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This Is How Mexican-Born Artist, Ilse Valfré Went From Preschool Teacher To Founding A Multi Million Dollar Brand

How do you make your passion into a successful business? Los Angeles-based artist and entrepreneur Ilse Valfré, 29, asked herself that very question, now she’s making millions.

Eight years ago, you could easily spot Ilse Valfré being extremely fashionable on the streets of San Diego.

Her unique sense of attainable style was captured on the pages of Teen Vogue when she was just 21-years-old. Back then the Tijuana native was busy working as a pre-school teacher — she even authored a children’s book, but her real passion has always been art.

Her art work grew a cult following on tumblr and other social media pages. Fans of her illustrations even dress up like characters she created.

CREDIT: Twitter/@neontouch @itskendallkay

Valfré says that art is a form of therapy for her, and the natural extension of her work made it possible to transition into fashion.

“I consider fashion a means of expression, and so is art!” Valfré said when she was 23. “I know this is said over and over, but I do have a deep passion for fashion and sometimes when I see a new collection that I can’t afford, I say to myself: ‘Since I can’t afford it right now, I’ll style my paper dolls with the clothes I wish I had.” It’s like living in my own little fantasy world.'”

Roughly three years later, Valfré started her company, along with her husband, appropriately named after herself.

CREDIT: Valfre.com

At Valfré.com you can find an assortment of accessories including cell phone cases. She said that if someone wants to start their own business it’s important to be very specific about what they want to sell. “At the beginning it was pretty much a one-woman show,” Valfré said in an interview with Fortune. “It’s fun to open up product categories and create new types of products but you need to have a big team to continue to grow these categories once they’re open.”

Her brand’s real seller is women’s fashion.

CREDIT: Valfre.com

The Valfré woman can be described as girly, passionate about being a feminist, and always experimental. Valfré said her stylish inspiration should never be about limiting yourself to one form of trend.

Feminism has always been at the forefront to her brand.

Valfré says that feminism isn’t just about being a woman, but being strong and bold about who you are.

I think don’t think having ovaries makes you a woman,” Valfré said in an interview with StyleCaster. “Like my mother for example, she doesn’t have ovaries; since she had me, she’s had to get them removed, but that doesn’t make her less of a woman because of that, you know? I have a trans friend, and she’s a female, and she wasn’t born with female parts. But that doesn’t make her less of a woman than I am.”

She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Culture

She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

This year is the start of a new era for Golden State Warriors basketball as the team has packed its bags from the old Oracle Arena in Oakland to the shiny new Chase Center in downtown San Francisco. The move across the bay will also coincide with a new line of food options that represent some of the Bay Area’s diverse foodscape. This will include the addition of tamales from an entrepreneur that has waited close to 20 years for an opportunity like this. 

Say hello to Alicia Villanueva, 58, who just landed a contract to sell her tamales at the new arena. Her story is one that represents the best of the American dream and shows the value of hard work.

Credit: Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

Born in the city of Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Villanueva immigrated to the U.S. with a dream to start a business selling tamales. Since a young age, she had been stuffing tamales with her mother and her abuelita. She believed tamales could be a way to connect her story to those of the people around her and as a way to make a living for her family. But this wouldn’t be easy and it would also take a lot of sacrifice on her behalf. 

So Villanueva hustled. During the day she would clean houses and take care of the disabled. Then at night, she would turn her attention over to tamales where she would make close to 100 tamales a day and up to 500 tamales in a single week. She would then take to the streets going door to door in her Berkeley neighborhood and at local job sites selling tamales. 

“I would knock on doors and introduce myself” after picking up her two young sons from school, Villanueva told the Mercury News. “Some of them became huge customers.”

Thanks to the help of San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina, who is also her partner in the contract with Chase Center, Villanueva’s dream is slowly becoming a reality.

Credit: @santacruzsentinel / Twitter

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas is now getting its time in the spotlight thanks to its partnership with La Cocina, a nonprofit that provides kitchen space and financial training for talented women entrepreneurs. There was also assistance from the Opportunity Fund, another nonprofit that lends money to entrepreneurs who might not qualify for certain loans from other banks. Thanks to that money, Villanueva has taken her tamale business from her Berkeley kitchen to a new 6,000-square-foot facility in Hayward, where she and her 24 employees are able to make 40,000 tamales a month.

“We have a moral obligation to say yes to people like Alicia,” Luz Urrutia, CEO of San Jose-based Opportunity Fund told the Mercury News. “She embodies the American dream, the entrepreneurial spirit.” She says that when entrepreneurs like Villanueva get financial assistance it creates a “ripple effect in our communities.”

All she ever wanted was for someone to take a chance on her tamales and now this the start of what Villanueva hopes is a growing food business that has been years in the making. 

Credit: @juansaaa / Twitter

The sky now seems to be the limit for Villanueva as she is looking to grow even more. As of now, she is having conversations with Whole Foods to hopefully sell her frozen tamales at hot bars in certain stores this December. This will be in addition to the tamales she already sells at Berkeley Bowl and UC Berkeley.

With an increasing demand for her tamales, there is also an opportunity to try new things like introducing organic and vegan options. As well as having her business become zero waste and hopefully start a community garden for the public. 

Things are moving quickly for Villanueva and her family, who assist her every day making tamales, as the business has come full circle after years of just getting by. Tamal orders are coming in every day and with her new partnership with the Warriors, who just last week asked her to deliver 5,000 tamales to the Chase Center, things are finally falling into place. 

“I just can’t believe it,” Villanueva said while showcasing all of her new cooking equipment she was able to purchase due to the loan. “I’m living a beautiful dream.”

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There’s A New Latina Candle Collection Inspired By Smells From Your Childhood

Entertainment

There’s A New Latina Candle Collection Inspired By Smells From Your Childhood

It finally happened, all your favorite iconic Latino scents are now in the form of real candles. Oh Comadre Candles was created by Marcela Gomez who also happens to be one of the original founders of Concha Con. When coming up with the concept for these candles, she wanted people to be able to take people back to family parties.

Gomez says Oh Comadre started as a form of therapy from her nursing job. She says she needed an outlet to help her escape the stress of her job in healthcare. While shopping around, Gomez noticed there weren’t any candles with Latino aromas.

She started looking around for inspiration, starting with family parties and looking around at the different types of sweets we enjoy eating to the household products we use that remind us of abuelita’s house. The end product, Gomez says, is Latino candles that celebrates life in hopes that they evoke emotion, memory, comfort, and a smile.

Here are scents from Oh Comadre that’ll help you relive your sweetest family memories every time you light a candle.

Click here to shop the Oh Comadre collection in our mitú mercado.

Fabulosa

mitú x Oh Comadre

We’re pretty sure you don’t do your chores every time your mom asks you to do them. Chances are you were probably nervous when you’d hear your mom was on her way back home because you still hadn’t mopped like she asked you to. Luckily for you, this candle exists and you can light it 10 minutes after she asks you to mop. The Fabuloso-like scent will fill the house and have your mom thinking you are such a good mija, you listen to her every time she asks you to do something — and you will be off the hook, also making you the child que sí hace caso.

You can buy the candle here.

Sana Sana

mitú x Oh Comadre

If there’s one lesson from my childhood that I could pass along to my future children it’s the power of Vicks. Thankfully Vicks’ healing powers still apply in adulthood. Now you can get that same, cozy, I’m-better-now- feeling every time you light this candle.

You can buy the candle here.

Chocolate Abuelita

mitú x Oh Comadre

Move over, pumpkin spice, there’s a new superior scent. There can only be one top holiday drink and we know that belongs to Abuelita. This candle smells exactly like the chocolate mom used to make and it is the perfect holiday gift for any chocolate lover.

You can buy the candle here.

Pan Dulce

mitú x Oh Comadre

If you’re like me Saturday morning means you’ll crave the delicious smell of pan dulce every morning. If you’re also like me, you’re probably too lazy to get up and go Light this up and soon your entire house will smell like a local panadería.

You can buy the candle here.

Cafecito

mitú x Oh Comadre

Not all coffee is made the same. There’s something about the coffee our mamás, tías and abuelas make that is just a little more simple. Maybe it’s because the coffee beans from our countries are richer? Whenever you need your cafecito mix just light this candle and inhale. We can’t promise it’ll give you a boost of energy but it’ll definitely take you back to the cafecito and chisme conversations you have shared with the women in your life.

You can buy the candle here.

Te Boté

mitú x Oh Comadre

Most candles are made to get you in a romantic mood but this is the only candle that will remind you why you walked away — and that you’re better off without that scumbag. This candle smells like the powerful Jabón Zote and every time you spark that little wick you’ll be reminded that you’re a poderosa too.

You can buy the candle here.

Arroz Con Leche

mitú x Oh Comadre

Arroz con leche is a staple across Latin America. No matter how you make it, every recipe is bomb. Now every cinnamon and arroz lover can surround themselves in this warm scent with the arroz con leche candle.

You can buy the candle here.

Tamales de Dulce

mitú x Oh Comadre

We have an ongoing joke that we get sick of eating tamales for weeks during the holiday season but the reality is we miss these cozy scents as soon as the season is over. Now you can smell the sweet aroma of tamales all year long… without having to work a tamalada.

You can buy the candle here.

Unbreakable

mitú x Oh Comadre

Everybody loves the peanut buttery taste of Mazapan but we hate the mess. Now you can enjoy the sweet scent inspired by your favorite candy without the hassle of crumbs everywhere.

You can buy the candle here.

To see the entire Oh Comadre collection in the mitú Mercado, click here.