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Quit Your Day Job: How I Built a Latinx Instagram Empire From Scratch

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Welcome to Quit Your Day Job — a series where we talk to incredible people who have parted with their day jobs to branch out on their own and follow their passions.

This week, we talked to Brittany Chávez, the owner and co-founder of Shop Latinx. Chavéz and her co-founder, Raquel García, originally teamed up to create an Instagram account that celebrated stories of Latinx small businesses and entrepreneurs. But, after an outpouring of support Shop Latinx has evolved into an online empowerment movement promoting Latinx entrepreneurship and strengthening community.

Brittany opens up about how she quit her job to pursue what felt right—uplifting her community. She gets real about rejection, what it's like to be a woman of color in tech and entrepreneurship, and what she wishes she could tell her younger self.

What's your current job description?

Co-Founder/ Director of Marketing and Strategy of Shop Latinx

Did you go to college? If so, what did you study?

I attended Cal Poly Pomona, but I didn’t graduate. I had enough school credits to commence on stage, but I had to return the following semester to complete three more classes and never went back. I wasn’t focused enough at the time. I do have thoughts about going back, though.

What's the story of how you left your old job behind?

I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door at a prominent record label, yet quickly realized there was a glass ceiling for where I envisioned myself career-wise. In 2015 I traveled to Nicaragua to visit my family, and brought along my friend’s digital camera. It was during that trip where I unpacked so much about myself: that I’m an Afro-Latina with a rich history and strong cultural background, that I’m fascinated with portrait photography and the human connection. I wanted to go back home and change the world.

At the time I was a digital marketing assistant for Interscope records. I became so unfocused as work because I was always brainstorming about the next photos I was going to take, the next destination I wanted to travel to. So, a couple of months later, I emailed my boss to put in my two weeks. Little did I know that the day I put in my two weeks was the day he gave me a raise. I was in the office and he said, “I can easily pretend I didn’t get your email and you can take the raise and keep working.” But I said no thank you, I have other goals to seek out.

Where did you get the idea for ShopLatinx? What inspired you?

I quit in January 2016, I traveled to Peru, Uganda, Guatemala, took photos, continued to freelance, but it started to feel like escapism. I still didn’t have a clue how I wanted to accrue an income doing what I love.

One night I was laying in bed, going through Facebook articles where I came across some really great lists of Black-owned businesses to support. I was like, “This is dope, let me check out some Latinx businesses to support, too.” So I Google searched Latinx owned businesses and nothing came up — nothing came up under Latino, Latina, and Hispanic either. Just all these studies by Forbes and these finance magazines about how we are the most loyal consumers.

Suddenly, I feel a lightbulb in my brain turn on and I decided to make an Instagram that featured Latinx businesses. But I didn’t have the time to do it all myself. That’s when my now co-founder Raquel Garcia contacted me via Facebook and said she wanted to take this project on with me.

Together Raquel and I created the Shop Latinx Instagram where our daily content is filled with Latinx businesses to support. On top of that, in 2016 we formed a collective that helped us create, the first-ever online database for Latinx businesses. It also includes editorial content and promotional packages that help business owners maximize their brand and online marketing.

Now we are a core team of four: Raquel and I are the co-founders, Breana Quintero is our Director of Creative Operations, and Vanessa Gonzalez is our Social Media Manager. I handle most of the marketing and strategy, which includes running the database, business outreach, networking, figuring out where we want to take our brand, and so much more.

What was your transition process like? How did you make your passion a reality?

Oh my god, I’m still transitioning. I’ve never owned a business before. I never imagined owning a business so soon; I wasn’t prepared for it. I felt like I’ve been put on a moving train and it just won’t slow down. It’s exhilarating, yet very nerve-wracking because I have to push myself to learn about so much—managing a business, creating an LLC, grant writing, SEO, social media marketing, branding. I didn’t really know all this prior to Shop Latinx.

There have been many times where I wanted to give up and get a “real” job, a secure job with salary and benefits. But I think I’ve gotten over that mindset and I’m just continuing to persevere and turn Shop Latinx into what I’ve envisioned it to be.

How long did it take you to feel financially stable in this endeavor? Do you still have side hustles?

I live in L.A., come on now! I feel like every creative has so many different side hustles. As of now, Shop Latinx still isn’t enough to live on. We just implemented a business plan where we are able to monetize, so it will take some time for me to be able to quit everything and focus on Shop Latinx full-time. So, for now, I still have side hustles. I am still trying to get grants and hoping by this time next year I can wake up and not have to worry about working on anything else aside from expanding Shop Latinx.

Being a woman of color in tech or entrepreneurship is challenging. Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome? How do you deal?

First off lemme say that the Latinx community is the most loyal bunch out there. I get DMs all the time, both on the Shop Latinx account and on my personal pages. People are like “thank you so much for what you do for the community!” — telling me their stories of how one Instagram post on Shop Latinx has helped their business grow. I’m always so surprised like ‘Really? You’re thanking me?’

So yes, I do have imposter syndrome. I need to stop and congratulate myself more. Take myself out on a date. I work too hard. I’m really proud of what my team and I have created and i need to acknowledge that more. I don’t know why I always play bashful when deep DOWN I know that in a span of a year I went from an aloof millennial with no real game plan of life to a creative boss ass b*tch.

How do you handle failures and rejection?

I’ve learned to expect rejection along the way and understand losses are a part of the process. I’ve been trying to invest in my mental health and self-care; I’ve been getting regular acupuncture, cupping sessions, meditating, and working out.

I live with anxiety and depression so with more responsibilities comes pressure, trial and error, and a lot of times rejection. I’ve learned to not take things personally and let it go. I try to learn from everything that comes my way and not let failure bring me down. I know it’s cliché and lowkey embarrassing but I have ‘Que sera sera’ tattooed on my arm because I really believe in that—What will be, will be.

If you could, what would you tell your younger self?

I would tell the younger me: Your dreams and ideas are brilliant. Don’t allow other people to project their fears onto you. You are capable. Don’t give up.

Imagine if everyone took the first step to actually manifesting the small idea they had in their head. Imagine how many lives, relatives, and communities these ideas could change for the better. It could be a t-shirt line. Or a pencil sharpener. I don’t know. Just try to punch fear in the face and make the first move.

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Photos by Vanessa Gonzalez Photographyand Lana Mack Photography courtesy of Brittany Chávez.

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