Interview: Jen Zeano Designs

There are a lot of reasons to shop small, including, but not limited to: supporting an individual person, supporting more ethical business practices, finding unique items, etc.

One of the biggest reasons I see though is that small shops tend to be MUCH more inclusive than large corporations and for the right reasons. Take Jen Zeano, for instance, who creates incredible items that promote Latina empowerment. When you shop from Jen Zeano Designs, the items aren't coming from a big company just looking to profit off of a culture. Buying from JZD means supporting an actual Latina woman who is passionate about sharing her work and celebrating her community.

I've been following along with Jen for a couple of years now, and it's been amazing to see her shop go from a small Etsy store with a handful of items to a full-on lifestyle brand worn by the likes of Gina Rodriguez (an actual queen). Read our interview below to learn more about Jen Zeano Designs and how she's using her business to promote the work of others as well as her own.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?

A: It has been a rollercoaster! We started with less than $200 and a big idea. Once we created our Latina Power tee we realized that this was the movement we needed. We focused on growing a community and creating a brand that offered products that created a sense of home and belonging within the Latinx community.

Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?

A: Honestly, many said this was a “cute little hobby.” My family has always been supportive though and continue to be my number one fans.

Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?

A: I actually quit my job as a case manager at a foster care agency to start the business. It was a tough decision that meant a lot of sacrifices but I was ready and the timing felt perfect.

Q: It seems to be pretty common for entrepreneurs to start their shops because they have a specific talent and then have to learn the business side of things (marketing, finance, eCommerce, etc.) as they go. Was this case for you or did you go into it having that knowledge? What was the most challenging part for you?

A: Definitely, I had no idea what I was doing! I learned everything as I had to learn it. I used and continue to rely heavily on Google and Youtube. The most challenging parts were taxes and finances in general. I have a BA in psychology so trust me when I say I didn’t know anything about the back end of running a business.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your Latinas Support Latinas collection and the process of working with other artists/makers for your shop?

A: Yes, Latinas Supporting Latinas (LSL) is an added section on our website where we feature and sell products from Latina owned business. The products featured are all products I love and use. It has been amazing to partner up with these ladies!

Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?

A: Our Latina Power keyboard is my latest obsession! We are starting to branch out in to more products and I am so happy our customers are loving it.

Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?

A: We are so excited for all the changes happening. We want to continue growing, reach a bigger audience, and continue spreading the Latina Power movement. We are hoping to continue adding more every day use products.

Q: What advice do you have for others looking to start their own businesses?

A: I know it sounds cliche, but just start. You will never be 100% prepared so just start and make a decision that your timing is perfect. You will figure things out as they come to you and it will be an adventure. Also, build a community. Finding people who support you and can relate to the struggles you are facing is a game changer.

Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?

A: I am obsessed with GRL Collective, Las Ofrendas, Flower Bee & Synergy, Radical Girl Gang, The Salvaged Saw Horse, and so many others!

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