Paola Mendez, the heart behind Coral Gables Love & South Florida Bloggers

“I just really like it when people get along and hug each other” expresses, South Florida blogger and small business owner, Paola Mendez – A warm hearted and briskly cheerful personality. “While growing up my family always stuck close together to help one another in accomplishing goals.”

She hopes that by supporting local businesses, through Coral Gables Love, she will contribute to South Florida’s growth and advancement. Recently, Paola recognized the need for a platform in which bloggers could network and support one another.

That is when she had the idea for South Florida Bloggers where she hopes “to create something that welcomes everyone.” We met at one of her favorite places in Coral Gables, Janette & Co. They have an exquisite variety of macaron flavors. We tried the honey lavender and it was delicious! Their chocolate croissant is also to die for!

OCT: Why did you decide to create in Coral Gables?

I own a small business in Coral Gables with my husband, Gables Guitar Studio. I’ve actually owned many small businesses before and I know how hard it is to market and advertise for it. So I started the blog to help promote small businesses in the area, including mine.

OCT: What do you do for the blog? Lets start with Coral Gables Love? And what about South Florida Bloggers?

Coral Gables Love: I cover local events and happenings around town. I also contact and visit small businesses in the area. Then, I write their story. I like to get the human side behind the business. I ask questions about their background, where they are from and what inspired them to open the business. I’ve found that small business owners are really passionate and hardworking people. And when you support a small business you are supporting someone who is really putting their heart into it. When I write the articles that’s what I’m trying to portray.

South Florida Bloggers: The purpose is to make friends and help each other. I started because I realized that there really isn’t a network or group where bloggers could get together to meet in South Florida. There is a few small ones but they have so many conditions and guidelines that you have to meet before joining. I wanted to create something that welcomes everyone.

The blog started in June, after I had gone to a blogger event called the Blogger Meetup, which happens in a different city every month. I met a few local bloggers there and asked if they wanted to meet up and get together to share things about our blogs. So it started with twelve of us bloggers last month, and this month more than fifty people already RSVP. So yeah, I really see that there’s a need for it, and I feel that it’s really hard to do anything alone, so it’s important to have a support group.

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OCT:  Can you describe the biggest challenge you had to overcome so far with both of the blogs?

Definitely the number one challenge is when people tell you no. If you plan to go out there in the world and approach people, be prepared for some rejection, and sometimes in a very mean way. If you are going to get out there and expose yourself to the world you have to grow a tough skin.

OCT: Have you ever heard of rejection therapy? The purpose of it is for you to try to get rejected at least once a day for a month.

Let me tell you if you want to get rejection therapy, the quickest way to do it is to stand on the street and try to pass out fliers. You will get washed with rejection. In 2007 I opened a little designer store and had to pass out fliers to market my new business, and some people would be really mean and look at me like “get away from me.” That’s when I really started my education on rejection.

OCT: Do you think that by being exposed to rejection often you become more accepting of it?

Yes, absolutely. It still hurts when people are really mean, but it is something I can get over faster and move on, because I know it comes with the territory. And you know what, that is life.

OCT: Do you have a team?

My husband is my editor. When he gets home late at night after working all day, I ask him to review my article just to make sure everything is proofread.

OCT: How has Miami impacted you?

I grew up in Colombia, but I would always spend the summer here (Miami).

So I’ve always been in this culture where there’s a mix of peoples. Miami is liberal and diverse, and it’s very Caribbean and bright, and lots of vibrant personalities. Where in Colombia is more traditional, conservative. It kind of adds this happiness aspect to my personality; it gives me a positive spin in how I see the world.

OCT: And what about South Florida has influenced you? The people? The weather? The culture?

I think it is a combination of all those things. I mean I’ve met so many wonderful people here, and that is definitely a big part of it. I love the hot weather, but not the humidity. (Hahaha!)

OCT: What do you love most about Miami and the way it is being redefined?

I see a growth of entrepreneurship and technology. I think it is something that represents our times, it is actually happening everywhere. I see so many people, me included, who were at their corporate jobs their whole life and quit to pursue something that is more fulfilling.

I see a lot of that happening and I’m curious to see how this will influence the future. I also see a lot of people blogging for a living, and that’s why I’m starting this group so we can work together to help one another accomplish our goals.

OCT: Describe something you are working on now that is new and innovative that you want people to know about?

Definitely the South Florida Blogger meetups, because it is new and we don’t have a lot of that here. And what I like about it is that it creates this positive atmosphere and sense of community that we are here to help each other out and really make friends who share common interests.

OCT: What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do?

When I see I’m reaching people with my stories and I hear a small business owner tells me “this person came in today because of you”. That’s the best part. If someone is reading it and finding interest and shopping local and visiting small businesses, that makes me happy. That’s the whole purpose of my blog.

OCT: What’s the most grating?

_DSC8258It goes back to the rejection part, there are businesses that I reach out to and they don’t want anything to do with my blog or me. And also people who don’t appreciate what I’m trying to do, so there are a lot of time wasters. I’ll set up an interview, and show up and they are like “I’m busy right now.” That’s very frustrating.

OCT: If you could, what piece of advice would you give to 18-year-old Paola?

Well you know what, I always think that we live life and sometimes we may think to ourselves “oh wow how did I make that mistake? What a fool.” But then you realize that it’s ok to make mistakes because there is a lot to learn from them. But, if I still have to answer that question, I would probably tell her, “try to find what you enjoy doing”.

Because it wasn’t until I quit my corporate job, five months ago, that I realized I want to do something else. What also enabled me to make that decision is the fact I saved up some money.  I wouldn’t recommend someone who has no other income to leave their job, because it is not realistic, you still have to pay to live somewhere and to eat.

OCT: Describe your ideal Miami? What improvements would you like to see?

I still think that as much as the people are vibrant, there’s still a little bit of superficiality. I just really like when people get along and hug each other. But I feel like it’s starting to balance itself out a little more.

OCT: Do you think it’s because people are starting to realize we need to come together to achieve certain goals?

Absolutely, I realized that I didn’t like that about the community (superficiality) and before I started the blogs I was like a little hermit.  Because I like my life and sometimes interacting with other people means you may end up meeting people you don’t like and who are superficial. But now that I’ve come out of my shell I’m meeting people all the time and I realize that there’s actually a lot of people who want to connect and help each other out. Those are the people I’m trying to find.

OCT: Do you think that it goes back to what we were saying before how there’s this new wave of entrepreneurship and perhaps people realize that they need to create a wider network in order to succeed?

Absolutely, I think it has a lot to do with entrepreneurship.

OCT: Do you feel that there is there a need for something more in the community?  

There are a ton of nonprofits but I feel like they are each working on their own little niche. There are a lot of people below the poverty line who don’t have access to a lot of services. I attended a coding camp for underprivileged girls, it didn’t even cross my mind that there are kids that don’t have computer classes. Philanthropy, looking out for the ones who don’t have as much as you.

OCT: Wrapping up, what’s the ultimate mission of Coral Gables Love? And how does it contribute to our urban landscape?

I would like for people to be more aware of shopping local. The dollar you spend in a local business stays in the community whereas the money spent in big chains does not. So, that helps Coral Gables and the community in general.

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