Small Latina-owned businesses are really stepping up their efforts to help people access the tools they need to feel safer during COVID-19. Over the weekend, the founder of Rizos Curls, Julissa Prado, announced that she and Lets.Give, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, has partnered up to create a fund for families impacted by COVID-19. Prado donated the first $5000 to the fund and announced on her Instagram that there were a number of ways for community members to help as well. In addition to funds, small Latina-owned businesses have been using their current resources to meet community needs and demands.
Azteca Negra and Sololi Shop are lifestyle brands that offer Latinx sourced and handmade materials like jewelry and home decor. However, as they heard the global calls for facemasks they both decided to answer by extending their scope of work. Through using materials they had in stock coupled with their skill of hand-making things, these two Latinas are creating much needed facemasks.
Latina-Owned Small Businesses Give Back During COVID
The first masks that Azteca Negra’s founder, Marisol Catchings, posted about on Instagram on March 29th were specifically for healthcare workers. Catchings’ mother, Norma Saavedra, started making the masks for a few of their family members and friends who are healthcare workers experiencing shortages of PPE in their facilities. “[My mom] made some extra and asked if I could share with my social media following. We offered free masks to healthcare and frontline folks who were in need,” Catchings told BELatina. After reading scores of stories from healthcare workers, they decided to launch Masks for Healthcare. Through this initiative, they have been able to give away the handmade masks to healthcare workers.
Sololi Shop founder and owner Isabel Amigon says she never imagined her business would be making face masks but when they did they knew they had to give back in some way. For each mask sold, $5 is donated to Adelante Student Voices. Adelante Student Voices is a nonprofit organization which provides a safe space for undocumented stduents in rural and upstate New York. “We knew if we were going to do something that we’ve never done before, it had to be with purpose. Especially in these uncertain times, and yes, it is true we are a small business and we need all the help we can get. But we are also conscious that there are others out there that need our help. It might not be a lot, but every dollar counts and goes a long way,” Amigon shared. To date, Sololi Shop has donated $585 to Adelante Student Voices.
Keeping Up With Demand
For both business owners, providing what their communities needed — and wanted — were big reasons why they became entrepreneurs; switching to also providing masks was just an extension of that initial motivation. “From the start of this entrepreneurship journey, the passion behind Azteca Negra has always been centered around representation, love, and community. Though I create fashionable art and home decor pieces, I have always used the art to promote positive messages and to support the community with occasional small campaigns and fundraisers,” shared Catchings.
The demand for masks has been so high that what both business owners thought would be a one time thing has grown into something much bigger. “We’ve sold out twice, it’s crazy,” Amigon said before adding, “because we set out to make just the one batch. But in less than 36 hours they were all gone, now we are working on our third restock.” Catchings has restocked her store weekly for the past four weeks. “Each time, we offer a larger quantity than the previous week and each time the masks sell out.”
When she first started making masks, it was just Catchings and her mother but the team has expanded. “My abuelita, Ruth Saavedra, has offered to help us cut elastic and nose bridge wire. My artist friend, Rocio Sofia Ordonez and her hija Amy, also offered to help us with cutting the fabric. My wonderful seamstress, Bachmai Hoang, has also been helping us tremendously with sewing the masks. My godsister, Shakira Mariam, joined in with helping us to cut the fabric. And my wonderful hubby, Dr. Miguel Frank, has been helping me with fabric preparations and shipping.”
Maintaining Business During COVID-19
However, building out the team during a global pandemic has had its challenges. Making sure people are taking care of themselves and abiding by social distancing laws is a huge priority.
Sololi Shop and Azteca Negra have always received community love and support but they are especially feeling it now. The support from their communities through link sharing, buying masks, and donating funds so that they can source more fabrics means that each business is able to help other communities in need. “It’s been amazing. We are definitely so grateful for all the love and support everyone has shown us” stated Amigon. Every mask she sells puts money into undocumented communities which have been left out of federal relief efforts. For Catchings, more sales help offset the cost of giving away masks to health care workers.
Both Latinas agree that maintaining good overall health while being able to use their businesses to help people during these trying times has been rewarding in more ways they could have ever imagined. Amigon says since the pandemic, she has been “going with the flow and doing what comes natural to me [which is] taking care of my family and making sure we are all safe — also checking in on my friends and family members to make sure they’re all okay.” Due to the increase in demand, Catchings and her mother “have been on a mission over the last month, so 90% of our thoughts and time have been dedicated to working on providing masks for the community.” But, she added, “We have been keeping up with social distancing and only leaving the house for necessities.”
Check out Azteca Negra or Sololi Shop to see how you can support small Latina-owned businesses and also help communities in deep need.