Cerritos College
Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Being a mompreneur during the pandemic: a podcast

Being a mompreneur during the pandemic: a podcast

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Clarissa Arceo: Good morning. My name is Clarissa Arceo and I’m the Community Editor for Talon Marks, Cerritos College’s newspaper.

Fatima Durrani: Hi, my name is Fatima Durrani. I’m the Opinion Editor for the Talon Marks newspaper at Cerritos College.

Clarissa: Today we’re going to be interviewing Maria Buenrostro, who is the owner of Buenrostro Tax Consultants located in the city of Downey.

Maria Buenrostro: Hi, I’m Maria Buenrostro, owner of Buenrostro Tax Consultants. Thank you for inviting me.

Clarissa: So, our podcast will surround women surviving the pandemic. We wanted to get an insight of the experience of what it was like being a mother and a business owner during these times especially. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Maria: Well, I’ve been running my business in Downey for about 30 years. And I took over this business from my parents. My mom’s a retired CPA, my dad was an accountant. And I’m a mother of three, two of whom are now in college. And I’m a very busy, busy woman.

Fatima: And what’s your main source of income – if your small business is not the main?

Maria: My husband is in law enforcement, and it’s a full time job. And my business- even though it’s seasonal, meaning it’s just in full swing three months of the year, is a very important part of our lifestyle. We depend on that income as much as we depend on my husband’s.

Clarissa: What is your business? What do you do?

Maria: I’m a tax consultant. Our office primarily does tax preparation and tax consulting with families, individuals and businesses.

Fatima: Cool. Okay, so tell us about you! What was your childhood like? What are your hobbies- any important information that we should know?

Maria: Oh, my God, that’s a lot of information.

Fatima: Well, we’re here to listen.

Maria: I’m an immigrant that was born in Mexico, I grew up in Huntington Park, the youngest of eight. So that was very interesting. We won’t get into that. But you know, I’m very grateful to have been able to grow up in this country and further my education. And I’m very, you know, fortunate to have my parents who were nice enough to kind of hand me the keys to their business that they worked so hard to establish. As immigrants, everything’s harder. But I love my job. I love what I do. I love helping people and educating my customers- I believe that a lot of people that come in from other countries are not quite clear on the concept of what a tax return should be. Everybody thinks ‘I’m coming in for a refund’. But that’s not always the case. So educating my customers is really important. And I keep myself busy with my kids and keeping up with tax loss.

Clarissa: Interesting. And could you tell us about your kids? How many kids do you have? How old are they? And if you feel comfortable, tell us about them.

Maria: Well, I have three brilliant kids. I have two daughters; One is 20. The other is 18. My son is 14. The girls are in college, and my son is in middle school, eighth grade. I’m just very blessed. Very blessed, very smart, and responsible. So I could go on for days. I’m not going to kill you guys on it. But they’re wonderful children. So very lucky.

Fatima: And when did you start your business? What inspired you to create this business in the first place?

Maria: I kind of had the business handed down. I originally had no interest in this business. I grew up watching my mom and my dad work, filing tax returns. I was 13. My mom was like 58, I think, when she started the business, I learned to do a tax return by the time I was 15. I could do a tax return by hand. And I was helping my mom, and I just thought it was the funnest thing because you know, we didn’t have the Internet back then. But I went to college, and majored in political science. I ended up having very nice jobs. You know, I worked at Activision, which is a big computer company. I also worked at Paramount Pictures, I was an executive there. I did a lot of traveling and international, legal stuff with them. And I never even thought that this is something I was going to do until I had my first child, where I was devastated by the thought that I used to work 60-70 hours a week, all the time. So yeah, it wasn’t until 20 years ago that I decided to do this full-time because it gave me the opportunity to be at home with my daughter.

Clarissa: And I know with taxes- usually you sit down and talk to them, face-to-face. It’s kind of a personal experience. I can only imagine how much different it would be with COVID-19. How has the pandemic affected your job?

Maria: It was devastating when it first was announced that the state was shutting down. I was allowed to stay open, because our business was considered essential. Everybody has to file their tax return, regardless of COVID-19 or not, so I continued to work with clients. And Ilike I said, I’ve learned to love my business and love my clients. It’s like having another family. My clients are truly amazing. And I’m so grateful to and for them. With COVID I continue to see people but I was scared, everybody was scared to know what we were dealing with. And it wasn’t until I had a client who’s French and has this beautiful little bakery, and he traveled in from France. And when he told me had arrived from the airport I was so scared, he was telling me about what it was like out there. It’s all bad. So I started to feel scared because I have children. I also take care of my mother who’s 87. And she was with me. So it changed my business dramatically. I remember realizing that it wasn’t just my life at risk. I was risking my loved one’s lives, too. So, I did my best to move everything remotely.

Fatima: That’s crazy. What was your life at home like? How did COVID-19 impact your lifestyle versus the lifestyle you had before? With your business?

Maria: It was insane. They had extended the filing deadline for us to file our tax returns till July. I wasn’t used to consistently working that many months out of the year- tax season is usually only four months out of the year- and mind you, it’s just me by myself doing the work.

Fatima: Oh, okay.

Maria: Yeah. So I was extended, where I had to work a longer time, just to be, you know, to allow people to file because many people were scared to go out. And nobody was stepping out. Tax returns were the last thing on their mind. Unless they’re getting a refund, they have already gone. So, it did impact my life, in the sense that I was, I was able to sit down with them. You know, if you’re a client of mine, and you come to my office, by the time you leave, we’re probably giving each other a hug because I always love to build rapport with my clients. I sit down, it’s not just give me your papers and get out, this is what it is. It’s always getting to know you first, so that I can better serve my client. So you know, it was so hard, not being able to sit down face to face with people, as they were just dropping off papers. And it created a strain. I was already stressed with the pandemic and then this added stress of not being able to have that access to them- it was a very tiring time.

Fatima: So, did you conduct Zoom meetings during this time?

Maria: I refuse to use Zoom because it’s not secure, and because we have to deal with very sensitive information. So I didn’t, but I did telephonic conferences, you know, telephone conference calls. And then some of my clients were like, no, we have to see you. And so we sometimes did FaceTime calls.

Fatima: Okay, got it. And so, how was the experience of having to take care of children and run a business at the same time – like especially during the pandemic? How hard was it?

Maria: It was insane. I was, well, I have to work because when you’re self-employed, if you don’t work, you don’t get any money, so you have to work. It was very difficult leaving my kids in high school at the time. And my son had just started sixth grade, it was really- I can’t even tell you. I didn’t know I was losing my mind because I had to work, meaning I had to leave the house and not be at home. And, you know, finding food, everything was pretty scarce. My mom is 87. You know, she’s got to be cared for as well. And I couldn’t have somebody come and help me. I used to have a housekeeper who would sometimes help us out, but we couldn’t have anybody come over. It definitely created a lot of trouble and hardships for us.

Clarissa: Yeah I get that, and how do you balance being a mom and a business owner during the pandemic? Is it hard?

Maria: You know, you have to think about that question. And it’s like, it’s hard enough already, just to be a mom. Not considering the pandemic. You know? As a mom, you’re juggling your schedule, you know, you’re juggling things that are due at school, you know, keeping up with kids’ grades, taking care of my mom.. So being a mom is a struggle. And you learn as the years go by, how to manage your time. But with the pandemic, it just, the pandemic definitely brought everybody to their knees. You know, it was like we weren’t sure what was happening, what was going on. So definitely. I can say, I don’t want to go back to that. I want to remove that.

Fatima: Yeah, that was a tough time for many people. And I can’t imagine how hard it was, especially for mothers to balance, like both the business and raising children. I don’t know how they do it.

Maria: Yeah, absolutely. And so, I’m very blessed in the sense that it did. I did generate less money, because a lot of people decided to say okay, I’m going to file my own tax return, because I don’t want to risk my life going out there. So many of us saw a drop in income, you know, we generated less money. But I’m very blessed to say that the second year, during the pandemic, more people decided to come in. But there’s so many businesses that depend on food sales or other important things- I mean, nobody was buying stuff. So, yeah. My lifestyle changed in the sense where I had more challenges on top of existing challenges I live through every day. But although my business did see a decrease, it wasn’t to a point where it affected our life so drastically.

Fatima: A lot of people lost motivation during the pandemic. So we wanted to ask you, what kept you motivated during the pandemic, to keep your business running and just your life in general?

Maria: Well, I think, every year I hit that question, believe it or not, even without the pandemic, you know, when you like I said, when you’re self employed, and you own a business, you don’t know if a customer’s gonna change their mind and decide not to go back. You know, it’s always scary. But I stay motivated. I stay focused and motivated by just creating goals and improving myself and I always try to offer a better experience to my clients. So one of the things that I did, and I forgot to mention earlier, as I extended online, something I had never done was I extended appointments online, where people were able to file online with me. And so that was like, a big thing, because I told you, when I started doing taxes, my mom, we were doing it by hand. So to be doing it on a computer, and then now all online, it was a big step. But I stay focused when I think of my kids, they’re in college and I gotta work hard, I want to make sure that they have a better and brighter future.

Clarissa: Yes! With the pandemic has come motivation and self-care. Through the pandemic, a lot of moms have been able to invest in their passions. Do you have any advice for moms who have wanted to start out with their own business or be self-employed?

Maria: Oh, that’s such a great question, because that is something I noticed during the pandemic. I just noticed, like there were women that found themselves like, ‘okay, I can’t go to work because I have nobody to watch my kids. And they’re too young to be left alone’. And so many incredible things and businesses that started popping up in regards to social media and women, baking goods, selling goods, making goods – just incredible things. I can say, never, ever give up. I think that’s something my mom told me. And she’s been an inspiration to me. You know, she’s like, ‘I was 58 years old, when I started this business’. I thought, wow, she’s 58. I’m like, really, behind. I should be doing more than I am already. But I, whenever I have clients that come in that start mentioning, hey, I’m doing some sales on Instagram, and I’m doing, I took a class and learned how to do nails, I’m a nail tech. I always encourage them to do things properly and set goals and keep going forward. And it’s okay, if you fall, just stay focused, because that’s how you get to places.

Fatima: And is there anything else you would like to add that we didn’t cover any words of advice, anything you’d like people to know, who have the vision of starting a business, but fear is stopping them?

Maria: You’ll never know, if you don’t take that leap of faith, you got to take a leap of faith. And that’s for sure. You know, the business that I’m running today was started because my mom said ‘Well, I’m a CPA, my husband’s an accountant. How are we paying somebody to do our own tax return? I’m going to just read up on tax laws, because I don’t feel like somebody, I don’t feel this person is doing it, doing anything for me’. And from their status of passion for our company, where my mom decided she was going to help others. She started this business not to, you know, fill her pockets with money, but to do it to be able to help her cup, you know, her people, her culture, the people that are aware. I did mention to you earlier, you know, when clients come into our office, we make it a point to explain things to them, educate them on tax laws, and how to better improve their financial situation and their tax outcomes. So, I definitely want to say to anyone that if you love something, there’s nothing better in life than to do something you love. And most people- believe it or not- fail many times before they succeed. So you just gotta keep pushing through. Yeah.

Clarissa: If you don’t have any questions, comments or concerns for us, we are done with our interview. Again, we wanted to thank you so much for allowing us to interview you!

Fatima: Yes, thank you so much we truly appreciate it!

Maria: As do I, thank you for having me!

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About the Contributors
Fatima Durrani, Opinion Editor
Fatima Durrani is the Opinion Editor & c0-online editor for Talon Marks. She is a Journalism major for Pre-law, and this is her last semester at Talon Mark before she transfers to a university. In addition to reporting, Fatima enjoys singing, editing photos, creating short films and reading poetry.
Clarissa Arceo, Community Editor
Clarissa Arceo is Community Editor for Talon Marks covering community news, Life, and arts & entertainment. She is a Journalism major transferring to a 4-year university in the Fall. Aside from reporting, Arceo enjoys photographing community events, reading contemporary romance and psychological fiction novels, and taking trips to the beach.  
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Being a mompreneur during the pandemic: a podcast