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Exploring Life & Business with Vanessa Alcala of The Rhinestone Rodeo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Alcala.

Vanessa, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have always loved going to country concerts, line dancing, and especially huge country festivals. Getting dressed up, singing along with the crowd, and two stepping into the night were always amazing memories that I couldn’t wait to relive. While at concerts, I would be asked about my outfits, given apparel to wear by booth owners on site, and would be asked about recommendations for attending by those who would see my experience online, so I started blogging about the festivals! I worked hard to build my blogging presence until I was able to start attending festivals as a publication outlet! In 2017, I was covering the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas when I survived the largest massacre in US history. After that night, I was stripped of my favorite care-free safe place: concerts. I was scared to be in public, let alone attend a concert, and sadly even stopped listening to my favorite music as it ended up triggering me constantly. After therapy, a lot of prayer, and time figuring out what I wanted to do, I re-launched my country western blog as The Rhinestone Rodeo. I now create content around country western fashion, lifestyle, and beauty, based out of Los Angeles and London. I continued to expand and launched my own brand and boutique as Rhinestone Rodeo Apparel.

I love sustainability, supporting local businesses, sassy country sayings, retro 70’s western vibes, and value handmade goods so I really needed to get resourceful to combine all of these points into one cohesive aesthetic. All of my apparel is made in the USA, printed locally 10 minutes from my house by a local business where he hand mixes the colors with me for every print, hand-make all of my blankets and scrunchies in the shop, sew and crop vintage flannels by hand, and collaborate with other small businesses to create candles and some cute cow coffee tumblers! I created a portable boutique and booked country concerts throughout festival season and had my first successful festival two weeks before Covid hit. Unfortunately, this meant I had every other concert I had booked canceled! I had just ordered all of my merchandise, having spent all my savings on my launch, just to be stuck in the house. I ended up pivoting my business strategy and started doing pop ups in the LA area, using the time to really dial in my booth set up, decor, aesthetic, design new products, and expand my product offerings. After three months of pop ups and meeting other small business owners, I launched a second company: Pressed Wilde + Co., a small business portal for resources, community, and website to find pop ups around the LA area.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I had to learn the hard way that good things worth fighting for are not easy! I had finalized my entire business plan and goals the Wednesday before the Route 91 Massacre and the mental and physical setback was only the beginning. I had to give myself time to get over survivor guilt and believe that I had something to offer this world as a creative and businesswoman. I had to find belief that my business was worth pursuing because I could not do anything half-hearted ever again. I found myself motivated and accomplished my goal of having all my products come to life in production, sell in an actual festival, and book out an entire festival season, only to have Covid hit and cancel my plans. I mean, if this road is so bumpy I am off-roading at this point! No matter what, if you want to start a business, you will struggle. I think the only thing that matters is your mindset to the struggles. If you see every setback as a way to reset, re-strategize, re-work your vision, you will learn that there are truly so many paths to the same destination of success. One setback to starting a business can be financial start-up costs. I really re-worked my finances to ensure that I could launch my own dream. I worked for agencies, worked at a winery and freelanced all the same time and saved everything. I cut down small spending habits like switching my latte run for coffee at home, I ate out one time a week, and I cut out any additional spending like clothes and for a fashion lover like myself, this meant I was really serious! As soon as I’ve ordered a product and made sales, I immediately re-invested the money into a new product launch or a re-order. I still tell myself I’ve made no money because it helps me stay disciplined in reinvesting back into my business because that is the only way you can expand.

We’ve been impressed with The Rhinestone Rodeo, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am a country western content creator that expanded into owning my own country boutique! Everything in my boutique is sustainably focused, produced locally, handmade, vintage, or made in collaboration with another small business owner. I hand crop and sew vintage flannels, hand-make every crocheted blanket, sew hand-made scrunchies, and hand rhinestone vintage cowboy boots. It is a lot of creating and designing with 70’s western inspiration. All of the scrunchies are made from fabric from a local family shop, my candles are hand-poured by a local woman, my tumbler cups are designed by myself and made by a local creative! If you shop with me, you are shopping and pouring directly back into the community! I specialize in creative twists on country classics. I think country graphic tees can be so fun and still fashionable and can create cute talking points when at concerts. I think I’ve become known for having something in my shop for everyone. Regardless of your interests, there is something that you would see and think of someone who would love it. There are a lot of country apparel companies at concerts, but I think a few things that set me apart are: the quality of graphics, the cut of the tanks, the intention behind every product being sustainable or locally produced, and the aesthetic. I work hard to make sure my booth looks warm, inviting, and has a vibe of its own. I think I am most proud that my brand has been developed over time with intentionality and uniqueness. I can proudly say I sell something that you couldn’t find somewhere else!

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I think most people are surprised I love country so much. I grew up in the hardcore scene of LA! I listened to all indie through college and still listen to disco driving home. I love Americana, bluegrass, and alt-rock which means I dress just as eclectically. I will be out dressed in streetwear or vintage A-line dresses and come across someone who loves country and I will get so excited and they are just staring at me until they say, “I just would never guess you like country!” If I could, I would be living in big bear in a huge cabin and large property or on a ranch in Wyoming just living my life with my little animals. Country music resonates with everyone and being “country” is such a wide term now because there is different communities with different personalities across the industry. There are ranchers, vaqueros, bull riders, farm life, California country, Nashville country. When I go to country parties in Nashville, all of the artists are in leather jackets and the girls are dressed in LA-style outfits, but the concerts are daisy dukes and a tank with a flannel wrapped around. I think people still try to box in people who love country music, but there is just no limits anymore! There is room in country music for everyone.

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Image Credits:

Mycah Burns Charley Pangus Coral Santana

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