I have no special guest today except for myself, Pamela Bardhi. I’m psyched for the other episodes to come; I really wanted to talk to you all about myself and my story, and really how I got to where I am today, and what really inspired this show for me.
So pretty much I was born in Tirana, Albania. I moved to Italy when I was six months old. And from there, I went to school in a Vatican. In kindergarten, I had the nuns and the whole nine yards and everything, spoke Albanian and Italian. And so when I was about five years old, and when my brother was born, my parents won the visa lottery to come to the United States. With that, essentially, it means that you have two years to come to the country. And you can either stay after that to apply for permanent citizenship, or you can pretty much go back to your country if you like, but it’s a way to come here legally. And essentially, my parents jumped on it. They dropped everything that they had in Italy and Albania, no support system whatsoever and just packed with things. We left to the United States, and we headed to Boston.
So I was about five years old, my brother was about six months old. My mom was a stay at home mom, and she tried to do as many jobs as she could from home. And pretty much my dad, he took on weird jobs because he couldn’t speak English. Neither, I mean, any of us couldn’t really, he took on construction jobs, like he worked for Kodak for a little while, you know, basically in just the lab section and doing manual labor work. And eventually he got into the pizza business. He started working in house and eventually got to do deliveries and whatnot. He worked in Cambridge, which wasn’t too far from us, because we were living in Chelsea at the time at our apartment building. And essentially one of his mentors really helped him throughout the process, as he started learning English and understanding the business. He pretty much was inspired by his mentor to go out and buy a business of his own.
So that was about three years into him being in the United States, he was inspired to do that. It was about 2000, he went out, and he bought a business in West Roxbury; it was a pizza place, Italian restaurant type of vibe. His mentor actually gave him the down payment to make it happen. It really helped him, and my dad pretty much worked his heart out and paid him back within two years’ time for what he had sacrificed for my dad. And from there, my dad pretty much built everything from the ground up.
When my dad bought the business, I was about nine years old at the time. And by the time I really started working there, I was about 10. I had this fascination of working and meeting people. Well, you know, I had this idea first, I was like a daddy’s girl, more than anything, so I really just wanted to go and hang out with my dad at the shop. And, you know, I always used to love doing deliveries with him and we would jam to music everywhere we’d be in his minivan. He’d be doing deliveries and I sort of learning the streets from him. And you know, basically everything in business comes from my dad and my mom. So when I was 10, I started doing that and pretty much worked there until I was about 20 years old. But that really taught me and was the foundation of everything I know now in business.
So when I moved there to West Roxbury, it was about three years after my dad had purchased the business. It was like 2003, it was middle school time for me. So I went to Holy Name Parish School in West Roxbury, and then immediately just was embraced by the community in a huge way. So growing up coming from Italy, to middle school, I went through a time where I was a very shy kid, you wouldn’t realize that now, but I was very, very shy. And you know, I remember in like fourth and fifth grade, I was actually bullied a lot by these girls that were just brutal, for no apparent reason to me, and they were just mean. And during that time, I sort of like shut myself out a little bit. You know, my parents were always working, and I never wanted to go home and complain to them because the last thing they needed was more stress on their head. And, basically, you know, going and shifting to a school that was a Catholic school, and I never knew anything about faith or anything in that world. You know, I knew there was a God, but that was really it. And going into middle school, and meeting this community that basically just took me in with open arms was huge for me, because coming from a school where I was bullied and really disempowered and, you know, first off, when you’re in middle school, you’re just confused about everything in life. And then having to deal with that on top of it was a whole nother thing. And coming into this community really changed me a lot. I was welcomed, I was loved. And like everything, just, it was a game changer. And it was cool, because everyone sort of know knew who I was because they knew of my dad’s pizza shop. And that’s where I worked.
So I started sort of making a name for myself there. And it was really cool to live and work in the same community. So Middle School passes, I go to high school, high school was awesome. I went to Trinity Catholic. And, during that time, I was a triathlete. I never played sports before my entire life. So I was a bit of a disaster in every game, but I still love being part of the team. So that was my thing. It’s soccer in the fall, basketballs in the winter, and then I had softball in the spring. And it was just awesome. I just remember making so many friends, I was very outgoing, I was involved in everything.
And essentially, after high school, like, during the whole time, in high school, you know, I had sort of like the perfect life, if you will, I had a long-term boyfriend at the time. And I was involved in every single activity you could possibly imagine; I was Prom Queen, everything in my life was picture perfect. And I thought I had it all planned out. At the time, I was 16 years old. And life was really, really different at the time. And I remember, you know, after high school, things really shifted for me going into college, and there was this whole era of change in my life.
Going into college, I was in a pretty horrible relationship, I think that everyone has had their times where they have been, they’ve been in a relationship that really takes the soul out of them at the time. 16, 17, I really didn’t know much. But all I know, looking back on it now is that it drained everything out of me. And that relationship pretty much consumed a lot of me up until I want to say, the beginning of my junior like mid sophomore year. And everything at that time was really just focused on that. I mean, I’ve always been a hustler since day one with everything that I wanted to do. But that was sort of the one thing that was pulling me back.
And I remember going into college, I went in for essentially marketing, because my whole plan was to go in, get my four year degree, and then from there work a nine to five, that was my whole thing. And then from there down the line was to start a business. I never intended to be an entrepreneur as soon as it happened… as soon as I graduated. That wasn’t in the cards, for me, at least I didn’t think so at the time. So going into Stonehill, you know, I’m here on a full scholarship, Stonehill College, and I was in marketing. And then I took this course called applied calculus for business. And it was really, it was really challenging for me, because I’ve always been terrible at math, like algebra, pre-algebra, anything along those lines, was always a struggle, to be completely honest, that I just never understood it; I would stay after school, I would do all these things, and I just wouldn’t get it. So going into this applied calculus for business class, it was an adjunct professor. So he was only there; he only taught like one semester, and he was barely in his office. And he really wasn’t available because he was part-time. And he would be blowing through like three chapters at once. And I was really struggling in that class. I just, I don’t understand algebra, let alone calculus. And I remember trying to ask for extra help and everything.
And it just was not panning out for me that I remember I got my grades sort of like in the interim, and I was at about 30%. And I looked at that, and I was like, this is, my God, I’m gonna lose my scholarship. I can’t continue to take this course. I need to drop it. Otherwise, this is going to show up in my GPA, I’m going to lose my scholarship and lose all this. So immediately, I dropped that class. And this was freshman year, I felt like pretty much a failure because I was like, how am I going to do my marketing degree without having this course. And basically, it made me rethink everything as to my focus, and I said, You know, I don’t really I enjoy too much the marketing side of things is like it, you know, looking at the major and its courses and its requirements, I just kind of said to myself, it wasn’t really something that I felt highly passionate about. There were some parts of the marketing and the branding and the graphic design and things like that that I was interested in, but there were other things that I just wasn’t excited about, like this applied calc for business and things like that.
So I’m saying to myself, Pam, where do you really envision yourself? And what does that really mean to you? Like, what are you really passionate about; I really had to sit down and rethink everything, it seems like something simple, like, you know, you’re just dropping class, but it made me rethink my entire major, which was marketing so that I could go work a nine to five, and then from there, shift to my own business down the line when I was like, 40, or something. So everything shifted at that point. And I just remember saying to myself, I love people, I really love people, I love interacting with people, I want to learn more about people. It’s what I’ve known being in the restaurant industry since I was 10. And that’s what I love. And I love business. So how can I combine the two?
So I took on a communications major, formerly at Stonehill, I looked at all the courses and I thought they were amazing. Interpersonal Communication, organizational behavior, all these different types of classes that enabled me to learn about the other person and just everything in the communication world. And I was fascinated by it. So I said, hey, let’s try it. And I met with some of the professors and they were incredible. So I said, hey, let’s go for it. And then next to that, I said, You know, I love communication. But I also really love business. But I don’t want to be confined to like, take things like accounting and things like that to the financial world, or just business management in general, I just, I wanted to create something that embodied what it would be if I wanted to own my own business someday. And so I talked to a Professor, who was head of interdisciplinary studies at Stonehill and I asked him, I said, Hey, I really want to create my own major, is it possible to do an entrepreneurship major? And he said, Well, it’s never been done in the history of our school. I mean, we do have a minor that we’re working on, an entrepreneurship minor, would you consider that I said, No, I kind of want to do my own thing and create my own major, because I think there’s so much parallel between the communications that I’m doing, I think I have a lot of room to put together another major.
And essentially, we put together like graphic design. So for my branding, all types of different classes, a lot of business classes, small business management, things like that. And so after that meeting, I became a double major. I was communications and entrepreneurship, which was really awesome. And I was the first in Stonehill College history to do that. So declaring my communications was freshman year, and then I declared entrepreneurship my sophomore year. After that is really when the sparks started flying for me, I would sit in these business classes and these communications classes and just be in love with everything. I wasn’t excited about the essays, and all that stuff, you know, the homework and all that stuff. But I really enjoyed the content; I knew that I had found something incredible. And something that was my calling, where I could sit in class all day and not get bored, which was really awesome. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a couple classes that really had me exhausted, and I didn’t really want to sit through, but for the most part, the communications and the business classes I fell in love with and also the professors who were so willing to help.
So after that, you know, it was still my sophomore year, you know, I’m deciding, okay, I graduate in two years, what do I want to do with my life? And my whole game plan was, you know, this, get that nine to five, get some experience and go from there. And I remember thinking about where is it that I wanted to intern to get some experience?
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my story to learn how I got to where I am today.