Learning about our history is a choice many minority students make in our college careers. We take ethnic studies courses in hopes of gaining a better understanding of our identities. However, in a diverse country like the United States, why isn’t this mandated in the K-12 curriculum? Why must we have to seek it on our own?
“Well… do you like it?” Jessie’s dad asks, standing by her side as they both look at the new vanity he made for her.
Proudly representing their culture and identity while excelling at contributing billions to the US economy, small Latinx-owned businesses are booming. According to NBC News, Latinx-owned businesses in the United States contribute more than $700 billion to the American economy every year. Never near a perfect world, however, Stanford Graduate School of Business reports small Latinx-owned businesses having to make do with a large opportunity gap when it comes to outside funding and operating expenses in comparison to white-owned businesses. To gauge the Latinx small business world and their contributions to the nation, I will highlight the survival and growth of two small Latinx businesses specifically, two managed by Latinx UCLA students. So, take advantage of their proximity and support them!
1. Nuextroscolores (Instagram)
Rebecca De La O is a second-year Business Economics student with a minor in entrepreneurship and accounting. Her hobbies include Folklorico and managing her business, Nuextroscolores. Although relatively new to the business world, De La O always knew she had an interest in business and entrepreneurship, handling “little artisan businesses here and there,” such as sewing bags and selling them to teachers as a kid.
In high school, however, she developed an eating disorder.
“That [eating disorder] took away from a lot of the things that I was interested in, so I couldn’t explore the business side of me anymore,” she said. “I started recovery last year, and so it’s kind of prescribed to start a passion that you’ve always wanted to do and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a perfect time to start my business.’”
Learning from her experiences in trying to recover from an eating disorder, De La O recognizes that recovery and treatment centers for eating disorders are very expensive. Due to inaccessibility, De La O began her own form of recovery by using CAPS as a resource. As a way to combat this inaccessibility, a percentage of the money she earns from selling her products is going to Project Heal, a nonprofit organization that helps people suffering from eating disorders pay for treatment.
“Eating disorder recovery is not cheap and insurance hardly ever covers it because it’s not seen as very important or deadly, but it has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Only 20% of 30 million people [suffering from eating disorders] get treatment,” she said.
In addition to mental health, De La O is also inspired by her Latinx culture and identity. Nuextroscolores offers several designs inspired by Latinx culture. Some of the pieces Nuextroscolores offers carry the patron saint of Mexico, the Guadalupe, or take inspiration from Aztec symbols. She says, this move was a way of embracing a culture she did not grow up feeling very connected to.
“I wasn’t really raised like Hispanic and I don’t know Spanish that well and I kind of felt left out. I feel like I don’t fit in with a certain culture and so joining Folklorico helped with that a lot,” she said. And of course, through her business, De La O believes she will embrace her Latinx culture even more.
“Instead of shying away from it, feeling left out, I wanted to thrust myself in there, and embrace the culture more.”
De La O isn’t just stopping there when it comes to connecting with her Latinx community either. When it comes to her jewelry’s materials she makes sure to buy from other Latinx businesses.
“I make sure to support them, and they support me,” she said.
De La O caters to college students when it comes to selling at affordable prices.
“We don’t want to spend $20 on an earring, we want to spend $20 on like five earrings, and I can give that and still make somewhat of a profit off it,” she said.
As for advice to the aspiring Latinx students wanting to manage their own business one day, De La O encourages you.
“You were raised by powerful Latinx immigrants and family, and so you are strong enough to start this even if you’re scared,” she said.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to her for business support and advice. Not only is one of her many goals to connect students and Latinx run businesses to form a community that supports each other, but she’s thinking of beginning a series that will allow those interested in business to learn about investing, budgeting, and overall financial wellness. One of her other goals, to complete a website, has just been met. As of March 1st, Nuextroscolores offers the perks of pre-ordering on a new website. Exclusive items will only be available on the Nuextroscolores Instagram.
Don’t forget to support her business on Instagram at @Nuextroscolores and her website at nuextros-colores.mybigcommerce.com.
Felipe Valdovinos Jr., a second year student from Ontario, CA, studies Economics and co-runs a business called Vintage.Inspired with his cousin Erik Guerrero.
Mainly ran through Instagram, Vintage.Inspired is a business selling thrifted 80s, 90s, and even early 2000’s designer and streetwear clothing.
“I started thrifting before it was cool or whatever. I started in middle school because of my cousin and there was a point I almost got addicted to thrifting. I’ve always really liked fashion and I would find a lot of cool stuff, so it just got to a point where I had way too much stuff,” he said. “[Vintage.Inspired] started more or less with my friends in high school. They’d be like, ‘That’s a dope jacket. Let me buy it off of you.’ And then it just grew from there. More or less it started as a closet clean up kind of thing.”
The need for the business came early on with the employment loss of his mother during his sophomore year of high school. This meant losing a big source of income for his household. So, as Vintage.Inspired began picking up, Valdovinos helped his mom with some of the financial stressors his home was dealing with.
However, the business world isn’t perfect for Valdovinos, as expressing some of his political opinions has cost his profits. Specifically, expressing his political views against Donald Trump has led the business to lose customers, but this doesn’t sway him, asserting that “we don’t care, we keep posting it”.
Although not necessarily the business’s initial intention, today Valdovinos recognizes the impact Vintage.Inspired is adding to the notion of sustainability. He recognizes how, “it’s kind of outstanding to see how much clothes go to waste, so why not just recycle it?”.
As for future aspiring Latinx business owners, Valdovinos reminds you that it is possible to manage a business and keep up with your studies, but the priority should always be school. By doing so, he says, “you will put yourself in a better situation for your future.”
Today, Vintage.Inspired can proudly boast sales to almost every country in the world. With over twenty-five thousand followers on Instagram and big media platforms like Depop reaching out to them, Vintage.Inspired has certified itself as the vintage plug. Vintage.Inspired continues to grow with plans to open up a future website and small store in his hometown.
Don’t forget to support his business on Instagram at @Vintage.Inspired today.
In the affluent Westwood, Los Angeles, I find myself surrounded by young adults and college students just like myself. But as pretty as Westwood is, there is still something off. I look around and compare myself, and rarely do I see similarities. Even on short walks to Target, I am guaranteed to pass by students wearing designer clothes. The streets are full of boosted boards and fancy cars, and the bright store lights radiate capitalism. It is like high school again where I found myself singled out.
In high school, I was amongst the few students of color in my classes. This didn’t affect me at the time because I was unaware of the importance of everyone’s voice being heard. I was too worried about myself and what was going to affect me. However, each year I would see the same types of people in charge and making decisions. My mindset shifted from myself to my community, and I began to finally question why there was no change to this formula. I wanted to hear people like me represent our views and ideas in conversation, but first there needed to be more people from my background to even have a chance. My high school attracted affluent, white students from the suburbs so having more Latinx students was a challenge in itself. That’s why after getting accepted into college, I hoped to see more diversity and relate to more people like me.
Coming to LA was a dream for me. I would spend the next four years of my life living in Los Angeles, going to school, and enjoying everything that Southern California has to offer. Most importantly, I knew that I would be more immersed in Latinx culture. I imagined so many students of color would be around, both in class and around campus. They would be like me, enjoying the college life but also working towards a degree. While I definitely saw an improvement in the number of Latinx students, it still lacked diversity for me. I wondered why, after everything I dealt with in high school, there was again another struggle of representation I would have to deal with during college. Living in an affluent part of Los Angeles made me realize how lucky some people end up becoming; they are rich and wealthy enough to buy nice clothes and expensive cars. For the vast majority of people, they are surviving. Paying the bills and providing for the family comes first. Suddenly, education is out of the picture.
Through public schools, most families do not have to worry about spending excessive amounts of money on their child’s education. They can go from kindergarten to high school and still receive quality experiences. I went to public school and benefited from every free thing offered to me. After high school, pursuing a higher education becomes expensive. Money is usually the biggest issue in attending college because families have to pay for tuition, room and board, and expenses for textbooks and other miscellaneous items. The University of California Admissions page estimates that for in-state students, the average cost is $36,000. The CSU campus cost of attendance reports that undergraduates have to pay $5,742 before room and board fees. All these costs and fees paint the picture of higher education as only being accessible to the wealthy. It becomes a struggle for the average family to send their kid to college and afford the whole expense. I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to go to UCLA, but for many, the accessibility of college is limited by the cost it required to attend.
By not offering equal access for all students to continue their education into college, we leave the system to choose from a disproportionate amount of applicants, to begin with. The fear of college costing too much turns away students who are afraid they will not be able to pay for their education. I feel affected by the results of this. I go to class in Young Hall, CS50, which seats hundreds of students. Seats that are filled with privileged students, and the class is lacking in diversity. I walk into La Kretz 100, and I see the same results. It is never the class that matters, but the whole school has issues with diversity. I almost always find the same types of students in my classes, and struggle to connect when there’s a lack of a broader range of students.
It saddens me that despite how much money circulates in Westwood and other affluent areas, there are still students that have issues paying for a college education. People have more than enough money to buy luxuries, but on the opposite spectrum, people are fighting to pay rent and bills. College is not as accessible as I imagined it. College becomes the dream, the imagined idea that if they did have money, they could go.
All of my life
I’ve been a hairy girl
My arms? Covered!
My legs? Covered!
My upper lip
(My god, even my knuckles? Hair can grow there too???)
I dreaded wearing basketball shorts to P.E. 4th period
I was always embarrassed, always mocked
Chewbacca… Very original
White girls with blonde arm hair
They shimmer in the sun
But thick dark hair drapes over my skin
It doesn’t sparkle or shine
For so long I’ve been ashamed of my body
But then…. lo and behold…
White Feminism™ decided it’s COOL to be hairy
Thanks, White Feminism™!
I’m still trying to love all my hair
I stopped shaving my arms and stomach
(I saved thousands of $$$!)
I look back and cringe at the memory of bleaching my arm hair
I wish I could have told little me that she was beautiful
Her hair didn’t make her “manly” or ugly
It’s natural, everyone has body hair, who cares?
So this one goes out to all my hairy girls
Your hair is beautiful
Your hair on your arms and legs and knuckles and stomach
Even your hair on your toes, especially those hairs
All of your hair
All of it
All of you