Once upon a time, Patty Rodriguez decided to pitch her idea for a bilingual children’s book series to a publisher. Cut short mid-sentence, she was told to stop wasting her time because Latinos don’t read to their kids.
“I thought it was the biggest and best idea in the world, and I was sure all the publishers in the country were going to fight for this idea,” said Rodriguez. None of them did.
Feeling discouraged, she called her best friend Ariana Stein who shared her passion. With no publishing experience, and tapping into their personal savings, the two decided to launch Lil’ Libros.
Today, the books are sold at Target, Barnes and Noble, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The Met?” joked Rodriguez, still incredulous. “Like where Jay-Z and Beyoncé go to party?”
The duo shared their journey of friendship, motherhood and entrepreneurship during Cal State Fullerton’s March 14 reception for Women’s History Month.
Friends from the age of 12, Rodriguez and Stein explored many business ventures over the years, including a T-shirt company, bilingual entertainment website and even a hot dog business.
“Many of these ideas didn’t turn out how we planned,” said Stein. “We failed, but we didn’t let this get to us. We didn’t let this dissuade us from moving forward, and I hope that our story inspires you all to take that leap of faith and believe that you can achieve anything.”
Rodriguez, who also is a senior producer for “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest” and successfully influenced MAC Cosmetics to create a Selena Quintanilla collection, revealed some of the doubts she faced while growing her career.
“As a woman of color, as a first-generation American with an accent, I didn’t feel that I belonged in that space,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t feel that a girl that looked like me, that talked like me, that felt like me could do those things because growing up, I didn’t have those people to look up to.”
Emphasizing the need for more women to encourage each other, Rodriguez said, “Surround yourself with women that believe in you, women that support you and uplift you. The people that love you are going to be there for your crazy ideas, your crazy dreams.”
The reception was sponsored by the Office of the President, WoMen’s and Adult Reentry Center, and Department of Women and Gender Studies. CSUF President Fram Virjee, who at the time was in Detroit cheering on the Titan men’s basketball team in the first round of the NCAA tournament, prerecorded a message for the event.
Celebrating the contributions of women within the Titan family, Virjee cited a few recent examples, including “Black Girl Scientist” Taylor Thornton, Wang Family Excellence Award recipient Berenecea Johnson Eanes and “OC Game Changer” Jocelyn Read.
“These women and tens of thousands of other Titans just like them are showing the world that ‘reclaiming our time’ begins right here at Cal State Fullerton,” said Virjee. “It begins with our efforts to ensure all faculty, staff and students feel safe and supported, particularly those who continue to face systematic barriers to their collegiate, professional and personal success.”
Additionally, four Titans were presented with the second annual Her(d) Awards, honoring campus women and allies who have shown exemplary leadership in their work while demonstrating confidence, patience, compassion and wisdom. Recipients included:
- Student of the Year: Josephine “Joey” Hernandez, sophomore communications major
- Staff Person of the Year: Melissa Romo, programs and services coordinator for the Veterans Resource Center
- Faculty Member of the Year: Michelle Luster, lecturer in the American Language Program
- Ally of the Year: Jovannys Mejia ’15 (M.S. education-higher education), doctoral student in educational leadership-community college leadership
Learn more about upcoming activities, as CSUF continues its celebration of Women’s History Month throughout March.