In this web series, we will be shining a spotlight on several local women, on top of their game in a variety of fields, showcasing the diversity of interesting and accomplished women in our fine city. See the rest of our Spotlight on Women series.
Sylvestra Ramirez was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. From the age of 10, she worked with her sisters to hold lemonade stands, sell popsicles on hot summer days, and even offer hairdos for birthday parties.
But early in her career working as a physical therapist at a local hospital, she felt unfulfilled and disconnected from her goals. Ramirez was sure that she wanted to make a bigger impact on the Milwaukee Hispanic community, so she took a big leap of faith to found Physical Therapy of Milwaukee in 2013. She learned quickly that owning a business requires putting in a lot more time and effort than anyone sees from the outside.
Name: Dr. Sylvestra Ramirez
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Family: Parents Maria and Aurelio; sisters Vanessa and Claudia; brothers Orlando and Aaron; a handful of nieces and nephews; and a supportive partner Oscar.
What type of education do you have?
Undergraduate degree from UW-Madison; Master’s of Women’s Health and Doctorate of Physical Therapy, both from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago.
Most impactful professional experience?
During the early stages of entrepreneurship, I began networking with other physical therapy clinic owners to learn the ins and outs of owning a clinic. I remember attending a private practice owner’s conference where I was the only Hispanic woman in the room. I was a bit self conscious that no one looked like me or represented the community that I served. In that moment, I promised myself that I was going to work extra hard to represent Latinos in Milwaukee. Now, I take it a step further and mentor minority women interested in starting businesses or being physical therapists. I think it’s my responsibility to lift others along the way.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned?
I’ve learned to not allow fear to hold me back. The fear of failure can stop anyone from taking a risk. The business climate for entrepreneurs is improving, but the challenges as a woman and as a Latina are real. I find myself having to fight for a seat at the table and prove my qualifications time and time again.
In the beginning, it was frustrating and even insulting at times, but now it’s a muscle that I have the opportunity to flex. When the day is tough, I remind myself of one simple thing – either it will work out, or it won’t.
Most challenging part of owning your own business?
The hardest part is managing the stress, demands and challenges that I encounter every day. The physical, mental and emotional exhaustion is like no other I have experienced. My day is a continuous list of to-dos, late nights and very early mornings. I’m at the clinic seven days a week. Having the discipline to do what needs to be done allows me to do a small victory dance every time I check something off of my to do list.
Any mentors you credit for your success?
I’ve been blessed with many people within and outside of the healthcare industry that have assisted me in helping to create the PTM brand. Likewise, I’ve had people who have doubted my and PTM’s potential, and they too have served as mentors by fueling my desire to be better and do more.
My family is a big part of my success and continues to be the foundation that keeps me focused and grounded. I am blessed that they instilled me with the values and morals of a traditional Hispanic family: a strong work ethic and a strong family bond.
What do you do when you have free time?
My “me time” is 4:30-6:30 a.m. when I meditate to rejuvenate my spiritual self and cultivate an increased body-mind awareness. A few days a week I work out at CycleFusion or Cream City CrossFit, where I let my frustrations out by lifting weights and leave feeling like I can accomplish anything.
Best advice for other women looking to start their own business:
Know what you want and communicate what you need. You are brave, smart and powerful. You will fall, but you have the strength to get up and try again. You will face unfamiliar situations and doubt yourself, but have the courage to fail and practice resiliency.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.