Our interviewee today is Felipe Peláez. He was born and lived in the Republic of Colombia, specifically in the city of Medellín, Department of Antioquia.
“Tell me Felipe, how did you decide to come to this country?”
“The main reason was my eldest daughter. I was divorced and her mother decided to move from Colombia to the USA. I did not want my daughter to grow up without her father’s presence. That is why I decided to do it and also because at that time – and also now – this country is a wonderful place to live. It is a place where if you work hard and honestly, you can accomplish much. Also, to be honest, I was very attracted to the idea of living in a place where you feel safe. Unfortunately, Colombia is a very beautiful country but security is not part of everyday life.”
“What did you do in Colombia?”
“I’m a graduate in business administration. In Colombia, my last job was with a company that sold electrical tools all over the country. I was in charge of handling the logistics and everything related to customer service. When I arrived to Mount Kisco, NY in 2000, I first worked as a dishwasher, an innkeeper, a butcher and a number of similar activities that led to my certification in different areas related to hotel and food. Nonetheless, I cannot complain, because along the way, there have been many positive experiences and people I have met. In 2006, I started working with a company here in Connecticut that owned several coffee shops. At first, my job as a manager was to train and support the opening of new branches. As a token of confidence, in 2010, I was offered to manage a branch in Ridgefield. Fortunately, I can say that I am now negotiating the purchase of that cafeteria.”
“So, are you transitioning from employee to entrepreneur?”
“Yes, I’m in that transition period. But to be honest with you, the most important thing is not who owns the business. The most important thing is to attend to the customers every day with a smile, with joy, and to make sure that the customer is always satisfied. Ridgefield is a community where everyone knows each other and where people do not forget to say thank you. Moreover, I enjoy returning to my roots, because my maternal grandfather had a cafeteria and also bought green coffee, roasted it and sold it. On the other hand, my paternal grandfather devoted himself to growing coffee. Growing up in the coffee hub of Colombia and not knowing and loving coffee is impossible.”
“Do you feel happy in this country?”
“I always believed one makes his own happiness. When customers or people ask me how I am, I always reply ‘wonderful!’ and they smile. They even joke with me and call me the ‘Wonderful Man’.”
“What is the most important thing in your life?”
“That’s a very easy question to answer: my two daughters. They mean everything to me. For them, I work hard; for them I go onward every day. They are the most precious gift that life has given me. I was blessed with them.”
“What would your final message be?”
“The first step to happiness is to affirm it, the second is to prove it and finally, we must accept happiness when it arrives and set the problems aside in order to see how they can be resolved …”
María Danniella Gutiérrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before going after her own American Dream and becoming a writer in the United States. Mdgutier@gmail.com.