Empowering Communities Through Business and Creativity
Before getting her master’s in business, Romi Ramirez worked at Charter Communications for five years. Romi used her skills to brand and grow local businesses by shooting commercials. She was involved in every part of production—from scriptwriting to directing to editing and post-production. A self-described introvert, Romi breaks out of her shell when she talks business and community outreach.
After the company restructured, Romi’s life took a turn, but it was the opening of multiple opportunities for Romi and the start of a new journey. She started her own business as a photographer and cinematographer—capturing special moments like weddings and Quinceañeras. Through this creative outlet, she uncovered a passion for empowering communities. The character of the work changed, and Romi found herself using her background in graphics, photography, and cinematography to help other business owners grow. But if you traced those roots back, her connection to helping others started much earlier.
During her undergraduate degree, Romi studied abroad, traveling throughout Mexico and Guatemala. She knew it was important to understand ethnic identities and culture development. What she brought back home with her was a desire to inspire others.
Since then, Romi’s career has many facets, but teaching, mentoring, and empowerment have always been at the core. Early on she worked as a social worker for at-risk youth, as a case manager for homeless families, and later as a social worker for teen moms. It was hard work, but it taught Romi the impact one person can make and the importance of community collaboration.
“Some teen moms had no parental support. I always loved mentoring them and hearing their stories. It was rewarding to see these young mothers realize their own potential. All they needed were the right tools, encouragement, and resources to help them make their lives better.”
After funding for the Teen Mom program was shortened, Romi reflected on her life path. She started thinking about graduate school and looking into programs when she came across the Masters of Business program at Antioch’s Santa Barbara campus. The program was a perfect match.
“I chose Antioch because of their model,” Romi says. “It’s not just focused on business, it also has a social justice aspect. So, it’s not just about how to make money, it’s about creating an impact within our communities or at a global level.”
Starting a Master’s program didn’t come without a sacrifice. Romi dealt with personal and marital issues that forced her to walk away. She felt out of place, frustrated, and stuck. She knew she was worth more and prioritized her career and her own future with her children.
“Sometimes I’d question if I was doing the right thing. As a Mexican wife and mom, it was not easy to step out of our ‘cultural boundaries’” Romi says. “But I didn’t want to doubt myself. It was challenging to make that move. I left a lot of me behind to focus on my career and school.”
The territory of following one’s dreams isn’t devoid its share of criticism, especially internally. It took guts, passion, and a leap of faith not only to mentally commit to pursuing a Master’s but also meet the practical challenges—the logistics, children, commute. Romi believed in her dream. The decision was made, and she moved with her children to start the next phase of her life: grad school.
Romi knew the hard work wouldn’t stop after her decision was made. Her new journey was just starting. To get through grad school, Romi woke up at 4:30 a.m. every morning. At 5 a.m. she worked on homework—focusing on one class a day; 6:30 a.m. she made lunch and dinner for the kids; 7 a.m. she woke them up, took them to school and got to work by 9 am. After work, she took her children to their extracurricular activities like soccer, gymnastics, and swimming, back on campus from 6-8:30 for her evening classes. Her night routine was rushing them to bed by 9:30 and back to homework until midnight, sometimes later, when case studies were assigned. With two kids and a full-time job, the secret to her success was sticking to a schedule. It took discipline, determination, and focus. This was hard grueling work, but Romi made it through, and it was worth it.
“It’s amazing how things lined up. It was very terrifying at first, to be honest. I have no family in Santa Barbara, I pushed myself to make mom-friends, and to top it off, my car wasn’t always reliable. But now my life is unbelievable. I never thought I would be living in Santa Barbara, 4 blocks from the beach, with my dream job, finishing up grad school and debt free!”
Romi now finds herself in the middle of yet another transition: graduation. She isn’t scared for her next adventure, she’s excited. Currently, she works at Pacific Coast Business Times, a tri-county business journal, as a marketing director—learning the ins-and-outs of the publishing world. She loves it. To be able to work with a great team and in marketing has always been her dream. Part of her job is coordinating monthly awards ceremonies that recognize top companies and leaders in the region. It allows her to meet new people and expand her network.
For her next adventure, Romi is a stakeholder in a start-up Spanish magazine, “Somos!” Translated to “we are”. Somos! magazine thrives to educate, inspire, and connect the Spanish speaking communities by providing articles that enhance the reader’s understanding of mental health, healthy eating habits, fitness, small business strategies, political changes, academic programs, personal finance, and community resources. It’s a testament to her passion for mentorship and empowering her community, with a focus aimed to help underrepresented communities. It’s also a goal that’s steeped in the Antioch entrepreneurial spirit: the commitment to social justice.