The very first day I met James Gonzalez was in the kitchen at the tech company we used to work for back in 2015. I had been working at this company for only 3 months and this was the first time I decided to commingle with my fellow colleagues early in the morning; I usually go to my desk and wait until the rush was gone. However, that morning I chose to be bold enough to possibly meet some senior level Account Executives that I can connect with. James was the first person to greet me with his big, bright, white smile, and say "Good morning!" so cheerfully. With these two simple words, he made me feel like I belonged to be a part of that morning kitchen rush that he seemed to navigate through so seamlessly. As the days, weeks, months and then years would pass, James' face was the one that always made feel welcomed first thing in the morning, in that busy kitchen, no matter how tired or stressed I may have been from the prior busy work day.
I have witnessed James to be the calm in any storm he has faced, and because of this, I admire him and am privileged to call him a great friend. It gives me great pleasure to feature him on my blog, so without further ado, allow me to introduce you to....
Mr. James Gonzalez
James grew up with a two parent, poor working class family in the Bronx, in the 80's & 90's, at a time where you had to learn when & how to defend yourself, and you being a punk never worked in your favor. While raising 4 children, his mom went to school and got her BA in Business. His humble beginnings taught him the color of food stamps before the EBT card was even a thought. His parents raised him and his siblings to be upstanding citizens that knew the definition of hard work and perseverance. James did not have many options, it was either he live the dangerous street life, or make something of himself, and James definitely chose the latter!
"I consider myself an incredible person because of the family I was lucky to have, my upbringing, and more."
Growing up, James had a few dreams he kept close and has always been determined to have come true.
To name a few,
James always dreamt of leaving the projects to live in Manhattan, which he has accomplished; James currently resides in East Harlem, NYC.
He aspired to be well traveled, and well, he definitely surpassed that goal by traveling to his beloved home of Puerto Rico often, traveling all over Europe, and to the Caribbean Islands. The only thing in his way of traveling in 2020 is this COVID-19 pandemic.
He has a long term goal/dream to be featured in Forbes Magazine alongside other influential individuals doing great things in their communities, which I can absolutely see happening, and
Lastly, but certainly not least, James had a dream of getting back into business with Jorge Ayala, the founder of La Fonda Boricua Restaurant & Bar in East Harlem.
"I was a silent partner at La Fonda Boricua for a few years, until December 2018 when I decided to leave corporate America and return to La Fonda full time. The goal was to help Jorge make sure the restaurant he built over 20 years ago, remain a staple landmark in El Barrio, NYC."
Keeping the Dream Alive Within the Community
James has always been passionate about making sure that his lifestyle mimics the values and standards that his mother had instilled in him and his siblings from a young age. "My "why" is my family, and to leave a legacy for myself and my Puerto Rican people!"
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic & mandated quarantine, James has made an enormous change in the El Barrio community by partnering La Fonda Boricua with World Central Kitchen to help feed the underprivileged residents in the El Barrio community. You can learn more about his impressive journey on my IGTV Channel where I interviewed James on Thursday, May 14th, 2020.
When asked what advice would he give someone that has many dreams they wish to fulfill, James advises to follow your dreams whether you're quarantined or not. This time away from the outside world, should definitely help anyone find out what their "why" is. I say, we should make the best of the second chance we have all been given.
"Once you have found your why, you must accept the responsibility that comes with entering the entrepreneurial world you seek to embark upon, which can be a very lonely and scary place. So, begin prepping your mental fortitude because you will need it, but it will all be worth it."
Outside of being an amazing son, brother, friend, and entrepreneur, in his free time, James is passionate about Martial Arts. He is a mixed - Black Belt under Jadi Tention and Blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-jistu - under the Renzo family. He loves to indulge in live music or stream music on Spotify, is a foodie, and he is always finding ways to better himself.
James Gonzalez is truly one of a kind and I am so honored to have featured him as one of this months "Quarantined Dreamers."
To learn more about James Gonzalez, you can find him on social media via IG