According to Los Cien, Latinas are one of the fastest-growing new business owners in Sonoma County.
At their “State of the Latino Community” gathering in September, they shared that between 2007 – 2018, Latina owned businesses grew at a faster rate than any other demographic, at 172% versus the 12% of other businesses.
Sonoma County has a variety of Latina-owned businesses, from hair salons to specialty shops and restaurants. We spoke with some Latinas entrepreneurs from Sonoma County to learn a little more about how they get down to business.
If you live in Sonoma, you may have seen Danielly Rocha-Lanter’s large Ford Transit driving around town, advertising her personal training business. “My car gets me a lot of attention,” she said. “Sonoma has a lot of personal trainers, but only one with a really big car.”
Danielly’s Fitness is a mobile personal fitness training program that she operates out of her truck, which carries two rowing machines, dumbbells, kettle bells and anything else needed to help her clients reach their fitness goals from the comfort of their home. She currently serves the regions of Oakmont, Glen Ellen, Kenwood, and Sonoma.
Rocha-Lanter previously worked in sales at a life insurance company, while also dedicating her time to personal fitness training, but had dreams of opening her own business. “I’ve always wanted to be a business owner, ever since I came to America,” she said.
She was inspired to enter the fitness world because of her own weight loss experience. When she first immigrated to the United States from Brazil, the cultural shock was difficult for her and a combination of depression, bad diet and lack of exercise caused her to gain weight. One day, she decided enough was enough and began to make a change. She lost 45 lbs and then started to help friends and family with their nutrition and fitness goals, using the knowledge she had gained. After she was offered a job in the field, she acquired her license.
She loves connecting with her clients and supporting them in achieving their fitness goals, even helping one client lose 80 lbs. She attributes her sales skills in helping her grow her business, but her ultimate goal as an entrepreneur is to change people’s lives.
Rocha-Lanter advises anyone interested in opening a business to start slow and have the financial security before they begin trying. She suggests having a goal and timeline in mind. “Mine was to go full-time with my personal training in 2 years,” she elaborated.
Staring a business does not come without challenges, including client cancellations, slow seasons and the PG&E blackouts. She admits she also had the issue of fearing rejection due to her accent, but it quickly became her advantage because she saw a need for Latina personal trainers in the area.
“In Brazil, we have a saying: ‘If you don’t have a dog to hunt with, use your cat.” In other words, find other ways to achieve your goal.
Jewelry making runs in Gloria Rubio’s blood. As a child, she watched family members create intricate beaded jewelry and fell in love with the art. She now feels like this passion is her calling. “As an adult, I found out that my aunt Gloria also makes jewelry, using the same beads I do,” she said. “Seeing that, I felt like it was my destiny.”
She began making beaded flowers to wear in her hair during her ballet classes at Sonoma State University, where they caught the attention of other students who began commissioning flowers for themselves. It became so popular, that she started selling them at craft events during her summer and winter breaks.
Rubio learned how to make the beaded flowers by chance. She found one in a gift shop, bought it and took it apart, and teaching herself how to make the intricately beaded beauties. She perfected the method, adding her own twist along the way.
“As a Latina, I wanted to see more color, add my own flavor,” said Rubio. “It’s a fusion of a vintage craft and my culture, it’s colors.”
The flowers are derived from a Victorian-era method. Dressmakers would save the leftover beads from gowns and make flowers with them. “It’s an art that was re-purposed and has been passed down throughout history,” she said. The flowers are made with a wrap technique using small seed beads and take about 1-3 hours to make a piece, depending on the size. She also focuses on making Dia de Los Muertos specific jewelry.
Although she created MorninGloria’s more than ten years ago, it was always as a part-time job until she was able to transition to full-time work this past year. Rubio previously worked for Creative Sonoma under the Economic Development Board, which focuses on classes and workshops for creative businesses. She was able to pick up skills there that helped her when she made the decision to begin her business.
In her experience, working in the handmade world is so specific. “With creating the website, e- commerce site, building inventory, promoting products and applying to events, you are working three full-time jobs at the same time,” she said.
During the high season, she attends about 2-6 events per week on weekdays, and during the wintertime, she attends around 1-2 farmer’s markets per week. On weekends, she focuses on specialized craft events, and attend events through the whole the Bay Area.
Learning where to market was one of the things that took her longest to learn. “I realized that the best people to market to was me, meaning other Latina women like me,” she said.
Another lesson she learned was accepting support. “Don’t go at it alone,” she said. “We think that we have to prove ourselves and take everything on, but it takes a village.” She also makes it a point to connect with other Latina entrepreneurs and fellow creatives.
She also learned not to be afraid to call herself an artist and put herself out there. “Once you begin to say it, you begin to manifest it.”
The Nuñez family has been making tamales for five generations. Elva A. Nuñez’s grandparents opened their restaurant in Windsor during the 1960s, at a time when there were few Mexican food options.
Her family closed the storefront in 1993 but had such a cult following that they continued to make tamales for markets and special events. Her grandmother was involved in the business up until her passing in March of this year. “She was 93 years old and still making tamales,” said Nuñez. They would support her in selling the tamales at farmers’ markets.
After her death, she and her cousin Briana T. Lopez wanted to continue their grandparent’s legacy and decided to take the business on. “We all have professional jobs but have continued making tamales on the side. The business has been growing and growing, with the help of family,” she said.
The Tamale Factory continues to use the traditional method of making tamales, with fresh masa (corn dough that is used to make tamales), that they grind and make themselves, a process which takes a few days. “You have to know the corn and how it will work into masa,” she elaborated. “Doing it the old-fashioned way, it’s a dying art.”
Everything is made with certified organic ingredients, and they work with local farms to produce everything needed for their tamales. “We want to stay fresh and local, and sourced from California.”
After taking over, they decided to re-brand and acquired a commercial wholesale license. Although currently, they are more of an artisan business, they decided to keep the word “factory” in their name to reflect their family history.
As new business owners, they have had to learn to enter the retail market in a modern world. “My grandmother didn’t have to deal with social media,” she said.
They also experienced challenges with acquiring permits. “When I started this, I had a lot of opposition and I thought maybe I shouldn’t do this but my family has been doing this for so long,” she shared. “If there is a seed planted in your heart, other people won’t understand it. You are the only one who knows what’s inside your heart.”
They currently sell their tamales at farmers’ markets in Petaluma, Healdsburg, Windsor, and Santa Rosa. Their plant-based tamales can be purchased on their websites, but meat tamales are only available at the farmers’ market.
Whenever an issue arises, she thinks about her grandmother for strength. “Every time we had a challenge, a miracle would come through and everything would work out. My cousins tell me that ‘Grandma is with you’”.
Alma’s Oilcloth has created a strong following on social media. Her Instagram is a burst of color, displaying a variety of artisanal Mexican craft products.
Born and raised in Sebastopol, Alma Vigil has lived in Sonoma County for most of her life, save for a short period of time when she left to attend San Francisco State University. She returned to the area to help her parents with their berry farm.
Alma began making artisanal crafts with oilcloth and other materials for fun, which she sold at the Napa and St. Helena farmers’ markets, before deciding to open her own shop in Healdsburg eight years ago.
Originally, she made everything that she sold in her shop, but as she’s grown, she has begun to collaborate with other artisanal makers. She works with artists from Los Angeles and Texas, focusing on both Mexican and Mexican-American art. “I love my culture, my parents always raised us with our culture,” she says.
When she first opened her shop in Healdsburg, she experienced resistant because her business model was new to the community. It took some time for her shop to become accepted. “A lot of Latinos were hesitant to shop at the store because they thought it wasn’t a Latino owned business. It was through word of mouth that people began to come in,” she said. “Now about 75% of my customer base are Latinos.”
As a small business owner, she has experienced some challenges in her work including dealing with a fluctuating economy, long hours and hard work. “It’s a lot of work but if it makes you happy, you should do it.” She also attributes having the support of her family as something else that has helped her business thrive.
Alma’s Chucherias is located at 437 Healdsburg Ave in Healdsburg. You can also purchase her products online, and occasionally at the St. Helena’s farmers market.
Along with these inspiring Latinas, below is a list of some other local businesses that are Latina-owned:
1110 Petaluma Hill Road, Suite # 5
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
4221 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
4525 Montgomery Drive #21
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
Santa Rosa, CA
Santa Rosa, California 95401
8200 Old Redwood Hwy
Cotati, CA 94931
22989 Burndale Road
Sonoma, CA 95476
8430 Old Redwood Hwy
Windsor, CA 95492
18495 Hwy 12
Sonoma, CA 95476
18995 Highway 12 Suite 103
Sonoma, CA 95476
Santa Rosa, CA
1940 Piner Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
128 College Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
430 Petaluma Blvd N
Petaluma, CA 94952
205 Nino Marco Square
Sonoma, CA 95476
707-343-7330Click here for reuse options!
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