Ralphy Dominguez goes the South Bronx-to-Prison-to-an-Entrepreneur

His name is Ralphy Dominguez, he once ran one of the largest drug rings in New England, making over a million dollars a year. After spending close to five years in prison, he’s reinvented himself as an entrepreneur in  New York City with his leather goods brand Pen & Pistol a product line of all leather accessories.

What started as a leather craft course when Dominguez was behind bars flourished into a promising startup. In both worlds, he says he found something therapeutic and rewarding in working with his hands. After prison, Dominguez, originally from the South Bronx, found his way to Refoundry, a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn that coaches ex-cons to start their own ventures by training them to turn discarded materials into beautifully designed products.


“Refoundry lent itself to the first major problem that you face coming home, which is trying to find a decent paying job and Refoundry offered that and then it offered me a way to dream bigger, to start my own business,”

Dominguez’s company continues to use discarded materials, including leather from old sofas and handbags, as well as scrap leather from manufacturers that would otherwise be tossed out. He uses the materials to craft hand-stitched wallets and business card holders, which retail for between $30 and $75 on Pen & Pistol’s website


Dominguez credits the artisan skills and entrepreneurship know-how he learned behind bars and at Refoundry with helping him discover a new and rewarding life outside of prison.

“I was a hothead, I was a young gun, I was troublesome,” he said, “and going through the experience of prison, I really had the opportunity to redraft and re-pen my life.”

The entrepreneurial story he’s writing is one of revival through persistence. Pen & Pistol has started to catch hold, as a growing number of consumers are inspired by his story of reinvention and his brand’s beautiful designs. Dominguez started selling at flea markets throughout New York City, such as the Brooklyn Flea, Artists & Fleas and others. He’s since secured shelf space at different outlets, namely Lazaro SoHo, a high-end boutique in Manhattan.

Today, the Pen & Pistol founder comes across as an unassuming young man with a story to tell.

He appears thoughtful and determined, a far cry from the tumultuous youth he describes from his former life. Dominguez uses his past experiences to shape his success and is motivated to pay it forward. He helps others with a criminal record—including Pen & Pistol President Walter Escobar—to take back control of their lives through his leather craft business.

Dominguez says that ex-cons are well positioned to become successful entrepreneurs.

“That hustle was there, that spirit, that thirst for entrepreneurship is there,” Dominguez said. “And I think coming from a place where we had nothing and we can only gain—this is really what motivates people coming home from prison.”

Code2040 “The Future of Tech”, Lin-Manuel Miranda & the Chance to see Hamilton


Hi everyone!

Did you miss me?! Well I’m back on Prizeo and this time I’m here with my parents. We’re giving you a chance to win a trip for two to opening night of Hamilton in San Francisco on March 23rd. Since I’m in London, I can’t make it. But you’ll be going with my mom and dad—Luz and Luis! They’re the best and they’re going to make sure you have an incredible time.

It is more important than ever that for-profit and civil society are stepping up to build inclusive, safe spaces where minorities can work and thrive. By donating as little as $10 to be entered to win, your donations will also help support Code2040 and the Latino Community Foundation, two amazing organizations that are helping build the leaders of the future. Please check out their sites to learn more about the incredible work they’re doing.

Sweepstakes Page

And if you donate more, you’ll be getting extra entries (every $10 is 100 entries), helping the work being done by Code2040 and LCF even more, and you’ll get rewards! Check ’em out—new t-shirts, signed items, and our brand spankin’ new tank top.

Whoever wins, we’ll fly you and a guest to San Francisco for opening night and we’ll put you up in a hotel. Plus you’ll be going to the show as my parents’ guests! I can’t wait to see who wins and hear how it goes!

I am thrilled that we’re supporting the work of Code2040 and LCF—and that you get the chance to experience the San Francisco Hamilton opening night! Thank you again for continuing to team up with me and supporting the work of so many incredible causes.


Falling in Love with failure

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s forget about the roses, just for a minute. Let’s take a step back from the champagne and put down the chocolates. Amid all this talk about love and relationships, I have a proposition to make: I think it’s about time we settle down and seriously start to court FAILURE.


I know what you’re thinking. On the surface, failure might not be the most eye-catching gem in the jewelry shop. Whether it appears in the form of missing deadlines, flubbing proposal requirements, or running a business model into the ground, failing at something—especially if it’s something that truly matters to you—is the toughest break to take. Failure is not fun to be around, it doesn’t have a lot of flexibility, and it’s incredibly unforgiving. It’s a cruel mistress in its own right, a necessary evil.

Yet failure is something that I deeply respect and hold dear. It’s an experience that I embrace, and more importantly, it’s something that I celebrate at athenahealth. Yes, I celebrate failure—and no, I’m not crazy. At athenahealth, our community of teachers and learners is founded upon the necessary give and take of knowledge, and the belief that learning can only happen in an environment where failure can, and even regularly should happen. It doesn’t take a lot of ambition to coast along the upper echelons, or to year after year hit every vanilla goal you set for yourself. Climbing your way from failing to achieving, on the other hand, requires impressive tenacity, critical thought, and a hell of a learning curve.

Failure, then, is a necessary framework for success. Think of it this way: With every choice that ends up being wrong, you simply find one more way to narrow down what’s right. If you completely wreck a huge project at work, then congratulations! As long as you learned something along the way and take that knowledge with you when you next step up to the plate, then count that failure as a success. Or, more impressively, embrace your missed swing, brush yourself off, and pivot your experience into a whole new direction. Learning from failure is egregiously time-consuming and self-reflective, but incredibly valuable in the journey to success.


Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Cull what isn’t working; strengthen what is. This is true of everything, from creating a business from scratch, to taking a leadership role on your team, to achieving your New Year’s goals. Whether or not we like to accept it, failing is as inevitable as breathing, so when something goes amiss, it’s important that you’ve been paying attention along the way. Knowing what doesn’t work is as valuable as knowing what does: Once you can learn from your mistakes and step back up to the plate with the same enthusiasm that you had before, you are guaranteed to succeed, thrive, and lead.

We spend most of our time recognizing and applauding success, without acknowledging the failures and struggles that stand beside it, hand in hand. So on this day of love and admiration, I want to wish failure a happy—and long overdue—Valentine’s Day. It too often gets the short end of the stick, always in the periphery, an unspoken annoyance. Today, let’s fall in love with failure and all of the thorny and meaningful moments that it creates on the road to success. After all, success born from failure is the sweetest success there is.

How would you define your relationship with failure?

Originally published By: Jonathan Bush CEO and Co-founder at athenahealth


→Side notes

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” — Denis Waitley


People who are successful in life always learn from their mistakes and so-called failures. Michael Korda, editor in chief at Simon Schuster, says, “Never walk away from failure. On the contrary, study it carefully and imaginatively for its hidden assets.” And Bill Gates believes that, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”


Actor Mickey Rooney believed that, “You always pass failure on your way to success.” Salespeople often talk about “sales ratios,” or the number of rejections they’ll probably get before they make a sale. For example, it may typically take 30 calls to land one new client appointment. Keeping this in mind, good salespeople don’t look at rejections as “failure” but just one step closer to the win.

Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” in One Book, One New York Initiative

New York City is proud to be the creative capital of the world,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The One Book, One New York initiative provides the perfect opportunity to bring City residents from all five boroughs together through reading. This initiative will inspire New Yorkers to unify in their appreciation of the written word and to share in the support of the city’s important publishing industry.”

“One Book, One New York will help readers connect with one another while rediscovering their local libraries and their independent neighborhood bookstores,” said Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “One Book, One New York will reignite conversations about reading throughout the City, from our libraries to our subway platforms, from our local bookstores to the coffee shop.”


As part of the program, five celebrities appear in videos advocating for a particular book.  Bebe Neuwirth, William H. Macy, Giancarlo Esposito, Larry Wilmore and Danielle Brooks are rolling out the campaign. New Yorkers will then vote on the book they think everyone should read. Announcement of the final choice is set for March.

All of the nominated books have a connection with the New York City area, and copies of them are available in each New York Public Library branch. The nominated books are:

  • Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Between the World and Meby Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • The Selloutby Paul Beatty
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith



Vote for your favorite here: 

Massive Protest by Latinos, non-Latinos & Small Businesses In Support of “A Day without Immigrants”

Today as part of “A Day without Immigrants” protest, thousands of local businesses are closed today, and many employees are staying home and skipping work as well.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of businesses and especially the economy,” said one Ramon De La Cruz a small business owner in Brooklyn.  “But it’s for a good cause.”


De La Cruz is willingly giving up a day’s profits to participate in “Un Dia Sin Immigrantes,” or “A Day Without Immigrants.”

The movement, Ramon said, is meant to show the entire country how large and involved the Hispanic population is.

There is even a hashtag, which is #protestthursday

Bodegas, restaurants, Laundromats, doctors, lawyers —  every single business is hurting with this economy, but we still have to stand for something” He said. “my wish, that by doing this they see that we are important to, New York and the whole country.


The movement doesn’t only call for businesses to close down on the Feb.16, it also calls for all immigrants to stay home, to not spend money online or in stores, to close their businesses and to not attend school or classes.

Rallies are planned has been planned throughout the country, a unified voice is growing on “Un Dia Sin Immigrantes.”

Organizers have called for a peaceful protest.  They’re asking attendees to wear white shirts to show a peaceful movement and to wear or bring U.S. flags.

These are the Sates (Cities) that in which there will be active protesting in business closed and or rallies: New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Illinois, Arizona, California and Colorado,

To many of the participants,  the most important thing is to show their community and families that they aren’t alone.

“We just want to let them know that we are with them,” De La Cruz said.

Prominent DC Chef Closing his Restaurants in Protest of “A Day Without Immigrants Strike.”

Chef José Andrés has announced that Zaytinya, Oyamel, and all three locations of Jaleo will be closed on Thursday because of the “A Day Without Immigrants Strike.” Andrés,  pulled out of his planned restaurant at Donald Trump’s D.C. hotel because of the president’s comments about restaurants in the DC area.

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The strike is in response to the nationwide ICE raids ordered by Trump who signed an executive order granting himself the right to more aggressively deport immigrants. There’s also the matter of the wall Trump plans to build on the Mexican border.

Restaurants that decide to stay open will look and feel a little different on Thursday because not only will there likely be a shortage of workers, but the supply chain will also be impacted. Bub & Pops co-owner Arlene Wagner, for example, says one of her purveyors warned her that there would be a disruption in bread delivery.

This is a list of other restaurants in the DC area, that will be completely closed Thursday:

Himitsu, Thip Khao, Toli Moli, Hank’s Oyster Bar (all locations), Hank’s Pasta Bar, Hank’s Cocktail Bar, Bad Saint, Blue 44, Sweetgreen, DC Empanadas, Toki Underground, Surfside, Bub & Pop’s, Pupatella, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Busboys & Poets (all locations)., Brookland’s Finest, Peacock Café and Pizzeria Paradiso.

Hispanic Leader Geisha Williams Named New CEO and President of PG&E Corporation


Image: bizjournal.com

As part of a leadership succession plan, the Board of Directors of PG&E Corporation today elected Geisha Williams, 55, as Chief Executive Officer and President of PG&E Corporation. Williams is currently President, Electric of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, PG&E Corporation’s utility subsidiary.

Tony Earley, Jr., 67, currently Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation, was elected to serve as Executive Chair of the PG&E Corporation Board of Directors. In addition, Nickolas (“Nick”) Stavropoulos, 58, currently President, Gas of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, was elected to serve as President and Chief Operating Officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The new roles are effective March 1, 2017. The currently separate roles of president for the gas and electric businesses are being consolidated into the single utility president role that will be held by Stavropoulos.

Tony Earley has been a strong hand at the helm over the past five years and his deep industry experience has been invaluable to us as he guided PG&E to the goal of becoming a top industry performer. Under his leadership, PG&E implemented an integrated, risk-based planning process that provided a road map for making PG&E a safer, stronger energy company through a robust capital investment program, widespread process improvements and by instilling a strong safety culture. Tony also invested in PG&E’s human capital, attracting strong leaders to join and stay with PG&E and mentoring Geisha Williams and Nick Stavropoulos. Geisha and Nick are both exceptionally talented executives and we are pleased that they will carry on the work that Tony advanced so successfully,” said Barry Lawson Williams, independent lead director of the PG&E Corporation Board.

Earley said, “I am very pleased with the decisions of the Boards of Directors to move forward with this planned succession. Geisha has demonstrated the performance and strategic vision to lead this organization into the future. She has a long track record of success with PG&E and in the industry. Under her leadership, PG&E has driven record-setting improvements in electric reliability year-over-year by transforming our electric grid with smart technology and by implementing an industry leading emergency response capability. As a result of these investments, Geisha’s team restored power with record speed when an earthquake hit Napa in 2014. Geisha also understands the enormous changes that will be affecting our industry in the years ahead and has a vision for navigating these changes successfully. Nick, who will serve as President and COO of the utility, has successfully led a multi-billion-dollar investment in the safety of our gas system and strengthened PG&E’s safety culture, the success of which has earned the utility international recognition. Geisha and Nick both have the vision, operational focus, and commitment to collaboration that will serve our customers, communities, employees and shareholders well. Above all, they have a shared and unequivocal commitment to the safety of the public and our employees and contractors.

Ms. Williams said, “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the extraordinary 23,000 employees of PG&E and to support their efforts to safely serve 16 million Californians. We are in a period of tremendous and accelerating change in our industry, driven by technology, competitive forces and public policy objectives around clean energy. We are well positioned for these changes and well positioned for growth with substantial infrastructure investments focused on continuing to enhance the safety and reliability of our system while enabling California’s clean energy economy.

Stavropoulos said, “We set out five years ago to become the safest and most reliable energy company in America and we have made incredible progress toward that goal. When it comes to safety, the job is never done. I am absolutely committed to continuing this journey and to supporting the efforts of PG&E’s team members while achieving new levels of operational excellence and efficiency across the organization in order to provide safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy to our customers.

Earley joined PG&E Corporation in September 2011 after 17 years with DTE Energy. When he left DTE, he was serving as Executive Chairman. He had previously served as Chairman, CEO and President of DTE. Prior to joining DTE Energy, Earley served in various capacities at Long Island Lighting Company, including President and Chief Operating Officer. Previously, he was a partner at the Hunton & Williams law firm. In Earley’s new capacity as Executive Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation, he will continue as an employee of the company, providing counsel to senior management and supporting the leadership transition in addition to continuing to serve on the Board.

Ms. Williams joined Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 2007 and was named Executive Vice President, Electric Operations in 2011. She was named President, Electric and a member of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Board in 2015. In addition to her previous responsibilities for all non-nuclear electric operations, Williams took on additional responsibility for the enterprise-wide Customer Care organization and the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when she was named President, Electric.

Before joining Pacific Gas and Electric Company, she held officer-level positions leading electric distribution, as well as a variety of positions of increasing responsibility in customer service, marketing, external affairs and electric operations at Florida Power and Light Company, the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving more than 4.8 million customer accounts or more than 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida.

Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Miami and a master’s degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University. A trustee of the California Academy of Sciences, Williams also serves as the board chair for the Center for Energy and Workforce Development, and as a director at the Edison Electric Institute, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies. In addition, she is active in Executive Women in Energy and the University of Miami President’s Council.

Stavropoulos joined Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 2011 as Executive Vice President, Gas Operations. He was named President, Gas and a member of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Board in 2015, at which time, in addition to his previous responsibility for gas operations, he took on responsibility for enterprise-wide Information Technology, physical and cyber-security, safety, health and environmental, supply chain, and the transportation and real estate organizations. Before joining Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Stavropoulos was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of U.S. Gas Distribution for National Grid, an electricity and natural gas delivery company serving nearly 7 million customers in the northeast United States. Earlier, Stavropoulos was President of KeySpan Energy Delivery and held a number of other leadership roles with KeySpan’s predecessor companies, Colonial Gas and Boston Gas.

Stavropoulos holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Bentley College and an MBA from Babson College. He serves on the board of Bentley University and has served on numerous public and not-for-profit boards.

About PG&E Corporation

PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) is a Fortune 200 energy-based holding company headquartered in San Francisco. It is the parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California’s largest investor-owned utility. PG&E serves nearly 16 million Californians across a 70,000-square-mile service area in Northern and Central California.

Latino immigrant wins digital equity award for inspiring youth to learn coding

Latino immigrant wins digital equity award for inspiring youth to learn coding

Antonio Tijerino knows what it’s like to have his intelligence questioned because he didn’t speak English, he immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua with his parents when he was just 6 years old.

As president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for almost 15 years, Antonio has launched many projects to encourage teenagers and minorities to learn coding skills. For the fellowship, Tijerino flew about 20 students to the nation’s capital in October to show off apps and video games they had created to solve a problem in their communities.


He has also served on panels at companies like Microsoft, where he said that Latinos “clean hotel rooms” and “serve your food,” but they need to learn coding and computer programming in order to truly move up in society.

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, which awarded him the “Champion of Digital Equality Award” on Jan. 20. The nonprofit promotes civil rights in mass media and broadband industries.

About 40 percent of students in the national study reported that lack of Internet access results in failure to complete homework, and it impairs the academic performance of Hispanic and African American students more than white and Asian students.

Op-Ed by NYC School Chancellor Carmen Fariña on “A Path to College and Careers”

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña

Op-Ed: By NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña

Navigating the college process can be challenging for students and their families. As the first person in my family to go to college, I know how stressful this process can be. As Chancellor, getting every student on the path to college regardless of their home language or zip code and graduating a productive citizen is at the heart of what I want to accomplish. In support of this effort, across the City today we are celebrating College Awareness Day.

Now in its second year, College Awareness Day promotes a college-going culture across all New York City schools and encourages students to consider a wide range of college and career options. And now as part of the DOE’s first College and Career Month, 250 high schools are participating in career exploration events and activities. This means schools will be visiting companies and non-profit organizations to shadow professionals, and inviting alumni and recent college students to discuss college and career planning with students. We are also hosting the first-ever citywide Summer Enrichment Fair on January 28, where high school students and families can learn about summer employment opportunities and participate in career skills and planning workshops. Educators across the City are helping students understand that going to college is attainable with hard work and determination and families should can overcome the financial considerations, geographical barriers, or other roadblocks.

2017 College Awareness Day

College Awareness Day is part of College Access for All, one of Mayor de Blasio’s Equity and Excellence for All initiatives. Through College Access for All, every middle school student will have the opportunity to visit a college campus by 2018 and every high school student will have the resources and support to develop an individual college and career plan by 2019. For the first time this spring, every high school junior can take the SAT free of charge during the school day and we’ve also eliminated the CUNY application fee for low-income students applying for college, removing a significant financial barrier for families.

Early Conversations and planning around college and careers are critical, and helping our youngest learners see higher education as attainable begins with raising greater awareness of what college is and why it matters. We are laying this groundwork early, by building on our promise of Pre-K for All, working toward universal literacy in 2nd grade by 2026, and expanding bilingual programs in classrooms as early as pre-K. Every student must have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and we are making unprecedented investments to make that a reality – especially for students who are new immigrants, just learning English, and will be the first in their family to go to college.

Every day can be College Awareness Day across the City. Our schools will continue to share information with students and families about college and career readiness as the school year moves forward. By making a clear path to college and career for everyone, we are going to make a real difference in our City and country. I encourage all educators to share their college experience with students and continue the college conversation today.  Additional information about College Awareness Day and College and Career Month are available at: http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/OPSR/CareerExplorationMonth.htm. Together we can eliminate obstacles and make the path to college and careers for all a reality.

Why I am proud to say: “I Am Hostos”!

Madeline Santana

As the recipient of the Auxiliary Police Officer Eugene Marshalik Scholarship, Madeline Santana continues to climb the education ladder at Hostos Community College as she pursues an associate degree in Office Technology, Medical Office Manager. Madeline enrolled in the Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development and earned her certification as a Pharmacy Technician. Making the most of her experience at the College, Madeline was able to secure a part-time position at Bronx Lebanon Special Care Center, where she has been employed for the past seven months. She will soon be joining the staff at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center full-time. Upon completion of her associate degree, Madeline plans on enrolling in Pharmacy school.

When asked about her experience in the Pharmacy Technician Program, she responded as follows:  “The Pharmacy Technician Program has impacted my life and career in a great way. I have set new goals for myself while pursuing a rewarding career. From the moment I began attending Hostos Community College, many opportunities have opened up for me, while the guidance I received from my mentor, Dr. Geoffrey Lord, has been priceless. I am grateful for the relationships I have formed and the people within the program that truly care about their students’ success. I AM HOSTOS.

Learn more about opportuneties at Hostos continuing education programs


Here are some things she has learned and want to share on her educational journey:

  • I heard about the program through the catalog delivered to homes. I am a Bronx native and I am always looking into furthering my education.
  • My experience was a wonderful experience taking the pharmacy technician class. Dr. Lord is a great professor and enrolling into this program offered from Hostos has been such a major impact in my life and he has definitely become a mentor to me in my career path.
  • This program has been very beneficial for me and has allowed me to transition into the medical industry. Dr. Lord prepared me by exposing the retail and medical skills needed to be marketable in my job search. During my program I was able to work closely with my mentor in the pharmacy and learn from his staff. The collaboration between Hostos and Bronx Lebanon has been a priceless experience for me and other students. I was also able to secure employment upon completion of my program.
  • What I took away most from my time in the program is the relationships I formulated.  I was able to establish and network with those experts in my industry who created employment opportunities.
  • I encourage future students with an interest in this program to take advantage of the training and the preparation Hostos offers. I was fully prepared and gained my certification within 4 months, and shortly after secured a new position with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. This experience has been an absolute life changer.