Pamela Romo tapped into her imagination and enterprising mindset to beautify her world, overcome depression and create community, all while putting her family first and breaking some long-held entrepreneurial rules. Today, she runs three businesses— and she’s just getting started.
There are two kinds of serial entrepreneurs: those who can’t help but see the economic potential of everything they touch, and those who start new businesses simply to create. Pamela Romo is the rarer second breed, her three businesses borne from sheer passion to design and bring people together. As she reflects on her path from a childhood in Mexico to an Austin-based serial entrepreneur, there’s no aha moment or specific memory that sparked her journey, just a steady stream of creativity and community building that’s brought her to the success she is today.
Romo’s personal website claims, “It all started with a blog, which later evolved into three separate businesses,” but a conversation with her quickly reveals a much earlier timeline for her creative trajectory. She’s tried—and succeeded at—a little bit of everything, including oil painting as a child, working in the magazine industry and being involved extensively in music, fashion and, most recently, design, both for homes and for her planning-products company, Querida Agenda. With each of her endeavors, she lives life on purpose, embodying her mantra to “lead, never follow,” and striving to help others do the same. Here are the rules guiding Romo’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Rule 1: Don’t be afraid to break the rules.
Born in El Paso, Texas, Romo grew up in Aguascalientes, Mexico, which she still visits frequently and describes as a warm and welcoming community, if a little challenging for creatives.
“Growing up in Mexico was colorful and fun,” she says, “but the culture can be difficult because it’s not easy to innovate. People have this mindset of school, then college, work, get married, have kids. Here, you have more options—the American dream—and I wanted that.”
Romo recalls making collages and oil painting from an early age. Naturally outgoing, she hosted a morning TV show and modeled as well. As a teenager, she wanted to pursue journalism or fashion in college, but her father advised choosing a less specialized degree, so she studied marketing at the local Monterrey Tecnologico campus in Aguascalientes. Though her brothers both left home for college, her parents wanted to keep a closer eye on her.
“I’ve been rebellious since I was young,” she says with a laugh. “I was the one who would arrive home at 3 a.m. And there’s a lot of machismo in Mexico, so, as a woman, I didn’t have the same opportunity to do what my brothers did in college.”
That doesn’t seem to have caused any setbacks for Romo, who landed a job on the fashion team at Vogue Mexico shortly after finishing her studies. Romo was responsible for all the visuals, working with the editor-in-chief to plan outfits and photo shoots for each issue. She believes this demanding role helped her develop an already great eye for trends and aesthetics, which she still uses to source illustrators for Querida Agenda’s designs and to find the perfect colors and textures in her interior-design business.
Rule 2: Don’t be afraid to make the first move.
The job at Vogue Mexico also brought Romo back in contact with an old family friend—now her husband, José—when they reconnected through the desire to start a band in Mexico City. (Oh yeah, she also sings. If you’re having trouble tracking all her creative pursuits, you are not alone.) Romo had grown up visiting José and his sister, a school friend, in Veracruz, Mexico, (“He says he always had a crush on me,” Romo admits.) but the pair hadn’t interacted for more than five years.
They started a rock band called Papa Juliett, playing together for four months before Romo sent the crucial text during a night out with her friends.
“I texted him that I loved him! He had a girlfriend at the time, so it was very wrong of me because I made the first move,” she says sheepishly. “But that first day, we saw each other again it was like, ‘Wow!’ ”
Does she regret it? Not at all “because it led me to where I am today,” she notes.
The two started dating shortly after, moving to Los Angeles just one year later. There, life had another curveball in store. The first month in their new home, their new country, Romo learned she was pregnant.
“I had never thought about having a family. I always just go with the flow,” she says, countering the cultural formula she grew up with in Mexico.
During her pregnancy, Romo was steadily building followers through her own fashion blog. From her time at Vogue Mexico, she loved sourcing images, and the blog blended her love for creative writing with her eye for design. But somehow, the lifestyle just didn’t feel right.
“I thought I would love it because I used to be a model,” Romo says, “but it didn’t feel like the right fit for me, posing and taking pictures every day.”
In her personal style, Romo had always been inspired by vintage clothes, and Los Angeles offered the perfect locale for thrift shopping, browsing and collecting. Soon, she started selling her finds through an Etsy shop called Misplaced Vintage, but it still didn’t feel quite right. She wanted to get to know her clients personally, not just deliver products. About the same time, two years after her daughter’s birth, she realized she was suffering from postpartum depression.
“I didn’t even know what that term meant,” she marvels. “But I called my daughter’s pediatrician and told him I was crying because the day was cloudy. One hour, you are perfect, and the next, you are just crying out of nowhere. And I felt tired all day.”
Rule 3: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Living in a new country, raising her first child far from the support of family and friends—and at just 26 years old— Romo attributes the depression to the many major changes in her life during that time. So, when her doctor offered prescription help, Romo wanted to first explore lifestyle changes that could combat negative emotions and create a more positive environment.
“We are in an era where everything is so fast. We need to slow down,” Romo says.
On the surface, this may seem a conflicting message from the founder of a company that produces planners and agendas. But more than healthy eating and yoga, which she started practicing regularly, it was changing her habits that helped her heal. Adding structure to her day gave purpose to each moment. She also started a Facebook group called Dear Mom, posting flyers in Los Angeles, hoping to connect with other moms that shared entrepreneurial and creative passions. The group went viral, with more than 1,000 like-minded young moms joining within six months from throughout the world.
In another seeming contradiction, Romo discovered during that time that her best defense against the overwhelming pressures of being a new mom was scheduling more time for herself, a practice she maintains today. Her Querida Agenda company aims to help other women find the same sense of purpose through her planners and other products. Romo was in the midst of yet another transition, moving from Los Angeles to Austin, when the vision for the business emerged.
“I always had three or four planners with me because none of them had everything I wanted,” Romo shares, voicing a universal complaint of women everywhere. “And I’m not used to using apps and Google calendar, so I decided to create a planner for myself.”
She enlisted the help of a graphic-design connection, Marisa Chambon, a fellow entrepreneur and friend from Mexico. Pooling their creative talents—Romo’s content and Chambon’s designs—the products include guidance for how to start each day, how many glasses of water to have, notes for when users have their period and so much more. The pair sold 1,500 planners in the first month of their business, quickly growing it from having one Instagram follower (“Marisa’s mom,” Romo says with a laugh.) to the nearly 30,000 it boasts today, just one year later.
Inspired by the community Romo found through her Facebook group, Querida Agenda also hosts workshops for entrepreneurs, a big part of the mission for Romo and Chambon.
“For now, the meetups and events are focusing on the Latin community,” Romo says, “because there are so many who move to a new country.”
Rule 4: Don’t be afraid to try something new.
As for Romo’s next open door, she’s currently working on the one in her own home—literally—recently launching an interior-design business with her husband. The company is called Abro Home, a portmanteau of her maiden name, Abella, and Romo, and also the Spanish word for “open.” The project sprouted from a conversation with their landlord shortly after the couple moved to Austin. When he shared he had plans to sell their rental property, Romo offered to help renovate the home before resale, and Abro Home was born.
“Between my husband’s numbers and my design talent,” she says, noting his expertise as an accountant, “we can improve any house in Austin!”
Romo hopes not only to use her design eye to help clients turn their houses into homes, but also to change the industry of design as a Hispanic woman. As a young woman in the field, it can be difficult to negotiate, so Romo’s dual mission is to open the door for more female subcontractors and to work with more female clients. Renovating a house can be expensive, but she works to bring her clients peace of mind by sticking to a tight budget without compromising quality.
“And I think speaking Spanish gives me an advantage on the design and construction side of the industry,” she adds. “Everything I do, I just want to be surrounded by incredible women.”
She creates community, structure and beautiful spaces wherever she goes, hoping to one day own boutique hotels, soon opening a centrally located co-working space for women in Austin and aiming to turn Querida Agenda into a globally recognized brand. Meanwhile, she hopes to have more kids and to adopt “because how can you say no? If we had the resources, I would adopt 20. We will be like the next Angelina and Brad Pitt—except for the drama.”
As for her personal goals, she still harbors a desire to further explore the arts.
“I always most wanted to be an actress or a singer,” she says, smiling. “I never quit those dreams. I just put them on hold. Someday, I’ll do them, maybe as a hobby. But I want to do them all because life is short.”
Romo and Chambon also recently launched their bimonthly Querida Radio podcast, which aims to inspire entrepreneurs, dreamers and creative women to “fulfill [their]goals and create a supportive community along the way.”
She notes they plan to expand the product line in the near future, launching the English version of their planners. In the meantime, the meetups offer the opportunity to build community through an annual membership, providing spaces for events and opportunities to learn from other female up-and-comers. The plan is to build a global presence and open doors for women the world over.
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Sabina Musayev Tyler dress, $411; cow necklace, $158, available at Estilo, 2727 Exposition Blvd., estiloboutique.com; shoes, model’s own.
Birgitte Herskind Audry blazer, $488; McGuire Gainsbourg cropped pants, $238; Huma Blanco Elaine shoes, $260, available at Estilo, 2727 Exposition Blvd., estiloboutique.com; Pharao Jewelry necklace, $298, available at pharaojewelry.com.
Madeworn Beach Boys sweatshirt, $187; Birgitte Herskind Nessa skirt, $265, available at Estilo, 2727 Exposition Blvd., estiloboutique.com.
Bano eeMee Naz jacket, $464; Parker Alden shorts, $220; Cleobella Liliana top, $98; Lady Grey warp earrings, $180; available at Estilo, 2727 Exposition Blvd., estiloboutique.com; boots, model’s own.