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If You Remember The Homies Toys, Their Story Is Even Better

In the late ’90s, Homies toys became a hit seemingly out of nowhere. Kids went from collecting fake jewelry and those little green soldier toys to collecting figurines inspired by Los Angeles lowrider culture. What began as the creator’s teenage passion art project turned into a major company that brought attention (and criticism) to a culture that was often overlooked.

Remember these vending machines? They were often stocked with gumballs, fake jewelry, temporary tattoos and sometimes, Homies figurines.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

If Homies sound familar, you might recognize these little dudes.

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Credit: tuesdaymoon94553 / Twenty20

These little homies toys made their debut in the late 1990s and they definitely left their mark on Chicano culture. You may have pulled out a quarter (or begged your parents for one) to get a figurine from the vending machine.


They were created by artist David Gonzales. His inspiration for Homies? His homies.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

Homies were born out of Gonzales’ own love of creating art. At 16, Gonzales started to capture the people of his neighborhood of Richmond, CA where, as Gonzales recalls, every kid in the neighborhood wanted a lowrider for their first car. His first drawings were inspired by his own homies and his first goal was just to have fun with his friends.

“[I] wanted to make my own homies laugh,” Gonzales told mitĂș. “When they saw the sketch I did of them… it was instant laughter.”


But it was more than just his friends that inspired his art. Gonzales fell in love with lowrider culture as a teen and he says that that too impacted his art.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

While at a dance as a teen, he witnessed the power and love of lowrider culture.

“I saw a ’75 creme-colored Caprice Classic cruising in front of the hall with only its parking lights on. The whole crowd of homies hanging out front stopped to stare and whistle at it,” Gonzales recalls. “It was slammed to the ground and was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen. I fell in love with lowriders and lowriding culture that night.”


Gonzales was only 16 when he created the seed of Homies figurines: the Chicano comic strip “Mr. Hollywood.”

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

The comic strip was the start of the homies toys franchise. At the beginning, Gonzales said he never based his characters off just one person. What he did was he took personalities, styles and names from his homies and mixed and matched to create his characters. Still, the comics were more about just having fun and expressing his culture than reaching for a specific goal.

“No goals except to make my homies laugh and to finish a strip,” Gonzales told mitĂș about his initial purpose of creating Homies at 16 years old. “I was really slow drawing and spent much of my free time partying. I had no idea what I was creating would be my life’s legacy.”


As Gonzales grew older, he found a full-time job utilizing his art skills…for the U.S. Postal Service.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

“Only full-time job I had before I began drawing Homies for a living was I was a U.S. Postal Service employee,” Gonzales recalled. “I started as a clerk there and eventually became a full-time illustrator before leaving to start my first T-shirt company with Homies as my anchor brand.”


Before the figurines, Homies was focused on art and t-shirts.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

Though this was the way Homies first entered the world, it wasn’t long until the business stalled and needed a transformation.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

“When the run with the Homies T-shirt line ended, before we began selling toys, and I was very close to having my company fall into bankruptcy,” Gonzales told mitĂș. “We overcame it by perseverance, hard work and good fortune.”


Even though Gonzales almost lost the Homies company to bankruptcy, he kept fighting to keep it afloat.

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Credit: Erick Parra

^^ Words to live by.


Gonzales eventually hooked up with a vending machine company which tried out Homies toys as a “gimmick.” The gimmick? Homies were originally sold as parachute men in vending machines.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

That’s right. Instead of green plastic soldiers, they used Homies toys. And people loved ’em. “The marketplace went nuts as they bought the parachute toys to collect the figurines attached,” Gonzales told mitĂș.


However, while most people were hyped about the release of Homies toys, others criticized the toy line.

Credit: Homies / Facebook
Credit: Homies / Facebook

“It hurt, and I probably took it too seriously,” Gonzales told mitĂș about the criticism and backlash he received from releasing the toy line. Gonzales felt like his toys were unfairly criticized for perpetuating stereotypes. He says he was only trying to reflect the culture he grew up with: “I felt we were misunderstood as a culture. Not Mexican, not American, not Texan, not anything but California Chicanos into lowriding. Yes, gangs were part of the barrios we came from, but we were not all gangbangers. Our dress was our lifestyle, and our cars were also.”


MitĂș asked Gonzales how he has seen the perception of his brand change over time and this is what he had to say:

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Credit: Erick Parra

Yet, despite the previous criticism, Homies will be relaunching in the near future. Gonzales knows that his brand is more recognized by an older generation, but that’s okay.

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Credit: Homies / Facebook

“I feel confident that the older kids… from 15 to 60, will gravitate to the relaunched Homies toys as it will take them back to a happy place in their lives,” Gonzales told mitĂș about his hopes for the relaunch. “Where they collected the Homies toys from vending machines.”


READ: This Janitor Started From The Bottom
 And Then, He Invented Hot Cheetos

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These Latina-Owned Businesses Are Winners Of The El Pollo Loco Grants

Fierce

These Latina-Owned Businesses Are Winners Of The El Pollo Loco Grants

todoverde / yucasla / Instagram

El Pollo Loco announced a grant program to help Latina-owned businesses in the Los Angeles area. The grant, which is $10,000 and mentorship to grow their businesses, went to several businesses ran by Latinas. Covid-19 has devastated the small business community and women have been the hardest hit. El Pollo Loco’s grants offered some businesses a necessary lifeline.

Andrea’s Healthy Kitchen

Andrea’s Healthy Kitchen started in 2013 and aims to offer people healthy juices to help with their own health goals. Tatiana Pacheco’s own journey in weight loss with the help of juices inspired the company to be.

“It means a lot for AHK and we are going to be forever grateful for all the support we received from our clients, friends, followers and family,” Pacheco said. “The amount of love was unbelievable during this contest. I cried with every single nomination because they all had a special memory or reason to nominate AHK.”

Milpa Grille

Desyi Minera Serrano created Milpa Grille to connect people with their Mesoamerican ancestors through food. The most important part of the Milpa Grille experience is the use of the all-important ingredient: corn.

“This El Pollo Loco [grant] is huge for us. It will ease my mind knowing that we have the fund to catch up to those bills that piled up during COVID. But most importantly that you have organizations/companies that are willing to help and assist others during a time where the hospitality industry has been hit the hardest,” Minera Serrano says. “Having such a huge company like El Pollo Loco help us professionals is such a privilege. We’re going to ensure that the professional help is applied to Milpa not only to better us as a team but also see how we can share what we applied so we thrive as a community.”

Alchemy Organica

Chef Denise Vallejo is a first-generation indigenous Xicana who is bringing plant-based foods to everyone who finds her on social media. Alchemy Organica is a pop-up restaurant, lifestyle brand, and product line with roots in the plant-based heritage of Mexico.

“My main focus has always been the creative. I consider myself an artist first and this business cannot exist without the passion I feel for my art. However, I look forward to having expert business & financial advice to support me as I continue to grow. I come from a very humble background & working class family,” Vallejo says. “There’s so much for me to learn about running a sustainable business & becoming financially literate. I grew up seeing my father self-employed & running his own businesses, but I often wonder how much more successful his businesses could have been if he had access to more resources. It feels like I’m being supported by the universe to break generational curses now.”

Yucas LA

For decades, ‘Mama’ Socorro Herrera has been offering delicious bites from the Yucatan and people cannot get enough. According to their website, Mama and her husband Jaime first got customers by promising that they’d love it or they’d get double their money back.

Mama was touched to see the letters of love a support they received in the nomination process for the grant. Mama says that the grant to Yucas LA has “provided a breathing space financially, and an invaluable opportunity to be mentored in a specific area of business. I feel like I’ve been allowed free rein of the candy store! The campaign itself has generated a buzz that improved business.”

Café Santo

Owners Pilar Castañeda and Marlon Gonzalez are giving people a wonderful taste of Latino coffee culture with their coffee cart. The pop-up coffee business is also in the process of creating a modern Oaxacan coffee shop in California.

“We’ve put all of our heart and soul to bring our community quality coffee and a great experience to take home,” Castañeda says. “This grant will help CafĂ© Santo reach the next step in our journey, using these funds towards opening our first contemporary Oaxacan coffee shop in the Eastside of LA. El Pollo Loco’s professional mentorship will help guide us in building a solid foundation for our growing small business, something that will create long-lasting change for us as an emerging business.”

La Llorona Bakes

Adriana De Casas’ business, La Llorona Bakes LLC, is an example of a hobby becoming a profitable career. It was the kind of hobby that went from YouTube tutorials to making money with the support of friends and family.

“It means the world to me that friends, family, and customers took the time and effort to nominate me. What may just be one post to them, it means everything to me,” De Casas says. “It means they believe in my dreams, that they support me wholeheartedly. But more so, it’s honestly just reassuring like I can do this, I AM doing this.”

East Los Sweets

Baking was a part of Laura Martinez’s life since she was younger. The LA Central Bakery has been in her family since 1984 and working in a kitchen was never her plan. However, it quickly became where she was the most creative.

Martinez is grateful for the El Pollo Local Grant for giving her a chance, as a one-woman operation, it make investments in her business.

“Since gatherings are on a smaller scale because of Covid, this grant will help me buy equipment that would have taken me twice as long to save up from my orders,” Martinez says. “El pollo grant also provided finance/accounting mentorship that will help me further grow more as a small business.”

Todo Verde

Jocelyn Ramirez is a woman of many talents, including a deep knowledge of plant-based cooking. The college professor, chef, yoga teacher, and businesswoman is on a mission to create delicious plant-based foods deeply rooted in the flavors and techniques of Mexico and South America and they might be coming to a grocery store near you.

“This grant is going to our payroll for our team and will also help us continue to pivot our business,” Ramirez says. “We have been dreaming of launching consumer packaged goods available in grocery stores for the last couple of years, but have been too busy to get it off the ground. Now, we are ready and working with an amazing team to make it all happen!”

Salsaology

Lori Sandoval created Salsaology in 2013 when she was fresh out of college and needed to create a career. She knew that food was the path but didn’t plan on culinary school. With that idea, Salsaology was born in her kitchen.

“The response from our customers and friends was a humbling experience to me and the team. We feel inspired by everyone’s support; it has given us a gust of wind to keep going especially through these difficult times,” Sandoval says. “We really do strive to service and offer our community food that is clean and good for you without compromising our culinary traditions. So when we see this outpour of love and support, it motivates us to keep showing up for our community.”

READ: El Pollo Loco Announces First Round Of Latina Business Owners To Win $10K Grants

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Young Boy’s Plant Business Started During Covid Spares Family From Homelessness During Pandemic

Culture

Young Boy’s Plant Business Started During Covid Spares Family From Homelessness During Pandemic

aaronsgarden / Instagram

Update December 14, 2020

Aaron Moreno started his plant business in response to the Covid pandemic. His mother lost her job because of the virus and with only $12 left, they family invested in the little boy’s dream. Since then, thanks to social media and a GoFundMe page, the family’s life is forever changed.

Aaron Moreno changed his family’s life after creating his business, Aaron’s Garden” to save his family.

Like a lot of families right now, Aaron’s mother lost her job because of the virus leaving the family financially uncertain. The family was on the verge of losing everything when they invested in Moreno’s business venture.

“I feel happier because we don’t have to struggle as much as before,” Moreno told KABC.

The boy’s business and a GoFundMe page have given the family a chance to buy a house.

Credit: GoFundMe

Berenice Pacheco, Moreno’s mother, now has a part-time job and the mix of funds gave the family a crucial lifeline. Not only were they able to buy a new home, but they also bought furniture and a car. What started as a dark time has changed dramatically for the family. The GoFundMe page has raised more than $60,000. The money has also helped to bring his sister back from Mexico, where she was sent to live because of financial struggles.

“The best part of what Aaron has done for us is bringing back his sister,” Pacheco told CNN. “It was so hard being without her and we are a whole family again. And I was so happy to see they still had their amazing bond even if they spent so much time apart. It’s such a blessing.”

Original: Covid-19 has forced families to figure out the best way to make enough to take care of things. Some have had to find new jobs after being laid off and having to make up enough to save their families. A young boy in Los Angeles is doing that to help his mom makes ends meet.

Meet Aaron and his garden.

The young boy and his mother were on their last $12 when he had an idea of creating a business. According to a GoFundMe account, the young boy convinced his undocumented mother to start a business selling plants to help them make it through the pandemic.

Aaron’s Garden was the business he and his mom created to make some money.

“Aaron and mom have been struggling from being homeless to shelters and bouncing from house to house and now live in a shed,” reads a GoFundMe account. “He came out with the idea of selling plants and starting a business in his yard to be a provider and buy his own hot Cheetos with cheese without having to ask his mom for money.”

Aaron advertises his plants and when you can buy them on his Instagram.

The LA entrepreneur is creating a lot of buzz with people celebrating his efforts. People in the U.S. are struggling as the additional $600 in unemployment has disappeared and a second Covid-19 stimulus is stuck in Congress. Aaron’s plant selling is helping his family during one of the most difficult times in modern U.S. history.

Way to go, Aaron.

We are all so proud to see you doing your best to make it through this time. Check his Instagram to see what he has and when and where he is selling the plants. Keep going, mijo!

READ: These Female Entrepreneurs Want You To Wear A Wig That Is Snatched

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