Latinx UT-Austin students share experiences with their small businesses

Sofia Treviño

On Monday mornings, Desiree Morales stocks up on the products she needs to make her favorite candy treat for her customers. Her dulces enchilados are covered in as much chili powder as possible, giving them a spicy kick. 

“I think my favorite part is giving people a familiar candy that makes them feel at home,” bilingual education sophomore Morales said. “In Austin, I feel like it’s hard to find Latinx candies or food, so the fact that some people get happy over candy makes me happy.”

Like Morales, other UT students have created small businesses to express themselves and their Latinx backgrounds. Morales sells dulces enchilados, candy covered in Tajin seasoning, through her small business, Chika Pika Sweets, because it gives her a taste of home.  

Morales said her father’s Chicano pride inspired her business and branding. She said this is reflected on her business logo of a woman wearing hoops and bright red lipstick surrounded by flames. 

“For me, I love wearing my hoops, and I love my lipsticks,” Morales said. “I felt like it was a good representation of me as a Latina in general.”

Customers can place orders for spicy Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, gummy bears and more through her Instagram account, @chikapikasweets. 

Originally inspired by his friends from his hometown of McAllen, Texas, Hermino Mendez, a radio-television-film freshman, is a videographer who creates stop motion short films. Before the pandemic, Mendez completed various projects, both recreationally and for clients, including videos for nonprofit organizations, short films and music videos. He shares samples of his videos on his Instagram account, @minovids_.

“I had a couple of friends who already had their own side gigs going on in terms of photography,” Mendez said. “A friend got me a connection, and (I) started branching out from there.”

Mendez said his two-minute stop motion videos usually take hours to create. He posts the finished products on his YouTube account, Hermino Mendez. He said his Latino background helps him relate to his clients in the Rio Grande Valley. 

“Hopefully someday in the future, I’ll be a lot bigger and actually be able to make a living off it,” Mendez said. 

Advocating for wholesale shopping, Karla Villegas, a radio-television-film freshman, resells clothes for cheaper prices through her business, i.karly.com.shop. Villegas said she is against fast fashion, the mass production of clothing, because of its harmful effects on the environment.

“I know what it’s like to want something really bad but not having money to get it,” Villegas said. “Maybe that's just because my mom raised me to always get the good deals. It's nice to give people that option and be like, ‘Here's a cool sweatshirt for $10.’”

As a Latina woman, she said she supports other minority-owned small businesses because she understands the challenge of starting a business from scratch. 

“When I started my shop, I didn't have the money to splurge on packaging and stuff like that,” Villegas said.             

After starting an Instagram account, @i.karly.com.shop, Villegas said she translated her bubbly personality into colorful advertisements. She said she hopes her affordable clothing will motivate customers to shop at other environmentally-friendly shops and dreams of one day owning a buy-sell-trade store.

“I think it'd be cool to have a little studio one day and then hopefully, a little shop,” Villegas said. “My mom’s actually a business owner herself so I think maybe that's me wanting to follow in her footsteps.”