By Susan Hitchcock
Founder & Host Emerita of Women in Leadership
Leslie Ramirez is a perfect example of a Next Gen SHEro. A first generation Mexican-American, her story starts with unbelievable challenges as she grew up poor, disenfranchised and even abused.
But, without a hint of “woe is me” mentality, Leslie has turned every obstacle into what she calls “an opportunity to grow.” And grow she did – having transformed herself into a dedicated and inspiring business owner, marketing expert, community advocate, and brand ambassador. With the many hats she wears, Leslie is truly a one-woman motivational dynamo, helping dozens if not hundreds of other entrepreneurs think positively and overcome their own obstacles.
A glimpse into her past
Born to immigrant parents in Texas, Leslie and her family, including three siblings, faced many life challenges, from hunger, to housing and safety. Moving to Florida didn’t help and eventually they came to Georgia.
Within her family environment there were beatings and various forms of abuse. That situation contributed to her brothers being “recruited to the street” which led to unfortunate consequences later in life.
“As for me,” Leslie said, “I was the nerd in the family.” That was one of her coping mechanism to deal with the trauma in her life. Another way she found to enhance her life – speaking to large groups. “When I was 7 years old, my mother took me to her church and I ended up speaking in front of 10,000+ people! Over time, I honed my speaking skills and now consider it a true gift which continues today.”
Leslie’s educational journey was just as challenging as the rest of her early life, since she attended at least eight different schools from elementary to high school. However, as her adult life has proven, she certainly had the intelligence to learn and excel in school, but her home life simply did not support it. Furthermore, she added, “I wasn’t accepted by any group in school. I was too ‘hood’ for the white kids and too white for the Hispanic kids. It was the black kids who supported me. This is why to this day, I am very engaged with and connected to the black community.”
At the age of 16, no longer willing to live in her current circumstances and determined to make it on her own, Leslie left home never to return. With the help and generosity of trusted friends and supporters, and with her “I can do this” attitude, she made it happen – one day at a time.
Betting on herself leads to a new life
Clearly, Leslie had to grow up fast. It wasn’t easy, but she persevered. She worked her way up from $6.25 per hour entry level jobs to much higher paying accounting and finance positions. In every role, she learned new skills to propel her career forward. All the while, she knew she wanted to help others as well.
“I simply bet on myself,” Leslie said. In 2018, she paid $120 to get an LLC license which allowed her to start her own business, House of Ramirez (H.O.R.). H.O.R. is a full service marketing firm that focuses on helping small businesses grow. “What’s unique is that I understand about breaking down barriers that entrepreneurs face because I’ve done that all my life. I also understand the ‘people to people’ aspect of marketing.”
One example of her successful engagements happened in 2019 when her company worked with Essence Magazine and Black Entertainment Television (BET). Together they helped several H.O.R. clients create marketing channels with major companies like Walmart and Target.
Bridging the gap
Leslie’s professional and personal goals often come together as she explains, “What I try to do every day is help bridge the gap between business, government and the community.” Recently she became a member of the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Research and Prevention Board. One area of the board’s focus is HIV and AIDS.
“As a brand ambassador for a company called B Condom, the only black owned condom company in the country, I was able to connect them to Morehouse. Now they’re working together,” Leslie reported.
MARTA’s Rider Advisory Council is another of Leslie’s commitments. “I’m honored to have been voted in as a new member,” she said, “and I bring very personal experience to the position. For several years – until I recently bought a car – I was definitely a MARTA customer! You might say necessity became an opportunity.”
Closing the gap in another way, Leslie knows that her most important role is being a mother to her three sons. “I know that I’m setting a blueprint for my children to give to people and to the community,” she said. Beyond that, her definition of success or triumph is making an impact, i.e., seeing the positive ripple effect that she, her children and others can have.
One final example of her genuine concern for the community is a small plaque in her office which says, “Do Not Litter.” It’s a memento of sorts and a constant reminder of her ongoing volunteer work – picking up trash in her community or wherever she sees it.
At the end of the day, people who know her agree on this. Atlanta is fortunate to have a dedicated, self-described “servant of the community” like Leslie. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this ‘obstacle buster’ and Next Generation SHEro who brings a boost of energy, encouragement and authenticity to every encounter.
Interview & Profile by: Susan Hitchcock, Founder of The Age of SHEroes