By Lee Rasizer, Public Relations Coordinator
Baking got a rise out of Paula Richard for many years, not the other way around.
Experiments in dough were replete with woe. A lopsided cake here. A lopsided cake there.
Her culinary coach – young grandson Kaleo – wouldn’t let her get down, even as these failures in years spanned nearly a half-dozen.
Early on, Kaleo would say things like, “No, Grandma …” or “Doesn’t taste good …”
He even uttered, “Bad, Grandma,” after some taste tests.
Undeterred, Richard kept at it, keeping her cool with the oven humming 350 degrees
She did so, in part, by focusing on one of little Kaleo’s favorite slogans, which accentuated the positive:
“Try again. Try again. Try again"
She did, and now, Richard owns a small pastry business that she runs out of her home, called, to no one’s surprise, ‘Kaleo’s Kitchen.’
It’s a start-up. Richard bakes “when the spirit moves me,” something that is happening less frequently while aggressively pursuing a degree at age 49 at Community College of Aurora.
Her first large-scale public venture in the baking world will be as a vendor at the Small Business BIG IMPACT Expo at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton on Dec. 14.
"It’s exciting, scary for Richard, but she says, “I’m delighted to be doing it."
And, like many of the pursuits that have filled her nearly five decades, it took dogged perseverance to get to that high-minded state.
Try again? Richard doesn’t know where she would be without doing just that, not just in baking, but in life.
She once was a teen mom, lost in the world after her mother’s death. Back then, she didn’t even know how to pay a bill, much less be a mom on her own. The chain reaction was a common one: drugs, bad crowds. But Shayla, that little girl she had as a little girl, and the love of her sister, aunt and others pulled her through that, and worse to come.
Dog tired after 15 years as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Paula Richard searched for a new path in 2003 by enrolling at CCA for the first time.. She had a Criminal Justice degree in mind. Yet life, once again, got in the way.
Her young son, now 15, took her to hell and back. She was with him every step of the way, attempting to change a path of inexplicable, out-of-control behavior. He would run off. Set things on fire. Hit other children in class. Richard ended her scholarly pursuits cold turkey to seek answers and deal with the fallout. It went on this way for more than 10 years.
“You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child?” Richard asked. “It’s taken a whole city to raise that kid.”
Her son was later diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He’s now attending Montbello High School and doing much better with medication, therapy, and knowledge about the illness. It also took the help of Paula’s older sister Pam and an aunt, but Paula endured.
“We lost a lot of stuff, material things, because I didn’t have a job and had to end up selling things to make ends meet. We had to relocate. There were a lot of painful things that transpired out of it, but in the long run, it was worth it, because he’s a pretty healthy kid these days.”
Richard herself has a pretty healthy outlook these days, too.
With her home life having calmed down – daughter Shayla is pursing a singing career after graduating from the University of Denver -- she recently re-enrolled at CCA for a second time and credits the business courses she’s taken for helping her start Kaleo’s Kitchen.
Sure, Math has been a bear. It always has been as far as she can remember. She’s even had to face failure in the subject. But she keeps trying again, has an associates and eventually bachelor’s degree directly in her sights.
“She doesn’t give up. She wants her college degree and she wants to graduate from CCA so badly that she’s just willing to do anything to get there,” Richard’s TRiO academic advisor, Eileen Blasius, said. “She’s already survived in life. And now she’s at this point, and she’s still a fighter.”
As Richard put it, “I never stop,” adding, “I’ve just learned to hang in there.”
She was so moved by the college’s help in this phase of her life that during a recent ‘Pizza With The President’ event at CentreTech campus, Richard broke down in tears of joy relating her story to college Interim President Betsy Oudenhoven.
“First of all, CCA just embraced me,” Richard explained. “They weren’t biased, prejudiced or any of those negative things. They welcomed me, and they allowed me to learn. The business classes I take, I learned how to do a business plan and establish Kaleo’s. Those classes are why I have a business. I don’t think if it was for my instructors I would have come this far. They have helped me so much.”
The long-term future for Richard’s small business is uncertain as she concentrates mainly on academics.
“I like being in the kitchen, making things taste good,” she said.
On the other hand, she added with a laugh that meeting her degree goals that would pull her even with daughter Shayla is something that’s important to her on a competitive level. She won’t let herself fail, that much is clear. But if she stumbles, she’ll keep Kaleo’s advice in her heart.
Try again. Try again.
“That’s it,” she responded. “That’s it.”