Podemos y lo hicimos.

oh yeah we live baby! back like we never left type shit, yaheardme?

Why you should listen to me: I make a living by utilizing psychoanalysis and research to inform marketing strategies for an ed tech startup. I’ve also done a lot of cool shit, seen a lot of crazy shit, and believe I have some shit to share. You’re welcome not to listen, but you’d only be playing yourself. 🤷🏽‍♂️

Fun fact of the day: For those who ain’t know, ya boy is AfroLatino (hence the switch up for today’s title). Shoutout to all my empanada-fryin’, mofongo-slappin’, coquito-sippin’, piragua-pushin’ Boricuas all around the world! (and momma of course ❤️)

Been quite a long time, hasn’t it? I hope you’re receiving all the abundance that life has to offer. After a restful hiatus, we’re back innis bih better than ever! Here’s what’s changed:

1. I’m #SponsoredAF: NO(LA) Reservations is officially sponsored by Exclave Spirits. Make sure y’all cop a bottle and join my guests and I for a glass during every episode.

2. We’ve changed our angle: We took a pandemic heavy approach when first starting the show, though we realized that the topic is 1) old news, 2) depressing, and 3) not very fruitful considering we’ve all more or less adjusted at this point. The show’s foundation is now built on three tenets:

  • Discovery of Self
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Unfiltered, Unhindered, Unadulterated Truth

I’ll be accompanied by dope people doing dope shit, discussing how aspiring entrepreneurs like myself can [re]build and contribute to ecosystems in their respective cities. We’ll also talk about guest experiences and how we all can create impact in our communities, especially for Black- and minority-owned businesses. As you can see, our Medium is still on and poppin’ so we can continue fostering more thought around these topics.

3. Getting community involved: Since the podcast focuses heavily on New Orleans, you’ll hear us name drop all sorts of organizations and businesses on the show. We may even host some of our episodes (like the one we’re talking about today) live from local spots in the city. Peep the Shoutouts section at the end of every post for info on everyone mentioned in each episode, and be sure to throw ’em a follow, check out their shit, and show ’em some love!

Iight, you’re all caught up. Let’s get into it. (Oh yeah, here’s the link so you can listen before reading … which is highly recommended, there are spoilers)

Episode 1 — Adrian Mendez

Adrian is a true renaissance man if I’ve ever seen one. Restaurateur, entrepreneur, educator, consultant, multilinguist, husband, puppy dad, the list goes on. His distinct experiences allowed for keen insight and great conversation as he shared more of his journey. I learned a lot from my chat with Adrian. Read on for some of my favorite moments:

🎶 Every time I try to leave, something keeps pulling me back, me back 🎶

Bonus points if you get the above reference (First person to leave a comment and correctly guess where that’s from might get a prize 👀). Adrian spoke highly on the notion of community-building during our conversation. It’s clear that his path is not one that was, or could’ve been, walked alone. As I learned more, that seemed to be a common thread through all of his experiences.

“I tried to leave New Orleans, but it kept calling me back.”

Adrian’s family came to the city with little to nothing and built themselves from the ground up (it’s clear where Adrian learned the art of hustle from). He shared how grateful he was to the city for allowing his family such an opportunity, and how many circumstances divinely came together for the taqueria his uncle started (Taqueria Corona on Magazine if y’all wanna check it out) to become the catalyst for everything that came after.

“I didn’t really appreciate New Orleans until it was taken away from me.”

Hurricane Katrina made Adrian understand just how much the city gave to him. I found it interesting that the memories Adrian seemed most fond of were centered around “the little things,” like conversations with the barista or seeing everyone you went to high school with pull up to the same function. He mentioned how New Orleans provides a unique access to a supportive community, where you can be spontaneous and independent. These qualities were essential in fostering growth for Adrian’s personal and professional life, as well as giving his family a chance to create something greater. For these reasons, Adrian gladly took on the obligation of giving back to New Orleans however he could.

I found myself inspired hearing these humble beginnings. It’s empowering to witness the culmination of planting so many seeds, watching how deep the roots run, and seeing how far the branches reach. I’ve been in the city for a year and half now, and I can undoubtedly say that I’ve changed for the better thanks to a plethora of experiences I imagine would only unfold in a place like New Orleans. Mind you, I’ve only been here during the pandemic, which begs the question … What kind of person would I be had I experienced this city in a universe where COVID didn’t exist? (Sheeeiiiiit, wouldn’t that be fuckin’ nice?) I wholeheartedly resonated with Adrian’s sentiments. There is something truly special about New Orleans; I haven’t quite found the words to make it make sense. It brings something out of you that you may not have known was there. It opens your eyes and instills memories that you genuinely can’t get anywhere else, “a world of opportunities” as Adrian said. I’m hype to keep experiencing more of this city and learning all the ways I can contribute to building it up … the same way it has so far built me.

If you are passionate, you are limitless.

Life hack: “When it comes to doing business, don’t go to dinner and don’t go to lunch. Do breakfast.” This is one of many nuggets Adrian offers when discussing how he’s moved and operated across multiple industries. More often than not, we put ourselves in boxes (and other times, others put us in boxes) because we get comfortable when we find something we know how to do. Adrian, on the other hand, always kept his hands in various pots (pun 1000% intended), keeping roles that were pragmatic but never forcing him to maintain a one-track mind.

“Saying ‘yes’ to things has often led to opening more doors than less.”

Adrian saw early that certain potential pathways required great effort with little reward, as many opportunities didn’t seem to move him closer to financial or personal freedom. Hospitality was a space that Adrian knew would be easy and comfortable (mans was working in restaurants since he was 12, so this type of shit is in his blood … his namesake as I mentioned). Adrian also expressed tension in pursuing hospitality, as he didn’t want to succumb to the aforementioned mentality of “boxing himself in.” While owning and managing businesses within this space had its challenges, as with every endeavor Adrian embarked on, he ensured that the avenues laid before him would in some way further his pursuit of independence and generational wealth.

“It’s about building a lifestyle; wherever you are in your journey, you get savvier and savvier on how to do that for yourself and repeat it.”

After investing time, money, energy, and resources into several career endeavors, Adrian starts to bear fruit from all of his labor and things start to become real. This is when Adrian found himself asking a rather existential question for entrepreneurs: “Will this continue to work?” Adrian confesses that no part of his journey was planned, nor linear (shocker), though he does suggest that at least part of the trip so far was preordained. Adrian credits a lot of his success to implementing all of his Ls (remember ya’ll, Ls are for “Lessons” … shout out to the homie Sadé for that life-changing advice) to make certain his next endeavor brought him closer to the greater vision at hand. Adrian is always eager to share the benefit of his experiences if it helps serve someone’s greater calling, especially when they lead to authentic and lasting relationships. These relationships have not only been intellectually fulfilling, as he shares, but they’ve also paved the way for others to build successful institutions. The benefit of these “learning journeys”, as Adrian calls them, is that you will always learn something from the experience and you get the chance to evaluate how much you’ve advanced your knowledge through it all.

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

“I want to have the ability to open doors.”

“The hardest part is not making it … it’s keeping it. Cash comes, but it goes faster.”

Adrian aims to share all he’s learned to support community members in developing a deep understanding of how to build wealth and success, specifically for Black and Brown folk (#datpart). Adrian’s biggest takeaway for our listeners: “say yes, get involved, and do it all thoughtfully.” You never know how much that will open your doors or what things you will learn from those experiences. If you are starting a business, the endpoint is not starting the business; the endpoint is how to run that business and how to live beyond the business. Always consider how to hack the learning curve and consider what projects may align with those opportunities.

The future is lookin’ real bright for Adrian. As he puts his head down recovering and resetting a foundation for longevity after Hurricane Ida and the pandemic, Adrian is excited to get back to reimagining what scaling means for his personal life and for his businesses. Adrian mentioned that he’s excited to build and grow new teams as he takes on new ventures. Wherever the journey takes Adrian next, his next stop will certainly continue serving his communities.

Why you shouldn’t listen to me: I always seek to understand. My mentor once said “if you can’t simplify something and make it easy for others to understand, you don’t understand it yourself.” In this pursuit, I’ll miss the little details here and there as an attempt to make things simpler. After all, the alternative to overanalyzing everything isn’t much more favorable. I’m sure there’s a balance, but I haven’t found it yet. Maybe we can find it together …

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Shoutouts from this episode:

Guest: Adrian Mendez — IG

Set: Mr. Wolf Espresso and Books — Site, IG

Food & Beverage:

Education:

Akili Academy — Site

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Welcome to our blog! Join the conversation after every episode of our NO(LA) Reservations podcast to keep the discussion going.

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