From jewelry to beverages, Sonoma County’s Latino entrepreneurs are doing it their own way
Through social media, collaboration, and uplifting each other, a growing network of North Bay Latinas proves that daydreams can become reality. Each of them has marketed their skill set and interests into a full-fledged business attracting thousands of fans across social media. From pop-up events to weekly markets, online sales and word of mouth, these women are helping secure a bright future for female entrepreneurs who are making a name for themselves in the business world.
Sandra Contreras from Cusitas Contreras
Sandra Contreras was already busy with two young children and a day job, but she wanted to do something outside of her comfort zone with the extra time she had.
At first, I thought about making clay earrings or trying nail art, but one day, while watching on YouTube, I saw a video where resin was used to make small plates and trays.
“I was like, ‘This is cool.’ “I had never seen this before, and then I became addicted to watching the videos,” she said. “And after about two to three weeks of watching consistent YouTube videos, I finally ordered a bunch of resins on Amazon and said, ‘Okay, I’ll try that now that I have an idea of how to do it.’
What started as a simple idea for a hobby quickly became a successful business. In January 2021, Contreras, Cositas Contreras, then 26, started on a four-foot table in the backyard of her Rohnert Park home.
Contreras then created an Instagram account for her small business and her first followers were supportive friends and family. Her first post notes: The account is under construction and she thanks all her followers so far. Dice, dog tags, and small storage containers all made of colored resin began filling the company’s feed. Small trays, bookmarks and coasters with sparkles, flowers and butterflies all set against a smooth gradient background became what is now known as Contreras’ signature style.
The demand for its products increased and people started asking for custom orders. Her shop now includes resin hair clips, cards, candles, keychains, charcuterie boards, and jewelry.
“I never thought this would be a business. It was like I was going to make things up for me and my friends,” she said.
Despite running a successful business, the industry has proven difficult.
“Since you know it’s Latina-owned and woman-owned, you just have to put yourself out there,” she said.
There is also a cultural barrier on top of it being a small, women-owned business. Contreras said Latinos don’t want to ask for help — men and women alike.
“I think as a Latina that’s probably one of the biggest struggles,” she said. “One of my goals by the end of the year is to push it not as a mentor, but to announce something like, ‘Hey, if anyone needs help, if anyone has questions (I here)”. .
She’s already caught up with it. Contreras gave a presentation at the La Luz Center in Sonoma to other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
“I put myself out there to help because I’m happy to help when I can,” she said.
Customers can find Cositas Contreras in local markets.
Stephanie Martin of Mexology Bar Co.
Born in Tepatitlan de Morelos, Jalisco, Mexico, Stephanie Martin always valued her Mexican roots, which continued to grow when she moved to Petaluma with her family at the age of six.
Martin, 29, started working as a bartender at 21, but decided five years ago that she wanted to start her own business.
Initially, she was thinking about planning the event, but it never materialized. Then fate struck when Martin was asked to create custom cocktails for a wedding. She enjoyed the creative process of mixing alcohol with mixers and adding a touch of garnish, but she still wasn’t sure which way to go, and wasn’t ready to go all-in on her own business.
During the pandemic, like many in the service industry, bars and restaurants were closed leaving employees and owners struggling to find a creative way to stay in business.
Martin took the opportunity to return to Mexico and immersed herself in the mix scene in Jalisco. I learned about the local herbs, spices and juices used to create unique cocktails that highlight Mexican products.
When she returned to Sonoma County, she started her own cocktail-making business on Instagram.