This is story 9 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory
Kiana credits her love for film and documenting memories to her father. Growing up, her dad would always have an action film playing in the background. He was always behind the camcorder documenting whatever the family was doing. There are countless family home videos of Kiana throughout the years. He mostly recorded for the family to have home videos to look back on, but also because he was into photography as well. As his daughter, Kiana feels as though she got his creative gene.
When Kiana was about 10 years old, her dad bought her her first camcorder. She was fully immersed in capturing moments visually. Just like her dad, Kiana was always behind the camera. Kiana and her cousins would come up with random skits, and she would always be the one recording it. But it didn’t just stop at recording the footage – Kiana would take it a step further and edit the videos as well. She laughs at the idea of editing her family content through Windows Movie Maker, but a girl gotta start somewhere!
“When I used to film stuff when I was younger, it was more for fun on the spot skits with my cousins,” Kiana explained. “I think that’s where my love for documentaries came from because when you’re filming a documentary you’re literally getting footage on the spot. Nothing is scripted.”
Kiana always had a gut feeling that she wanted to turn her love for documenting, editing, and being behind the camera into a career pretty early on. She remembers a school project her senior year of high school that stuck with her. Her and 4 other classmates had to make a video about domestic violence in Polynesia, and that’s when she upgraded from Windows Movie Maker to iMovie! Her contribution was shooting all the of the videos and editing the footage. In the end, they didn’t even do the project correctly, but Kiana was very proud of the final video.
Even though Kiana knew she wanted to pursue film, she still ended up taking classes for a major she had no business being in. She chose occupational therapy. How the hell did she end up with that? When it was time to try to figure out what she was going to study in college, her mom and cousin threw out the idea of occupational therapy. This is partly due to the the fact that her cousin was an occupational therapist. The game plan was simple – the goal was to study to become an occupational therapist, work as an occupational therapist for a couple of years so she could pay for film school. Looking back, she admits that idea was nowhere near practical.
When it came down to it, Kiana just couldn’t be in those classes. Her heart wasn’t in it, and she knew that occupational therapy wasn’t a road she wanted to take – or never really wanted to take from the get. She had a talk with her parents and decided to drop community college and go to Academy of Art the next fall. The talk with her parents was really difficult to have, but it was so relieving at the same time. Her parents were iffy at first and needed some convincing – they had no idea how she could possibly make a career in film or TV. Kiana had to explain that there are so many different career paths that she can take in the industry – it’s not just directing, screenwriting, and all the roles people first think of when they think of film. Even though her parents were hesitant with the switch, they couldn’t deny how much Kiana was struggling trying to pursue occupational therapy. They knew their daughter’s heart wasn’t in it, so they supported her decision to make the switch.
Kiana’s glad that she made the switch because it changed the direction of her whole career and future. She graduated from Academy of Art University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Motion Pictures & Television with an emphasis in editing. Now, she’s a Studio Technician for NBC Sports Bay Area, and freelancing on the side! There’s many different tasks as a studio technician, but she mostly works as a tape operator, working on live pre and post-game shows for the Warriors, Giants, and A’s.
To build her portfolio to be qualified for NBC Sports Bay Area, Kiana just kept creating and collaborating with others. One of the most important things that’s a must in this industry is networking. She kept creating, kept networking, and kept putting herself out there, and that’s how she landed her role in the industry. At first, seeing all the professional equipment was really intimidating for Kiana. She’s seen the equipment in some of her classes at the Academy of Art, but actually operating it without the help of her professor was definitely something she had to get used to.
“I personally prefer editing,” Kiana said when asked what role she prefers. “I love editing because it allows me to create and shape the story that the director and cinematographer envisioned. It’s kinda like I have the last say on how I want the film to be seen.”
Being an Asian woman in the sports industry can be pretty intimidating, but Kiana finds solace in the fact that she gets to represent. For her, it’s so much more than just her having a job, it’s letting the generations after her know that someone that looks like them did it as well. Everyone relies on the media for entertainment, so it’s important to Kiana to be that representation for them, it’s something that she wishes she had. Kiana didn’t grow up seeing too many Asians in sports or on TV, and even though it’s currently headed in the right direction, media still has a ways to go to make things diverse.
Creating and documenting is equivalent to Kiana writing in a journal. It’s her way of expressing herself, from whatever she’s thinking or going through in life. Majority of her work and projects are somehow related to her own journey and personal experiences. If she’s working on someone else’s project, Kiana would have to resonate with their story or relate to it in some way. It’s hard for her to put her all into something if she doesn’t feel connected to it, that’s why she’s so passionate about what she does. She takes pride in knowing that what she produces will only come from her and nobody else.
In fact, her film, “Love, Kiana,” started off as a journal entry. Kiana always wanted to create a film focusing on mental health. During that time, she was really diving into mental health in Asian families, more specifically, Filipino families. She wanted to create something where people who look like her could relate. She is well aware that the Filipino community is still very dated when it comes to talking about, accepting, and dealing with mental health. It was really important for Kiana to explain her own journey with mental health because the film also acted as an explanation to those around her. It was different for her to be in front of the camera rather than behind it, but she felt compelled to do so.
“…Whenever I tried to find visual examples I could show my parents, or my cousins, or anyone actually, the content was very limited,” She said when asked why she chose to make the film about her own personal experience. “So I wanted to put the spotlight on it. I needed it to be real, raw, and authentic because I wanted to show people how I’ve been really feeling deep inside.”
Kiana’s work is inspired by the people she’s met, the places she’s been, and the things that she has seen. When creating, her goal is to make something she hasn’t seen on the screen before. She loves watching other people’s work. The different styles of writing, directing, or editing always inspires her to think outside of the box for her own projects. It’s a crucial part of growth – to take everything in around you and find a way to make it your own.
Aside from her sports editing job, Kiana makes sure to feed her creative side whenever she has the chance. Most of her personal side projects start off as just for fun. But there are times where she gets emails announcing film festivals that are open for submissions, and when she sees one that aligns with what she’s working on, she’ll submit it. Currently, she’s working on a “Stop AAIP Hate” campaign and a personal project focusing on San Francisco State’s women’s basketball players’ work ethic and journeys. One of her favorite projects that she’s worked on is a project called “The Crossover” for MYX Global. The Crossover highlights popular artists crossing over to new international markets for the first time like Inigo Pascual, Kiana V, KZ Tandingan, Moira Dela Torre, and more.
Most of the jobs and gigs that Kiana has gotten are through networking and referrals. Kiana tries to capitalize on all of the events and sets she attends where there are a lot of people that are in the same industry. She scopes out the place and tries to make out the individuals that she would want to work with in the future or get to know more. She is one that respects people’s time, so she always tries to think of what she’ll talk about with them before approaching. Kiana’s advice is to try to leave a lasting impression with whoever you’re connecting with because you don’t want to waste their time. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the conversation in the future. Kiana has found that networking casually in person is a lot less intimidating than a formal interview. It allows her to be herself and make natural conversation.
“I feel like as a creative, the most important thing you can do is collab and network with other creatives/filmmakers,” She said. “I love surrounding myself with people who are open-minded and also like-minded when it comes collaborating.”
Even someone like Kiana, who has successfully found her niche in her profession, still has doubts from time to time. With all of her success, there are still moments when she doubts herself as an artist. Kiana tends to compare her work to other people’s and will overthink her own ability, accomplishments, and talents. “Do people even like my art?” “They’ll probably hire someone else,” are some of the thoughts that cross her mind. When those thoughts of self-doubt creep up, Kiana tries to remind herself that her art will reach the audience it’s supposed to and everyone has their own different style when creating. She is aware that she’s her own worst critic. Another thing she likes to do is take a social media cleanse and draw inspiration from reading, watching movies, and just hanging out with family and friends. Her family and friends have been her biggest supporters throughout her whole journey. They’ve been there through it all – her burnouts, her long days, the times she’s sitting for hours on end at the computer editing. The love and support they give her does not go unnoticed.
Kiana doesn’t let her own negative self-talk sabotage her art, so she practices every time she gets the chance to. There are times she goes out and films random things to edit when she gets back home. Other times, she goes into old project files and messes around with them to see how different her cuts and style is now. It’s the perfect way for her to see her progression as an editor, to look back on her old content and edit again with more experience and different techniques. Those old pieces that she dibble dabbles in every once in a while is a constant reminder of where she started, and it truly humbles her.
It usually takes Kiana about 1-2 weeks to complete a short doc. But she admits that she gets very picky with her cuts, so she’ll watch something over and over again until she’s satisfied with it – and she’s completely okay with that. Her goal in film is to finally make her short narrative film come to life. She feels as though her whole film career has been focused on making documentaries, so she really wants to tap into the inventive and imaginative side of storytelling.
Kiana’s advice to other creatives is to keep creating what you want. It doesn’t matter if others think your idea is dumb – you are allowed to create what you want to create. She tries to remind herself that the best part of working in a creative industry is meeting new people and building connections and relationships with them. Somewhere out there will resonate with your work.
“It’s gonna sound hella cliché, but I would tell younger Kiana to never give up,” She said when asked what she would like to tell her younger self. “It’s gonna take some time, there’s gonna be people who doubt you – especially being a woman of color in this industry. You have to work 10x harder than some other people but it’ll be worth it.”
When you feel bored, where does your brain wander to?
Y’all already know this, but I’m a dreamer by nature. When I’m bored, my mind drifts in so many directions. Who needs entertainment when I got my own damn self? And truly nothing is off limits for me. I think of everything and anything, which is probably why I’m notorious for getting easily distracted.
Lately, when I close my eyes, I picture myself “having it all.” Shit, who doesn’t? And most of the time, my daydreams are forever changing…
I’m in my big ass cozy home, I’m holding my baby in one arm as I use my other hand to type up my latest project. I’m working from home, the vibe is stress free, and I’m financially comfortable. There isn’t a care in the world. My house is clean, my kids are taken care of, and my husband and I are financially well. We’re not tired, we’re not burnt out, and we genuinely love what we do. I’m working on my latest passion project, but I’m ahead of schedule. There’s no pressure to deliver because I’m working on my own time. Anything I put out is just adding to the already massive amount of well-known published work I have circulating around.
The doorbell rings and my parents enter. They take off their shoes at the door and make themselves comfortable. The kids greet their grandparents and try to show them the latest things they learned in school, show them a new wrestling move their dad taught them, or give them a drawing they made sometime during the week. There’s already food in the kitchen, and you can still see the steam, you know that shit’s still hot. It’s from our favorite take out restaurant, and we have everyone’s favorite dish.
It’s Sunday dinner, and we’re waiting for the rest of the family to show up. My nieces and nephews start to arrive, and they immediately link up with my kids and start playing. The once mellow home is starting to be filled with relatives, getting more and more chaotic as more people start arriving. But I fuckin’ love it. The kitchen is filled with delicious food, so I start to light the candle so the house doesn’t smell like straight food the whole night. Everyone’s together, everyone’s happy, and life is good. Everyone grabs a plate and starts to eat.
“Did you know we used to do this at Tatay’s house?” I tell my kids for the billionth time.
I’m on and off planes consistently. This time I’m in a distant land that resembles paradise. Hawaii? The Philippines? I’m not too sure, but I’m on some island. The weather is perfect. It’s sunny, but it’s not too hot. And when I say perfect, I mean a very particular kind of weather – I get hot hella quick. The skies are blue, I’m by the beach, and I ain’t got shit to do. I have nowhere to go and I have all the time in the world. My biggest concern is where I’m going to eat that night. There’s no masks, no pandemic, no restrictions. In fact, COVID ain’t even a thing anymore. So much time has passed since the pandemic that it’s a distant memory.
I’m not worried about work, or finances, or stressing. I’m present and in the moment. I feel damn good in the clothes I’m wearing, and I’m radiating confidence… still humble though. I turn on my laptop and start typing away. What am I writing? I don’t fuckin know, all I know is in my fantasies, I’m always working on something. I’m writing for pure fun and enjoyment, not because the bills depend on it. However, it is my money maker, but it’s so effortless that the writing experience is peaceful as hell. I often look back to my beginning stages of my writing career and how I kept up with my blog. My mind drifts off for a bit, remembering how confused and lost I was… I’m thankful I stuck with it because it got me to where I am. “I did that shit,” I think to myself.
The sunset is the perfect ending to a perfect relaxing day. We finally decide to ditch the beach and go back to the place to get ready for dinner. We get all dressed up and head out. It’s a restaurant that wants me to write about my experience dining in. In fact, that’s why I’m on this paradise island. We got the trip complimentary in every aspect. My loved ones are along for the ride. I’m finally getting to travel the world because of my writing.
I’m getting interviewed about my latest passion project. And like every other interview I have done up until that point, I make it a point to share that I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I call Daly City by name and make it known that that’s where I was raised the first 25 years of my life. I rep San Francisco and the Bay Area as a whole, but I don’t hesitate to shout out Daly City.
The interviewer doesn’t ask, “Where’s that?” like past reporters have. No, they know where Daly City is. I’ve repeated it in many interviews, wrote about it tirelessly in my writing, and have been very vocal about where I’m from.
Bay Area born and raised. To me, this will forever be home. But they want to talk about the glam side of the Bay Area, San Francisco more specifically. The tech side of San Francisco, the hipsters, how boujee it is. But that’s not the San Francisco I grew up in, that’s not what was happening in Daly City.
I’m finally at a place in my life where I can give back. Give back to not only my family and those around me, but my community as well. The Bay Area, Daly City, San Francisco, the place I called home for so long. The way J.Cole reps Fayetteville, North Carolina is the same way I’ll rep my home town. But I just don’t rep it for the sake of Bay Area street cred. I acknowledge the good, bad, and the ugly of the city.
My parents weren’t in the tech industry, people like me could never buy a home in San Francisco in the year 2022, and families that were born and raised in the area were getting pushed further and further out. I know first hand what it’s like to be in the most expensive area in the country, and not have it like that. And because I know what it’s like, I’m giving back to the community that made me.
The schools are getting better funding, sports teams aren’t getting cut, and little Manila, Daly City, is making a name for itself. Daly City is no longer being overlooked or downplayed.
I’m enjoying the early morning hours at my kitchen table. It’s still pretty dark outside, the house is still quiet, and I’m reminiscing on the stories I just told my grandchildren the day before. I’m always talking, always involved, always passing down our family stories. That’s important to me – that those stories and the people in those stories are still talked about. Even though my grandchildren never met them, it’s important that they know where they came from. I need them to know where our family came from, what struggles they endured for us to have a better life, and learn all the family trauma so that it does not repeat itself.
I have finally hit my Uncle Iroh stage in life where I’m just wise, chillin’, and offering unsolicited advice. I look back on my life and accept all the choices I have made, I love reminiscing on all the memories I’ve made with those who have come and went, and there is not one ounce of regret in my soul. I love the life I chose. Even though at times it wasn’t clear to me and I’ve had my fair share of hardships, this life is mine and mine alone. I never think what if, and there’s no doubt in my mind this is where I’m supposed to be right now.
My house is surrounded by so many photos. So many happy memories captured in a single shot. My house is decorated with family, friends, postcards, vacations, art, collectibles, everything that brings me joy. It’s a house filled with love. Just by looking at the photos on the wall is a family history lesson all on its own. My old wise ass is known for sharing all the stories, making sure people from our past don’t get forgotten.
When I first got this writing prompt, I originally wanted to write about 1 daydream only. But my daydreams are forever changing, which is why I decided to share the most common daydreams I have. Even though the daydream changes, 1 theme remains true in all the scenarios – I’m happy, successful, giving back, and have my loved ones along for the ride. And I guess that captures the essence of what success means to me.
I’ve seen a shift in what I daydream about recently. In the past, a lot of my free time went to thinking up imaginary scenarios that stressed me out. What am I going to do with my life? What if I don’t get X done in X amount of time? What if I fail? What if I make the wrong move in life? Am I going to be successful? It seemed like even my daydreams stressed me out. But recently, I’ve been daydreaming positively. I’ve been more comfortable in knowing that things will come with time, and of course hard work. When I allow my mind to freely wander stress-free, I find myself subconsciously telling me what’s important to me and what I truly want out of life.
Wow. I literally can’t believe that I am writing this. This is blog post #101! And to be completely honest, I’m writing this blog post as I take a break writing blog post #100. I’m having hardcore writer’s block, especially with so much pressure of being the 100th post and all… I feel like Spongebob when all he has is the word “the” on the page. I need to just step back and work on something else for a minute before I drive myself mad. Like I said, I can’t believe I’m writing this -blog post number 101 – partly because I can’t believe I have made it past 100 posts, but also because #101 was never meant to exist.
First and foremost, THANK YOU to all of my readers who have been following my writing up until this point. From everyone that’s been tuning in every Monday since day one, and all the readers I have picked up along the way, THANK YOU. It means so much to me that people really take the time out of their day to read a story of mine. That might sound dramatic as hell, but it’s true, I’m super grateful for all of the support I have gotten since deciding to write consistently. Whether that be liking my posts, sharing my content, commenting, even sliding in my DM’s to tell me something privately – I appreciate it all. I am truly humbled; to have started at a consistent “0 views” stat, to be where I am today.
101 blog posts also marks the 2nd anniversary-ish (a little over) of me re-starting this blog. In 2019, I found myself in the thick of my post-grad blues. For the longest, my goal was to revive my LoveYourzStory blog ever since I made it in 2016. I dreamt of the day that I would have the time and energy to maintain a blog and post consistently. However, I always found an excuse to delay it – it was either school, not enough time, or simply because I was lazy as shit and didn’t want to put in the time. All reasonings were valid. I had strong motivation to re-start my blog in January 2019 as a New Year’s resolution, but when the time came, I didn’t have the confidence to do it. I pussied out real quick. But it was always in the back of my mind.
From January 2019 to when I dropped my first post in July 2019, I worked myself up about getting the ball rolling. I was too hesitant, and honestly, a little embarrassed. I knew for the first couple of posts, months, maybe even years? – nobody would really care about what I was doing. I cringed at the idea of pouring my heart out and sharing my personal stories on the internet just to get no views and no feedback. But I knew I had to start somewhere. What really made me take the leap of faith was honestly being so deep in my post-grad depression and feeling so completely lost. I felt like a straight loser honestly. Here I was, proclaiming myself as a writer, shit, I even got the degree to prove it. But on paper I had no experience outside of my college courses.
L O S E R.
P A T H E T I C.
W O R T H L E S S.
D E P R E S S E D.
C O N F U S E D.
D E S P E R A T E.
That’s how I constantly felt from January 2019 until I dropped that first blog post in July 2019. I figured I had nothing to lose, I was already at my lowest. I couldn’t have been more right. I was tired of saying and wishing that I could do all these things, but lacking motivation and confidence to actually fuckin do it. I started giving myself tough love. How did I expect to get anywhere with writing if I literally did nothing? How did I expect to reach my dream of being a published writer if I was too afraid to put myself out there? I was tired of making excuses for myself. I was tired of feeling unaccomplished. I was tired of waiting for something to happen.
I decided “fuck it,” and just rolled with it. I knew I had to start somewhere. And I knew it would take a long while until people would take notice of my work and actually tune in. But the longer I waited, the longer it would take for me to see results. This is something I really had to do for me, I had to face my reality – how bad did I want this? I no longer had school as an excuse for not having time. Yes, I had a full-time job, but for me, I knew my writing career wouldn’t stop at SFSU. I had to just start.
My predictions were right – in the beginning I was met with little views and almost no feedback. But I continued to push out blog post after blog post every Monday anyways. I knew it would be a slow start, but mama didn’t raise no bitch. I didn’t know where I wanted to take this blog, but I knew that I couldn’t get discouraged too early on. But I definitively had my moments. There were times where I felt like I was putting in a lot of effort, time, and energy that I’m not getting paid for, for nothing. Not entirely for “nothing,” but that I was writing and nobody was even reading. I used to doubt if what I was writing was even worth reading. I still have those moments sometimes, where I feel like what I’m doing is pointless because nobody will read or even care. I start to doubt myself and what I’m doing when I let my insecurities get the best of me. But I never thought about stopping the blog cold turkey.
I’ve had so many hiccups and road blocks throughout this process, and most of these inconveniences are because of my damn self. I’ve had my moments where I posted blog posts past midnight, not even technically “Monday” anymore. I fell into the bad habit of starting blog posts the night before – sometimes even the day of. I put myself under so much pressure and stress to get the blog post out, promising myself that the next week’s blog post would be done in advanced to prevent a situation like that. But, being the annoying ass that I am, I procrastinate and put myself in the same exact position I was in a week prior. It’s a bad habit that I’ve been trying to nip in the bud for the last TWO YEARS!
It wasn’t until recently – literally the last 6 months – that I started to really try to throw myself a bone and have the post done at least by the end of Sunday so I don’t stress out about it the day of anymore. It wasn’t until the LoveYourzStory X My Small Business series that I started to think ahead. Of course, I dreamed of the day where I would have completed post after completed post just cued up ready to be released every Monday. I always wanted to have my posts mapped out months in advanced as I learned in my social media class, but that’s just not that easy when I’m trying to balance everything under the sun. Ever since the small business project, I’ve gotten a lot better about finishing posts before Monday comes around.
Not only did the LoveYourzStory X Small Business series push me in the right direction to be finished with my posts in a timely manner and map out what posts would come next in terms of groups of 10, it also built my confidence to reach out to others and connect with my followers and viewers. I always wanted to interact with my followers and do those type of posts where you ask your followers to tag people who would be interested, but I always feared that nobody would participate. On a whim, I decided just to roll with it. If nobody participated, then so be it. But if people were interested, it could be a dope series to release. To my surprise, I got a lot of feedback, tags, and leads. I couldn’t believe it. It gave me confidence to think of other series that I could do that would feature different people and different topics. I love how I can tell my story, but also be that platform for other people to share their stories as well.
But to be completely honest, around the end of 2020, I really had plans to shutdown this blog after blog post #100. For the record, it wasn’t because I was over it, or because I didn’t want to continue, but because I have more passion projects that I want to do in terms of writing. Taking on another passion project task to my already heavy work load just made me feel like I would definitely be spreading myself thin. I was hard set on stopping this blog cold turkey at 100 posts. I thought it would be a great dramatic ending to say goodbye after 100 consistent posts. I have other writing projects that I intended to start in 2021, but given my procrastinating history, of course that has been delayed. I put so much time, energy, and thought into all my blog posts, that sometimes I feel like it takes away from my other goals that I have in writing. That was my reasoning. It was time to say goodbye, not because I wanted to, but because I just didn’t have the time to juggle everything.
When I consulted those around me, some agreed that 100 would be a great last hoorah, while others suggested I dial back on how consistent I post, just so I still post consistently but on a less regular basis. At the time, I still decided to stop at 100. Nobody could say anything to change my mind. It was what I was going to do. Yeah, it would be a bittersweet moment since I would go on to pursue another goal, but it’s what needed to be done to free up my time to focus on what I need to focus on next. My decision was made around the time I was releasing the Small Business Series (Blog posts in the 70’s).
However, when the Small Business Series ended, and it was nearing closer and closer to 100, I started getting cold feet. The countdown was starting. It made me a little sad. But again, I truly believed it was something I had to do to continue one with my plans. I started to think of what my #100 post could be and focus on that. I thought long and hard about what would serve as the last banger. Since the reviving of this blog, I have been so open and vocal about my body positive journey and views. The small business series was so successful that I really wanted to test my luck and see if I could push out another series before I shut it down. Again, the feelings of doubt, insecurity, and fear of putting myself out there and looking dumb crept up again. It’s like the cliché angel and devil on my shoulders. One telling me to go for it and take that chance, the other telling me that nobody would want to participate, it’s not a great idea, and I’m going to make myself look stupid on the internet – since I have tried to do polls and interactions in the past that kind of flopped.
As you can tell with my previous posts, I decided to go for it, collabing with my high school friends, Missdirected.art, who are great photographers with amazing creative visions. And I am so glad that we decided to take that leap of faith with each other. My heart was bursting with so much joy when I found 9 other individuals who wanted to share their story and be a part of this project. It’s always that initial stress of “will this pull through, or will this fail,” that gets me. When I finally saw it start to take a turn in the right direction, my heart fluttered with love and excitement. I wanted to do something like the Body Positive Series for some time, but never thought that it could be reality. You never really see that you’re checking off the boxes of all the goals you previously set for yourself until you take a step back and realize – oh shit, I’m here, I’m where I wanted to be X amount of time ago.
My partner never thought it was a good idea to stop the blog after 100 posts in the first place. Even when I suggested maybe dialing back, posting bi-weekly. Maybe the occasional post every month, or when something that inspired me really came up. His stance was always the same: why slow down the blog when I’m finally at a place where I’m getting some traffic. My argument was the same: because I have a full time job, I have other projects I need to do, and I just can’t do that while maintaining quality content every week. But when I started to see the Body Positivity Series coming together – in the process of interviewing people and seeing who would be a part of it, I started to have a change of heart.
For all my “How I Met Your Mother” fans, I literally felt like that one episode where Ted wanted to break up with the girl he dumped (on her birthday) a few years prior. Ted had all the reasonings to break up with her again, but when it came down to it, he could only think of all the good things about her and good memories. That’s how I felt about my decision. I had my mind made, but as blog post #100 came closer and closer, I felt myself retracting my decision. I started thinking of all the good that could come from continuing the way I have been.
I asked myself: “Do you feel like you did everything you wanted to do with your blog?” And the answer was no. The series that I’ve done and collabed with others really made me realize my potential and all the other possibilities I could do with my platform. I wasn’t ready to shut LoveYourzStory down. There are still a lot more stories to tell and share. I don’t know where this blog will take me, or what it will be like even 1 year down the road, but I do know that for the time being, this is one of my projects that I need to continue to water and nurture so it will continue to grow. I originally wanted to shut down the blog after 100 posts to start and focus on other passion projects and goals. Now, I have to find a way to balance both. I feel like in a way, I’m testing myself yet again: Marinelle, how bad do you want this?
With that question lingering in my mind, I bought my website. So, with that being said, cheers to 100+ posts, and thanks for reading blog post #101 – the post that was never meant to be.
I walk through Moscone Center’s doors and I am happily greeted by the staff every step of the way. It’s not crowded and doesn’t look all over the place. In fact, everything is so organized and in order. For some reason I expected chaos, long lines, and spending a good chunk of time there. But from the long row of check-in booths, to the stickers on the floor that tell you what direction to go in, to the sitting area where you wait with 2 big clocks on each side, everything was planned out accordingly and in a very efficient way. Each of my visits for the 1st and 2nd dose, I was in and out in less than 20 minutes.
When I entered Moscone Center, for just a second, I forgot I was on my way to get a dose of the vaccine. I expected the vibe to be serious, but I was surprised to find a light-hearted, welcoming, and joyous atmosphere inside. Workers were dancing happily to the music while escorting you to the next step. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with how this vaccine site was operating. Even more so surprised with myself, since I never expected myself to be so eager to take a vaccine.
I’m the type of person that only visits the doctor’s when I absolutely have to. That’s just how I was raised to look at the hospital – you don’t go unless it’s a must, if it’s not that serious, you treat that shit at home and drink water. I would go for the necessary documentation, like if I needed a TB shot for work. I have all the vaccines that I needed to go to school, but if it’s not required, I wouldn’t take it. So when COVID happened last year and talks of a vaccine started circulating, I was dead set on not taking it once it was available.
Like many others, I just didn’t trust putting foreign things in my body. Trust is a big reason why people refuse to take the vaccine. There’s a distrust in the medical field, in doctor’s advice, and how this pandemic is being handled in general. There’s just so much opinions and beliefs that all point to people not trusting the vaccine. And I totally get it. But being in the pandemic for over a year and seeing what effects it had on people, businesses, and people’s every day lives, it really made me reconsider.
I can only speak from my own experiences, and I know at the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinions and are in control of their own bodies. But the last year alone has really changed my perspective on the medical field and people in general. This pandemic brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of people. For me personally, COVID really showed me who took the guidelines seriously, and who was just out for themselves, acting selfishly for their own pleasure and not for the safety of others and those around them. I found myself so conflicted with trying to keep myself safe, my family safe, but still trying to keep peace of mind. It was so hard not seeing my friends for a long time, and nothing to do but stay home, watch the news, and be fearful of what’s spreading.
From mid-March until June 2020, I woke up everyday and had the same routine. I would anxiously watch the news, seeing cases rising in California, and seeing the effects of what COVID had on my community. I watched Gavin Newsom make his speech everyday, his raspy voice calm and collected, while California watched in uncertainty. I got used to life indoors – not going out to eat to meet up with friends, wearing masks, not seeing people I regularly saw before, and so forth. When we first shutdown in March 2020, I never would’ve thought that over a year later, we would be in a similar spot. I had no idea that life would still be like this in 2021. When news of the vaccine distribution started going around, I was totally against it. I wasn’t in the first tier, so it didn’t really matter if I wanted it or not, it would still be a long way until I could even make that decision.
Initially, I was against the vaccine, but didn’t really have solid reasons why. For some reason, I believed that more people would be against the vaccine than being for it. To my surprise, it seemed the opposite. I had some time to think about whether or not I wanted the vaccine since I’m a childcare worker. I definitely wanted to wait a while first to see how people reacted to the vaccine before I decided if I wanted it or not. To my surprise, my older relatives got the vaccine. Most importantly, my 97 year old Tatay got it. That really made me change my mind. I wanted things to go back to normal so bad, and finally, the vaccine was that hope for me.
At first, I wanted nothing to do with the vaccine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t get vaccinated. Since the beginning, I took the pandemic seriously. I follow the rules, I wear a mask, I keep my distance, I trust the doctors’ opinions, but also know that this pandemic is something new to everyone – they’re not always going to be right, so I keep cautious anyways. I despised people that refused to wear masks, not follow the rules, and make a commotion because they feel that staying inside is taking away their rights. I was tired of everyone being only about themselves and being selfish – helping to spread the virus around because of their own selfishness and carelessness. Though in the beginning I was anti-COVID vaccination, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted life to go back to normal, if I want to keep myself and those around me safe, and if I wanted to help end this madness, this is what I needed to do. Not believing in the validity of the vaccine would be contradictory to what I’ve been practicing this whole pandemic – which is being safe, believing in the severity of this virus, and playing my part in reducing the spread.
I didn’t know how bad I wanted the vaccine until I couldn’t get an immediate appointment. When it was finally my tier’s turn to get the vaccine, I was in no rush. I saw that there were a lot of appointments through Moscone Center, but didn’t sign up right away. At that point I knew I wanted the vaccine, but didn’t make it a priority because I was still a little nervous about it. That all changed when I realized Tatay already had his appointments to get vaccinated. I read that people who are fully vaccinated and are not part of the same household could be indoors maskless. Suddenly, I wanted to be fully vaccinated right then and there. I desperately refreshed my phone with no luck, everything was booked. This pandemic has taken a toll on Tatay’s memory. In the 2-5 minute visits that we make to his house every Sunday, he questions why we have masks on. At 97 years old, he is not aware of the pandemic, and it breaks my heart to slowly see him not remember who we are, where he is, or what time frame he’s living in anymore. I’m anticipating the day I can remove my mask at Tatay’s house, hoping that my face triggers his memory, to be able to give him a hug hello and goodbye without feeling anxious about it. And that day draws near as I just got my second dose.
Never in a hundred years did I think that I would be desperate to be vaccinated. I was hesitant because this is all so new. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if people back in the day had the same mentality for Chickenpox, Tuberculosis, and all these other diseases that are basically no threat now and not common, we would still be battling those same diseases at an alarming rate right now. Nobody thinks twice on why children need certain vaccines to get into school because they have been a requirement for some time. I believe that’s where the COVID vaccine is headed – it’ll be a required vaccine to get to attend schools, etc. And it only seems like a big deal right now because we are the first wave of people getting it. But with time, herd immunity will kick in, and we will slowly go back to where we were before the pandemic.
The past year has had so much change. People have been isolating themselves, nervous to go out, and worried for their health. For me, getting the vaccine is a glimpse of hope. Not only am I protecting myself, but protecting my family, people I come in contact with, and even the people that don’t want to get the vaccine. I know to each their own – I was anti-COVID vax, but changed my mind. And I know there will be a lot of people who won’t change their mind. But speaking for only me – I chose to believe in science, even if I’m a little uneasy. This year alone has proved that staying home and living the lockdown life works, but isn’t going to rid the world of COVID. I’m optimistic about the future, as I see cases dropping and things scheduling to move up into the next tier.
The sticker board where you can place the sticker they give you with your time stamp on when you can leave 15 minutes after your shot, was near the exit of Moscone Center. I don’t believe it was there when I got my first dose, but noticed it on my way out after my 2nd dose. Seeing this wall reassures me that things are looking up.
This prompt had me stuck for the longest. But to answer it plain and simple, the one thing I’d never do is give up on my dreams to be a published writer. It seems like a very reasonable thing to uphold, but as I navigate through my young adult life, I have come to realize that this is not the case. Not everything has a clear cut answer or obvious road to follow. However, what has always been important to me is being true to myself – even if my life choices don’t make any sense to anyone else.
When I came across this prompt, I discussed it with my partner back and forth for about 30 minutes. To him, this question was easy to answer. He started listing all the things he would never do, but it was more so things he’d never do in the literal sense. For example, I could easily say I would never do hard drugs, be a basketball player, spend $50,000 on a collectible item, I’d never kill anyone, and the list goes on. Those are definitely things I know I could never do, but I wanted to dig deeper. My partner laughed and was like, “oh what, you’re gonna say something like: I’ll never give up” ? We laughed briefly about how cliché that phrase is, but I paused in reflection. I sat on the prompt for over an hour, while he played his game on the phone with his friends in the kitchen. When he plays, I usually try to write some paragraphs on my upcoming blog post. However, he came back in almost 2 hours later, and I had my laptop open with basically nothing typed out except the prompt you see quoted at the top.
“You’re going to make fun of me but… I think I am gonna write about not giving up,” I said exhausted with the writer’s block I faced that night.
That phrase, “I’ll never give up,” is so broad. That’s part of the reason why we mocked the answer originally because it’s so cliché and opened ended. That phrase is so overplayed, and usually whoever is saying it is bullshitting, not being honest, and just saying it for fake motivation, to have people view them in a certain light, or I don’t know what. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that statement is entirely true when it comes to my writing career. Don’t get it twisted – I give up on a lot of things – people, projects, some ways of thinking, etc. That’s why I was so hesitant to write about “not giving up.”
But when I narrowed it down to not giving up on my writing career, I knew that this is something I’m already living by in my every day life. Growing up, my parents never tried to push me into any field of their choice. They gave me the ultimate freedom to pick what I wanted to go to school for and find my passion on my own. I was taught that at the end of the day, I have to live with my choices, so I should pick the career I want. So since I never had that pressure from my parents, thinking of all the “what if’s” I could be when I grew up was forever changing. I definitely have the dreamer mentality.
Sometimes though, I will admit, I feel like my dreamer mentality can be a little naïve and too hopeful. But I feel like those feelings are present because I don’t know the end result yet – will I achieve what I want to do as a writer, or am I all talk? The post-grad blues hit me really hard in 2019 because I had no idea what route I wanted to take after graduation. I knew I wanted to write, but all the places I applied to just didn’t spark passion in me. I felt like I was settling. And getting rejection email after rejection email for jobs I wasn’t even crazy about was even more depressing. I felt so lost and confused, but 2020 really showed me what path I should take. I wasn’t ready to retire my passion projects and write under a company. And even though it didn’t make sense to others, my decision made sense to me. In the midst of a pandemic, I set my mind to a writing plan. And I refuse to give up on it. At this point in my life where I don’t have a family of my own, and I have the time to put myself and my dreams first, I’m going to do it.
One thing I will say – I’m for sure a procrastinator, but this is a writing promise I made to myself that I intend on keeping. The thing that I’ve noticed about myself and my habits is that I suffer from really motivated highs, to lazy uninspired lows. Because of this, I can lag on passion projects and the things I have in mind. Given that information, I don’t want to put pressure on myself to produce because it will take the fun, enjoyment, and therapeutic aspect away from writing. Instead, I have been more forgiving with myself, knowing that I have set goals, but keeping in mind that I will have better weeks than others. Keeping consistent motivation without getting burnt out is still something that I struggle with. But I’ve come to terms that my writing dream to be a published author is something that I am only doing entirely for myself. I’ve always said that in my lifetime, I will write a book and be published, and I know that is something I have to do for myself. That is my biggest life goal right now. Not even saying that I have to be a successful or well-known author, which would be nice, but my goal is to just produce from the heart. I don’t care if I sell 5 copies, I just want to prove to my damn self that I put my mind to something and did it, that I wasn’t all talk, and I wasn’t too scared to do follow through.
This kind of reminds me of my college days. I was motivated to graduate and get my degree, but I also took my time. I was still a full-time student, but I refused to take 5-6 classes at a 4 year college just to finish faster. I had my eyes on the prize, and knew I would get there, but did it on my time. Not lagging, but not drowning myself in responsibilities. And I see myself taking that same approach with my writing career. I know the end goal, I want it, I’ll get it, but on my time. I set goals for myself – like posting blog posts every Monday, but I know that if I want to get ahead, I need to start writing more. I’m giving myself time limits, but at the same time know that if I don’t get it done when I want to, it’s okay, because I know I will still make it happen.
The dreamer mentality is a huge reason why I idolize J.Cole so much. Hearing his story through his music, though our journeys and dreams are different, the passion and want is the same. I relate with his journey, especially feeling like you’re in the sidelines trying to get known and make a name for yourself, feeling like you have shit to say that’s worth listening to. I hope I never lose sight of my inner dreamer, and I continue to go for my writing goal for myself. “I’ll never give up,” is so cliché, but I know I’ll never give up on my dream to be a published author.
Before there was a “Bay Area Collection,” a “Vibes Collection,” an “Established Collection,” and so forth, Reaux&Co was merely a dream tucked safely in Pricilla’s heart. Since a young age, Pricilla knew she wanted to be her own boss, and she had everything planned out on how she would achieve her goal of owning and designing her own clothing line one day. So how did Reaux&Co go from just being thoughts and ideas jotted down on Pricilla’s phone to becoming a full blown business with over 1,300 sales and being sold in 2 physical store locations in just a little over a year? It started with an acceptance letter to FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Pricilla was so thrilled that she got accepted into her dream college. Going to FIDM was always the plan she had set for herself. She loved designing clothes – cutting and sowing fabrics on the dress form and letting her mind run wild with what she could create. Her mom had other plans though. Due to the cost of tuition, her mom encouraged her to go the junior college route instead. Pricilla was devastated, she was certain that FIDM was her next step after high school. Still, she took her mom’s advice and went to San Francisco City College. She didn’t resent her mother for encouraging her to go to a junior college, but she was still headstrong about FIDM. She couldn’t let it go, and in turn, it made her lose her drive to go to school.
“I wouldn’t say resentful, but definitely stubborn,” Pricilla said remembering how she felt when she appeased her mom by going to a junior college. “I just had my mind set on it for so long. So when it didn’t happen, I was just so disconnected from even wanting to go to any other school. Even though SFCC had a fashion course and major, which I did take a couple of those classes, I was stubborn and wanted it how I always envisioned it.”
While in community college, she found herself very unmotivated. She had no idea what she wanted to do, or what she was even interested in outside of the fashion route. Pricilla started to feel like she was just going to school because it was something she was supposed to do because that’s what’s expected of everyone right after high school, but it wasn’t something she really wanted at the time. She decided to stop going to college and start working instead. Of course her mother wanted her to stay in school, but her mom also understood that she was an adult who could make her own decisions. Therefore, Pricilla believes her mom didn’t feel personally responsible for her dropping out. FIDM or not, going to school was her choice.
Pricilla felt really stuck in life. She didn’t know what direction to go, what career move was next, or where to even start. And then, she had her “saving grace,” her son, Ronin. She discovered soon after he was born that he was the push she needed all along to pursue her life-long dream of being a business owner. Pricilla knew it was finally time to put all of her marbles in her small business idea because she couldn’t afford childcare and had to find something she could do while still working from home and tending to her son. It only seemed right to name her clothing brand after the person that motivated her the most, Ronin. She took his nickname, “Ro,” and decided to put a spin on the spelling. She liked how aesthetically pleasing “Reaux” looked and rolled with it.
“He just made me look at life from a whole different perspective,” she said, revealing why having her son was so eye opening. “When you become a mom you really feel this weight of wanting to be so much better for this other life you’re now responsible for. I was so stuck before I had him, in terms of what I wanted out of life and the direction I should go in. After I had him, I knew I just had to go for it, for what I always wanted.”
Pricilla was very hesitant to launch Reaux&Co because she didn’t know how people would react to her line. She admits that her self-doubt was just her overthinking it, being scared to fail, and just overall being too hard on herself. After all, she has had these collection ideas in her phone for over a year before Reaux&Co actually launched. She already had the ideas, she just had to finalize her business. But Pricilla knew she had to start, and start it soon, because it wasn’t about just her anymore, it was about Ronin. She even went back to school the same time she dropped the brand as her back up plan and safety net.
Representing the Bay Area was so important to Pricilla, that she decided to have her first collection drop be the “Bay Area Collection.” She is so proud to be from the Bay Area, and wanted to capture that in her clothing line. To her, there is no place like the Bay, and only those that are from here know that. She loves that there is nothing like the Bay Area culture, and really wanted to project that vibe in her first collection and brand as a whole. Luckily, Pricilla never had to go to her backup plan because Reaux&Co‘s launch was a hit! She advertised the “Bay Area Collection” through Instagram and gave teasers on what products she would be selling. Instagram was a great tool to help get word around that she was going to launch Reaux&Co.
From there, Reaux&Co took off. The brand is known for their matching and personalized clothing items for parents to match with their minis, specifically moms. Pricilla knew that she wanted to focus on clothing for moms and their minis because it’s what she liked as well. She is forever matching with Ronin, taking full advantage of it now since she knows he won’t want to match with her forever. That’s how she gets most of her ideas – she thinks about what she would dress Ronin in, and tries to put her own spin on things. Her “Vibes Collection” is especially popular for their mom tees and crewnecks, and she plans on dropping more “Mommy & Me” lines soon. She knows that matching clothes is a customers favorite on Reaux&Co for sure.
Pricilla was so happy that Reaux&Co was doing well. In the beginning, she was so worried about how people would react to her small business, and to her surprise, she suddenly had supporters and customers that loved everything she dropped. So much so, that she had a copy cat. Her “Mom Vibes,” clothing is very popular, it is one of her best selling items. So Pricilla was shocked to see another small business using the exact same font, wording, and shirts as hers. She couldn’t believe that her original idea was being copied, but took the higher road. She knows ultimately, there is nothing she can do about other businesses imitating her products. She takes it as flattery, but knows that she would never try to purposely copy another small business’ work. Reaux&Co does use other brands in their clothing, and Pricilla knows that that’s when things can get a little tricky.
“I know it’s a thin line some brands walk when we use certain logos of high brands like YSL, LV, Nike etc.,” she said. “You just really have to make it your own, and put your spin on it.”
And customers have definitely loved Pricilla’s spin on those high end brands. What surprised her going into the business is the tremendous amount of support she gets from acquaintances and complete strangers. She has met and built relationships with a lot of her customers who have supported her business venture. She also didn’t expect to connect with so many moms through Instagram. Some have reached out to Pricilla, telling her that she inspired them to go for what they want, that she was that “push” they needed to just get started. And Pricilla appreciates those moments because she looks back to the tine where she was in that exact same position.
“It still blows me away to be honest,” she said when asked about people she doesn’t know personally support her in everything that she drops. “I have strangers I don’t know in real life, that will support each and every collection and for that I am so thankful for. The support is everything to me.”
The support she gets from her customers motivates her to come up with new ideas and not be so hesitant with creating. Pricilla explains the process of dropping a new line as hard, but still fun. Most of her ideas come about when she thinks about what hasn’t been done or what she hasn’t seen for kids clothing yet. She knows what will set Reaux&Co apart from other clothing lines is how much they can stand out. Reaux&Co‘s goal is to go against the grain and be the leader at creating trends, not follow them. And when she gets that idea, the next step is to create a mock up on the computer, and make a physical sample. If she likes the physical product, she will take high quality pictures of every item in that line, on models and by itself. Pricilla stresses the importance of marketing, and building anticipation for your drop. This means posting teasers and countdowns 2-3 weeks before you intend to drop the line so your customers can get excited. The last step is to drop the items and make them live, crossing your fingers and hoping it’ll do well.
Thankfully enough, Reaux&Co‘s experience with dropping new lines has always been fairly successful. That means Pricilla is making trips to the Post Office about 5-6 days a week. She’s made friends with all the employees at the Post Office at this point, since she is such a frequent customer. Shipping has definitely been an issue since COVID. When the pandemic hit, Pricilla noticed that that’s when Reaux&Co really started to take off, about 3 months into launching the business. She admits that she still doesn’t completely know why that was – more time for people to be on their phones, being at home with extra time, making a conscious effort to support small businesses during a pandemic – whatever it was, she’s grateful for it because Reaux&Co started to flourish. That meant more shipments with many delays. With COVID, the postal services are delayed and that means a headache for trying to get things delivered and shipped on time.
During these times, Pricilla can get overwhelmed and discouraged, but has never thought about calling it quits. She understands that there are some things that are just completely out of her control, and the best thing she can do is to just stay organized. Things can get hard, like shipping and getting the wrong number of products, but she knows that at the end of the day, it’s all part of the job. She pulls herself out of that stressful funk by allowing herself to take time to rest. Pricilla will do activities with her son, like taking him to the park, order food, and spend quality time with him to get herself out of that hectic headspace. It’s all a balance.
And Pricilla admits that sometimes there isn’t much of a balance when you’re trying to be a full-time mom and full-time business owner at the same time. There are times where she has to work while Ronin is watching Cocomelon, eating his lunch, or going down for a nap. Most days she will set aside time for Reaux&Co so she can give her son her undivided attention. She is a one woman show holding down her business, but she appreciates that there are so many people that help her outside of the business to make sure she has time to work. And staying organized, making sure everything has a place, and ordering from her vendor in time is all a part of keeping the balance and making her life easier. Especially since she does all the creating at home.
All the hard work and the struggle to balance being a mom and her own boss is starting to pay off. Pricilla is starting to see the fruits of her labor, putting in her all into Reaux&Co for over a year. She has seen over 1,300 sales, and is selling her brand in 2 physical store locations. Haven Kiyoko Kids reached out to her to have her clothing be carried at their location. She is especially grateful for Kirsten for seeing the potential in her then small brand. The second store location came to her as a referral from a family member who knew the owner of a shop in Oakland, and now Reaux&Co can be found in “E14 Gallery.”
Reaux&Co‘s goal for 2021 is to continue to reach and connect with more people. They are pushing to try to have Reaux&Co be in another physical store location, and overall just want to keep making improvements to give their customers a great experience. Pricilla hopes to have her own store one day, for that is the ultimate dream goal. And she would want to carry other small brands in her future boutique, as others have done for her. She doesn’t put too much pressure on the idea, and knows that this is an end goal that will take time and hard work. In the meantime, she continues to pray on it.
Pricilla wants her customers to know that she was a mom who decided to go for her dream. When she didn’t attend FIDM, she found herself lost and having no sense of direction. She envisioned her school and career to go one way, and couldn’t reroute her plans when things didn’t go the way she had hoped. Ronin was that saving grace for her. When she had her son, she knew that she had to do it not only for herself, but for him. He was now her reason and motivation to go for her dreams. Without the Ro, there would be no Reaux&Co.
Her advice to other small businesses in her field is to stay creative and stay true to yourself – when people know and see that you’re authentic, they will notice and gravitate towards your business. Pricilla is excited and hopeful for what’s to come for Reaux&Co. She wants her customers to know that they can expect more unique lines for themselves an their minis. Pricilla is content knowing that so many mothers have found happiness, inspiration, and fashion through her small business. What started as just ideas on her phone, quickly turned into her empire in a little over a year. And she knows that she wouldn’t have made it this far without the people that continue to support her and Reaux&Co.
“Thank you for believing in us!” Pricilla said on behalf of Reaux&Co. “Thank you for always showing so much love and support with each collection. None of this would be possible without the support. Every like, share, repost, and purchase means the world to me, truly. We will continue to deliver as long as you will have us. Thank you so much for being here.”
Faye remembers it fondly – using a big fork to mash all the ripe bananas that were in a huge white plastic bowl her mom handed her. Smashing the bananas was Faye’s special job every time they made banana bread, and she was happy to do it. Her mother would eyeball the recipe, adding a splash of milk, mixing in flour and sugar, and somehow getting it perfect every time. Making banana bread with her mom are the earliest memories Faye has of baking. And now with her own children, Faye has passed down the banana smashing torch to them – remembering how excited she would get to help her mom in the kitchen.
Growing up, she had always watched both of her Lolas cooking, and her parents were pretty nifty in the kitchen as well. Faye has always felt like baking was always in the “background” of her life, and didn’t realize at the time how much baking meant to her. With time, Faye saw it clearly – baking was her passion that lit a fire in her soul. With the help of her husband, Ryan, and COVID, Kapwa Baking Co. was born. And now, Faye and Ryan are serving classic Filipino desserts, selling out almost every time, while balancing their full-time jobs and raising their 3 children.
It has been a journey to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where it is today. The business was formerly known as Bake Me Happy SF, but with the help of COVID, it took on a new look, menu, and name in 2020. Faye shares her small business’ story, but Kapwa Baking Co. is so much more than a business to her. It has been her dream for years, and her and her husband are finally laying down the foundation of their business. Her goal is still the same – to one day have a café or bakery where she serves her regulars their usuals, a place where the community can gather and enjoy her delicious food. This is why she named her business “Kapwa,” the Tagalog meaning for “community / neighbor.” She was 9 years old when she left the Philippines for the US, and the desserts she offers are some of her favorites that remind her of home.
“My family moved here when I was 9, so I was still pretty young,” Faye said. “But I was old enough to have some concrete memories from the time time I spent there. I admit, a lot of my memories revolve around food haha!”
Ironically, the baking dessert connoisseur’s dream growing up was to be a dentist. Faye’s mom had a dental practice in the Philippines, and for as long as she could remember, she wanted to be just like her mom. Faye wanted to make that dream come true, so she went to college to pursue being a dentist. At the time, she didn’t even think twice about baking and owning a business. She continued with her studies, but found herself spending every break – before and after school – in the Culinary Department’s library. Every time Faye stepped foot in a bookstore, she would go straight to the cookbook section. She wanted to learn more about everything and anything related to desserts and baking. And when she wasn’t reading about food and baking, she was watching it on the Food Network.
Faye knew that she probably loved baking more than the average person, but didn’t give it much thought, other than being a hobby she really enjoyed. Baking was a stress reliever for her during her high school and college days. Faye would bake cookies pretty consistently, and just give them away to her classmates in college. When she started becoming aware of her new found passion in baking, she still continued with her original plan – she never switched her major to pursue the culinary arts. Faye has no formal culinary or baking training – everything she has learned has been through cookbooks, Food Network shows, other cooking channels she would religiously keep up with on YouTube, and of course, trial and error. She is 100% self-taught and humbly acknowledges that she is learning new techniques and information everyday.
“I never really looked at the underlying interest I had in sweets and desserts,” Faye said reminiscing on her college days. “I spent a good chunk of my college life working towards a career that I thought was my dream. In the end, I finally realized that baking and creating fed my soul and that it was what I was most passionate about.”
So, Faye fed that passion when she could. She felt as though baking and creating desserts was just the natural path for her to take. Her very first official “order” came from her dad. He ordered a Shako chocolate cake. If you look it up, a Shako is a cylinder shaped military hat that has embellishments and pompoms and feathers coming out of the top. Faye’s dad took her to get all of her materials to make the Shako cake, and she felt a little overwhelmed. At that point, she had only worked with American buttercream. In the end, she completed the chocolate Shako cake – decorated with fondant, a Styrofoam feather pompom decorated with royal icing, and edible gold dust for the embellishments. This tough first order of hers really opened her eyes to all the different mediums she could use in her dessert making. She started researching all the different ways she could use edible decorations and mediums.
From there, Faye started baking cakes for her friends and family’s birthdays or for special occasions. And usually she would give the cake as a gift. With time, she started experimenting with cake pops, personalized sugar cookies, macarons, and other small desserts. Faye jokes that the time she spent in the Culinary Department’s library finally came in handy! But it wasn’t until she had her son that her business started to slowly take form, about 8 years ago. This is when dessert tables started to gain popularity for being the highlight of parties.
When Faye’s son had his 1st birthday, she wasn’t working at the time. They couldn’t really afford to pay someone to make the anticipated dessert table, so Faye put her baking skills to the test and made all the desserts herself. Friends started to ask about all the desserts that were at the party, so Faye gladly started to take orders. A couple years later, Faye and Ryan welcomed their daughter into the world, and that’s really when the ball started rolling. They started their first small business, Bake Me Happy SF, where Faye catered desserts for birthdays, parties, showers, weddings, and any occasion that required treats.
Kapwa Baking Co. has been an idea that Faye and Ryan sat on for some time, but never pursued. It wasn’t until they took a trip to Portland 3 years ago that re-sparked their interest in having a small business that they could one day have a physical location for. When they were in Portland, they were inspired by all the mom and pop shops that they saw. Still, Bake Me Happy SF was doing well, and they were content with what they were doing for the time being. That all changed when COVID hit. When one business fell through the cracks, another business was born.
Faye admits that COVID and the Shelter in Place orders were the catalyst for starting up Kapwa Baking Co. It was the push that the needed since a lot of events that Bake Me Happy SF had were canceled due to the pandemic. Faye and Ryan had no choice but to pivot their business. That’s when the couple decided that Bake Me Happy SF would change into Kapwa Baking Co. Faye closed down Bake Me Happy SF ‘s websites and Instagram account since she was no longer going to offer the same desserts as she used to. Faye was very hesitant when they were going to launch Kapwa Baking Co. because she didn’t know how her followers would receive it. Her dessert menu was completely new – serving classic Filipino desserts, and some with a new twist, like her Pastillas Milk Jams. Since these were products that were different from what Bake Me Happy SF was originally known for, there were some doubts about how successful the new menu and business would be.
“The first week of our launch, I was fully prepared to only receive 1 or 2 orders from family members because our first product was something completely new,” Faye said.
To their surprise, Kapwa Baking Co. launched successfully! They have only been in business for about 6.5 months, but have already received so much success and support. They consistently sell out of their items, and can get booked pretty quickly. The max amount of orders that Kapwa Baking Co. can take each week varies based on Faye’s work schedule. She works as an administrative assistant at an elementary school, and even though there are no kids present because of the pandemic, COVID has made the job more demanding. There are weeks where they sell out pretty quickly, and that can be due to the limited orders they can accommodate, and then there are weeks where they can take a lot more orders because her work load isn’t as bad. It really all depends from week to week.
Kapwa Baking Co.‘s menu includes: Pastillas Milk Jams, Ube Monster Bread Pudding, Ube Cheesecake Fudge Brownies, Ube White Chocolate Cookies, Cookies and Cream Bread Pudding, and their most popular item – the good ‘ol classic Pastillas. Pastillas are a milky sweet candy that’s very popular in the Philippines. The recipe Faye uses is the same recipe her sister taught her over 10 years ago. When her customers drive by to pick up their orders, their pastillas are soft and fresh. Around the holidays, Faye was selling out of their milk jams because people were buying them to give as gifts. And usually one person will order on behalf of other people like their coworkers, family, and friends, and Kapwa Baking Co. will be greeted with a hefty order. This isn’t something Faye and Ryan complain about, though. They are just happy and grateful that their products sell out and that a lot of people enjoy them.
It’s definitely a blessing to have your products be so popular and selling out very often. Because of the business’ success, Faye and Ryan are still trying to find the middle ground of balancing Kapwa Baking Co. , their 9-5 jobs, and spending time with their 3 children. COVID has brought its own level of craziness to her full-time job, so Faye does all the work for Kapwa Baking Co. after hours. It is chaotic to say the least, but Faye thanks Ryan for having her back, because without him she wouldn’t be able to manage it all. Their daughter has commented on how busy her parents have been, and how they aren’t spending as much time together. Because of this comment, Faye has made a point to have “break” weeks where they don’t take any orders so they can have quality time with their children. Thankfully, her two eldest children are very helpful and self-sufficient, and love to help their youngest sibling, so when it is time to get down to business, all hands are on deck.
And that is exactly what is needed on baking days. That is the most chaotic time of the week – when it’s time to make and bake all the orders that came through. Faye does prep work throughout the week, like measuring out ingredients, prepping packaging, and tiny steps that can be done ahead of time. But all the baking and food preparation are done the night before the pick ups / deliveries. It may get crazy, but Faye does it to make sure that her customers have the freshest products from their company. Faye handles all the bookings, communications, and baking, while her husband, Ryan, handles the packaging aesthetic and deliveries. They have been meaning to find a time where they can have official “business meetings” between the two, but haven’t had the time to pencil that in permanently yet. For now, the flow and balance that they have now is working well.
There are days when Faye feels discouraged, exhausted, and like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it has never gotten to the point where she feels like throwing in the towel. Faye admits that there have been a handful of nights where there were some tears and a lot of frustration because things didn’t go as planned. She deals with it by letting herself feel the emotions, but letting it go after. Faye knows that for the time being, she has to hustle to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where they want it to be. There are days where her full-time job drains her and she is overwhelmed with her “to do” list, but she knows that this business has been her dream for a long time, so she has to push through those difficult days. This mentality is part of the reason why Kapwa Baking Co. is so successful.
Faye has also been successful when advertising her small business online. When they were planning to launch Kapwa Baking Co., Faye made an Instagram and Facebook account for the business. They have gained a lot of their followers through friends and family sharing their page and posts. Faye recognizes that this is why Kapwa Baking Co. has been so successful – because of the support of friends, family, and customers sharing their content online. Faye makes it a point to add a personal touch to what she posts on the business’ Instagram and Facebook page because she doesn’t want to just post their menus from week to week. She tries to switch it up and have that personal connection with those who interact with the business page.
The positive feedback that they have been getting from customers and those around them is what surprised the couple the most. The support that they get from other small businesses is very heartwarming and encouraging. That’s why Faye’s advice for other small business owners is to support one another. This builds connections and awareness of other small businesses, especially during a time where small businesses are most at risk. She believes that supporting other small businesses will shed light on what’s important – raising up the community, her “Kapwa.”
“We are also looking forward to working with many many other small businesses and doing our part in raising our kapwa business owners up,” Faye explained as she went into collabing with other businesses.
When Bake Me Happy SF turned into Kapwa Baking Co., they revamped their whole menu. Faye was inspired by her favorite desserts and foods that she ate when she was a kid living in the Philippines. Their very first product, Pastillas Milk Jams, were inspired by her favorite candy – pastillas. Instead of having the pastillas in candy / solid form, the Milk Jam can be served on top of bread, ice cream, or even by itself! Faye and Ryan do a lot of experimenting with flavors and testing their recipes. Taste testing is Ryan’s primary job, and though they let their kids in on the tasting fun, they are aware that anything sweet is good to them! So, they will sometimes ask friends and family to taste their new treats. For now, their dessert menu is centered around them taking their own spin on traditional Filipino desserts and food.
Faye laughs and says she wants her customers to know that she is “extremely shy and awkward.” She wonders if people at curbside pickup notice how “awkward” she can be, but wants people to know that despite her shy demeanor, she loves to meet new people! A lot of their customers are friends, or friends of friends, or somehow know a mutual connection, and Faye enjoys building friendships with those who buy from Kapwa Baking Co. There are times where she is very hard on herself, and is working on celebrating her own victories, since she loves to celebrate others’ victories.
Their goal for 2021 is to partner with more local businesses and possibly expand to Farmer’s Markets. Faye wants to dedicate more time to Kapwa Baking Co. so she can consistently take more orders. They are really hoping that opening a physical location will be in their cards somewhere down the line. It has been Faye and Ryan’s dream to one day open up a brick and mortar for their small business, and that’s where the conversation always leads to when they talk about their dreams and goals. Faye loves that she has her husband’s support through it all. She describes him as her #1 supporter, business partner, and all around helper. This is their dream, their goals are aligned, and they are keeping their eyes on the end goal.
“That’s always what it came down to – to own a place where people can come together, share their talents, and enjoy our treats,” Faye said. “A place where people came in as strangers and left as family, where we would know our customers by name and serve them their ‘usuals.’ We wanted a place where we could feature other small businesses and their hustles, hold open mics and art shows for local musicians and artists. Hence the name we chose… Kapwa.”
Pre-Covid, 21-year-old Caro had a very busy schedule. She is currently a 4th year student at Cal State East Bay pursuing a teaching career as an elementary school teacher. Caro juggles being a student, an elementary school librarian, a high school cheerleading coach, and now, being a small business owner. Her small business story, like many others, started in quarantine. This is the story of Blooming Bouquets By Caro.
What started as a quarantine hobby, quickly turned into a new found love and side business. Caro first started making “poster bouquets” as gifts for her family and friends. She played around with the poster bouquet idea in the beginning of quarantine and rolled with it. Caro’s parents were impressed with her floral creativity and encouraged her to start selling her poster board bouquets to others. She started to buy more materials and vinyl to add sticker messages at the top of the bouquets to make them more personalized. When Caro first started selling her floral arrangements, it conveniently launched around graduation season. She got flooded with orders, which was overwhelming since she just started the business. Graduation season came and went, and it was very successful for Caro’s first go. But, as quickly as the orders came, with time, it started to die down. Caro was no stranger to this feeling, for she had been in this situation before.
It turns out, the poster bouquets wasn’t Caro’s first time dipping her feet into the small business world. Blooming Bouquets By Caro was her second small business, the first was her false eyelash business that she established in 2018. When the false eyelash business started trending, it became more competitive to stand out from the other sellers. Caro started to feel burned out from the eyelash business, and suddenly she started to feel like selling eyelashes was something she needed to do, and not something she wanted to do. Caro was worried that her bouquet business would die down like her lash business did, and that made her doubt how far she could take Blooming Bouquets By Caro.
“I had mixed feelings about it dying down,” Caro said, remembering what it felt like when her lash business started to simmer down and how that experience caused doubts for her bouquet business. “I felt like I wasn’t passionate about the business anymore. It felt more like a chore than something I wanted to do. However, because it died down, I was discouraged to work on something new.”
This was also challenging since Caro had an overlap of both businesses running at the same time. Even though they were both running concurrently for about a month, Caro still felt like her time was being divided. The bouquet business was taking more of her time because she wasn’t getting as many lash orders as she used to. It got to the point where Caro sometimes forget to send out some lash orders because she was so busy with Blooming Bouquets By Caro. She knew her time and efforts were being spread thin by keeping both businesses open. She had to pick which business she was going to continue to nurture, and which one she had to drop.
After graduation season came and went, with very few bouquet orders following, Caro decided to close down Blooming Bouquets By Caro for personal reasons. At this point, her bouquet business was only up and running for a little over a month, but she had things going on in her personal life that she needed to tend to. Initially, Caro had no intentions of re-opening Blooming Bouquets By Caro when she first closed it down. But, she would be scrolling through her Twitter feed and would see amazing bouquets from people across the country, and she felt as though those kind of bouquets weren’t easily available in the Bay Area. Caro thought her poster board bouquets were pretty, but she always felt like there was something missing. Caro took a big step and invested in different materials and created a whole new look for her bouquets, and decided to re-open the business in August 2020.
“My friend once told me, ‘If you want to start a business, you must be the person to start the trend, not follow it,'” Caro said.
Caro started to advertise Blooming Bouquets By Caro‘s new revamped look on her personal Instagram. When she first started the business in June, she had made a business Instagram page for her products. When the Instagram page first started, a lot of her followers on the business page were mutuals to her personal account. She first advertised her new business on her personal account so her followers would follow and support Blooming Bouquets By Caro. But Caro’s real success came from Twitter. She had no idea that a couple of her tweets would go viral, giving her more exposure, admirers, and most importantly, business! In just one night, she gained over 1,000 followers. Her DM’s were flooded with people wanting to place orders. Even people from out of state were trying to place a flower order! Because of her tweets exploding overnight, Caro had to create a booking link to be more organized with her availability.
“I believe using the captions ‘My next customer could be on your TL,’ or ‘A simple retweet can bring my next customer,’ really allows people to realize how a couple of clicks can make a big difference when supporting a small business,” Caro explained. “Even if the person retweeting it isn’t planning on ordering, some of their mutuals might be.”
After her tweets went viral, it seemed like Blooming Bouquets By Caro boomed overnight. Because of her booked schedule, she decided it was time to discontinue her lash business because she wanted to focus on prioritizing her flower business. A “slow” week for Caro is 2 – 4 orders. But she doesn’t let those slow weeks get to her. Since the flower business was her second business, Caro was already prepared for the downs of starting a business and being your own boss. During her slow weeks, she reminded herself that it’s okay to not be busy all the time, and to look at it as an opportunity to take a breather. She does have “slow” weeks, but lately, that has not been the case. She is learning to appreciate those “breather” moments since she usually has 2 – 3 orders a day, Tuesdays – Fridays, with 1 – 2 orders on Saturdays. That usually means frequent trips to the store.
Caro finds a way to balance out being a student, upholding her new business, and shopping for her products, all the while maneuvering through a pandemic. But she doesn’t let the stress of her school semester interfere with her work. The amount of orders isn’t something she complains about. Caro is just so grateful that her small business has grown so much in such a short amount of time. Since Blooming Bouquets By Caro is based in her home, she doesn’t have enough space to hold all the items and inventory. She is constantly ordering more supplies and going to the flower wholesale stores 3 – 4 times a week. She makes individual runs for orders that are coming up within the next 2 days. She wants to make sure her clients are getting the freshest flowers possible, even if that means putting miles on her car.
With how far her business has come, Caro remembers an embarrassing moment from the earlier stages of her flower business. It was during the time where she offered mason jars with her bouquets. One of her clients had bought a bouquet to surprise his girlfriend with. Caro was eager to give the bouquet over, and while handing it to his girlfriend, the mason jar fell and spilled all over her. Luckily, the client and his girlfriend didn’t react badly, they were super nice and understanding. Caro felt horrible, but there was not much she could do but offer to fill up the mason jar with new water. It was definitely a learning experience. And a short couple of months after that incident, Blooming Bouquets By Caro was booked for her first wedding event. She couldn’t believe that a bride trusted her to make her bouquets! Caro started the business in June 2020, and closed it down a little after a month, re-opened the business with it’s new makeover at the end of August 2020, and by mid September 2020, was booked for a wedding.
“I always saw my goal to create wrapped bouquets for special occasions, however, I never expected a bride to trust me with her bouquet for her special day,” Caro said remembering how she felt when she got booked for her first wedding event. “It was definitely a shocker to me and made me feel proud of how far I’ve come in just a short amount of time. I went from making poster bouquets to actual bridal bouquets.”
Blooming Bouquets By Caro has yet to experience being open during Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, but Caro has a feeling those holidays will be her flower business’ busiest time of the year. Most of the time though, Caro doesn’t ask her clients what the occasion is. It’s only when her clients tell her themselves is when she knows what she’s making a flower arrangement for. People gift bouquets for many reasons, some that are not so common. Caro has even made bouquets for a couple of “girlfriend proposals.” What encouraged Caro to re-open her business and give her bouquets a makeover, was the fact that she knew flowers are always going to be something someone needs for any occasion. She believes that when her tweets went viral, some people only shared and retweeted the post to give a “hint” to their significant other.
Caro is always trying to find new ways to stay creative, especially with her business gaining so much popularity. She tries to be on the lookout for new wrapping colors, offer more add-ons, and other options for her clients to choose from to customize their bouquet orders. When she first started out, she only had butterfly decals to add-on! Caro recommends that her customers check out her highlights on Instagram before messaging, in case any of their questions could be answered there. After using the link in her bio to select a date and time pick up, her and the client go over all the details and color scheme of the bouquets. Sometimes, the client may have the option to go with the theme of the specific month. When December came, Caro was very excited to showcase her “Jolly Bouquets,” that featured her “Winter Wonderland” and ” Merry Grinchmas” bouquets! 2020 was truly just the beginning for Blooming Bouquets By Caro!
In the future, Caro does plan on applying to credential programs and getting her Master’s, and plans on her flower business to remain her very passionate side hustle. Before COVID, Caro was very busy with her school, work, and personal life. But she knows that when things get “back to normal” after COVID, and things start to open back up again, her small business will still be here. She is very adamant when she says that Blooming Bouquets By Caro isn’t going anywhere, even if that means adjusting her availability when things get back to normal. What started as a pass time and hobby during quarantine, unexpectedly turned into a new found passion and new opportunity for income.
Caro admits that if it wasn’t for COVID and the mandatory Shelter in Place, Blooming Bouquets By Caro wouldn’t even be a thing. It never crossed her mind to have a personalized flower arrangement business until she started playing around with the idea during Shelter in Place. Without the mandatory Shelter in Place and social media, her business would not be where it is today. She thanks Twitter for giving her the most audience exposure. Scrolling through Twitter and seeing amazing bouquets that weren’t local was also the push Caro needed to re-open her business. She really had no idea that 2020 would be the year she launched a very successful small business.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for Shelter in Place, I would have never thought to start a bouquet business,” Caro explained. “This all started as making gifts for loved ones, to now being booked every week with people who trust me on making an arrangement for their special occasion.”
Blooming Bouquets By Caro has challenged Caro with her patience and her time management. Starting a second small business made her realize all the ups and downs that come with the process. But at the end of the day, she has grown very passionate about her business because she loves seeing her clients’ reactions when they receive her bouquets. Caro’s advice to others is to go through with their ideas and to not let other people or past experiences stop you from testing the waters. She was hesitant to start her flower business because her lash business died down. She was afraid that her bouquet business would fail. If she had never taken the leap of faith, she would never have gotten to experience all of the success that Blooming Bouquets By Caro currently has. She thinks it would be amazing if, with time, she is known as the “bouquet girl.”
“If something doesn’t seem to work out or you feel like your business doesn’t match you personally, it’s okay to shut that one down to open a new one,” Caro said, reflecting on her own experiences. “It’s a time to experiment and find your passion!”
CaliVamp is a handcrafted jewelry and accessory brand focused on spreading love and healing energy through fashion. Deziré created CaliVamp in 2013, and since then her products have expanded – from wire wrapped healing crystal jewelry, home and car decor, crystal infused glosses, healing crystals, and energy cleansings kits.
Deziré just celebrated the 4 year anniversary of launching her website, http://www.calivamp.com , this past October. CaliVamp has flourished tremendously in 2020, and all the hard work throughout the last 7 years is finally starting to pay off. Every small business has a story. Behind every small business is a business owner with a dream. We’ve seen CaliVamp’s success as a small business, but it wasn’t always like that. But the support of her mother, and those closest to her is what keeps her and CaliVamp going.
Deziré remembers back to when she was about 5 years old. At the time, her mom had her own office space for her clothing business. She would tag along with her mom at work a lot, so her mom would have to find different ways to keep her occupied. Her mom presented her with a box full of beads and wires. Deziré remembers her mom taking the time to show her how to cut and loop the wires together. While her mom worked on creating designs for clothing, along side her, little Deziré worked on her own creations.
“I believe this moment of trying to just keep me busy really set the tone for my creative abilities,” Deziré recalls, thinking back to where it all started.
Deziré has always been a natural born hustler. She has always been intouch with her artsy side, and loved to create – whether that be crafts or baked goods. Since elementary school, she would exchange her creations for money. It started off as her making things for friends and teachers, but it really took a turn in 2011. Deziré had just made a pair of earrings for herself and wore them to school. I remember that day clearly – I saw her earrings that connected into a necklace and thought it was the cutest statement piece. I asked Deziré to make me a pair and I’d pay her. This gave her the confidence to start selling her creations for actual income. Since then, whenever she needed or wanted money, she would create things for people to buy. Word of mouth from herself, her brother, and sister is how she let people know what she had for sale.
The start of CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013. The push that got the wheels rolling was when Deziré enrolled in Cosmetology school. She had just moved to Fresno and didn’t know anyone out there. She saw this as a perfect opportunity to start her online website. Deziré also saw this as an opportunity to showcase her hobby of creating jewelry and make some extra money while in school. She didn’t have any doubts because her focus was on finishing up Cosmetology school, and Deziré never expected that CaliVamp would be her main source of income. She was so eager to start CaliVamp that she’s “pretty sure I came up with the name at 3 in the morning.” For those wondering about CaliVamp’s name, Deziré is from California and “Vamp” because she’s a night owl – it’s a combination of where and who she is.
While in Cosmetology school, Deziré began to realize what different paths she could take. As a hairstylist, she learned that she can either be her own boss or work under someone else. She realized then that her end goal was to be her “own boss” and create her own brand. She didn’t think of it only in terms of being a hairstylist, but knew that this way of thinking could be applied to any aspect in what she wanted to do – hair or selling her creations. Ironically, once Deziré got licensed, she realized she didn’t enjoy doing hair like before. She started to dislike the process of doing people’s hair, and noticed that she started to fall in love with creating jewelry more and more, even though it was originally her side hustle.
CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013, but Deziré didn’t have an official CaliVamp Instagram page or website until 2016. In that 3 year gap, Deziré was still creating, tweaking her products, and trying to learn the business aspects of having a website. In fact, she had a website that she started in 2014, but never advertised, posted, or sold anything on it. She was just trying to learn the ropes of the industry. From 2013 to 2016, she was mostly creating for friends and family, and didn’t incorporate crystals in her jewelry yet. Everything was word of mouth or was posted on her personal Instagram.
When CaliVamp finally had an Instagram page that launched on February 2016, that is when Deziré started advertising her work. Advertising and posting on Instagram helped get word around that she was selling jewelry. Calivamp.com launched about 8 months later on October 5, 2016. CaliVamp finally got its feet off of the ground, but business wasn’t booming just yet. Up until this point, Deziré advertised her work through hear say and word of mouth from friends and acquaintences. Now, she could publicly display her crafts and get feedback from anyone. Having a public Instagram page benefited her because she had people messaging her for custom orders. To Deziré’s surprise, she started to realize that having an Instagram page and a website was just the first step.
“WOW!” She said when I asked what surprised her about going into the business. “Once you get your feet wet you realize it takes A LOT of hard work, time, and energy to really build a foundation and make back the money that you’ve invested. I was excited to get into it thinking I would all of a sudden start being able to financially support myself… but nope. It’s true what they say, in business ‘you need money to make money.'”
Deziré recalls being discouraged from time to time because certain family members were skeptical about her small business. They questioned whether this business could financially provide for Deziré and if it was “good money.” Deziré admits that, no, it definately wasn’t good money, especially when you’re building from scratch. Especially since the first couple of years were slow due to working part time and going to school. There were times where Deziré thought about slowing down on CaliVamp and getting another job – full-time or part-time. Whenever she got discouraged, her immediate family and friends pulls her back to center and reminds her that her creativity is something special. She’s grateful that her support system has always outweighed any doubters.
And one of her biggest supporters is her mom. In fact, without Mama CaliVamp, CaliVamp wouldn’t be a healing crystals jewelry brand. Deziré’s mom has always been into feng shui, energy, and the power of healing crystals. When Deziré purchased a wire wrapped citrine ring from a street vendor in New York on August 2016, her mom suggested that CaliVamp start incorporating crystals in its jewelry. It started to all come together in the beginning of 2017 when she was given the opportunity to have her jewelry displayed in ISSO San Francisco. One of the owners, Marie, told Deziré that she liked her jewelry, but would prefer that there was a collection or theme with the products. Marie told her to create a collection and come back. Again, Deziré’s mom suggested healing crystals.
Deziré knew healing crystals had meaning and special properties behind them. She didn’t feel comfortable selling and promoting products that she knew nothing about. So, she started doing her research. With the information she acquired through researching, she would incorporate into her daily life. She began to wear the wire wrapped citrine ring that she got from New York daily and started to notice an increase in her creative energy as well as business opportunities. Even now, Dezire is still researching and learning about different crystals and their properties. CaliVamp’s Vibes Collection set the tone for the business’ brand – Deziré wanted to spread love and healing with her work. She explains:
So crystals have their own specific crystalline structure and vibrate on a molecular level. Which allows them to have their own vibration and specific healing properties. When they come into other energetic fields they can imprint and pass those vibrations on. The first two crystals I had started wearing on a daily basis was citrine and lapis lazuli. Citrine helps with businesses, increases creativity, promotes joy and abundance. Once I began to wear or use this crystal on a daily basis I noticed an increase in all these areas. Lapis lazuli is a performers stone and helps with communication and confidence which are two things I lack the most in. If you are open and have an open mind about the ability of healing crystals over time you can see a difference in your own energy field and things around you. It’s sort of like the people you meet – you either vibe with them or not and certain people can increase or decrease your vibes or energy levels as well. It’s not really something that you can explain in full detail or sell someone on. It’s something you have to experience & be open to in order to believe & reap the benefits.
A couple months before quarantine, Dezire stopped being a lash tech because she developed De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, a painful condition that causes swelling of the thumb and tendons. Repeated wrist / hand movements can make the hand and thumb area hurt more. Deziré threw in the towel with doing eyelashes, because wearing a brace 24/7 on top of physical therapy just didn’t seem worth it. She also had to ask herself what career path she would rather do – do hair, do eyelash extensions, or make jewelry? Deziré decided to drop the beauty industry and focus all of her energy on only CaliVamp.
With that decision plus the quarantine and pandemic hitting, it made it easier for Deziré to give all of her attention to nurturing CaliVamp. The pandemic has affected CaliVamp in a very abundant way. She doubled in sales since Shelter in Place. She believes it’s because she wasn’t 100% focused on CaliVamp pre-COVID. The Shelter in Place was really a blessing in disguise for her small business, because she could really focus and plan out her next moves. CaliVamp has been consistently selling out on products since the Shelter in Place. Deziré humbly admits that selling out fast can be due to the fact that she only has a limited amount of products. Sometimes she only has a limited amount of specific crystals, or can only get a few crystals at a time. Regardless of how many products she has in stock, she always feels fulfilled when she sells them all. Deziré feels very proud and happy knowing that she is creating products that people enjoy and can benefit from.
She is especially grateful because 2020 is the first year that she started to gain actual profit from the business. Yes, you read that right. She has been building CaliVamp from the ground up since 2013, and has officially had the website running just a little over 4 years. It wasn’t until COVID and Shelter in Place that she began profiting off of CaliVamp. When she launched the website in 2016, everything she made from selling jewelry went back into buying materials to make the next set. I remember Deziré breaking it down for me at the 85° Bakery almost a year or 2 years back. She began going over making the jewelry, the costs of the materials, the cost of the website being up, stressing that if she made 2 sale for the month, after subtracting the material and website cost, her end of the month profit would be 50 cents. So 2020 was really CaliVamp’s break through year, and she’s not stopping there.
Her best products come from trying to create jewelry for herself or others. Deziré has sensitive skin and because of that, has trouble finding certain styles that she’s looking for in jewelry. So, she’ll start to play around with products she already has and messes around with it until she is satisfied. But her favorite way to stay creative and design is when she brings someone else’s vision to life. Deziré loves when clients give her the base of what they want but gives her complete creative control. Usually, it leads to a new product or a new style. If this happens, Deziré names the product after the client.
A product has to hit certain bench marks before it hits the CaliVamp website. Deziré has to first start out with creating. This usually leads her to the prototype. The 3rd step is the quality check. Deziré will wear a product a few weeks or a few months to see how the design and materials hold up. The people in her household also test out the products because they all react differently to jewelry – some have sensitive skin and some do not. If the product passes the quality check, it moves on to step 4 – posting it on social media and seeing how CaliVamp’s audience reacts to it. If she gets a positive response, she will begin to finalize the details, product description, and variants. She’ll go on to creating the products and having all the details written out so she can take product pictures and enter the information on the website. She’ll then create flyers, social media posts, and write out emails to hype up her release date.
Deziré is more motivated than ever to continue on with CaliVamp. 2020 really made her reflect on what feeds her soul and what makes her happy. All roads led her back to CaliVamp. Her goal for 2021 is to expand her office, her product lines, and do more collaborations with other artists. The pandemic was the push that CaliVamp needed to rekindle the flame of passion. When asked if she would go back to doing CaliVamp part time when things “get back to normal,” I was greeted with a “Hellll naaahh!” When things start to open back up and we figure out our “new normal,” Deziré plans to go even harder! Continuing to put her 100% in CaliVamp until she feels called to do otherwise.
Deziré wants her customers to know that she is human! She tries her best to provide quality products and quality service. CaliVamp’s main goal is to spread love and healing while being able to look fashionable. She wants her followers and customers to know that she was once a skeptic about the healing powers of crystals. But she has experienced the energy of healing crystals and wants to spread those high vibrations with those around her.
“Everyone is deserving of peace within themselves and happiness,” she said.
Deziré believes that her followers and customers can help CaliVamp thrive in different ways. She appreciates corrective criticism, honest reviews on products, and letting others know about CaliVamp. After all, her business started through word of mouth! A simple shout out, tag, or repost can really help a small business gain a following. She appreciates those that have bought from CaliVamp and continue to help spread the word about her jewelry and mission. Her advice to other small businesses is to keep going! She’s a firm believer that every situation is an opportunity, or it’s making space for a “bigger one.”
CaliVamp is about 7 years old now, and the journey has been long but worth it! The seeds Deziré has been planting for the last 7 years are finally starting to sprout. She is happy and excited to know that this is just the beginning for CaliVamp. 2020 showed Deziré where CaliVamp could go if she put her 100% into the business. She admits that this 7 year long journey has been tough and discouraging, but now that she has had a taste of success, it makes her more excited to see how far she can really take her business.
“I’m proud of how much CaliVamp has grown, and the whole process of how I’ve gotten to where I am,” Deziré said. “I’ve built CaliVamp from the ground up. Everything that I’ve learned has been from experience or research. I’ve gained knowledge from others and applied it to CaliVamp. No one else did the work for me.”