How Josie Arroyo Built the Coolest Brand in Puerto Rico
I bet you didn't even need to see the pictures or what brand I was talking about to guess today's Career Profile. Of course, we are talking about BIEN COOL. The brand that the OG digital marketer, Josie Arroyo built from the ground up on a whim, motivated by the idea of paying off her student loans.
This entrepreneur knew from the get-go that the key to her success would be her Puertorrican authenticity, humor and of course, ambition! But I don't want to spoil any more details, here is Josie's interview:
What did you dream of becoming when you were growing up?
I wanted to do a lot of stuff! At a time I said a pediatrician, teacher or chemical engineer. I ended up going to college for physical therapy and ended up in advertising. I was never really clear of what I wanted to study. I actually chose advertising because it was the path that included the least amount of math.
What was your first job before graduating college?
I worked in events promotions with brands like L'Oreal Kids and Pedigree, no alcohol promotions. I didn't want to wear mini skirts for my job.
One of your first professional experiences was as a Sports intern at Telemundo. Can you tell us about that experience?
I got this internship through Florida International University's internship program. When I was studying my Masters in Investigative Journalism at FIU, I was very clear that I wanted to work in sports journalism. There's nothing that unites a country more than sports!
What did you learn as a sports news intern at telemundo?
I learned a lot about production and editing in digital platforms.
After that You worked for almost three years in Yahoo. Can you tell us about that experience?
At Yahoo, I started out as a sports intern as well, then I was offered a full time job and I was transferred to Yahoo Mujer to run the LatinAmerican target. Then around 2008, Yahoo had a huge layoff and moved me to International News. That's how I ended up managing Yahoo en Español's homepage and became the youngest journalist managing this section. I loved international news!
Back in the 2000's, Everything was changing in terms of journalism and how news were made. How was your experience being in the midst of all?
When I worked there, I didn't know anyone from Puerto Rico who worked at one of these big companies, like Yahoo, Facebook or Google. Everything was building up at that time. I remember people asking me where I worked and they were so impressed!
I learned a lot about monetizing a website, even though I hate sales!
If you hate selling, how have you managed selling your brand, Bien Cool?
Because the nature of my brand is very relaxed. People are usually in a good mood for meetings.
I have read that you started making greeting cards in order to pay off your student loans. Can you give us some more details?
Even though I had a good salary, I was always on the lookout for a second income. I really felt like paying $600 a month for student loans was crazy! Not many people know this, but when I came back to Puerto Rico I created a Groupon-like website called "Yupiti.com", but I left because I got a job at National University College and I hated selling.
One day I saw a meme on Pinterest that made me laugh, but I immediately translated it to Spanish in my head and it turned out even funnier! That's when I figured I could make it into a greeting card. I drove to Walgreens and tried to look for a greeting card similar to the one I had imagined in my head after that meme. I literally texted Mari Nieves, which was my co-worker at the time, to let her know that I had something planned and that I wanted her to design it. I told her "I want a really cool name, like my greeting cards!" So I literally searched if postalesbiencool.com was available and it was! That's how it all started.
It has since evolved into "Bien Cool", because we are including more merchandise.
Did you ever imagine Bien Cool getting to this level?
Bien Cool is not even at a 1% of how I envision it. It is very different to see your brand from the inside out than from the outside. Sometimes you assume that everyone knows all the struggles that you have to go through and it's not like that.
Are you selling outside of Puerto Rico?
We are currently selling at the Museo del Barrio in New York and we are working on two new retailers in Atlanta.
Bien Cool is really appealing to the Puertorrican market because of its local jokes. Do you plan on expanding to other parts of the world?
Our plan is to make this a multicultural brand. I believe that Boricuas and LatinAmericans in general are very poorly represented by brands. We tend to have an inferiority complex and think that anything that is well designed is from the States. We have a lot of talent and a lot of emerging artists in Puerto Rico and LatinAmerica who need to be discovered! We want to support artists all around LatinAmerica.
You kept working full time during your time at National university college. How did you know it was the time to quit and how did you prepare for the decision?
I realized it was time to leave when I was putting all my heart and soul to BienCool instead of my full time job. One of my good old friends is Arnaldo from Diary of Trips and he was one of my biggest supporters during this time. "You need to quit and see how it goes!", he used to tell me. There will always be an excuse and you will always need more money.
What is the difference between being a Full time employee and being the CEO of a brand you built?
Working for someone else, I experienced physical exhaustion at times. But working for myself, I have never had as much stress in my life than in these last two years! It's different because when it's your brand, it affects you in an emotional level. If you don't get moving, money doesn't come! It's a constant struggle.
How was that first year after starting Bien Cool full time?
It was very different from now, because I was learning a lot about what I wanted to do as an entrepeneur. By that time I was still using my savings and I launched my store at Old San Juan, which we ended up closing.
I learned that I don't enjoy running a physical store by myself. Everything that has to do with inventory, prices, visual merchandising, payrolls, etc. isn't for me. I definetely learned to identify the things that I don't enjoy about my business and I will eventually delegate them.
How and when you jumped on the idea of selling brands that are not biencool, such as bando, in your website?
First of all, I love Bando! I'm selling this brand in my website as a strategy to test the market and see how people respond to lifestyle brands.
You created a planner! How was that development process?
We worked it along side Muuaaa Design Studio, which is the same agency that helped me build my brand. We sat with them and started planning all our process and see what we could change from last year's to now.
What's next for bien cool?
We are trying to expand the brand and looking for new investors opportunities.
What is one thing you've learned during this process of running your brand?
You need to be able to let go and let others help you! If I had two "me's" when I was starting out, all the dirty work would've been much easier! Right now I have an amazing employee that goes above and beyond always. I am so grateful for her.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a creative venture on the side but is doubting themselves?
Go for it. There're a lot of things that you can't overthink. The mind is so powerful! Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and is definetely for people who want to do it. I don't blame anyone who prefers a salary over entrepreneurship. It is a cliché, but if it were easy, everyone would do it! You make it or break it.
Last but not least, prepare financially for your venture.
If you could go back to your 25 year old self, what advice would you give yourself?
Read more. One of the things that I loved the most in Yahoo News was exposing myself to information that I would've never look for on my own. I really didn't enjoy reading when I was younger, I was more into pop-culture and mainstream media. But now that I am more of a news junkie, I realize how my mindset has shifted since I started reading more.
Random Facts about Josie:
- Vanilla or Chocolate: Chocolate
- Coffee or Tea: Pff... Coffee!
- Facebook or Instagram: Instagram
- AM or PM: I used to be super PM, but now I love the AM and the peace it brings!
- Book: Somaly Mam's The Road to Lost Innocence and Brian Weiss' Many Lives Many Masters
- Favorite Destination: Culebra, Puerto Rico
- Weird Habit: I have to write with blue pens
- Bucket List: Having a sustainable business that helps me work from anywhere in the world.
- Pet Peeve: Loud chewers and farts!
- Your best quality: I go with the flow. I can get along and have a good time with anyone.