Seriously Catherine – Keep Going with Riham LaRussa | Episode 22 – Palette
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Seriously Catherine – Keep Going with Riham LaRussa | Episode 22

Buying a business, getting through the hard times, discovering your strengths, seizing control as your own boss, and networking. Riham LaRussa, owner of Small Packages, candidly shares her journey which is inspiring for anyone who’s thinking about throwing in the towel.

Beyond steering her thriving small business, Riham extends her support and recognition to minorities, embodying her own background as a female Palestinian. Support has been a big part in her success and she pays it forward to empower others. Catherine and Riham explain how crucial it is to uplift one another for success in both business and life.

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HOT TAKES: Oppenheimer vs Barbie at The Oscars, and a woman empowering movie that’s in theaters now – Cabrini!

SARATOGA: Overdress to Impress is the event you don’t want to miss. Catherine dishes the details.

FACE PALM MOM: Can you say Drama Mama?!

Don’t forget to check out Saratoga Living’s After Hours for what’s new and happening in Saratoga!

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*This Transcript is Autogenerated*

Riham LaRussa 0:02
The people you want in your tribe are the ones that show up the others that don’t show up you don’t want in your tribe and that is something I’ve always kept in the back of my mind. Now, you know what if you’re not reciprocating and you’re not helping me and I don’t feel like it’s beneficial like relationships and you’re not my tribe, and you’re not the person I need in my tribe or origin not not you’re a bad person. We’re just not the right tribe.

Catherine Hover 0:25

Welcome to seriously Catherine a podcast about taking your business seriously, but not yourself. To my heartache this week is all about the Oscars, which I did not watch, unfortunately. So this is just secondary information from the World Wide Web. But Oppenheimer is what all the rage is about. They won big they had 30 nominations, and they won seven, but I think we can all agree that Ryan Gosling is the real winner because he sold the show with his performance of I’m just Can I what I love so much about him is he’s just like 100% comfortable with making a fool out of himself. He like really doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of him and I just love that so go Ryan, I thought was really cute. I saw a clip of John Kristen Kristen ski pulling Emily Blunt and for kiss when she won for I think she won for Best Supporting Actress, maybe it doesn’t matter. And then at the very end, I guess very end of the show, everyone was sort of like confused, because Al Pacino came up to give the winner of the Best Picture award. And he didn’t read any of the nominations he just was. And here it is, Oppenheimer, but it was also the very end of the show. So I don’t know it was sort of like, uneventful, but then I guess like they had already won seven times. I don’t think it was a big shock. And now I’m gonna have to go see that movie because I never did go see it. I only saw Barbie that weekend instead of that one. So and I want to say they rereleased it into theaters because it was doing so well. Now, I did go see another movie last night. So instead of watching the Oscars, I wanted to actual movies. And I saw Cabrini this movie was so amazing, like it was Mother Francesca Xavier Cabrini. She was a real badass, she didn’t take any shots from anyone not the mayor of New York, not the archbishop and certainly not the Pope. Okay, because she basically told him what she was going to do. And then he was like, Yes, I prove, but she was gonna go anyway, you know, so I implore you to go watch this movie, whether or not you’re Catholic, Christian, or believe in any of that sort of stuff. Like it’s just a great movie. It’s empowering. It’s inspiring, and I sure as hell felt like I was unstoppable when I walked out of that theater last night. That’s my take. On this week’s episode of seriously, Catherine, I am joined by my friend rehab, La Russa after two decades working in corporate America rehab, went out on a limb and acquired small packages, which is a e commerce company. Rehab is the daughter of immigrants, a mom of two little girls, and we are so excited to have her here to tell us about her journey into entrepreneurship and how she’s juggling all the things. Let’s jump right in. Hi, Rehan Hey, Catherine, thanks so much for being here.

Riham LaRussa 3:16
Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Catherine Hover 3:18
I don’t know why we haven’t done this yet. You should have been like the very first guest should have woulda coulda. Okay, so tell us a little bit about you. And I want you to recount like the first time we met. Do you remember? Yeah.

Riham LaRussa 3:30
So I’ll start with a little bit about me. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, even though I was born in New York City, and I felt like I was always destined to come back to New York. I’m a child of immigrant parents. And I have two young girls. You know, I’m on the softball board, even though I’m trying to remove myself because I am at capacity. And I met you right before the original pallet co working space opened up. Yeah. Because

Catherine Hover 3:59
well, you joined as a founding member, so I can’t, I couldn’t remember if you came to one of the open houses. But when did you sort of come to us?

Riham LaRussa 4:05
So I was at a place called the hub. And I had like my own office and everything because I worked remotely. I like when I left New York City. My I stayed with my company and came up here. So I worked remotely. I have my own office space, but ever and I was so excited because I wanted to meet people, right? So I thought going to a co workspace I would meet people but everyone kept their door shut all the time. So I never met anybody that was really lonely. And you know, I was playing on Instagram and I saw like a thing about palette. And you know, like unlimited coffee, unlimited wine, meet people like a community of women and Wii U, and I was just like, This is what I need. This is what I want. So I scheduled an appointment to come I met you you were so pregnant, and I was just like, how is this lady still going when I was that pregnant? I was just like, I’m staying home. Nobody’s asking me to do anything like I am. Just relaxing feet up. Yeah, milking the end of it for as long as I could.

Catherine Hover 5:06
Yeah, you know, it’s funny because I was like reflecting actually, over the weekend, I was doing like this exercise. And it’s called like a lifeline exercise where you chart out like the highs, the lows and the big impacts of your life and how they sort of like land on this chart. And I have babies and start businesses. That’s like, it’s a thing. It’s a pattern that I’ve recognized now.

Riham LaRussa 5:28
From what I know of you, that sounds right on point. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Catherine Hover 5:31
So you joined as an employee for your business, right? You are working remotely. So you were sort of just joined because you needed co working, you needed a place to set an office, but you got much more than that. I believe

Riham LaRussa 5:45
I wanted to come and meet people. For me, I moved to Saratoga, I didn’t really know anybody. And when your kids aren’t in school yet, and you work full time, it’s really hard to meet other parents. So for me, I was really excited to come in meet people. And now I always tell people 50% of my friends are from pallet and the other 50% are my children’s parents. Yeah. So yeah, I got a lot more out of that.

Catherine Hover 6:09
It’s awesome. Got a business too. Right. Yeah. So tell us about that. Um, a nice segue. So I don’t think again, this is in my perspective, I don’t think you saw it coming. I think you were sort of like thinking about maybe moving moving jobs. And like you were looking for advancement in your career, and you weren’t getting what you felt you wanted or deserved, or, you know,

Riham LaRussa 6:30
yeah. So where I was, I felt like I was really stagnant. I was doing the same thing for years and years and just wasn’t happy anymore. So I was looking for a new job. I was interviewing with like, four or five different companies, you know, get to round four or five, one company round six interview, they would just be like, Oh, we’re going on a hiring freeze. Or we’re reorganizing right now, one company I truly appreciate. They just said, You’re too expensive. We love you. We’d love to have you but we can’t afford you. So I was like, Thank you for the honest feedback. It made me feel good. Like, they want me but they know they can’t afford me. They weren’t going to try and like yeah, and die me.

Catherine Hover 7:12
I think it’s so much more valuable and appreciate. I appreciate just a straight up No, you know, saying like, I hate having to wait around and have to follow up a million times. And it’s like, it doesn’t have to be awkward. Just say you don’t want to do it or you’re not interested or no is a full sentence. Exactly. And an answer just that answer is so much more valuable than like this wiggy woggie with like Limbo, Yeah, cuz

Riham LaRussa 7:35
one time, they were like, well, we’re, we’ll get back to you in about 30 days, and you know, wait six weeks, and then I would touch base. Oh, we need more time. The one that really I think pushed me over the edge was a company where I knew the people that worked there. I had worked with them previously for years. So I had a good relationship with them interviewing and they’re like, Yep, we’re gonna have a job offer for you on Monday, when they came in went Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and I was like, hey, you know what’s going on? That’s me texting. Sorry. You’re like, Hey, what’s going on? They’re like, Oh, my gosh, we’re not ignoring you like you are. But that’s okay. Just tell me what’s going on. And like, give me a couple more days, I’m gonna call you back. So I was really depressed about that, because I felt I have all these skills. You know, I have a lot of knowledge, I have a lot to bring to the table. And it’s really hard when you have to go somewhere new. And you like reprove yourself? So I felt good about this one place because people already knew me. Yeah. So I didn’t have to start from scratch. You know, I was going to develop my own department. So I was putting together a business plan for the first time in my life. And Marsala was helping me a little bit. So I think you guys knew about my struggles with all of this that was going on. And you know, I would hear all this all sounds great, you know, whatever. And we’ll get back to you. And then I wouldn’t hear the crickets. So I was really depressed because I couldn’t understand why for over six months with all these interviews and getting so far, like nothing was working out, then you just happen to let me know about some company called small packages, and you’re like, hey, you know, you should check this out. Because at my last place, I did head up the E commerce section, like no division of the company, so you thought it would be a good opportunity for me and I was like, Who buys a company, you know, didn’t ever really think it was a possibility or could be a reality for me. But you know, I said, what, what the heck, I’ll have a conversation or two with the previous owners. And next thing, you know, yeah, like a week. A couple weeks later, I was buying my own company and

Catherine Hover 9:35
I love it. Yeah. Well, I was like, a couple of things. Like it wasn’t working out because it wasn’t meant to be you know, like, you are an entrepreneur. You’re such a badass and you should be your own boss. I just I truly believe this. So like, of course, no one’s gonna hire you because that’s just like, not where you were supposed to be planted. And I agree. I think it hit right at the same moment. You’re feeling frustrated. You are feeling like that job seeker fatigue, and it’s like it’s, it sucks because it’s like, you know, you’re off Um, you know what you’re capable of, and you just need someone to sort of take a chance on you, but it’s like, I’ll just take a chance on myself. Right?

Riham LaRussa 10:06
That’s, that’s exactly how I felt like it was just like, You know what, like, why am I waiting around for other people to like, start believing in me. Again, when like the company had been with it was like 10 years I had been with them. And they were finally coming up with a new plan for a new position for me. And I was like, but I’ve been asking for this for years. But I always tell people, the funniest thing is is so the company that I have been waiting for and waiting for that, like, I knew the people my last day of work, and my last job was December 31. And they called me on December 31, because they were ready to offer me a job finally, and I was like, I left. And then I found out about a month later that a bunch of women resigned, that the company got bought out. And a bunch of women resigned because of things that were happening in the company. It was really like God, your higher power, spirituality, whatever the world was looking out for me, like do not put yourself in that position. And it was like this huge sigh of relief, like, Okay, I did make the right move. It was good that I didn’t then say like, let me do my, you know, small packages as a side gig and go in, you know, like, any other job. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Catherine Hover 11:18
So small packages was a company that I invested in as an SPV is like a very, very, very small check. And I kind of did that just because I wanted to learn more about investing. And I wanted to network with other people who were doing that sort of thing. So that’s sort of how it came about was about a year after I participated in that, as that round, the founders contacted me, and they were like, listen, we want to move into this, like sort of tech software, you know, direction, and we want to offload the E commerce piece. And do you know of anybody that might be interested. And I at first, I was like, I want to figure out how I can buy this, because I’m obsessed with the company. It’s an amazing resource for me, I live so like 50 100 miles away from family and friends and my friends are having babies and you know, things are happening and deaths in the family, all that sort of stuff that happens. And it’s like, I can’t physically be there. But I could send a curated package. It’s very thoughtful with a handwritten note. And, and I loved it. I mean, it was like I was sending stuff all the time. You see the need for it. Yeah, why people would use it. Right, exactly. So I was kind of shocked when like, not shocked that you took the call and considered it originally, I was just like, I want to give him a little like perspective, right? Like, there are other alternatives. There are other ways about going about getting happy. Right? Right. You are pretty miserable. I was so miserable. Yeah. And then the next week, you were like, I’m buying it. I’m like, what?

Riham LaRussa 12:43
I, I always look back, and I don’t think I would have moved as quickly. If I wasn’t so miserable. Where I was, I still believe I would have moved forward. But I moved forward very quickly. Like, I still can’t believe it. Like I couldn’t believe that I was doing it. And I also kind of was like, in my head. I always thought when you know you buy a company, like it’s a lot of money and not saying it’s cheap, but it wasn’t, you know, millions of dollars. Like, you know, like a corporate buyout like in my head. That’s what you hear about on the news. You don’t hear about the small companies that sell and everything.

Catherine Hover 13:19
Yeah, yeah. And you didn’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house. And it was doable, right? You felt like okay, I can I can do this. I think meeting them, right, the founders talking to them, you’re like, Okay, I can do this.

Riham LaRussa 13:30
I felt like it was a good foundation that they had set up based on being from a minority family and a child of immigrants. I see the struggle of other minorities and how they make it my dad bought like tooth and nail to be where he is in life now. And I feel like that American dream isn’t as attainable to a lot of people anymore. And I felt like this was a way to be able to also help others like run a company that I believe in and loved but also do something that I’ve always wanted to do like helping minorities like whether it be women, indigenous people, black people API, like LGBTQ plus, you know, whatever your minority group is, it was just a nice way that I could help elevate

Catherine Hover 14:12
them. Yeah, make an impact. Yes. That’s awesome. And I’m so excited to because it’s well, so this is like another thing that sort of happened. When when you were like, Okay, I’m gonna buy this. I was like, Oh my God, oh, shit. I was nervous, you know, because I was like, Oh my God, if this doesn’t work, I feel so responsible for you like a bad decision. I’m like, What am I thinking going around empowering women and gave them the businesses but that was just like, to be honest, I just felt like oh my god. This is like sort of what happens at pallet though, right? You surround yourself with people who are taking risk and failing, right, like they’re afraid and failed openly in front of people like and I still just move forward and still do it. And I think just seeing that and being around that makes it attainable for you to

Riham LaRussa 14:54
where you’ve been encouraged me to quit my job for a while. I will never forget the day that you met Dave for the first time. I’m at the softball fields and you’re like, just let her quit her job just like, let her quit, like, whatever. And Dave was like, She’s crazy. But it was one of those things where you say these things, but you let people know, just jump, like, take a leap. Like, what’s the worst that can happen? The worst thing that could happen is it fails, we’re in a good enough financial position that like, we could take this risk. It fails. Guess what, I pick myself up and I go through that tedious part of like, looking for a new job again. Yeah, you know, I knew that I would be able to find a job if I needed to, in all the skills that I would gain from this. I mean, there was a lot of moments of regret, like you know, like, oh my god would I do why did I do this? Like this was so stupid, you were safe. You had like this and that and now? No, like, it’s a different kind of stress that I have and like fear, but it’s not this like anxiety of I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I just hate what I do. I’m so unhappy like that dread is gone. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 15:58
that’s awesome. Yeah. And your girls going for it? I mean, have you seen a shift in you know, their attitudes or their moods? Just to kind of see you have something right, like not that you didn’t have something before but it’s like this this company is you’re taking a big risk.

Riham LaRussa 16:15
So I feel like literally on a still young, because, you know, she was six. She’s now seven. You know, like when it’s been all happening. But with Olivia, I’ve noticed a different like a little bit of more of an entrepreneur spirit. In her I’ve had to shoot down some of her ideas she wanted to my favorite is she wanted to sell soap on Etsy because she researched that soap was one of the best selling things on Etsy and I said, Okay, you don’t know how to make soap. She goes, Well, we’ll go to Target. We’ll buy bars of soap. I’ll mash it down, reshape it and sell it. Who’s buying this soap? She’s like, well, you guys are I was like, oh, so we’re going to invest in your company by doing this. I said I love where your head’s at. And you’re trying to be creative, but that’s not a good idea. Nobody wants to buy mash down so reshaped into a star

Catherine Hover 17:08
or heart. Yeah, but she’s got she’s on to something about like the rebranding or relabeling and she did

Riham LaRussa 17:15
her research on like, Fidel, yeah, so I do notice a shift in her all right. It’s exciting and scary. Well,

Catherine Hover 17:22
but also it’s like more girl moms are dealing with girls shit and the snob Enos and the cattiness and I went through that I like third, fourth, fifth. This is another thing I sort of like reflected on over the weekend, like third fourth fifth grade, socked girls are so mean, I went to an all girls school and they were just like, oh, it just, it just sucked. It was horrible. I would come home crying every day. Anyway, that builds character and I’m awesome for it. Right? But

Riham LaRussa 17:46
but it’s not something that you want somebody to go through. I don’t know

Catherine Hover 17:50
how I would cope if Posey came home. Crying, right. I I don’t know how to cope or just if Posey came home feeling inadequate, or ugly, or any of that stuff. So we talked about this, we brought our girls to this preteen beauty care thing, skincare thing at complexions. Yep. And I loved it. I was like, This is amazing. I appreciated the girls being educated, right? And learning about how to take care of their skin and what to do what not to do, right and like dispelling some of the myths that they’re seeing on social media and they don’t need any of that shit. No,

Riham LaRussa 18:24
they don’t need 99% of the stuff that they’re being marketed to. And I always tell people, I’m like, I don’t know how it’s getting down to them. Because my children are not on social media. Like if they’re on YouTube, it’s to learn how to build something, right? Or Olivia likes to look at hacks life hacks, like cuz she needs life hacks. I love that. Oh, no. She was telling me one morning. She was like, Well, I can’t remember the youtubers name or clergy. Well, Jeannie makes breakfast this way. And I’m like, Who the hell is Jeannie? And she’s like, Oh, she’s a YouTuber mom. I’m like, Oh, dear God, but at least that’s what you’re watching. You want to make a new breakfast? But yeah, it just trickles down. And so many of the girls in her class and at her school and her grade, you know, like the amount of skincare that they have is ridiculous. And it just it makes me sad because they believe that’s where their beauty comes from. Or that they need that where it’s like, no, you just need to wash your face and moisturize and take care of yourself. And yeah, maybe you might need an extra thing or two. But it was great to go to that. Yeah, event and they were so patient. It was cool. It was cool.

Catherine Hover 19:28
So speaking of preteens, are you going to do a teen box or like a preteen kid teen should should we talk we uh yeah, so I really think it’d be so cool. I think it’s like so again i We live away from all of our family and I think like How cool would it be for my girls to get like a subscription sort of box from an aunt or a family member? I don’t know. Right? This is what I’m thinking but this is your company so you do you but no,

Riham LaRussa 19:52
but I liked the idea. So like you did bring up the idea you sent me something like you should do like a subscription box and we talked about we wanted like the perfect models and Like testers for all this so we started it, we’re like creating what it will be, it’s not going to start off as a subscription because I just add capacity with like other things that we’re going to test it with, like a one time thing, see how it goes. And I always laugh because, you know, I was like, I know what these girls want and like, and I like put all these things on, like, like this board to like, save and I have an intern right now. She’s a senior at Saratoga high school. And she was like, Whoa, I don’t know about this. And I was like, no, no, I know. I have a 10 year old. This is good. I am officially not cool. Okay, so yeah, we’re just finalizing a couple things. I think we want to do it in a couple of different color schemes. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 20:41
I love that. So and then Mother’s Day is coming up. I’m sure. That’s a big, big day for you. That’s

Riham LaRussa 20:45
one of our biggest behind Christmas. And Valentine’s Day. I feel like Mother’s Day always says

Catherine Hover 20:50
better. Better. Okay. Yeah. Awesome. Okay, I want to talk about what you keep on saying like, you want to help minorities, you want to help women owned businesses, or you know, but but you’re actually like on paper, not a minority. Yeah, this blew my mind when you told me this, because I was thinking like, you should be able to go get a minority women owned business certified third New York State, and you could probably get I mean, good. Their grants and all this kind of stuff. And you’re like, actually, no, I wouldn’t qualify. And I was like, what?

Riham LaRussa 21:17
So you know, I feel like ever since I’ve had to, like fill out a census, I was told I had to check the box for White. And I never really entered or Caucasian and I never really understood that because technically, I’m not white. You know, I’ve got all of brown complexion skin. I mean, I Palestinian people consider Arabs like not white, right. So when I finally owned my own business, I was like, I’m going to look into why am I not a minority, and did a little research. And it turns out, like in the early 1900s, when people from the Middle East are coming over to America, people who are already here that are considered white, like from Europe and everything, didn’t want them to be considered white. But people from the Middle East said, Well, if we’re not white, then Jesus can’t be white. So it kind of dispels your whole like Jesus’s white, blue eyes, blonde hair, people didn’t like that they didn’t want Jesus to not be considered white. So they made people from the Middle East and North Africa,

Catherine Hover 22:18
white, this blows my ever loving mind. It blew

Riham LaRussa 22:22
my mind too, because they don’t want to treat us as white people. However, we need to be considered white just to keep a certain group of people satisfied and comfortable. Yes,

Catherine Hover 22:34
yeah. And then you’re missing out on all these opportunities where you could get grants and yeah, funding. Yep.

Riham LaRussa 22:40
But you know, it is what it is. That’s okay. You’re like okay, again, I’m at capacity I don’t have time and the energy to write petitions and go fight Congress and you know, whatever for this as much as I would love to, just not me. So you know, I have to find other ways to be creative and everything. So one of the things we’re redoing are women in food box, which is really exciting and it’s all for like women in food from the Middle East and North Africa. So we’ve got like Scott Adams from like Lebanon and like some Palestinians and some Egyptians I think we’ve got something from Morocco as well like all going in there. So I’m really excited. What is that? So hopefully everything should be in in the next two weeks. So probably by April 1

Catherine Hover 23:25
Wait, so this is like your your office and your you know, your warehouse is at pallet now. So will we get to sample any of this stuff?

Riham LaRussa 23:34
I think so maybe we’ll do another pop up or something and we’ll have like a sample like I wanted to do right before Mother’s Day like some kind of pop up thing where people could like try the products because when we did it the last time you know I know it was during the day I was like you know I expected it to be mostly pallet people but the feedback I got was seeing it in person really helped me like understand what the product is and what I was buying so I thought maybe we’ll do something else like that too. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 23:57
so tell us what else you want to talk about. This is the actual box and you would get this in the mail if you are receiver of one and it comes to the handwritten car and it’s like all these goodies that apply to like a topic I like the something awful box and that’s like the main one that I like to send out there’s

Riham LaRussa 24:13
something on our self care boxes are like you know, the most popular everybody wants to give somebody a little piece of self care so you know we’ve got like really affordable options we’re going to add a couple of more we’re also adding in some more men’s stuff in there we have our everything but the whiskey which also was very much for women as well but people just hear whiskey Scotch bourbon like men so you know like it’s coming under the men section but so many women like that too. We have our tough guy box so like just things for like men and men self care and other things too. So it’s not just geared towards women because a lot of feedback I also got was well you know I want to get this for my boyfriend or like for my boss who’s a male but there’s not really many options for him. Besides, you know, a coffee mug Yeah, whatever. So we’re trying to like, add a few more of those products and

Catherine Hover 25:03
cool, cool. And then you can also just shop whatever you want. Like if you do get so in, for example, if you get a box, if you get the food at women and food box, it may have something that you can get from like your local grocery stores. And you can go back on small and buy the one item.

Riham LaRussa 25:18
Yeah, so we have, you know, we have our curated box where we’ve already curated it. But if like you’re buying some of the moon and food boxes, you’re like, oh, but this person really like they’re gluten free. So they can’t have this. Yeah. So you can build it yourself and add a different product in or just not have all the products in there. So we’ve got already curated or built a box. And then yeah, we have a marketplace now, which has been a lot more successful, and new people would purchase from it. But it’s been a lot more successful than I had anticipated, which I was so excited about. So you can come back and you can buy like one off products or if you’re just like listen, like I want to like wrap my own gift and write my own card. I don’t know why. Because that’s like the one thing that like I hate doing I love someone else to do it. You can do that too. You can buy like the one off products and build your own thing at home too.

Catherine Hover 26:01
Yeah, yeah. No, I mean, the handwritten note thing is so valuable. Yeah, I love a handwritten note. I feel like I’ve said that before on the podcast. I love getting like mail. That is not that’s not a bill.

Riham LaRussa 26:14
Right? I was gonna say like the kids always say like, oh, I can’t wait to get mail. I remember being a child and being so excited about mail but it was always like junk mail or bills. My parents were like, you’re not gonna be excited about mail. Yeah, adult in there. Right. Well, I still get excited. But half of it goes in the garbage.

Catherine Hover 26:30
Yeah, so I mean, I like the holidays when you get all the Christmas cards. Yeah. For holiday cards. Yeah. See, this

Riham LaRussa 26:36
is where you know people always get offended I’m like, if you celebrate Christmas and you say Merry Christmas to me, I’m okay with that. You know you’re not offended. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 26:43
but I’m not offended either. But people are Yeah,

Riham LaRussa 26:47
but I’m also not have anything to say happy holidays because you don’t know what I celebrate. I’m okay with that. Yeah, no, I don’t understand what the big deal is. And

Catherine Hover 26:53
what what do you celebrate your Muslim right? Yeah, so

Riham LaRussa 26:55
I’m Muslim. So Ramadan is starting up March 10. After Ramadan, we have eid and then I think not very good at this but like, I think 45 days or so many days after Ramadan ends is the pilgrimage to Mecca. And after that is a second eat so it’s easy to fit that and eat a TA. So

Catherine Hover 27:15
two big eats and you can’t eat a certain thing during that time. During Ramadan.

Riham LaRussa 27:18
You fast from sunrise to sunset. So no food, no liquids, nothing. Unless, like if you’re sick, you can’t do it. You know, you’re

Catherine Hover 27:27
not expected to just stay in bed all day. No. Are you starving? first few days are really, really hard for how many days? It’s about 30 days. Wait a minute, so you’re just eating late night in

Riham LaRussa 27:37
the morning if you get up at night, and Olivia actually wants to try it this year. Yeah. So

Catherine Hover 27:41
how old do you start? Do kids?

Riham LaRussa 27:44
I think I started when I was like, maybe eight. I don’t really remember. But you know, like days that she has ski racing all day, Saturday and Sunday. She’s not gonna do it. She’s 10 But yeah, kids do it. And I think my parents may have incentivized her by saying oh for each day you fast I’ll give you XYZ you know, so she’s like all about it. Yeah, she needs she needs seed money for her for her

Catherine Hover 28:05
soap company. Yeah, so this is like so interesting how like these some of these things just like crossover cultural religion, you know like the same thing in the Catholic religion it’s like that guilt Yeah, it’s not it’s not just Catholic guilt. Is it Muslim guilt also there’s

Riham LaRussa 28:20
at every religion has that guilt and then like days family is performed Catholic I don’t know what that what it is anymore. So they do set like our children celebrate Easter and Christmas and all the holidays.

Catherine Hover 28:33
That’s awesome. It gets expensive. Yeah. So you’ve had small packages? Was it November 2022. To that you bought that so it’s been almost a year and a half almost a year and a half? Yeah. What would you say like the biggest like challenges that you’ve had to face or overcome? The

Riham LaRussa 28:51
biggest one is learning to do a lot on your own. It gets kind of lonely where you don’t always have like a partner in crime anymore. You don’t have like another department that you can like push a task off on like, you have to figure it all out and sometimes I just didn’t want to figure it all out because I was just tired or like I didn’t know and I don’t even know how to explain it like I you know, I’ve really learned some things that were I’m not good at I’m not good at the financial part of it. Like I am not good at that. That’s never been my strong suit. It’s still not my strong suit but I’m getting a lot better but I think the the biggest challenge is like loneliness and like having to make all the decisions and if you made the wrong decision like understanding like that’s okay because nobody does it perfectly the first time most people’s first second third businesses fail or like you know, they just give up just knowing like it’s okay if it doesn’t work out and just reminding myself like you’re gonna make mistakes. It’s okay like don’t beat yourself up. I think like one of the hardest times was in October my whole Cold sack got Weiss. So oh my god, I remember this. There was like 15 people on our call a sec that have ways and I always tell people like the biggest stressor in my life too is Dave’s work schedule because he works at the hospital and he does robotic surgery. So I don’t know if he’s coming home from work at three or 9pm. And so I just never know what I have to take on for the night. So he was working late me, Olivia and Liliana all had lice. And then like, the next week, I was having knee surgery, and I was just like, combing three hairs, like, you know, morning and night plus doing all the laundry plus, like, then having knee surgery. And I thought then I had reached a breaking point where I was just gonna give up, just be like, screw it all, like, I’m over it, I’m done. I can’t do this, like, I felt so defeated and tired. But then someone said, Well, you just have decision fatigue, you know, you’ve made too many decisions and start new, like you’re so you know, I really had to like sit down. And you know, I made some changes. And you know, I was paying a warehouse. And I realized with the cost and like, I didn’t want to make the product more expensive. I had to like move out so that I didn’t have to raise my prices, but nothing else is changing. It’s really hard to keep the same customers. Yeah. So I had to make really hard decisions. And that was probably the toughest challenge. But I’m really happy with like the decision I made. And I feel more in control of things and feel like things are on a better trajectory, because I learned from all the mistakes I made last year.

Catherine Hover 31:20
Yeah, yeah, you are absolutely incredible. We’ve we’re witnessing you pivot and try this. And that didn’t work. You’re testing things, you’re trying new things. And not everyone gets that, you know, they they like want to hurry. They want to set it and forget it. Right. That’s not what a small business is. Yeah. And especially not one with E commerce and you’re dealing with people and customer service and a lot of overhead, you know, a lot of overhead. Yeah. I mean, it’s just like, it’s a lot when you were like in that place where you’re just like, Oh, I’m done, you know, like, what actually kind of did you just give yourself some time to take a rest? Yeah,

Riham LaRussa 31:56
I kind of had to, like, take a deep breath. And like, I kind of have to like, shut it off. And I feel like I could have had a better holiday season. Had I not hit that breaking point. But I just had to turn it off for a few weeks. And really just think about where I was before. Did I want to go back to working for somebody else? Or did I really believe in what I was doing? And could I make changes to make it work? Yeah, you know, I really do believe in what I’m doing. And I actually enjoy it. And I didn’t want to go back and work for somebody else. Like I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. Yeah, well, I have to throw in the towel later. Maybe but I just didn’t feel like the time was right. So I thought about different ways I could make some changes. I you know, reached out to some people. I got some interns helping me now, which has been great because one has taken on tick tock sharp because I cannot figure out tick tock I don’t want to figure out to talk but who better than a 20 something right ways to do it. So yeah, you know, had to get creative with different things in that manner.

Catherine Hover 32:56
That’s awesome. I mean, they also say I think you learn sometimes the hard way to hire your weaknesses, you know, and like you don’t have you don’t actually have to be good at all the stuff you know, it’s impossible to perfect everything. So hire your weaknesses, work on your strengths and stay in your lane and collaborate and just keep going. Yeah,

Riham LaRussa 33:15
and I’ve gotten really much better at networking. I hate at networking events, because I’m more of an introvert it gets a little easier each time ago. Yeah. And it’s worth it. Yeah, it really is. It really is. And like, you know, one thing that I think also helps me keep going is I do have a much better group of supportive friends and like, quote, unquote, co workers, like I call people here, my co workers than I ever have before. And I feel like that’s always helped because I remember when I first moved here, and I was like in therapy and I was really depressed because I didn’t meet people and I tried to like do this event through like the children’s daycare for like the other moms and like two people showed up out of like 40 And I was like so depressive was like, Why does anyone like me? You know, like at therapy, he was just like the people you want in your tribe are the ones that show up the others that don’t show up you don’t want in your tribe. And that is something I’ve always kept in the back of my mind now like I’m just like, you know, what, if you’re not reciprocating and you’re not helping me and I don’t feel like it’s beneficial like relationship then you’re not in my tribe and you’re not the person I need in my tribe or just not not you’re a bad person. We’re just not the right traits. Yeah, I think that’s what’s also like has really carried me through is having like a really good tribe now. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 34:28
yeah. Support System. It’s everything. Yeah.

Riham LaRussa 34:30
Yeah. All right. Well, thank

Catherine Hover 34:31
you so much for being here. Thanks

Riham LaRussa 34:32
for having me.

Catherine Hover 34:36
All right this week from Saratoga living after hours, which you should totally subscribe to, because it’s where you’re gonna get all the best information and happenings and events going on in Saratoga Springs. You don’t want to miss that sort of thing. For example, their next major awesome event, which is the overdressed to impress event this year, it’s going to be at panss which is on South Broad Right and Kansas is this like really cool retro restaurant. I’m hoping to see a lot of the attendees leaning into the theme of the restaurant because it’s it gets so retro, you feel like you’re walking back in time when you go eat there. So it is on April 10. at Kansas and the red carpet from six to 645. The fashion show is at 745. And the party ends at 9pm. I mean, the party may end there at 9pm. But when you’re dressed and overdressed to impress you gotta go out on the town so I suggest going to get some champagne at Bo Kosh afterwards. Zach, who is one of one of the owners of Bo Kosh is the emcee for the event, which is I mean, if you’ve met Zach, you should probably just buy a ticket to this event because he is such a fun guy to listen to. And he also gives no shit. So he’s gonna like tell it like it is. So the red carpet grand entrance interviews are going to be hosted by Heidi Rotter, and she’s the host of American dream. So these interviews are going to be aired on television on the American Dream TV show. That’s exciting. And then all photos and video will be posted in next issue of Saratoga living which is awesome. It’s always awesome to see yourself in the magazine. It’s always sort of special like you flip the pages you’re like, they’re just so you know, if you did already buy a ticket or you’re about to buy a ticket, take note of the categories. Okay, there are four different categories we have most elegant, sparkle and shine most overdressed and then best overall. Oh my god. I mean, how do you choose one I feel like sparkle and shine is probably the one I would choose because I have a lot of sparkle already in my closet. But this is an opportunity to go buy some new clothes or rent from I Love. I’m currently an avid supporter of our Ma, which is a rental service. And if you’re a pilot member, you get free access to this service. So you should think about joining pilot, but it is so much fun to run clothes and sort of you know, a lot of times you only get to wear at one time. This year there will also be a glam bar so you can get touch ups to your hair and makeup before you go down the runway and also prizes. Those have not been announced yet, but I’m sure they’re going to be epic. So go get your tickets because this is not an event you want to miss and it will sell out. Okay, facepalm mom moment of the weekend was posing my oldest daughter, she’s nine. She is in fourth grade and she auditioned for the drama club months ago. And I remember being a nervous wreck for her because not that she’s not confident. But she is more shy than the other two sisters. So I was worried I was like concerned about her. But anyway, she got a couple of speaking lines in the show. And I was so excited to go see her perform on Friday night. And then on Saturday night I work the door like I was like collecting tickets and selling tickets and all that sort of stuff, which in itself is quite the feat. I’m not volunteering for that role next year, I can tell you that much because you’re not allowed to let anybody in before 630 Even if it is raining. And even if most of the people coming to the show are elderly grandparents who I felt horrible leaving out in the rain. But that’s besides the point I am officially a Drama Mama because I had so much fun watching Posey perform. She was so confident and loving it and having so much fun. She nailed all of her lines. I mean, the whole production was just way, way above expectation than what I had for a bunch of fourth and fifth graders. I mean, I’m blown away. I mean, I think these are future future stars future stars on Broadway future stars receiving awards at the Oscars. I mean, I’m all in and then icing on the cake was the cast party. At the end on Saturday night after the show. Everyone packed themselves into the cafeteria. All the cafeteria tables were moved to the side, there were disco lights, there were laser light show, there was a DJ DJ Dan, who I cannot speak highly enough of and it was a full on dance party and they played Taylor Swift. I might have been on the dance floor. I may have gotten some side eyes from other parents who were like, Okay, this isn’t about you. But if there’s a dance floor, I’m on it. I mean, I guess like sort of just like was living my best life. And now I feel obligated to plan. I’m giving myself a year to plan but a fifth grade mixer for my kid and all her friends like at the school Fallon tickets. I mean, it was just so much fun. I feel pretty confident that once you get to that middle school, like sixth, seventh eighth, you’re already like, ooh, boys. Oh, I’m nervous. I don’t want to go dance with him. But that’s not how it is. They were all dancing. But it’s like they were just living their best lives. And I was so fascinated by it. So just like stay tuned, because I’m going to put on this epic musical dance party at our school in the cafeteria, if they’ll let me. I mean, I don’t know why they wouldn’t let me it would be so much fun. She had a big weekend. It was a lot of a lot of energy. That is my facepalm moment, although it was a happy one. And yeah, I’m a drama mama. Thank you for listening to this podcast. And if you want to connect with me slide into my DMs on Instagram. My handle is Cat Hernan hoever

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