Brittnay Chavez founded Shop Latinx in 2016 to bring Latinx entrepreneurs and consumers who want to support Latinx businesses together. Born in Los Angeles, Chavez is a Guatemalan and Nicaraguan Latina who has a passion for using intentional relationship-building to create and foster community and businesses. “People have been asking me where my team is. Technically, on paper it’s just me but I have a community that is my team,” she told BELatina. We also spoke about Shop Latinx and how community and relationship building are the backbone of her business practices.
When you created the Shop Latinx Instagram account in 2016, did you know that the goal was to open a marketplace?
No, my goal was just to create a community and awareness of the amazing products that I came across on Instagram, inspired by Humans of New York and their use of storytelling in addition to the listicles I would read on Blavity and Saint Heron. The Black community was creating amazing resources on how to keep money in their community and showcasing it well through listicles and articles. All of these things really inspired me to create something like this for the Latinx community.
Is Shop Latinx your first business?
Yes, but I have always felt very savvy. I’ve worked in a lot of industries and use social media to my advantage. I was poppin’ on MySpace. And when I decided I wanted to get into the music business I remarketed and remade my Twitter and spoke only music business topics until people started following me. Eventually, the president of Interscope followed me and then I DM’d him; long story short, I got a job at Interscope.
I read on Latina.com that you do not have a business background. However, you took some very business savvy steps to test your theory before launching the site officially: conducting marketing research through conversations with patrons when you were an Uber driver, conversations with early followers of the Shop Latinx Instagram, and creating a video series with Know Alias for Latina Equal Pay Day. What were some of the business lessons you got through this process?
When I look back I am like, ‘Damn, I really did it right,’ building community and testing to see what works. What I kept seeing was we were not making it easy for consumers to support Latinx businesses. Additionally, I’ve really leveraged my empathy and knack for relationship building and marketing. I didn’t have the money to spend so I had to be very intentional about how I grew Shop Latinx. And being very honest with myself, yeah, I didn’t have a background in business but that wasn’t going to stop me! Surrounding myself with mentors, advisors, and people I look up to has been intentional for my growth. I’m always a student. Even when I was working side jobs (nanny and Uber) I knew I wanted to do more and that I was good at relationship building, which is often overlooked skill. I leveraged my ability to build and keep relationships. I knew when I created Shop Latinx I hit a goldmine.
Shop Latinx is a curated Latinx online market space with a variety of vendors, how do you decide which vendors to list on the Shop Latinx site?
I’m taking my time and being very intentional for who is onboard to the site. What has made things easier for me is to bring on brands that I already trust? I have put in so much work into my marketing and branding, and I want vendors that have demonstrated the same commitment to their business. Right now we cover/carry beauty accessories, home, and apparel and are really doing this through diverse products.
We want to capture the diversity of Latinidad because Latinidad is not a monolith, it’s a culture. Under Latinidad you have Asian, Black, and geographically different and specific cultures too. Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois [a historic Mexican community] vs Texas vs West Coast vs New York City, it’s all Latindad in its own unique way, that’s what I want on Shop Latinx. That’s why we have vendors for across the country. I want to work with people and brands who are on their grind, know their target customer, and people I trust and whose products I love personally.
When you told your family and friends you were going to create Shop Latinx, what were their responses?
Oh my goodness. My mom and I just talked about this the other day. My mom was the most concerned, as any mother would be, especially having a daughter that was as broke as I was. Any mother wants to see their child comfortable with a savings account, a full time 9 to 5, and dental but I always saw the potential in my idea. It’s not that she didn’t believe in me, it was just hard for her to see me struggle through the process. My friend and Hija de tu Madre founder Patty Delgado has been a constant affirmation to me on this process. Over the summer I was really struggling and wanted to quit Shop Latinx but Patty kept telling me, ”You’re good, dude. You’ll be good.” And she was and is right, I am good.
Is Shop Latinx your only job right now or is it one of your jobs?
Yes, Shop Latinx is my only job. I am no longer Ubering, nannying, or anything else. It feels so good. It took me a few months to get to the point where the Shop Latinx brand (the marketplace, speaking engagements, and other opportunities) was my only source of income. These last few days have been super busy. I’ve been working 10 – 15 hour days and it’s a cakewalk compared to nannying for hours and driving Uber for hours without real bathroom breaks and still making nothing. It is very challenging to enter a sector I didn’t really know about and it’s a learning curve, but I’m very grateful and aware of the privilege. I really feel like I’ve never worked hard for something that I love doing.
As a Latina business owner, what is some wisdom you would impart to other current or aspiring business owners?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. There was a long time when I felt “real cool” in the Latina LA community until I stepped out and nobody knew who the heck I was. Live in LA and there is a rich Latinx vendor and business community here — but it is a bubble, like many other bubbles. Last year I got immersed in the Silicon Valley tech scene and no one really knew who I was and there were so many things about business that I didn’t know. It was very humbling and challenging but now I’m in a position to navigate the industry and I would not have been able to do that had I not stepped outside my comfort zone. Those experiences helped me grow and put me in a position of being uncomfortable.