‘If You Want Something … MAKE IT YOURSELF’

By TerryDate
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Entrepreneur Andreina Viera. Her fledgling business, Viera Admin Solutions, helps small businesses with their communication, marketing and bookkeeping needs. She recently won the top award, $6,000, in an entrepreneurship development program.


She was the new girl from Puerto Rico and ordered a sandwich at the Lawrence Girls Club like her grandmother had coached her to say it, only instead of peanut butter it came off her tongue as “pinaburra.”

Entrepreneur Andreina Viera, 32, laughs remembering her awkward pronunciations as an uprooted 10-year-old separated from her native language, land and mom.

These days, Viera makes clear communication and resolve cornerstones of her fledgling business, Viera Admin Solutions, which on March 16 won the top award, $6,000, in an entrepreneurship development program.

“If you want something, make it yourself,” says Viera, of Lawrence, sitting in a cafe wearing a black blazer and hoop earrings, her hair pulled back to a casual bun.

Viera, a single, minority mom, will need all of her life training and work experiences to make Viera Admin Solutions profitable by enlisting enough small businesses and startups to hire her to shore up their communication, marketing and bookkeeping needs.

For all her pluck and affability, Viera faces a mountain of struggles in this endeavor, much as she has for most of her life.

Women have a much harder time attracting capital for ventures, say two Bentley University business professors.

For every dollar that business women receive in funding, their male counterparts receive $34, says Deborah Pine, executive director of Bentley’s Center for Women and Business.

This is partly because of the types of businesses women tend to open — smaller ones with less opportunity for big growth such as the IT companies and other larger ventures men tend to start, she says.

Also, according to Bentley business management professor Linda Edelman, “Women are less comfortable in that world of finance,” whether sitting with banks or potential investors.

Instead, women rely more on friends and family money, “love money,” she says. They wait longer and ask for less money than men do when they do turn to financial institutions, and so their businesses tend to grow more slowly.

For Viera, who grew up in a poverty-stricken city as a child without a mother or father and had her first baby at just 16 years old, the chances for success were further diminished.

But she had her grandmother, Dolores “Lola” Diaz, who raised her with love and care, molding her into the woman she has become.

“She took care of me,” Viera says of Diaz, who became her primary caretaker after her mother had a stroke in 1993.

She sent Viera from Puerto Rico to Lawrence to live with her grandmother, telling the girl she was going on a vacation.

From Diaz she learned self-reliance and patience — and gained confidence. Those traits gave rise to determination and ambition.

For this and more, Viera is grateful to her grandmother.

“She saved my life once when I was younger,” she says, “and twice when I got pregnant,”

And she taught Viera to transform weakness to strength, hopes and dreams to reality, and stack building blocks from obstacles.

It’s 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Viera’s Ferry Street three-decker. She steps away from her two laptop computers at the far end of the dining room table to join a family game at the table’s other end with her son, Adriel Fricas, 10, her grandmother, and aunt Sonia Sosa.

Adriel, known to family as AJ, is entranced by the guessing game and breaks out laughing between turns. The most important thing in the world right now for Viera is joining this laughter, this family moment.

Her day began before 5 a.m. with showering, checking texts and emails and eating a spinach and onion omelet. She made a week’s worth and froze them Sunday night.

After breakfast she drove her borrowed Honda Civic to Worcester for a business meeting, then went to Roxbury for an interview, back to Worcester for more of the business meeting, then to Lowell to meet with a potential employee.

At 16, Viera had her first child, Jhamyl Fricas, now a freshman standout who wears No. 10 on his Lawrence High varsity basketball team uniform.

Her boyfriend at the time, Jaxander Fricas, wore No. 10, too. He was a standout on the basketball team. He is Jhamyl and Adriel’s father and has remained in their lives, helping the family financially and spending time with them.

He took in his children for six months in 2013 while Viera couch-hopped at her grandmother’s and friends’ houses to save money for a down payment on the Ferry Street triple-decker where she and her two children now live. She rents out the other units.

There were 27 offers for the house, yet Viera’s resolve and finances convinced the owners to sell to her.

Having their Ferry Street home gives the family security, but they, like many families, bicker and storm.

“We’re always fighting,” Viera says offhandedly in a conversation later.

She persists in getting her kids to clean their rooms, do homework, be home on time, and there’s pressure on her to provide them things they want.

Yet they know who makes the family run.

“She’s a woman of her word,” Jhamyl says. “She gets everything done.”

It’s March 16 at 8:50 a.m., and Viera is 10 minutes early for a meeting with a client, Maryelle O’Rourke, at her home in Salem, New Hampshire.

O’Rourke, owner of the Boston-based professional make-up company, Maryelle Artistry, appreciates Viera’s punctuality.

They sit at an L-shaped desk, drinking coffee, and spend the next five hours planning and streamlining the way the company provides make-up on location to actors on visits to New England, political figures, and for weddings.

Viera has created attractive, well-organized Excel sheets that list potential Artistry clients.

Back in April when Viera mused about forming a company, administrative work was a natural choice.

As a 14-year-old she started answering phones, filing memos and scheduling appointments — first for a textile company, then a health center. Later, as an adult she worked for years as an executive assistant for Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta.

She left the job at Joseph’s after her mom suffered her second stroke. Viera took over her care, moving with her children from their apartment to the close confines of a two-floor, one bedroom apartment in the Stadium Projects. Viera bathed her mother in a kiddie pool set up in the kitchen.

Like always they made something out of nothing, and she had a year with her mom.

“Those were the best times,” Viera said.

Her mother died Jan. 25, 2013.

Viera went to work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, assisting a researcher. Over the years, she had earned her bachelor’s degree through community college and then online studies.

Next, she took a job at MIT that within three months morphed into an event and outreach post where she coordinated an entrepreneurship program.

Hearing guest speakers talk about entrepreneurship got her to thinking about starting her own company.

She formed Viera Admin Solutions in October and has four clients, among them a doctor at Children’s Hospital. What remains is how to make VAS profitable and find more ways to help others launch careers.

It’s Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. and Viera sits with 10 classmates at an EforAll training class in the Bell Tower mill building at 60 Island St.

This is part of a 12-week accelerator program. The students here refine their business ideas and speaking skills, learn from mentors and gain expertise in areas in which they need help.

Among the classmates is Lindsay Joseph, whose baby boy is in a carriage next to her. She says the biggest challenge female entrepreneurs face is getting overwhelmed by business and family responsibilities.

The students, all but one of them women, listen to panelists including Lawrence Project Officer Frank O’Connor, Lawrence Partnership Director Derek Mitchell, and Mill Cities Community Investments Director Ari Veloz. They talk about the perils new business owners face and the critical role that financing plays.

Veloz says the real question about borrowing money is determining how much you need.

O’Connor reminds the students to be persistent, resilient and assertive.

Viera has gained technical and practical knowledge from these classes. She arrived with the resilience, confidence and motivation.

Viera traces her confidence to her teen years and daylong trips to Boston on Saturdays for design and modeling classes. She paid for the classes out of her clerical pay earnings and dreamed of a design or modeling career.

She made her own clothes in high school, fashioning her attire from table cloths and shower curtains.

The modeling training gave her confidence to pursue her dreams, she said.

Confidence “is everything,” she says.

Her motivation kicked into overdrive with her first child.

“I didn’t want to be a statistic — the Lawrence teenager who has a kid and now is living off the government,” she said. “I wanted to do more every day I awakened.”

On March 16, EforAll celebrated its latest 11 graduates at the Everett Mills. The ceremony highlight was the cash grants awarded to EforAll high achievers.

The final, and largest award, $6,000, went to Viera.

She was stunned, and fanned herself to cool the shock.

Lianna Kushi, EforAll’s Lowell-Lawrence director, said in an interview that ideas are, of course, important for entrepreneurs. But so is passion, the kind Viera has summoned to face adversity.

“We were struck by (her) perseverance,” Kushi said. “She clearly has the ability to make something happen and she is not going to let anything get in her way.”

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