Reflections on Costco, self-employment, and a thank you to my Latina sisters

16 Mar
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Hey! That’s me on the table of contents. Click to read the full article online.

The shop was featured in March’s Costco Connection magazine. This was no small thing. It was the first time my work was featured in a national publication (in the U.S.) that wasn’t  specifically for weddings.

Of course, not everybody is a Costco member, yet I was curious to see what kind of response it would get. I am a Costco member. We shop there a couple of times a month along with what seems like at least half of suburbia. Truth is, I don’t love going in their huge warehouse because I always end up spending more than I planned. My dad calls it “Hundreddollarcostco”, one word. Yet, I have a grudging respect for their brand. It keeps me coming back– mostly because I believe that what I’m buying is well-made, a good deal, or higher quality than the regular big box store’s wares. 99% of the time this is true. Therefore, I don’t fight the pull to sit down at the kitchen table and spend a few minutes looking through their coupon booklet and monthly magazine. As with the store, I believe that I’ll come across a great deal or read something unexpectedly informative, interesting and helpful. I was excited to have the shop exposed to people in this positive light.

It also provided a unique opportunity because I figure, like us, most people read the mailing when it first comes out and throw it out after a week. It’s a bubble of new info, invaluable to a small business.

So, 15 days after the article came out, I’m reflecting on what I learned:

  • Costco Connection readers are follow-up kind of people. The deluge of inquiries I received was fast and direct. 
  • They are also kind. Many folks sent a note just to say, “Congratulations. I love your work. Keep it up.” This, I find amazing– that people took time to read the article, visit our website, find & fill out the contact form– just to be nice! 
  • They have good ideas. I’ve been focusing on the wedding market for a few years. Mostly, because there is a built-in industry, making it easier for me to build a focused line of products. Also, because I wanted to avoid being ‘the birthday party lady’. But what I realized is that I’ve been limiting the brand’s reach– not helping it to be focused. Papel picado is not specific to one occasion. I’ve decided to embrace this truth. I’m already working to expand our offerings.

One more insight: I’ve only been doing the social media thing for the company for a few months. We got a lot of new followers after the article came out, especially on Instagram and the ol’ Facebook. Of the new followers, the people that are connecting with our brand through social media are mostly women, the majority of them Latina and/or small business owners.

For the love of God, I don’t know why this surprised me! I mean, I named my company Ay Mujer!. When I thought about this a little more, I realized that it was because my actual buyers are not Latina in the same majority ratio. It’s more like 40/60.  I’m not sure why this is– maybe it’s our prices or maybe it’s because the Latino community is not as present in the indie crafting scene, (our Etsy shop being the brand’s highest-visited site). Or maybe it is another reason that I have yet to learn.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on this all week and I find that I am so happy. I really am. I feel the support of my sisters deep in my bones. You see, what keeps me going everyday is the vision: the idea that I can build a high-end, artist- run brand that reflects my cultural influences and respect for quality craftsmanship. Somewhere along the way, I unconsciously became fearful that my work was “too Mexican” and that Ay Mujer! would end up marginalized in a kitschy fiesta niche. [Which, if you know me, is dead-wrong because my Spanish is no bueno and my interests are so eclectic that the last thing I am is “too” anything.]

So yeah, I’m happy. Because, although I may have lost sight of it for a while, my vision came though anyhow and it was seen and enjoyed by my fellow Latinas and I’m not the only one who finds it worthy and special.

And that is no small thing.

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5 Responses to “Reflections on Costco, self-employment, and a thank you to my Latina sisters”

  1. foreverxolo March 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I read the article in Costco Connection and was really thrilled for you. I’ve been a silent fan of your art since I first came across it on Etsy. As a lover of papel picado, I’m so amazed at the quality of your work. I’ve tried doing some papel picado myself and have found that it is SO much harder than it looks, both coming up with a design and cutting the whole thing out, so I totally admire your skill with this art form. I’m glad you got some good exposure via Costco and hope it really helps you build up your business. Keep up the good work!

    • Ay Mujer shop March 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Thank you. I’m thrilled to hear from another papel picado lover & maker! And yes, it IS so much harder than it looks. I love the challenge and the final result is always joyful. That is why I keep making it.

      All the best to you!

  2. Julie Zimmer March 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    I just wish I’d seen it in time for a particular new baby chica’s visit, but at least I found you through Costco. I admire what you do. 25 years ago I bought a string of cutouts and hung them in our kitchen. Not nearly as special as yours.

  3. gincandres April 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    You are amazing. ♥

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