Tag Archives: community

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.

Amor for Zorro, Geocaching and the Long Beach Reads One Book Program

1 Mar

So begins another adventure, as adventures often do, with a friendly email and bit of luck…

I was contacted by the organizer for the Geocaching Challenge in this year’s Long Beach Reads One Book Program held by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. I get lots of requests for donations to charity and community events, but this message was crazy-friendly and she signed it “Di (Di pronounced in Spanish, not English – Dee, not Die)”.

A woman after my own heart. 

In her words: “Each year they host an event called “Long Beach Reads One Book” (now in its eleventh year). A book is chosen by a committee, and then for roughly a week in March, several activities are scheduled, such as lectures/presentations/discussions, demonstrations, nature walks, etc, etc, etc. In short, this year’s book is Zorro by Isabel Allende…. If you have read the book, then you know that the story has several themes, among them mission life during the early 1800s, rancho life, life in early Los Angeles, relations between the Spanish and the Native Americans in the region, pirates, the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish history/end of the Inquisition, secret societies, etc.”

Awesome. I love Isabel Allende, my mama is a retired librarian, and I’ve listened to the entire unabridged Zorro audiobook, (loved it) a few years ago! So, other than that, the next thing that caught my eye: geocaching. What is that?

Again, in Di’s words: “This year, in addition to the “traditional” types of activities and events, the Foundation is adding GEOCACHING to its lineup, and that’s where I come in. If you have never heard of geocaching, please click here and watch 8 minutes worth of video If you don’t have eight minutes, hopefully you have at least six, in which case watch the first and third videos. My husband and I have been charged with creating the “Geocaching Extravaganza” for this event. In all, we plan to hide anywhere from six to ten caches across the city, to be found by community members, young and old, during the month of March.” 

And so it was that I came to meet Di and I talked myself into cutting over 100 mini papel picado flags for a geocache in a Long Beach Public Library as “loot” for fellow book lovers.

I also scored a couple of tickets for my me & my mama to go see Isabel Allende speak later this month!

These are the flags I made for the Zorro Geocaching challenge.

We settled on a romantic design for the flags as they represent the festive spirit of the residents of El Pueblo de Los Angeles (as depicted in the book), and specifically the marriage of Don Alejandro and Regina (parents of Diego/Zorro). Click here for the Foundation’s webpage for the One Book Geocaching Challenge.

But, when it came down to it, I still wasn’t sure what this whole geocaching business actually was. At Di’s urging, Fernando & I went to the official Geocaching website, signed up for a free membership and did a search for any cache near our home address. We were floored when we saw that the nearest one was less thank 2 blocks away! We excitedly fumbled for our smartphones, found a GPS-enabled geocaching app, and downloaded the free trial. 5 minutes later, we were walking out the front door with our son, Elias, in tow.

Our first geocache! It was a "nano" magnetic, bullet-sized canister that unscrewed to open.

The logbook inside the cache was a strip of paper that unrolled to reveal 34 signatures from previous geocachers.

It takes a special kind of nerd to enjoy the thrill of the hunt for nothing more than bragging rights and a higher tally next to your Geocaching profile name. Turns out, I am one. And, even better, I married one. We are hooked. Elias, however, is skeptical because he’d been secretly hoping for buried treasure.

We are looking forward to finding more caches. It’s a fun and free activity for families (a rare thing these days). Plus, you get to work together as a team. It was Elias who actually found the cache- we were stumped!

One last thing: there is a Geocaching 101 workshop this weekend being held at the library where my flags are hidden. If you are near Long Beach, I urge you to give it a try and please let me know how it goes!