With more energy in one finger than the rest of us have after two cups of Roasted Whisk’s Cafe Cubano, Lizette Rivera is not one to sleep on her vision and passion. With years of career experience in the corporate world, three decades as a mother, two businesses and one overly-zealous pup that pulled her into a new direction mid-pandemic, Rivera proudly holds the pen as the author of her own story today. And what a story that is. From a rare medical diagnosis faced as a child to overcoming some of the most difficult parenting challenges, Rivera is proof that there is no force greater than a woman determined to rise; and nothing in this narrative is stronger than a mother—not even a piping hot cup of Roasted Whisk coffee.
What inspired you to switch from the corporate insurance world to pursue life as an entrepreneur, and how did you switch from popcorn to coffee, baked goods and pup treats?
I wanted to start a business where I was making people smile and contributing to making a difference in my community. I knew once I stopped feeling like I was making an impact in my field that it was time to take that leap of faith.
I decided to sell Chef Inspired Popcorn to spend more time with my daughter before she left for college. We began baking together with espresso, which was a traditional staple growing up in a Hispanic household like I did. One of my favorite memories is of my mom making me Cafe con Leche (espresso and steamed milk), but she would make it with more milk than coffee, making me feel grown up. I carried on that tradition and did that for my daughter, making these moments of baking extra sweet. The more we baked, I knew I needed to find new ways for consumers to enjoy coffee, whether that was through a fresh locally sourced roast or infusing baked goods with espresso and packaging them together for a great pick-me-up gift.
Tell us about Roasted Whisk.
Providing customized gift kits for any occasion, Roasted Whisk creates memorable moments of comfort and togetherness with signature boxes made up of locally sourced coffee blends, espresso infused baked goods, organic pup treats, merchandise and more. We began a collaboration with Pooch Natural Living to develop our own line of organic pup treats. We now have Pawpuchinno (of course no real coffee for our furry friends), and it has been a hit.
The “Founder’s Story” of a company is just as important as the brand itself. What is your story and how does Roasted Whisk represent you as a woman and mother?
I was a sickly child born to an immigrant family. My illness left me scarred both physically and emotionally. These marks included being very aware of the financial costs of my illness to my parents. My dad worked two jobs to afford my operations and medical treatment. In a child’s attempt to help with cost, I had my first business experience. While in elementary school I bought pencils for a few pennies and sold them for a dime. What could have been a limiting event in my life proved to be the opposite. I learned at a young age to always be aware of opportunities. I have used these life lessons to instill an independent, “never say die” spirit in both of my children. Both of my kids have used what I have taught them in different ways, but ultimately both have been successful in different avenues of their life.
Given your experience, what advice would you give to a mother with children that are younger than Giovany (31) and Sami (18) that you wish someone would have shared with you along the way?
I had my son Giovany at a very young age. I was 20. He and my daughter Samantha are 13 years apart which presented all sorts of challenges very early on. Giovany and Sami needed different things from me at the same time and I was exhausted. I remember my mom sitting me down and saying “it’s okay to ask for help!” We as mothers always feel we need to have this “do it all” mentality, but does struggling make us a better parent? Children, regardless of their age, just want your time. Just love them and cherish each and every moment because before you know it, you are packing up your car and driving them to Maine to move them into their college dorm room. Yes, Sami attends the University of New England, and I am now officially an empty nester.
How have you overcome fear and uncertainty in the past, and how has that helped you as a founder?
I believe the difference between acting reckless and taking a calculated business risk is based on the presence of fear. The absence of fear undoubtedly leads to recklessness. More often, success is found by those that manage fear by calculating risk. Of course. we cannot live our lives IN fear, but learn how to manage it and use it to our advantage.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?
If I had to choose one thing, I’d say spending the day at Busch Gardens is our favorite thing to do. Both of my kids are crazy about roller coasters and who doesn’t enjoy all the food choices!