We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Michelle Castro-Martha a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Michelle, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Let’s talk legacy – what sort of legacy do you hope to build?
When I started my business my goal was to stay productive and creative while caring for my family, also to bring some income into our household without leaving my daughters at childcare.
But as the business started growing I found my self loving what I was doing, pouring a bit of my culture and roots into my designs. This gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment not just for me but for my family, my culture, my abuelitas who also inspire me all the time.
Building a business from zero is extremely hard, the challenges never end, they just change. For me all of this works as a fuel to keep going, I want my daughters to learn the value of hard work, knowledge, patience and consistency with my example.
I’m first generation Bachelors degree graduate, first generation becoming a US citizen, first generation business owner in the US… It’s a lot of firsts… I want this example to pave the way not just for my daughters but for any woman who dreams of building something on her own, for migrants who might feel its impossible to succeed in another country.
I want our community to grow and thrive by lifting each other so we can become stronger and later on give back to the next generations.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Hi! My name is Michelle, I was born in Tijuana Mexico but migrated to the US eleven years ago and became a US citizen four years ago. I’m the wife of a very smart and patient man who teaches highscoolers math, and a mommy of two beautiful, talented and kind girls.
I went to college in Mexico and have Bachelors degree in Communication. I worked for corporate many years, but after I got pregnant with my first daughter I knew I didn’t want to leave her in childcare.
I wanted to do something to feel productive and help with the household income, but also I wasn’t going to sacrifice my time with my baby, So I started baking for fun, then my family offered to pay for my sweets, which I thought it was crazy but that’s exactly how my business started about ten years ago…
My mom was a baker so I learned the basics from her, everything else i figured out my self, reading and watching tutorials, practicing a lot! Little by little I became better at my craftsmanship. I also gained new customers little by little, started with a couple of orders a week fast forward to 8-10 larger orders a week plus distributing at four selling locations.
To get there I had to turn my hobby/side hustle into a full time job. I registered my business, got my licenses and permits, rented a ghost kitchen, all of this happened in the lapse of two years, during the pandemic.
I also coordinate a Night Market with local vendors at our neighborhood bar Hoppy Daze tap house, where we showcase the work of makers from our community.
Building a brand and a business from zero is very hard. You need to surround yourself with a support system that will carry you when you feel like you just cant go on… that’s why I have so much love and respect for my family, my friends and my community, that’s how the night market idea came to life too! Community is very important to me, its the ore of a society, strong bonds and honesty will take you far!
My dream is to open a brick and mortar place, I want to show my daughters that big dreams can come true, that we are capable of creating the life we dreamed of and that all of this happens with hard work, commitment and a lot of determination.
I want to pave the way for other migrants, women, minorities, because representation matters. its not just about baking!
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
I have a lot of those, but I guess the one that I think I learned the most off was having my business open during the covid pandemic.
At first a lot of orders got cancelled, I thought ok I’m going to take a mini vacation how bad can that be? But then it looked like it was for undetermined time, some customers kept their orders or just made them smaller, so I had to continue working. I felt celebrating anything at that moment was important because life just seemed so uncertain, we were forced to live in fear, but counting your blessings and celebrating them lifts the spirit and feeds hope, I wanted to be part of that.
So I started making decorating kits for the kiddos, holiday cookie sales or just random bake sales,my customers always showed up, always!
My business had a tremendous growth, I got my permits and licenses, I was featured at a baking competition with the network Hulu, all of this with tons of difficulties, challenges, doubts and concerns, learning on the way and unlearning self doubt.
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
The best one is when someone recommends you, by far!
Customer loyalty is essential for a business to grow. We usually always trust what our best friend or mom recommends.
When we reassure that, by delivering a product that meets their expectations or succeeds them, we are building a long term relationship with your new customer and possibly another 3 new customers.
Networking would be the second one for me. So much to say about this, maybe in another interview!
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