Everyday People, Make the World Go Round – Rixys Alfonso
Name: Rixys Alfonso
Title: CEO and Chief Visibility Specialist
Company: CauseMo Marketing, LLC.
Major City Where You Work: Miami/Fort Lauderdale Metropolitan area
City Where You Live: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers.
I was born in Communist Cuba in 1971. When I was eight years old, together with my parents, we jumped the fence. We took asylum in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. In 1980, we fled Cuba and came to the United States on the Viking Starship as part of the Mariel Exodus. I grew up in Hialeah and moved to Pembroke Pines eleven years ago. I am married to Alexis Alfonso and have two children, Devin and Gary.
For the first eight years of my life, I lived in a very modest one-bedroom apartment with my parents in Santos Suarez in Havana, Cuba. My father was a Biology professor, and my mother was a stay at home, mom. We didn’t even have running water in the bathroom; my parents had to heat water in a metal bucket so I could bathe. Yet, somehow, I was the happiest kid on the block. My father was utterly anti-Castro; he and his two friends Salomon Cohen and Roberto Lopez, use to hold anti-Castro meetings at my house. On Sunday, April 6, 1980, while visiting my grandparents in San Jose de Las Lajas, my Dad heard on shortwave radio that someone had overthrown the fence at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. Together with my parents and their friends, I jumped the fence and took asylum in the Embassy. We then fled Cuba and came to the United States on the Viking Starship as part of the Mariel Exodus. I grew up in Hialeah, Florida, and spent my summers and holiday vacations visiting my maternal grandparents and family in California. When I got married, we lived in Miami Lakes and then moved to Pembroke Pines eleven years ago.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal life.
My mornings are precious; they start with a 5 a.m. alarm. These are one of the few moments of my day in which I have sacred silence before the outside world bleeds noise into my day. I take a quick shower before brewing my cafecito or tea. On Mondays, I set aside an hour early in the morning to do a mental dump. I open Microsoft word and write down everything I have to do that week, both business and personal. I then take each item and schedule it into my calendar; this way, I am sure that everything gets done. This includes family time; all family activities are planned in my calendar, and I schedule my work life around them.
Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.
After working in the non-profit sector for many years, in 2013, I founded CauseMo Marketing, a boutique communications firm that helps cause consumer movement in key markets and across the country. We inspire consumers through corporate social responsibility programs and campaigns, publicity, social marketing, and experiential events to raise the overall awareness of our client’s brands and grow their Company’s ROI. I also provide Business Coaching Consulting services for women who are looking to launch or have small businesses. Throughout my career, I have played a vital role in the production of numerous marquee events and marketing campaigns. Consistently over-delivering for my clients and community partners has kept me at the top of my game and allowed me to help many others.
How did you end up in your line of work? Was it accidental, or were you strategic about it?
I guess I can say it was accidental! I worked at Here’s Help (HH), a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Miami Gardens. The CEO of HH was John “Footy” Kross, who was at the time the longest-running morning show host in the continental U.S. He was on Y-100.7 for 32 consecutive years in the Top 40 Market. After seeing me advocate for my son, John made me his Executive Assistant. I began working with him on raising funds for Here’s Help, assisting local charities, and booking VIP guests (Governors, Mayors, Celebrities, Athletes, Actors, Comedians, etc.) John became my mentor, and with his support, I grew within the organization. When I left ten years later, I was the VP of Development. I then went to work for The Dan Marino Foundation, and three years later, my passion for becoming an entrepreneur motivated me to launch my business. Today, my services help corporations champion their social corporate responsibility effor
Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
My passion and commitment to community initiatives emerged from a very personal struggle and family crisis centered around my eldest son, Devin. He was born with numerous disabilities, and at two years of age, he was given a terminal diagnosis by an orthopedic surgeon. It was at that moment that I transformed into a super advocate and lay-researcher. Today, my son is 22 and thriving after undergoing 44 surgeries. I wanted to work in a field that allowed me to help others.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday professional life.
By the time most people settle into their office chairs, I have already had breakfast, caught up on emails, and lit my favorite candle to start my day; I always have flowers and a candle on my desk. My days consist of consulting my clients in person or via Team and Zoom meetings, touring and meeting with local charities, and crafting cause-related campaigns or planning experiential events. I am also very involved in enhancing the community. I often meet with elected officials to discuss the successful implementation of education programs, community awareness forums, and youth initiatives, local, state, and federal legislation.
Share how you balance the work-life challenges…what have been the rewards.
I don’t like the word “balance” I feel that it implies that we can do it all. I use the word “juggle.” Having been through 44 surgeries with my son, where I had to travel to San Antonio every four to six months, I learned to juggle my time. I’ve worked on trains, planes, the intensive care unit, and in the dark with just my screen on under the covers. For me, the reward is that my work ultimately helps organizations and community initiatives that provide services for children, women, and men so they can live a better life.
What advice would you have for other Latinos in the business sector trying to make it day after day?
Perspective is everything; I do not believe in failure. I never lose; I either win or learn. My advice is to set your intention every day, take it one day at a time. If things don’t go as planned, take it as a lesson, a stepping stone on your journey to entrepreneurship.
Did your ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages? How so?
I think it’s an advantage to be Cuban; I learned survival skills at a very young age. Having a second language is also a plus.
What inspires you in your work life? What turns you off?
I have a solid work ethic, my clients, who I lovingly call my #CauseMovers are very generous and care greatly about our community, they inspire me every day. Knowing in my heart that we have the ability and momentum to change the world also serves as my inspiration.
When I was starting my advocacy movement, someone told me how can you, a twenty-seven-year-old single mom, help get kids into a clinical trial? Boy did I prove them wrong. I am committed to doing my part to make this world a better place for future generations. Negative people with no vision turn me off, I never listen to naysayers and their noise.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Worry less little one, your heart is who you are, and your brain is where you live, no matter where in the world you go. Keep being that chatty, social, bossy little girl; those are leadership skills! 🙂
Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?
Oh, boy, have I ever! The MOST IMPORTANT public relations and marketing campaign of my life were successfully getting my son and the other three kids who had been given a terminal diagnosis in the State of Florida into the Titanium Rib Clinical Trial in San Antonio by advocating on their behalf when the procedure was not yet F.D.A. approved. After many days a going door to door to many elected officials, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who at the time served as a member of the Florida Legislature helped me to persuade the State of Florida to help Devin to get treatment in the Titanium Rib Clinical Trial taking place in San Antonio, Texas. Story here.
Wasserman-Schultz taught me the power advocacy, which then led me to U.S. Senator Chris Dobbs. I provided testimony on Devin’s rare genetic disorder, and my emotional testimony prompted debate on U.S. Senate Bill 830. The bill became known as “The Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act of 2007,” and it encouraged the development of medical devices for use by children.
Consequently, in 2010, I initiated a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives through Wasserman-Schultz that resulted in the passage of Federal House Resolution 1499. The bill honors Dr. Robert Campbell and “Calls on the Food and Drug Administration to continue to support and incentivize other medical advances to save children’s lives threatened by rare disorders.” In 2012, I was invited by Dr. Linda Ulrich, Director, Pediatric Device Consortia Grant Program, OOPD at the F.D.A. to travel to Maryland and present to the doctors at the who would be future Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act of 2007 grant recipients The presentation can be viewed here.
In 2014, I was invited to attend The White House Holiday Reception by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. U.S. Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz also recognized me in the closing of her book For The Next Generation. She acknowledged me by stating, “To fully illustrate the value derived from a life of service and community action, I will leave you with the story of Rixys Alfonso,” followed by my story of triumph over adversity. See the book here.
If you could have dinner with any Latinx person—living or dead–who would it be? Why?
I’d have to say, the very talented and charismatic Celia Cruz. We were both born in Santos Suarez in Havana, Cuba. I’d love to learn all about the history of Cuban music and her trajectory to the United States.
What is your favorite quote/saying? Give us your own personal quote.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt
“I always dance with the one who brung me!” -Rixys Alfonso
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