Latinas continue to make waves at the forefront of eco-responsible entrepreneurship. This time it is the story of Maria Vasco, a young immigrant from Boston, who has made headlines for her zero-waste store, Uvida.
As reported by Zenger News, Maria Vasco is a Latina born in Cali, Colombia, who immigrated to East Boston when she was just four years old. She attended college and was undocumented until her junior year, making her ineligible for federal financial aid.
While looking for a class to fulfill a science requirement, Vasco landed in environmental science and quickly fell in love with it. After switching majors, she began talking to her professors outside of class and learning about their specific areas of research and expertise. Through those conversations, Vasco decided she wanted to focus on plastic pollution.
“This is something I can control because I touch plastic every day,” Vasco told the media.
After learning the statistic that by 2050 the ocean will have more plastic than fish, the young student knew her calling.
During her freshman year of college, Vasco began testing plastic-free products. There were some she liked and some she didn’t, but buying them required a lot of research on the Internet. When Vasco decided on a product she liked, she had to remember the website to replenish it. She wanted to select the products she liked in one place, and that’s where her idea to create Uvida came from.
“I worked part-time at restaurants and internships just to make ends meet. Then at nighttime, I would stay up until four in the morning doing market research, looking at products, making my website,” Vasco said. “And it was like the best time of my life. I just was having so much fun doing it that it didn’t matter how much I had on my plate. I always made time for that.”
Also during her freshman year of college, Vasco applied for and received a $5,000 entrepreneurship scholarship funded by Dan Phillips. As part of the grant, she received a year of mentoring from Phillips, who instructed her on the importance of market research and helped her launch the Uvida website.
Vasco is her own ideal customer; she knows the brands and has changed her lifestyle. The store opened last December during the pandemic, but Vasco launched the business as an online store in 2019 while still a full-time student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Now, six months later, Vasco is in a position to mentor others, even as she continues to learn herself.