Season 2, Episode 41

Do It Yourself

with DIY’er

Joanna Munoz


If you are inspired to start your own podcast, check out the links on Resource Arena page.

Today’s Guest



In today’s episode I am speaking with Jonna Munoz.

Joanna Munoz originally from the Domincian Republic is a NICU nurse that is also starting her own business.
In her own words:
“Overcoming a toxic relationship with my mother, becoming a Nurse and having a baby while in nursing school and now pursuing my other passion and starting my own business in refinishing furniture, DIY and home decor. Despite the many negatives, it made me who I am. Someone who’s determined to not just work a 9-5 to pay bills but rather allow myself to follow ALL of my dreams “

Contact Joanna via Instagram @paintingbythepenny

If you love the show please leave a rating or a review here.

If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast.




Joanna Munoz




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Malini Sarma 0:01

Hi, Joanna, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I'm really excited for you to be here because I know there are so many people out there who can, who will be listening to your story and can totally resonate.

Joanna 0:13

Hi, Malini, thank you so much for having me. So excited to be here as well.

Malini Sarma 0:18

Oh, I'm so glad. I'm really happy that you're here. So you even though your family and your mom is from the Dominican Republic, you were born in the US, right?

Unknown Speaker 0:29


Unknown Speaker 0:30

yes. So

Malini Sarma 0:30

right. Tell me a little bit more about your experience growing up, you know, what was it like? I mean, do you have siblings? And you know, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Joanna 0:39

Sure. So I was actually born in New York City. And I was the youngest of four. So I have two older brothers and a sister. I briefly actually went back to the Dominican Republic for a couple years, just between like two and four, and then came back here, the United States. So my mom actually growing up, she was a single mom, my two brothers, unfortunately, were just like, troublemakers, you know, they cost a lot of trouble. So I actually just watched, like that relationship, that toxic relationship that they had with my mom. And he, she basically, I mean, as a single mom of four kids, it was hard for her. She came here, she didn't know the language. I watched my sister's relationship with her kind of become really toxic, and her kicking my mama and my sister out. Um, so being the youngest, like, of course, like even my sister says that I was like the most spoiled one. But the one that like, witnessed a lot of the peaceful things that happened, despite everything, I mean, we didn't have a terrible childhood, my mom worked actually really hard to put food on the table and put a roof over our heads. But like I said, she blamed A lot of it on us, she would say, like, if it wasn't for you guys, I'd probably, you know, be doing better things or be better off financially. And I took a lot of that as a skill that was like, built up guilt for me. So you know, I actually even got kicked out at a young age of 17. Two, my mom and I had a lot of disagreements I had, I got my first job at 15 I'm growing up, I knew that I didn't want to be like her, which is sad to say, you know, she would even say it she would say like, make sure that you don't become me and like work in a factory like your whole life. And I was just determined to just get my first job, get a car and not have to rely on her for a lot of things where she relied on me for a lot of things like I was young, I was in middle school writing checks for my mom paying her bills, reading like translating.

Malini Sarma 3:04

So when you said you're even though you were born here mom is from the Jamaicans Did you guys like speak Spanish at home? Only? Your mom dad my first?

Unknown Speaker 3:15

Yeah, so

Joanna 3:16

my first language was Spanish. And I learned English in school in kindergarten. And that's where I learned English.

Malini Sarma 3:23

So did your mom even though she lived here? Did she speak English at all? Does she understand? Oh, wow.

Unknown Speaker 3:32

Yeah, she

Joanna 3:33

lived here for over 30 years. I mean, now she's retired and back in the Dominican Republic, but she never really learned language, she understood some things but not enough to really get by. And for me, that was a big deal. Like, I feel like I would, I wouldn't want to rely on people to do things for me. But for her, it was just like, we could do these things and help her out because he brought us here, he basically was trying to give us a better life, you know?

Malini Sarma 4:00

So, so growing up, I mean, it was pretty much you know, is you will you like I can't wait to get out of here was that the kind of the mindset

Joanna 4:13

was just like, I we had so many, like, conflicts or and I because my my thought process was just like, I don't want to live this way. You know, I don't want to, I want to do better for myself. And she didn't like that I was becoming so independent at the same time, was refusing ultimately as a team to help her with every single thing. I would get frustrated that I was always translating and always doing these things for her. So we it wasn't very good for us.

Malini Sarma 4:45

I can imagine being a teenager as it is is pretty traumatic, you know, growing up, but then you have an additional son like a burden. You had to be a child parent kind of thing.

Joanna 4:55

Exactly, exactly.

Malini Sarma 4:57

So when growing up, I mean being in that Seeing how much your mom struggled and everything. Did you really care what you were going to do when you grow up? You just did? Or did was it just like, I can't wait to get out of here being dependent how my own place how my own money, and I can do whatever I want with it that money was that the thought?

Joanna 5:15

Yeah, it was it was like that, you know, I didn't have someone told me like, these are the steps to, to find what you really want to do. I was just like, I need to figure out a way anyway, to get out of this situation.

Malini Sarma 5:28

So when you hit 17, what did you because you said you started working when you were 15.

Joanna 5:34

So what happened? So I actually started working when I was 15. And my mom was like, okay, you have your job, you need to help me with the bills. And I was like, wait a minute,

Unknown Speaker 5:47

I finally get a paycheck. And I'm like, Wait,

Joanna 5:49

where's this going? until I actually I helped my mom pay a lot of bills. But her expectations were just so high. Like, she was just like, no, I need like 80% of your paycheck. I was like, wait a minute, I'm working so hard. And I'm peaking at the time. I was like, I don't want to do this. I want my own things. I wanted to buy my first car. And she was just like, Well, you can't right now we need to pay these bills. And that was not

Malini Sarma 6:20

fun for me. Oh, we can imagine. Yeah. So then what happened at 17.

Joanna 6:25

So 17, my mom was like, This is it, she actually kicked me out. Now my sister was also kicked out at 17. So I actually went to go live with her. At the time I was graduating high school and my mom and I would speak but not not that much. I mean, our relationship was kind of like a roller coaster was up and down. And then I went to I enrolled for our local university. And that's when I knew that I wanted to go into the medical field. My first job was actually at a pediatrics office. Okay. And I knew that, okay, this is for me, you know, they pay well, I knew some nurses that made well, good money. This could be a good career for me. And I was everybody would always say that was a good with kids. I was like, You know what, this is definitely something. Regardless of where I would end up, I knew that I was going to go to college, because that's something my mom would definitely tell me like, don't they make sure you get a good education?

Malini Sarma 7:28

So did you while you're working in the doctor's office with it? We know Is there anybody there like a nurse or a doctor who would say you know what, you should definitely try this out, make sure you take these classes or somebody give, you know, like role model that kind of just gave you some ideas, or you were just pretty much observing and seeing in them. That's what kind of triggered your interest and said, You know, I have this is what I'm going to do.

Joanna 7:48

Yeah, so it's funny because my doctor was actually my sister in law school, they they're also the men again, it was her uncle's pediatric office. And to me like having a Hispanic doctor with his own private office and his wife helping him I was thinking, wow, I mean, if they can do this, this is definitely possible. That's something I've never seen before. And that kind of motivated me to I mean, I it's funny that you mentioned role models. I was thinking, I don't I can name like an executive role model growing up. I think for me, I just knew exactly what I didn't want to put myself in. Right, right. You know, I had a lot of people give me good advice and, and bad advice, but I just I always stayed true to myself and stuck with what I felt was good for me and would make me happy and would just take that but I didn't really have like I think it was more like a fight or flight situation for me I'm like

Malini Sarma 8:50

so so when you so after when you went when you went to college, you went to your local college and you did you go into nursing directly? Or did you kind of have to kind of take the long route? You know, did you have to get help? Did anybody any from from your family like your you know that the doctor's office, your sister or anybody kind of give you advice? How did that journey begin?

Joanna 9:12

It was, it was difficult for me that I didn't know anyone that was in the nursing program. I that no one really told me like, Oh, good feet, like, go here. I will enroll in this program. They just thought like, Oh, good. You're in college. But no one really gave me like the ins and outs of like, Wait, how do you know I just applied and that was it. A couple of my friends were doing the same thing. So we just went together, you know, kind of rolled with the punches. But nursing school was very difficult for me. I was dealing with a lot of stuff at home too. I mean, I didn't really have a stable home and I had a lot of anxiety and it was a huge like culture shock. Where I just was in this big university and taking these classes and struggling I was always pretty much Good students, but now my my grades were weren't as good as I would have liked them to be. And the only thing I did know was, I have to keep going, I can't go back because I don't want to end up like my mother. Right? And I think that was like a huge motivator for me. I couldn't think of anything else that I wanted to do. And I was like, I, this is it, there's no going back. I just need to, you know, get this done.

Malini Sarma 10:27

So as far as so you have to do that nursing school? Do you go directly? Or do you have to do like a couple years of undergrad? And then you have to go? or?

Joanna 10:35

Yeah, so it's a it's a four year program. And the first two years, you know, you're just doing your general education. And then you you enrolled for the program, but I was I was lucky enough to, you know, get into the program. And from there, I got my CNA license. And it worked well, for me. I mean, I feel like looking back now, I'm like, I don't know how I did it.

Malini Sarma 11:02

As far as funding and stuff like that, did you have to take the loans and stuff? And oh, yeah. And you had to figure all that out on your own. There was nobody like telling you what we should do this, that or the other.

Joanna 11:13

Yeah, my so my mom obviously said, like, I couldn't pay, I apply for a lot of like scholarships, and things like that. But I had a lot of loans. I didn't even know like, financial aid, I had to do that on my own, you know, and I didn't know, like, I would take loans. But little did I know that at the end, I would have to pay them. Almost, like, so naive about how expensive like going to college is, you know,

Malini Sarma 11:41

so. So, once you got into the nursing program, what did you like, see light at the end of the tunnel? You're like, okay, now kind of I'm, you know, I, I can do what I need to do, or so what was what was going on? Because you said the schooling was hard. So once you came out of the program, what were your what, you know, what were your plans?

Joanna 12:03

Yeah, so I actually met my boyfriend and at the university, and I actually my junior year, was it actually my senior year, first semester, I got pregnant. And I had my son, so that delayed me a semester, which was totally fine. But after I had him, that's when I knew I was like, Okay, this is like, this is it. We're almost done. I need to finish I people, a lot of people were telling me like, take a year off. For me, I was like, No, as if the quicker I get this done. Now that easy. Maybe the easier it'll be for me having my career and working, you know, but I didn't have a lot of like, they were just saying like, Oh, good, good for you. Good job, not a lot of guidance.

Malini Sarma 12:55

So I mean, so now, you know, you had a small baby, and you had to finish school, and then you had to go back to work. So were you able to, like spend time with your son? Or you know, did you have family kind of helping out while you went to school and working? Or you just chose, you know, like, working nights that you could be with him during the day? How did you manage all that?

Joanna 13:16

Yeah, so my boyfriend and I just basically relied on each other to work things out. You know, he was so he was going to school to at the time and we just managed the I started. I'd actually didn't get a nursing job until like a year after I graduated, which was actually shocking. So I was thinking everybody would say like, oh, there's always a job. But I actually as a as a CNA I started working in the NYCLU so during my rotations that for like labor and delivery, we actually saddled the Nick you can neonatal intensive care unit. Working with premature babies. And I was the minute I saw that unit, I was thinking this is it. This is what I want to do. And I started there as an A I got an one a wonderful opportunity as a student. And which was helpful because they were looking for someone who spoke Spanish to translate. So at the same time I became a medical interpreter. Oh, yeah. Which was easy to do, because I was already a CNA. So all I had to do is take a test to prove that I actually spoke the language. Well, I could write it, you know, and I got that medical care. And that was a wonderful opportunity for me and I haven't left the unit

Malini Sarma 14:38

since then. Wow. That's awesome. So it's kind of nice. I mean, not that you planned it that way, but it just kind of happened that you got you're able to use your skills as a nurse as well as your Spanish speaking skills to help out so that was great, right?

Joanna 14:54

Yeah, it's just so funny how things just like sit and opportunities. You know, like You just kind of go with it. When you come back, you're like, Wait, how did that happen?

Malini Sarma 15:06

True? Very true. So tell me a little bit more about your, your DIY business, because you are, I love I love the stuff that you do. I've seen your Instagram pages and you know the detail that you have the eye for the eye for design and color and everything. So how did that start? Is it Do you have like, a regular business right now? Or is it just beginning? How did tell me about it?

Joanna 15:34

It's just beginning. I feel like the last year it's really when I am putting more focus on it. But actually back in 2016 I had my we had our first home and I wanted to get a I wanted to purchase a TV. And I was just looking online. I'm like, I don't want to spend all this money. Of course you were on a tight budget. And I was thinking I didn't want to spend all this money on a TV stand that was like basically not even real wood right? Now it's so different. And I actually went on, and I saw that someone had converted a dresser into a TV stand. Oh, it's a cool, this is so cool. And then I learned about coffee. And that was my first project. So I got a dresser. I painted it. I posted it on my social media and people were like, Oh, that's so cool. Like, what did you use and things like that. So ever. That was like my first day. Then after that I just started as like, you know, just a hobby, something to do for fun over the weekend. Just refinished, refinished furniture for for my own home. And, I mean, back I'm like, wow, that was in 2016 It's been a while. I kind of named it a little side hustle. You know, we actually got a dog named Penny and I gave my little hobby and a painting by the penny. It was always by my side every time I would just be finished any any project. That was what was started in. A lot of people were supportive. And they were you know, saying like, how cool these things were no forget anyone can do it. But now it's like, people, the things I post now people are like, wait, like, your living room looks nice. Like, can you decorate? Can you do some interior design? So I feel like this, I feel like there's a small little shift, but my heart is just making your home and your space feel good. You know, I feel like especially now, we're spending a lot of time at home and to create a space like, especially on a budget save money so expensive. Is that? For me? I love that stuff. You know?

Malini Sarma 17:48

Yeah, they know that's that's actually takes some skill is you know, especially to be able to see what it could be takes takes a special eye, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, so, so have you have you like decided that you're going to like make these things and sell it? Or are you just kind of doing it? You know, still kind of like on the side and just for your forefront for fun? No, I

Joanna 18:11

think my focus now is making it into a business. I actually disapplied for my LLC. Yeah, I'm learning a lot about myself, and how to invest my time and monetize the things that I know, it's been a few years since I've been doing this. So you know, I know, I know a little something about it. I'll be able to put myself out there a little bit more.

Malini Sarma 18:36

No, this is awesome. I mean, like, you know, like we've always heard, it's like, Don't let your job be your only thing. You got to make sure that other things on the side so that you know when your job decides to give up on you. Right?

Joanna 18:49

Yeah. And it's funny, because a lot of people say like, some people say, like, especially my mom should say like, what are you doing? You're a nurse like that should be enough. For me. It's like, why would that be enough? Of course, being a nurse is a passion that I have. But I have more than one passion, why not pursue more than one passion, you know?

Malini Sarma 19:08

So I did have another question. Like when you were talking about you know, going to school and going to nursing school, and all that. Did you being you know, being a Latina, did you actually have, you know, a hard time to people? Did you notice either people discriminating or, you know, did you sense any of that or you were just like so focused, you didn't really whether it happened or didn't happen. It didn't really bother you. I was

Joanna 19:32

actually fortunate enough, because our local university, a lot of kids that I knew from my high school, a lot of there was a lot of us that way and we actually enrolled into this program called talent development at the University of Rhode Island, okay, and they help you financially and that's what we apply for. And it's almost like we were kind of in a bubble in a sense, but like it was easier for us to relate to each other, and we had guidance through through that program

Unknown Speaker 20:05

a little No, no, that's

Malini Sarma 20:07

awesome that you're that you had a little group or you know, there was somebody looking out for you, you know, or at least guiding you to say, this is what you need to do. Right? know that, that's awesome. So, you should be really proud of, you know, achieving your goals. I mean, look where you started in that, you know, being in a very toxic relationship and not knowing. So for somebody So, you know, at a young age to realize or, you know, figure out that, you know, I am not going to be dealing with this, or I refuse to deal with this. Now, we need to make my life better. I mean, that takes a lot of that takes a lot of maturity. So it can tell that you probably grown, you know, you were like a young, what do you call an older person in a young body?

Unknown Speaker 20:50

Yeah, exactly.

Malini Sarma 20:54

So what would you want

to tell others, you know, especially who, you know, who, who want to follow their dreams, and they're having a hard time at home? What kind of advice would you want to give them?

Joanna 21:04

Oh, God, I feel like I have so much to say about this. Yeah. It's, it's funny, because we're always talking about what we want to do all the time. Like, a lot of my friends and family will always talking about, like, I'm gonna do this want to do that, but we never start. We don't we just don't do it. We're always talking about it. And I feel like you know, we need to stop just like talking about it, and at least set small goals, to reach your potential and to reach your, your, That's okay. You know,

Malini Sarma 25:01

okay, no, that's great. I think that is really good advice. And I think a lot of people can really probably resonate with that. So what is your What is your Instagram handle so people can see your amazing DIY. Thank you.

Joanna 25:18

It's actually um, it's painting by the penny histogram.

Malini Sarma 25:22

Okay. And you don't have a website yet. Do you?

Joanna 25:25

know not yet?

Malini Sarma 25:26

I will soon I'm working on it. Okay, so if anybody needs to get ahold of you, they can they can find you at a painting by the penny.

Joanna 25:33

Yeah, yeah. You know, network networking has been awesome to I'm kind of just reaching out to people. And this is such a big community out there on social media. So it's been fun to get to know people, especially like you, you know, awesome.

Malini Sarma 25:48

I know. I've now had no idea. I'm learning to myself. It's like, there's a whole world out there. And I'm like, I have such like, you know, I'm, like, just like you almost as still growing my podcast and just learning about people and finding out things. And it's been quite quite a fascinating journey. And every day I'm learning something new every day.

Joanna 26:07

Isn't that incredible? Everyone has a story. So yeah, literally,

Unknown Speaker 26:12


Malini Sarma 26:14

Yeah, thank you. I'm and that's, that's my dream is, you know, I want to be able to talk to people from all over the world because I think everybody has a story to tell. And everybody's journey is different. And yet, we can all learn from that. So

Joanna 26:27

yeah, that's fascinating.

Malini Sarma 26:28

Yeah. So thank you, Joanne. I really appreciate you taking the time. Oh, thank

Joanna 26:32

you so much. Malini. You're very welcome.

Transcribed by

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About The Show

This podcast showcases women, predominantly women of color, who in spite of their fear, are forging ahead, chasing their dreams and becoming stronger.

Discover how these conversations can help you so that you can work through your fear and conquer your dreams. What do you need to move ahead?

Whether it is starting your own business, traveling the world on your own, standing up to your boss or just silencing that voice in your head, every small step you take is a push in the right direction.

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Malini Sarma

Malini Sarma

Your Host

Hello. I am Malini. I am a dancer, world traveler and storyteller. I am a hard core fan of chai and anything hot. I am always looking for new adventures and would rather be outside than inside.

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