Opinion: How the pandemic shaped a San Diego entrepreneur’s priorities

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People wearing face masks in Del Mar
People wearing face masks in Del Mar. REUTERS/Mike Blake

I used to think that being a role model for your community just meant working as hard as you could. Some of my earliest memories are filling sacks of onions with my immigrant farmer parents in the 1970s.

I look at this experience as a blessing. The life lessons of determination and persistence I learned as a child led me to become a production manager at Costco and then the founder of a serial company. Without them, I wouldn’t be among the only 7% of female inventors in the United States and part of a select group of Latina entrepreneurs here in San Diego.

But to achieve these heights, I hustled. I was so busy that my health suffered. And so, during the pandemic, I learned a new life lesson. I needed to embrace holistic wellness.

I am more than my work. This is a message I want other Latinos to hear and take to heart. We spend our whole lives trying to prove ourselves—to be on top. But if that’s all we do, we’re missing out on taking care of ourselves and risking serious illness.

In 2015, I launched Hanging secrets, a line of custom linen closet organizers. I was hustling to get the company off the ground, sleeping very little and not paying attention to my health. It wasn’t until the pandemic canceled most of my networking and marketing events that I was forced to slow down. I finally went to the doctor and what I found out shocked me. I had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic. A colonoscopy revealed several polyps that required surgical intervention.

My health problems were not isolated. Almost 47% are Latina are obese and 35% have hypertension. This is reported by the CDC 30% of Hispanic adults aged 18-64 lacked health insurance in 2020.

This is partly due to lack of access and language barriers. But cultural norms are also to blame for this. Latinos do not prioritize prevention. Instead, people like to be tough and wait to see a doctor until there is a problem.

We are taught to accept it and never complain, just carry on. This is especially true of Latin American women who are used to always putting others first. Being a hard worker is a wonderful value, but we also need to consider ourselves – not just our work.

In the last few years I have started working on lowering my cholesterol. I cut down on sugar, stopped drinking alcohol and started going to the gym regularly. I have lost weight and am no longer pre-diabetic. But I am the best to feel so much better. I have more energy to do the work I love.

My approach to this work has also changed. Paying more attention to my health has allowed me to focus on what really matters in my business. Instead of spending long hours on the road, networking and attending conventions, I focus on a few specific outlets and my Amazon.com presence.

All of this will keep me — and the business — healthy for years to come.

Francis Prado is the CEO and inventor Hanging secrets.


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