University Times

Spotlight on success: Patty Rodriguez and the hustle

Cal State LA introduces multi-talented Latina businesswoman

Image Courtesy Forbes.com

Image Courtesy Forbes.com

Janice Peregrina, Staff Reporter

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Do you ever hear the words “follow your dreams” and get disheartened rather than encouraged? As college students, too often we feel as though all our efforts in class, working, and scraping through internships will never really pay off. Then, you hear a story like Patty Rodriguez’s, and you remember why you keep going.

Cal State LA’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosted the second of its series of speakers who have achieved success with Patty Rodriguez, a Los Angeles native. Her inspiring story of starting from the bottom to achieving success resonated with the student body.

She is the co-producer at On-Air with Ryan Seacrest for iHeart Radio, co-founder and co-author of children’s book line Lil’ Libros, the brainchild behind the MAC Makeup Selena line, and the creator of her own jewelry line MALA by Patty Rodriguez. To top it off, she is also a mother of two children.

Juggling all of these tasks is a titanic feat, but Rodriguez is animated and encouraging to the Cal State audience as she answered questions asked by Barney Santos, head of the Center. He asked her about the early years of her life and how she got to be where she is now.

When she was a high school student, she lied to her mother about school was cancelled, took the family car, and drove to Burbank to tour a radio studio. Though many of the people she talked to discounted her for her age, she ran into the producer of the morning show simply by chance who she gave her phone number to call. He told her that when she was old enough to work there, he would give her a call.

“We take those moments for granted,” Rodriguez commented about what drove her to take the chance, “And every day when we wake up, appreciate that you are still here, you’re still contributing.”

After high school, Rodriguez got denied to the only college she wanted to attend, which happened to be Cal State LA. “It was the only school I applied too, and I was so confident that I would be accepted here, because why not? So that didn’t work out.”

She applied to Cerritos College as a safety, got in, and applied to classes that she enjoyed like radio. And one week before she started her classes, she got a call from that same producer she met when she was sixteen who was “looking for someone to answer the phones” for the studio. Of course, she accepted the offer, and began her internship for KIIS FM, simply doing mundane tasks like “picking up the dry cleaning” and “getting coffee.” Because her mother was a single parent, Rodriguez needed to find a way to pay for the school she was attending.

“I knew in my heart that I had a plan. I didn’t know the plan, but I knew in my heart I had a plan…So what I did, was got two full-time jobs,” Rodriguez said. Going to class full-time, interning, and working two jobs went on for three years, but Rodriguez needed to do it.

“I had to prove to [my mother] that she made the right decision.” The station finally hired her after three years of interning, and she had to make the choice to quit both of her jobs. This financially precarious situation lasted just one week, because the radio had hired Ryan Seacrest.

Rodriguez heard somebody say that they wanted someone who spoke Spanish, and her boss asked her if she would fill in as a host while they found someone permanent, she jumped at the chance, they never found anyone else, and she took the job. “I have been working for Ryan Seacrest for a long time, since 2005,” said Rodriguez

The early days of Patty Rodriguez’s story reflect many student’s current situation, and hearing how all her hard work paid off in the end, especially as a Latino woman, “child of immigrants,” was heartening.

Rodriguez’s innovation and determination did not stop at Cerritos College and with Ryan Seacrest. Her jewelry line, MALA, grew in popularity because of the people she met and the chances she took. An original Lynwood resident, she created a necklace with a charm reading “818,” the area code of the Valley. She gave the necklace to a co-worker, who ran into Miley Cyrus. Cyrus liked the necklace and asked where it came from. Rodriguez’s co-worker gave it to her, and Cyrus wore the 818 necklace on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine three weeks later. “That little side hustle taught me how to make a business from the ground up,” said Rodriguez. Now, her jewelry has expanded to a website with other LA-centric theming in the pieces.

In 2014, Rodriguez began working on her children’s book Lil’ Libros, which stemmed from wanting to leave “a legacy for [her son]”.  She had shelved an idea about a “loteria book for babies” a few years earlier. Finding no one had created such a story, she teamed up with her best friend Ariana Stein to create that and many more stories into bilingual counting books for children.

With no website or publishing experience between either of them, Google and Go Daddy were their friends. Cal State LA, the school that denied her college application, was holding a book fair one day, and Rodriguez and her friend decided to attend and share their idea even though they “came with nothing but the flyers to show the pictures of the books.” With just a flyer, they sold 350 books with pre orders that day. Word got around, and “three months later [they] got a call from Target.” Her books can now be purchased at one of the largest retail store chains in the world.

With all she does, Rodriguez hopes to change the way Latinxs are seen in America. A true Mexican-American, she upholds the culture of her ancestors in the country she loves. With her books in particular, she is “trying to convince white America that these books are not just for us,” but for children of all cultural backgrounds.

She also hopes to break the stereotype that Latinx people do not engage or read with their children. These goals are not without their obstacles, but Rodriguez carries on. “Whatever you have in your mind, the only person that’s gonna be in your way is you.”

You can learn more about the inspiring Patty Rodriguez at her website patty-rodriguez.com.

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Janice Peregrina, Staff Reporter
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Spotlight on success: Patty Rodriguez and the hustle