Just Say ‘Ice Cream’

My friend Viv invited me to an event a few months ago. I can’t remember exactly how she said it but this is how it sounded in my head:

Viv: Hey Pilar, you like ice cream. There’s an event for this organization at Coolhaus, blah blah blah blah blah.

I’m sure she said great things about the organization, Opportunity Fund, but you can’t say ice cream, then name my #1 favorite ice cream spot, and expect me to hear/listen for the rest. You will get my attention then I will lose focus.

Anywho, I attended the event, a friendraiser for Opportunity Fund, last September. I was hooked. Opportunity Fund provides microloans to build  a more inclusive financial system.  One of the businesses they loaned to was Coolhaus. They provided Coolhaus with a $50,000 loan to buy a food truck when they were getting started. Prior to the loan, Natasha and Freya, the owners, had an old mail truck that didn’t work. They had to tow the truck to Coachella. After Coachella, Coolhaus blew up and definitely needed a working truck.  Opportunity Fund helped them get that truck– the truck that I used to have to track on Twitter and follow around town! Their success lead to a brick and mortar ice cream shop on Washington Boulevard in Culver City.  And when they have the flavors Halo and Thai Iced Tea, it’s as if God/The Universe is saying, “Hey World! Life is good! I got chu!”


Back to Opportunity Fund…

As if they organization could not get any awesomer, they had one of the best events I have ever attended. Their event, Taste of Microfinance, celebrated local entrepreneurs that they funded: Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Los Balcones Del Peru, Takuma’s Burger, World Empanadas, CJ’s Wings, Sugarbird Sweets, and Coolhaus.  The event was held at SmogShoppe. Super hip, super fun, ridiculously delicious. In addition to the chefs they supported, other businesses they supported were present, including Wurwand Grant Challenge Finalists: Pinky Rose Boutique, Cosmetica Latina, RCO Tires, World Empanadas, and ABL Denim.

Hearing first hand from the businesses their passion for their craft, the work required, and the difference the loan made in their life was nothing short of inspiring. I spoke with a guest who said that the owner of Pinky Rose was mentoring her.  There was so much giving back to the room, regardless of one’s situation in business, profession, or life.  Another guest I spoke with asked who the people were in the room- were they the politicians, nonprofits, businesses? I replied, “All of the above!” There were bankers, activists, nonprofit leaders, foundation leaders, entrepreneurs, folks who worked for elected officials, academics, etc. etc. Unlike a number of events I have attended where people were there because 1) they had to, 2) they had to because they were helping fill a table their company sponsored, and/or 3) they just go to events (kinda like FOMO, esp. in L.A.), everyone I spoke with were there because for the same purpose:

[To] come together to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Los Angeles – ensuring everyone has access to the funds and advice they need to close the gap between a dream and an opportunity.

Most people stayed until the very end.  My friend and I ended up talking to one of their institutional supporters until the very, VERY end– the point when staff started boxing materials and the rental company was picking up the tables and chairs. But there were so many stories, so many inspirations.

I’m so glad Viv knew what to say to me.

To learn more, click HERE.





Notes From My Day With Really Smart Women

When my friend/psychologist/financial advisor, Diane, invited me to the 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s, I was super excited. I’m usually hesitant of attending ‘women’ events; more often than not, they don’t address issues and topics that I care about as a woman of color or one who has worked with women in underserved or low-income communities. But because 1) Diane was involved with the event, 2) there were academics, and 3)  Mount Saint Mary’s was leading and hosting the event, I knew that they were #gonnakeepitreal. Diane was a #keepitreal person and all the Mount Saint Mary’s alumnae I knew were women of color who were progressive or, at the very least, woke.

The theme of the conference was The Resilient Leader: Propelling Our Ability to Succeed.  The day was akin to soul searching/women’s empowerment workshop.  It made me think about who I was as a person and how I was serving in the community– but not in a preachy way. I really needed this conference. As much as I love working in the community with all kinds of people, sometimes I’m just tired! Despite my roles and titles, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being treated the same as others because 1) I am a woman, 2) not white, 3) perceived age (over 40 but Asian so, you know), or 4) I am nice. And then there’s the endless explanations and having to call out or teach people why they shouldn’t say certain things that are straight up offensive. Can I just live? Can I just lead?

It was so cool to be around smart and powerful women. Forget their job titles. They were inspiring because they leveraged what made them unique and used those skills, qualities, and/or knowledge to propel their success.  One of the speakers, a manager from YouTube, shared her fun fact that actually correlated with her career success.  Her fun fact was that she was a first degree black belt, soon going for second degree. She practiced a martial arts discipline similar to ninjas. She explained that at the beginning of each class, one person had to stand in the middle of the room, blindfolded.  The person in the middle was then attacked by their classmates; and while still blindfolded, they had to defend themselves. She stated that 99.9% of the time, women knew where their attackers were coming from; men did not. She said that women had an intuition that most men did not seem to have. She and the other panelists believed in women’s intuition. During their careers, the panelists discussed how they felt they had to be more aware of situations and challenges more than men. Their belief in their gut instinct had helped them get through difficult situations, amongst other things. There was a discussion whether intuition was innate or learned. But they all agreed that we should trust it.

I didn’t write down all the stories as I just wanted to just take them in. But below are some of the quick takeaways. We probably already know them. But a lot of times– because of the fights we have to take on and the challenges we have to deal with while and because we are women– we forget.  So a quick reminder lest we forget:

Danielle Harlan

  1. Be yourself (be a good person). Be authentic.
  2. Be courageous and embrace failure.
  3. Visionary leadership is a process, not necessarily an innate talent or gift.

It’s in the calm that we find ourselves.

Abby Allen

What is the life you want to create? Write it down!

Don’t think about a ‘career’; think about the life that you want.

Where you 1) show up best, 2) make the greatest impact, and 3) are your best self -> life that you want.

Mallika Chopra

Intent comes from the soul; Goals come from the mind.

Peep the slideshow, which includes the session topics and speakers.

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I attended the event not as a representative of the organization for which I work or as someone from the commission for which I serve.  I attended as a community member who just wanted to learn.  I was probably one of the few that didn’t have a title or organization on their name card, which was absolutely awesome.





Shout Out To Billy

I am now a fan of freestyle wrestling.

I had the opportunity to watch the World Cup Men’s Freestyle Wrestling this past weekend.  Prior to Saturday, the only things I knew about freestyle wrestling were 1) it was at the ancient Olympic Games, 2) the International Olympic Committee almost removed it from the program, and 3) my friend Dan wrestled in high school.

But 3 minutes into watching wrestling, I was hooked.

I didn’t know the rules but it was easy enough to understand after one round: competitors were supposed to stay within the circle and were awarded various points based on the attacks and holds.  At the end of the 6 minutes, whomever has the most points win.  However, a competitor may win even before the 6-minute mark if they have 11 points more than their opponent.  For example, in one round, Iran shut out Turkey with 11-0 points just after the 5-minute mark.

Wrestling is pure and simple.  You don’t need an expensive helmet like football, bats and balls like baseball, or a boat like rowing.  Although they compete on mats and wear uniforms and shoes, in its simplest form, you only need space and an opponent to compete.  The sports is a competition of strength and strategy.

And now, my shut out to Billy Baldwin.  Many people were involved in the process but perhaps because Hollywood got involved, the issue that wrestling might be removed from the Olympic program actually made it on the news.  Fortunately, their efforts were successful and wrestling was reinstated for the 2020 Olympic Games.  More importantly, Billy Baldwin brought wrestling back to the forefront.  The attention the sport received brought back its relevance.

Wrestling is relevant because, unlike baseball, American football, and dressage, it is recognized throughout the world and it is accessible.  The closest other sport is probably soccer– the real futbol.  Wrestling, like other international sports, brings diplomacy.  Last Saturday, I witnessed athletes representing countries on the opposing sides of politics on the same mat– even the same circle. Prior to each session, they lined-up facing each other, then greeted each other, and shook hands. Before each weight division began a round, they respectfully acknowledged each other before the timer began.

Billy Baldwin, through his efforts– fight– in ensuring wrestling continued to be a part of the Olympic program, also reminded the world of why wrestling is a true and important sport.  Wrestling is displays athleticism and the true spirit of sports.

Iran v. Turkey; Armenia v. India
Iran v. Turkey; Armenia v. India
How is this guy able to maintain his balance on one leg while the other dude is pushing him out???
How is this guy able to maintain his balance on one leg while the other dude is pushing him out???
Iran wins the round.
Iran wins the round.


As what usually happens when one is sick at home, in their pajamas, and having a pity party of one, I looked to Facebook for some entertainment and/or virtual company.  I noticed that a number of my friends (for the record: also ‘real life’ friends) were posting about art and Los Angeles and some gathering.  Some were posting on Facebook from Twitter and had #ConvergeLA.  Well, I just finished watching a series on Netflix, emotionally drained (darn you Walter White!), and couldn’t talk or go anywhere, so I decided to follow the stream on Twitter.

Arts For LA hosted the 2013 LA Convergence, “a biennial day of collaboration, conversation, and shared goal setting for those working to make Los Angeles a healthy, vibrant, and prosperous region through arts and culture.” Through tweets, retweets, and top tweets. I was able to get a bit of a snapshot as to what struck a chord with some of the attendees– at least those who were tweeting.  For example, the connection between art and STEM– STEAM— resonated with a lot of people, especially when one of the panelists mentioned that 86% of MIT students play music.

In addition to learning, I was able to participate by direct messaging people who were tweeting as well as responding and asking questions via retweets. Direct messaging was akin to passing notes, while retweeting and quoting tweets were like raising my hands. I even “networked” a bit. Someone who saw one of my retweets visited my Twitter profile, clicked the link to this website, learned that we had similar interests and community work, sent me a message, and now we are connected.  One of the presenters saw my tweet asking about the presentation material and tweeted back that she could send it to me.

Of course there were limitations to the live stream experience, e.g., I was only privy to the information and thoughts of those who were tweeting.  And social media should never replace human interaction.  But this experience was a reminder that social media serves a much bigger purpose than just letting your friends know what you had for breakfast, sharing vacation pictures for people to envy, memes, and learning what the fox said.

Social media is truly another tool in community engagement.

Notes: I have participated in live tweets and chats before.  Perhaps because I was focused and not multi-tasking (e-mailing, on the phone, etc.), this one *almost* felt like I was actually in the room.    

ConvergeLA tweets
ConvergeLA tweets

Best. Fundraiser. Ever!

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend Asian American Journalists Association – LA’s Trivia Bowl XVIII.  The event was a fundraiser for student scholarships and professional programs. The event was held at an ABC7 studio in Glendale and hosted by David Ono.

My random thoughts and takeaways:

  • The metal part that fastens the eraser on a pencil is called ‘ferrule’.
  • Congrats to KPCC for winning the Trivia Bowl XVIII Rice Cup.
  • David Ono is really funny!
  • I am really happy that the journalists did better than the lawyers.  Whew!
  • I wonder what team costumes IW Group will come up with next year.
  • I loved learning about people’s knowledge/expertise.  My new friend from CSU-Pomona, a Millenial, knew about operas.
  • Multi-cultural.
  • I dig the rapport between all the local journalists. Most of them are really witty, with a hint of snark.
  • I regret not outbidding my competition on a night stay at Terranea Resort.  Had I increased it by $50, it would still be less than a night’s stay because of taxes. Lesson learned.
  • I really should know who makes my food.  Fyi: Sriracha is made by Huy Fong Foods (Mike Fong knew this!).
  • Had I read the article links on my Facebook newsfeed (instead of just scanning the feed), I probably could have contributed a little bit more.
  • There are a lot of really awesome and fun people who love L.A. and the community as much as I do.  I am so happy to have met more of them at Trivia Night.
  • I am going to have to watch the movie Say Anything because it comes up a lot in trivia competitions, especially this scene.
  • Last but not least, the best part of the night was spending time with friends for a great cause.

Shout out to Bill I. for the invitation and Buick for being a sponsor and hosting us. Team Enclave was not last!

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The Venice Beach community was just giddy to meet its new neighbors. The much-talked about new Google LA office opened their door the other day to a number of community members to get a first-hand look at the space and what Google does (aka, Google’s awesomeness). Googlers (the employees) translated tech to… well, you know, “regular people language.” But beyond the technology show and tell, my favorite part was meeting the engineers—the magicians—who enthusiastically shared their work.

I’m eagerly waiting to see the new products our new new neighbors come up with.

Hmm… but mayyybe if we invite them to a Chaya happy hour and buy them a few martinis…

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Photos by Aileen Martinez.

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