Erica Marquez is a first-generation Latina who grew up in the city of Compton. She is the middle child of five other siblings and also the daughter of two immigrants who immigrated from the Mexican cities of Sinaloa and Jalisco.
From a young age, Marquez says that she dealt with a lot of emotional trauma due to her dad being in and out of jail and her mom dealing with domestic violence. Marquez’s mother became a single mom, so money was forever tight. Marquez and her siblings started to work with her mom. The young girls carried mops and buckets, scrubbed toilets and bathtubs and did whatever else necessary to help their mother earn a living by cleaning hotel rooms and private homes.
The experience taught Marquez the value of a dollar and how more dollars are made by owning a business rather than working for one.
Today, Marquez owns and operates La Diosa Boutique at the Goddess Mercado in East Los Angeles every second Saturday of the month. Currently, she is taking online orders and will be back at the Mercado for the month of May. Marquez is proud to call herself a South Central Latina entrepreneur and activist and business owner.
Questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
YOUR SHOP FEATURES NEW AND AUTHENTIC HUARACHES. WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION COME FROM?
My inspiration came from wanting to design my own stuff, I wanted to bring my own ideas into it. The stuff that I’m selling right now is being made by another manufacturer. One of my partners creates a few of my jewelry pieces and everything is hand-made by him. He is an indigenous who owns his own business in Jalisco. I also have another partner who does all the huaraches. We are now expanding and catering to wider feet and bigger sizes.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOUR TEAM?
My team is currently just me and my mom. I bring her along to help me with prepping my stuff a day before, and actually selling on Saturdays at the pop-ups. Setting up usually happens around seven or eight in the morning, and I usually use my husband’s truck on the weekends. We get to the Mercado and we get to network and at the end of the day we package up and we call it a day.
WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED MOST ABOUT STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
It’s been a lot. It’s been a wild ride, and has pushed me to my limits. Running a business has actually shown me what I’m capable of. I’ve always had it in me, I’ve always been a people person. This business has forced me to grow, not just in my career but also in my personal life and I feel like that’s one of the best things that can happen. My business is a reflection of me. It’s so colorful, it’s so pretty and that’s how I feel inside.
DO YOU BELIEVE SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYS A BIG ROLE IN RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS?
Social media has been one of the most helpful tools. I always tell people, ‘Don’t buy my huaraches just because you want to support me. Buy them because you want them.’ Back in January, one of my TikTok videos went viral and I got 200 orders that day. Social media has definitely helped my business.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU CAN PROVIDE TO THE NEXT LATINX ENTREPRENEUR?
I would say to just do it, don’t let your fears get in the way of something that can be life-changing. La Diosa Boutique wasn’t my first business. I was running a liquidation business, and the profit was there, but it just wasn’t me. I didn’t have a passion for it. Even though I didn’t like the liquidation business, it did teach me the basics of running a business and it encouraged me to chase an actual dream of what is now my own boutique.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF DACA RECIPIENTS?
As a U.S citizen, I see the struggles that my brother is going through and I actually get to see it with my husband. Many jobs require you to be a U.S citizen. The fear of not knowing when their DACA will be taken away is terrifying, they can get deported. This is why it is so important to advocate for DACA recipients. It’s not fair. They have been living here their whole lives.