Stephanie is a female name that originates from the Greek name Στέφανος (Stephanos), meaning “crown”.  What an appropriate way to distinguish this powerful Queen.  At the young age of 15, a bright eyed, energetic, Stephanie Romero, dreamed big and had already developed goals based off of those dreams.  Baking and catering to small businesses and mid-size companies, Stephanie made quite the impression on her community through her passion for baking delicious treats from the heart.  After Stephanie graduated high school, her desires for baking were exemplified by her passionate desire to become a formally educated pastry chef. 


Life at times has its way of correcting our trajectories, ensuring our truly intended paths are followed, thus providing the most benefit, having the greatest impact on the world and those closest to us.  This occasional “gift” life provides, presented itself to Stephanie one day, during her pastry class, as her instructor provided a few words of wisdom; advice that resonated with Stephanie to her core, “What are you doing here?  You need to go to business school!  How else are you going to run your business?  You already know how to bake.” 


Inspired by her mentor’s generously shared life lesson, and with the same vigor & passion we can expect from a name associated with royal dynasties, Stephanie took the initiative to register for business classes with her local university and began her journey, her true destiny, a seed that had been planted by her father as far back as she can remember: becoming a professional businesswoman. 


The first few years were difficult for this young, ambitious, recent pastry chef/turned business student.  At times, Stephanie faced many obstacles, including struggles to keep up with the enormous workload, even moments of failure as a result, and on more than one occasion, presented with the decision of whether to give up or continue with her life-changing decision.  Memories of her childhood, along with vivid recollections of her father’s unparalleled work ethic and passion for his profession as a business owner/entrepreneur, would navigate her back on her destined path.  These memories provided the necessary fuel of perseverance, allowing her to overcome life’s challenges & obstacles we are sometimes faced with while pursuing that which is most important to us, and she carried on.  Fortunately, she witnessed the proven result of combining hard work and dedication through her father’s professional success.  This became one of her biggest driving factors, pushing her through at all costs, as well as developing the unstoppable persona we see in Stephanie today.


Unfortunately, Stephanie’s journey would take a dark, sad, devastating turn.  A traumatic, emotional battle most of us could not survive.  Her father, her biggest mentor and greatest love, was diagnosed with stage four colon, stomach and liver cancer, resulting in his eventual demise a few years later.  Navigating treacherous waters is extremely difficult, even for the most experienced captains.  On November 14, 2013, Fred Romero, an incredible father with a heart of gold, this driven, caring and loving human being, whose smile lit up any room he entered, lost his battle with cancer.  Life can be stressful, even in normal circumstances, but to lose a loved one so dear to you is a pain that cuts deep and immeasurable.  The profound pain of losing a parent at such an early age shapes your outlook on life and forces you to question your very existence.  An unfathomable sadness ensues that simply cannot be explained with words.  This enormous loss, creating an unbearable void, presented Stephanie yet again, with a critical life choice: Give up, or carry on.  She had the opportunity to stop.  Stop the stressful, tiring, pain staking exhaustion associated with being a goal oriented, driven professional.  She had an excuse to give up, to sink into the abyss of adversity, and end the torture of sleepless nights influenced by anxiety from school deadlines, stress from unreasonable work expectations, as well as personal commitments to family and friends.  Stephanie was now faced with what would become the most difficult obstacle of her life. 


“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”


At twenty years old, Stephanie wanted nothing more than her “pops” back.  A daughter longing for one more moment with her loving father.  Crying behind closed doors, struggling, fighting, searching for a way to cope with the pain and sadness every single day.  She prayed, begging for directions on how to overcome this bottomless, emotionally traumatic experience, longing for a sense of hope enough to get up off her knees and climb out of the darkness.  Completely and utterly defeated, Stephanie collapsed her efforts and gave in to the despair and depression.


“Floating” is a phenomenon experienced by drowning victims.  It is the moment you submerge below the waterline due to extreme and severe exhaustion from attempting to rescue yourself.  You are simply floating in the water, arms out in front of you with limited movement, an almost lifeless state.  It is at this very moment a conscious decision is made: Give up and die, sink to the bottom of the ocean while your life fades to black, ending the pain and suffering, OR you choose to live.  You can refuse to give in to the fear of death, and somehow find a small amount of energy, deep in the depths of your soul, buried in your very being, allowing you to explode and plunge out from the depths of the water, screaming, arms lashing yet again in a battle to survive. 

No one can measure or comprehend the will of another.  We are all unique in our own way, and at times our capabilities, our “will”, is unknown even to the beholder.  It is this type of unexplained power within us we can call on during periods of weakness and frailty, when all else fails, providing enough force to allow us to perform miraculous, superhuman feats.  The mother who lifted a vehicle off her child with her own strength because she refused to give up on her child.  The husband that shattered unbreakable barriers with his bare fists to save his wife from a burning building.  There is supernatural power within us.  We simply have to make the decision.  Stephanie made her choice.  She found strength in the memory of her father.  Relying on the memories, the good times, vividly remembering the feeling of laughing at her father’s jokes, which he was widely known for.  The love this man had for his daughter became the lifeline, the parachute, the net that caught Stephanie from an unrecoverable spiral into darkness. 


Similarly, a blazing fire, extinguished by a rainstorm loses its flame, yet finds a way to store a small amount of energy by way of smoldering embers and hot, glowing coals as a survival tactic.  The extinguished flame lays dormant, waiting, ready to be re-ignited by the correct conditions, such as the right amount of airflow or temperature.  After favorable conditions are achieved, an explosive re-ignition of the flame takes place.  In a similar fashion and with the same explosive energy, Stephanie recognized being strong was her ONLY choice.  In her father’s memory, [descanse en paz], Stephanie, in an unparalleled reflection of strength and resilience, discovered a hidden ability, which would become her unstoppable force…turning her pain into power.


Fighting with the continuous emotional battle of losing her father, and in an effort to prevent the loss of another, Stephanie was determined to protect those around her.  In the pursuit of helping others, she refused to allow cancer to be a silent word in her life.  After extensive research & dedication, Stephanie partnered with a family member and launched an organic body product company called, “Jard”.  Jard offered consumers a healthier, safer option when purchasing hygiene products such as deodorant, dry shampoo, body and home mists, etc.  In retrospect, I believe this was her way of grieving.  Grief is the final act of love we can give to those we’ve loved.  Grief allows us to let in only as much as we can handle at that particular moment.  Consequently, Stephanie taught me it may never be enough.  We may never heal completely.  It is merely finding the strength, letting in as much as we can handle, to get through the moment. 


As a newly motivated health advocate, she also began researching the negative effects of certain consumables and monitored everything she put into her body.  This resulted in a personal movement to make everything from scratch, focused on healthy and natural ingredients.  Thus, a healthier, stronger, disciplined woman emerged, the beginning of what became better daily habits & decisions, eventually leading to a sustained, consistent lifestyle she continues to practice.          


Challenges continued to present themselves in Stephanie’s pursuit in becoming a successful businesswoman.  One particular obstacle involved her culture’s traditions.  As a full-blooded Latina, certain expectations exist regarding gender roles, and as a result, Stephanie began receiving negative feedback and resistance from family members & friends, regarding her ambitions, making her pursuits even more difficult.  However, Stephanie understood early on that her success was far more important than simply obtaining a college degree.  She realized she was the influence her culture needed in these changing, modern times.  She was and continues to be a beacon of strength to those around her.  Some even consider her influence as their emotional “lighthouse”, showing us the way back to our destined paths. 


Unwilling to succumb to the hindrance of old-fashioned cultural traditions, along with the related lack of support from family and friends, Stephanie yet again refused to be defeated and pressed on.  Disobedient, refusing to capitulate to the pressures of society, an unwavering ability we expect from her namesake’s Greek meaning, Stephanie gracefully earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis in human resources, and a minor in economics, from California State University of Los Angeles.  A feat accomplished while working two retail jobs, babysitting as an additional source of income, AND being hired to bake for occasional celebrations!


Stephanie has survived great loss, experienced many failures, and has had to overcome far more obstacles compared to most, due to negative cultural pressures, along with circumventing a male dominant business world.  However, she has endured all these challenges with great fortitude and humility.  When inquiries are made into her capabilities and how she’s overcome these challenges, her response is typically: service to others.  An appropriate response from the Co-Chair of the Outreach Committee, for the Community Association Institute, Greater Los Angeles Chapter, in which she serves. 


In an unwavering effort to make her father proud, and be an inspiration to others, Stephanie developed a personal mantra of becoming 1% better than yesterday.  She continued to push herself.  Setting personal goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve them.  One checked box after the next.  Driving through the obstacles with intensity and passion, she refused to accept defeat, treating most barriers as mere “background noise”.  A term Stephanie developed to represent the hurdles and obstacles one must overcome to achieve success. 


Although Stephanie reached several milestones during this chapter of her life, she experienced an overwhelming sensation that she was meant for more.  As a result, and a clear representation of her father’s influence, Stephanie obtained her master’s degree in business administration, from Woodbury University, in Burbank, California; the pinnacle of her determination, where she began a few years earlier. 


Life has its way of reminding us of our vulnerabilities, and the fact we are mortal creatures whose stories will inevitably end.  A reminder none more apparent than during the recent pandemic we experienced.  An overwhelming fear consumed us all, defining our individual characters, bringing our core values to the forefront.  Of course, we heard about the nastiness, the failures of mankind and how awful we were treating one another, but this is not what I remember.  This is not what I saw in my interactions with my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and associates.  What I witnessed was kindness, resolve, resilience, an inspirational and heartwarming love for one another that continues to fill my heart.  When you read the chapters of Stephanie’s story, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ famous words, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”  Instead of pausing momentarily to analyze whether or not the end of the world was on the horizon, Stephanie continued to push herself and placed her sights on the next mountain to climb. 


Motivated, driven, an unstoppable force, and with her most influential characteristic embedded in the threads of her soul: her ability to turn her pain into power, Stephanie continued her climb to elevate herself in an unimaginable effort.  Despite negative influences, and adverse conditions, she obtained her Real Estate Salespersons License from the California Department of Real Estate, going above and beyond by achieving the professional Realtor® designation, and now successfully works with real estate investors in her industry.   


Stephanie’s story consists of enormous loss, extreme failures and even a detrimental lack of support by those around her.  Yet her story is also a true reflection of what is possible if you have enough determination and willingness to perform soul grinding hard work.  Her story teaches us that if we want to be the best versions of ourselves, we must fight every battle, with all that we are, at all costs, regardless of life’s way of impeding our progress.  And, as she often likes to remind us, she is not finished “building her crown, her empire”…..imagine what she could do to help you build yours!


We honestly believe in our heart of hearts, Fred Romero, at this very moment, is standing very tall, smiling from the heavens, proud of the woman his daughter has become.     


Written by Flint Faulkner, Co-Host of Igniting Conversations (June 4, 2023)



A [crown] of all trades if a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

Stephanie M. Romero, MBA, Realtor