How does a Puerto Rican woman survive dark and rainy winters in Seattle, Washington? My answer: by making stuff! Two years ago I decided to channel my nostalgia for the sunny, warm, and wonderful culture of my island into something creative. So I started designing products to celebrate all the beauty, music, language, and colors of our Latin American culture—all while juggling a highly demanding career as a marketing director. Here are the biggest lessons I learned from starting, focusing, and growing my creative business.
Start with what you have
It’s easy to come up with things you need to do before you actually start making stuff—I did this for years before starting my business, Anda Pa’l. “I need to take xyz course, or get xyz certification, or gain xyz skill.” While those might be helpful, they’re not necessary. The truth is, you already have a bunch of skills you can use to start building your business today.
In my case, I had a background in marketing and words come naturally to me, so I started by writing fun, witty Spanish and Spanglish phrases and sharing them on Facebook. I was surprised at the positive response I got! Some people even asked if I could print them somewhere. That’s where I came up with the idea to print them on canvas pouches, so people can take a little piece of our culture with them wherever they go.
Be your multi-cultural, multilingual self
Like most 1st generation Americans, I live in between cultures and languages. “Ni de aquí ni de allá,” as we say— “Neither from here nor from there.” I’m not sure if it was my marketing training forcing me to choose a demographic, but when I first started my business, I felt like I needed to pick one culture to target. Which led to a whole other list of questions: Will non-Puerto Ricans understand my jokes? Should I write taglines in English or in Spanish? What about blog posts and hashtags? More importantly, how do you even say “hashtag” in Spanish?
In the end, I learned that the only way I can connect with my audience is by being myself. I write in three languages now: English, Spanish and Spanglish. Social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, have allowed me to connect with other Latinxs who also feel “in between” cultures and languages. As it turns out, I’m not a demographic of one!
Use social to tell your story
When it comes to Instagram feed curation, I spend most of my time creating content my audience will find interesting and relevant. I use photography, graphics, quotes, and more to tell the broader story of what I’m about. I find that humans want to feel like they’re following other humans on social—so don’t be afraid to tell your own personal story to help people connect with you.
I also take a cue from my days as a Membership Director at National Public Radio (NPR). So once in a while, I host my equivalent of a pledge drive. In other words, I focus on providing value to my followers 75% of the time and 25% of the time I ask for something in return: a visit to my online store.
It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in the past two years building my business— and there’s still so much more ahead! I hope to continue telling stories and building products that help Latinxs feel a strong sense of connection and belonging.