Anna Arpilleda’s life in the United States began as a 14-year-old immigrant who lived with her two teenage siblings in San Francisco while she worked at a Jack in the Box in the Mission District.
Today, the 35-year-old entrepreneur owns a event planning business she runs from her flower shop on Railroad Avenue in Hercules.
She also owns a home in the Victoria By The Bay subdivision and even bikes to work on some warm, sunny days.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Arpilleda. “But it’s good now. I’m very happy.”
Arpilleda credits her success to her work ethic and her belief that America is the “land of opportunity.”
“I realized at an early age that I could make money and have a better life here,” she said.
Arpilleda journey began in 1993 when she was 14-year-old high school graduate living in Manila in The Philippines.
Her father had traveled to the United States a decade earlier to find work and settled in San Francisco, where he eventually remarried.
“We didn’t want to come here, but my mom said we should go see our dad and give him a chance to know us,” said Arpilleda.
So, the teen came to San Francisco with her 19-year-old sister and her 13-year-old brother. They got a place of their own. The sister got a job and the brother entered high school.
The tuition for Arpilleda to attend college was quite expensive since she had lived here less than a year, so she got the Jack in the Box job.
“I stayed for one year and got super home sick,” she recalled.
Arpilleda returned to The Philippines and enrolled in college. That only last six months.
She was eager to rejoin her siblings and to give the U.S. free enterprise system a whirl.
‘“I came back and started working and never stopped,” said Arpilleda.
She juggled part-time jobs at Bank of America and United Airlines while attending San Francisco State and also working in the library there. It took awhile, but in 2003 Arpilleda graduated with a degree in business management.
During that time, she also became a U.S. citizen. She also picked up an online degree as a certified wedding and event planner.
Arpilleda initially worked in a human relations department but eventually teamed up with a friend, Ren Bautista, to start an event planning business.
She also began to tire of San Francisco’s fast-paced lifestyle. Her sister had bought a home in Hercules in 2006 and Arpilleda decided to also buy a home in a community that had open space and was relaxing.
“It was just chill and I needed that,” said Arpilleda.
Bautista eventually went his own way and Arpilleda formed A2 Imagine Events to plan weddings, corporate gatherings and other celebrations.
She was running the flower portion of the business from her garage, so she had to meet clients at places like Starbucks.
Last year, she opened Anna’s Flowers on Railroad Avenue. She sells a minimal amount of flowers to walk-in visitors. Her main business is delivering flowers to hospitals, offices and other facilities.
She also uses the shop to store her flowers and meet event planning customers.
Arpilleda said she has always loved the world of business, something she picked up from her business-minded mother.
She also loves flowers because of the visual pleasure they bring. She says they can brighten any bad day she might be having.
Finally, she also loves parties. Her mom has 14 siblings, so there were plenty of large celebratory gatherings in The Philippines.
“Weddings are such a happy occasion,” said Arpilleda. “I really enjoy them, so I thought why not make money from it.”
Arpilleda was married once. She tied the knot in 2006. However, that union only last a year. There was a silver lining.
Her mother and father saw each other for the first time in decades at that wedding. Her father was going through his second divorce. Arpilleda’s parents got back together and remarried in 2010, with their daughter planning the wedding.
“I was the sacrificial lamb,” said Arpilleda. “I had to get married then, so they could get back together.”
Arpilleda does have another wedding in the near future. She and her fiance and business partner, Chance Recto, are getting married in June.
And, yes, Arpilleda is planning that wedding, too.