I was born in Honduras on July 26, 1977 in a town where dreams were scarce, just as many daily life necessities were. With no electricity, no bathrooms, and no paved roads, my childhood memories are humbling and scary… especially for my parents. In order to give my brother, two sisters and me an opportunity to dream bigger, my parents packed their dreams in a bag and migrated to Miami, FL in the early 80’s. Thanks to their courage and sacrifice… fast-forward 30 years and our story is different; it’s full of dreams and great expectations!
Today, I am a self-taught Fine Artist, Photographer, Graphic and Web Designer, and Internet Entrepreneur. I currently reside in Davie, FL with my wife and two kids and have a B.A. in Computer Science from St. Thomas University.
Even though my parents paved a new road for us to reach bigger dreams, it hasn’t been an easy journey. After graduating from STU, I took some odd jobs until I landed at JR United Industries, a company that specializes on manufacturing Textiles, Apparel and Luxury Goods. I got hired as an entry level Graphic Designer getting paid $9 an hour, which was not enough for a recent graduate with a hefty student loan debt. But I needed to start somewhere, right? So while the pay was not that great, I decided to focus on learning on the job, build my portfolio, and kickstarting my career. After three months of working at JR United I had enough decent portfolio pieces to show for. I was ready for my next move.
My next golden opportunity came while sitting at a local Starbucks, when an unknown man approached me to ask what I was working on and if I knew anyone who worked as a Desktop Publisher. It felt kind of odd for him to ask me out of the blue, but I told him that as a matter of fact, I was a desktop publisher. Why not? I didn’t want to continue working for $9 an hour. So he gave me his business card and asked me to go see him the following Monday. This man was Al Lawrence, a chess expert and author who was Vice President of Excalibur Electronics and served as volunteer Executive Director of the World Chess Hall of Fame.
I didn’t go see Mr. Lawrence right away... not sure why. Eventually I did and I’m glad I did because they were looking for a Graphic Designer to join their team. Even though I didn’t have a lot of experience and my portfolio was just a promising beginning, Mr. Lawrence believed in me and gave me the job. I got hired as a Graphic Designer getting paid a salary of $37K a year. It was way better than getting paid $9 an hour, I thought. So, I began working on product and package designs, catalogs and other marketing collateral, which strengthen my skills and my portfolio. In about six months of learning more on the job and teaching myself through books, online tutorials and YouTube videos, I was ready for my next move. I decided to work on a Website design proposal and show it to the President of the company. It was a bold move, but he liked what he saw and offered me the position of Website Manager for both websites, the World Chess Hall of Fame and Excalibur Electronics. That move earned me an extra $5K a year, putting me at $42K.
I worked at Excalibur Electronics for the next two and a half years before I got fired... Yes, I got fired! Being fired is such a horrible feeling, but at 25 years old, with no major responsibilities, you think differently. Anyhow, at that moment I thought I was taking a step backwards in my career, but at the present moment I know that every step I’ve taken has been necessary to get me where I am today. After being thrown back into the unemployment market, I was more experienced, and that reflected on my resume and portfolio. I was more confident about landing my next big job! Well, it didn’t happen right away. As a matter of fact, this happened in 2006, when the United States housing bubble started to affect half of U.S. states. I was one of the victims! After successfully buying a pre-construction townhouse and later selling it for a capital gain of $21K, I made the wrong decision of buying me a brand new Mercedes-Benz and buying me a second real estate property in a neighborhood that I wouldn’t have lived in. In short, I was left with an overpriced part of a duplex, with no appliances because they were stolen, and a housing market declining so fast that I lost all my savings, my credit, and eventually the property. The only thing I was able to keep was my Mercedes-Benz, which come to think about it, I should’ve let it go too since I was unemployed and broke.
“I can just remember being broke, wondering if I had any talent - really wondering whether this was all a fantasy - but I had to get out there and keep trying.” ~ Lenny Abrahamson
So I kept trying and looking for my passion and what I really wanted to do with my life. I knew I wasn’t meant to be a professional soccer player, even though I earned my B.A. from STU with a soccer and academic scholarship. I knew I wasn’t going to become a Real Estate mogul at that time, even though I had successfully made my first Real Estate transaction and I was on my way to earn my Real Estate license. All that went to waste during the housing market crash. I also knew that I wasn’t ready for Corporate America because I was young, naïve and had no real responsibilities. So what did I do? I started my own small business, Just For Artists, LLC.
I founded Just For Artists on December 2007 with the vision of creating a portal for artists and photographers. Even though I’ve always been passionate about Art and always wanted to become a professional artist, I always found a reason to put this dream to the side. Even though I would paint and draw on occasion, I never fully committed to becoming an artist. So I thought that by combining what I was good at with my passion, I would build something great! That’s when the idea for JustForArtists.com was born.
I wish I could tell you that this idea was the beginning of a great and successful life for me, but this would make my story too good to be true. After all, I was starting a business during hard economic times, out of emotional desperation, and without any money. During the next couple of years, I dove more in depth into Internet Marketing. As I learned new practices and technologies, my mind just started wandering all over the place, dreaming of all the possibilities and opportunities that were on the horizon. I began to dream Bigger than ever and that’s when the Entrepreneurial Bug bit me so hard, that it became a burning passion for me. I was knew I was destined to become an Internet Entrepreneur...
To be continued...