my response was ‘Let’s do this!’” After locating a vacant restaurant property on Highway 111, Alba


and her family immersed themselves into remodeling, painting and decorating. Soon, they were ready to open the doors of Pueblo Viejo and welcome in the community. By 2010, business had really taken off so they opened a second location on Cook Street in Palm Desert. When asked about why it’s important to be a female leader, she said, “There needs to be a balance, and this world needs to have great leadership regardless of gender. We need to inspire young women and help them see that it is all attainable.” Alba leads by example at Pueblo Viejo – pitching in to wash dishes, wipe tables and pour drinks when necessary – all in her everyday signature heels. She gives back to her community through involvement with Martha’s Village, the YMCA, the Ronald McDonald House, and she’s also a Board Member of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Every day, I am grateful for what we have accomplished and make it a point to pay it forward,” Alba added. “And I am proud to be a significant contributor to my father’s legacy.” For more information about Pueblo Viejo restaurant, go to puebloviejogrill.com.

WOMEN OF THE IHUB Story by: Laura E. James, CVEP To choose entrepreneurship is to choose an unpredictable, difficult, and rocky path. Never let it be said, though, that only men are suited to take on the rugged challenges of entrepreneurship. Of the dozens of businesses that have called the Palm Springs iHub home since its inception nearly a decade ago, many have been led by women. The women of the Palm Springs iHub have always demonstrated toughness and tenacity, even when faced with obstacles, and have persevered even when those obstacles are as seemingly insurmountable as COVID-19.


anina Soto first came to the iHub in early 2018. She aimed to fill a niche in a market with surprising growth potential: luxury footwear rental. Designer dress rental company, Rent the Runway, found staggering success by providing an economical way for fashionistas to make sure they did not have to wear the same dress twice. Gowns are expensive, occupy valuable closet space, and are often purchased to be worn only once. Soto recognized that the same was true for footwear, especially ultra-high-end designer footwear that is meant to be noticed. In the age of Instagram, would-be socialites and influencers uphold their ofthe-moment personas by ensuring they are never photographed wearing the same dress – or shoes – twice. This realization led her to co-found LuxBodega, a company which developed novel ways to package, ship, disinfect, protect, and ensure correct sizing for luxury shoe rentals.

her own professional experience, she dove into the research on HAIs and learned that these infections are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, and create unnecessary costs estimated near $10B annually.

Through two years of consulting made available through the Palm Springs iHub, Soto refined her purchasing model and streamlined her inventory, just in time to have demand for her service nearly wiped out by the cancellation of special events. An optimist and a realist, in 2020 Soto co-authored a paper on the future of fashion rental post-COVID-19. She realizes that while the pandemic critically injured the retail fashion industry, it may have created new habits and customer priorities that will create increased demand for luxury fashion rental. By seeking out the opportunity in a crisis for her industry, Soto personifies the indomitable spirit of entrepreneurship.

Women like Janina Soto and Elizabeth Wong are just two of the entrepreneurs of the Palm Springs iHub proving that commitment and passion can carry innovators towards success even in challenging circumstances. Prototyping and testing a new medical device is a longterm and expensive project, requiring patience and resolve. But Wong persists, knowing that the future benefit outweighs any current discomfort. Similarly, the leadership and vision of Soto has been pivotal, as she envisions her industry completely reinvented – and stronger – due to the metamorphic challenges of COVID-19. Be prepared to hear more about both women, and their groundbreaking companies, as they continue to chart their paths forward.

While Soto experienced business challenges related to a public health crisis, another woman-led business of the Palm Springs iHub seeks to bring a solution to a public health problem that deserves more attention than it gets: hospital-acquired infections. While attending a professional conference, Elizabeth Wong, a Palm Springs-based Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), heard a presentation on the prevalence of hospital-acquired infections, also called healthcareassociated infections (HAI). When she related the information learned at the conference to that of

Wong began to look at the hospital environment with new eyes, trying to understand why these infections were so prevalent, and came to the realization that some hygienic practices were underutilized or insufficient. Her diligence and research finally led to the creation of a medical device, the DoubleLock Sterile Entry Intravenous Port and Syringe System. Patented in 2016, the device has been prototyped and revised, and is currently undergoing microbiology testing. Perhaps because she is a natural leader, or perhaps because she knows the gravity of the problem she’s attempting to solve, Wong has demonstrated more determination than most.

LEAGUE OF CITIES: ERIN SASSE Story by: GCVCC Staff The League of California Cities (Cal Cities) has been shaping the Golden State’s political landscape since the association was founded in 1898.We are a membership organization that represents cities across the state and our mission is to defend and expand local control through advocacy efforts in the Legislature, at the ballot box, in the courts, and through strategic outreach that informs and educates the public, policymakers, and opinion leaders. Cal Cities also offers education and training programs designed to teach city officials about new developments in their field and exchange solutions to common challenges facing their cities. One person with the League of Cities is hard at work, every day for the cities in our community. Erin Sasse who has been part of the League of Cities for over 9 years, is well versed in our community as she serves on the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee as well as attends events throughout the Coachella Valley to work closely with our city officials. We spoke with Erin about her work as well as what it is like working as a woman in her industry.


an you let us know a bit about your background?

Growing up I wanted to be a veterinarian and because of this I wanted to attend UC Davis. When I was in high school my Mom worked for the YMCA and encouraged me to join a program called Youth & Government. The program is a model legislature and court program that mimics the state government. It was because of this program that I decided to pursue a career in politics. Back then I wanted to be the first female President. I still attended UC Davis and majored in Political Science. Davis is about 15 minutes from Sacramento, so I started interning in the State Legislature my second year in college. By the time I was graduating I was fortunate enough to have a job with the Assemblyman representing my hometown. I moved back down to Southern California and worked in the State Assembly until I was fortunate enough to get a job 18 | GCVCC.ORG

representing Governor Schwarzenegger in the Inland Empire Field Office. This was the start of the many changes in my career. I will say that being a 25-year-old female representing the Governor of California was a trip. In addition to working for the Governor on the State side I also worked on his campaigns. After he was reelected as Governor, I worked for him at the California Lottery Commission doing legislation and outreach and then at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as Chief of External Affairs where I also served under the Brown Administration. I have been very fortunate to have had many interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs where I have been able to positively impact the state and our local communities. My career has not been without challenges and being a female in a male dominated field has shaped how I am today and has made me a stronger individual and leader. Why do you think it’s important to have women in leadership? I think one of the most important components to good governance is having differing perspectives, backgrounds and diversity that fosters a respectful and robust environment. To me leadership is fostering all points of view and women represent roughly half of our population so it is important to have their perspectives represented. However, it goes beyond gender equality. We need women in leadership because it allows certain challenges to be brought to the forefront of conversations.

How do you think we can encourage and help get more women into leadership roles? I think it is important for women in government to serve as mentors and encourage other women. I think we, women, have more insecurities when we are in fields dominated by men and those in this chosen field can provide insight that other women can relate to and understand. Women also have challenges when they are caregivers. This is not a debate on male/ female roles but when women have children or other responsibilities there are time constraints that can make being on Boards, Commissions, and in elected positions more challenging. Also, for women that are not caregivers or mothers it can be intimidating because we tend to question if we are good enough or smart enough for the job. The answer is yes, but I think we have a tendency to have more doubt. Being an elected official or in a leadership role is challenging for anyone that works and has other commitments. In order to get more diversity in leadership we need to foster a society that allows for everyone to have opportunities not just men or women or the elite or retired. Leadership and good governance need well rounded diversity and in order to have this we need to just encourage certain sectors we need create an environment where everyone has the ability to be a leader or to share their point of view and be feel respected and heard.

Is there anything you would like to add? I want to share a story from when I was younger in my career to give an example of what it can be life for young females in a professional setting. When I worked for Governor Schwarzenegger, I was delegated a requested meeting. When the people arrived, they kept asking where my supervisor was because they wanted to meet with him rather than me. I informed them that I would be handling their meeting, and after they pushed back several times, my supervisor came out and asked them what the problem was. They basically stated that they didn’t want to meet with me because I was just the Secretary and how could I handle their issues. Fortunately, my Supervisor informed them that I was not a Secretary (not that this even mattered) and that I was just as capable of representing the Governor as he was. I share this because while I appreciated the support of my boss, it is unfortunate that stereotypes still exist. These types of experiences have encouraged me to work harder and be better and to encourage and mentor young people interested in my field. There are many amazing females in leadership in the Coachella Valley and they inspire me to be better so that more women feel comfortable stepping up. This story is made possible by ATT.

Complete Urgent Care & Workers Compensation Services. !"#$%&'())## !"#$$%&'()*+,-&'.)/&0,12&3)4+5&67% 89.:&05;5,+2&'<&$==>%