Today we’d like to introduce you to Maritza Aguirre.
Hi Maritza, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
As a first-generation Salvadoran American born in East Los Angeles. I grew up surrounded by plants. My parents migrated from El Salvador, Central America to the U.S. in the early 70’s. As the anchor baby of the family, my family tried to make our home filled with what they had grown up with. We had a garden of fruit trees, tropical plants, house plants, flowers, etc. I recall that one of my chores as a child was to water the plants. It was always so relaxing to me. Once I graduated from high school and graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Political Science and Spanish degree, my parents and myself expected me to go onto Law school. I moved up to San Francisco to complete my internship at the District Attorney’s office in Domestic Violence. From there, I was offered jobs as a law clerk. My goal was to then go to become a lawyer. However, different opportunities arose, and I realized I was not cut out to be in the corporate world. The stress, the anxiety, the pure contact with people got to me and I decided to take another path.
I was actually asked to sit in a Master’s class of Ethnic Studies and I loved it. So I was eventually chosen to be a Master’s Student for Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State. The experience was amazing. Soon after, a teaching position came up in the San Francisco Unified School District and I took it. I became a teacher at Newcomer High School at the age of 22. I taught high school and middle school for ten years. I also became a mom and a wife. After having my second son, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. And wow, it’s been a painful experience. Not only is it pain throughout my body, but it gives you anxiety and depression because sometimes you literally feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. It was so traumatizing for me because I was a very active, fast-paced, A personality, do it all mom and wife. This eventually ended my teaching career because I was considered to be “disability retired.” I was so surprised. But the blessing of this is that I was able to be home and present with my boys. I was able to watch every one of their water polo games, swim meets, go to their assemblies, field trips, volunteer at their schools, attend their morning award ceremonies, performances and graduations, etc.
Eventually, once my older son graduated from high school in 2015, I decided to give succulents as party favors. I had some leftover and just put them aside. But one day I started to notice that my voice was going out. And eventually, I completely lost my voice during a five months period. I could not believe it. I literally could not say a word. After many doctor visits, I was finally sent to a specialist who told me I had a polyp. The doctor told me that I could either stay completely silent, not even trying to mouth a word or I could have surgery. So I decided to remain completely silent. That is where my quote, “As I watched my succulents grow, my soul became calmer,” was created. You will find that quote on my business cards, websites, social media, shirts, etc. In my complete silence, I fell in love with succulents. I fell in love with succulents because with those leftover succulents that I had from my son’s graduation, I began to plant a garden. I had a mini garden on a small corner of my yard. Daily I would go out and literally stare at my succulents. That in itself was amazing because prior to this, I never would even make time to smell the roses. Now I would literally go out and stare at my succulents and plants.
During this time of silence, I would go out daily and watch my succulents, this was when I began to notice the propagation process. Out of a dried-up withered leaf, I would notice roots growing out of the edge of the petal. Eventually, there would be a pup forming and then as the days, weeks and months passed a small succulent was forming. This gave me hope and faith that if a withered leaf could sprout out a beautiful succulent, then why would God not bring back my voice. After five months, my voice did eventually come back. In my quiet time, my succulent garden grew, now it is wrapped around my house. I have a tropical plant garden all around my yard, several succulent beds, and an indoor urban jungle with house plants. All of my plants have really been meditative and therapeutic for me.
In 2016, I started to create arrangements. Thank the Lord my friends supported me and started to purchase arrangements. With everything that I’ve gone thru throughout my life, I came up with the name “Soulful Succulents” because when I create something, I am putting all of my positive energy and love into making something beautiful for someone. I am not just creating to make money, I am creating to share a deep mindful gift for someone. Within a short time, I was asked by different boutiques to participate in selling my items. I was so excited, I simply could not believe that something that helped me heal and bring me peace was slowly turning into a business. From there, Art Fairs started to ask me to sell at their events, this then led me to start selling inside of stores and salons. I then thought, wow I would love to share this healing passion with others. This is when I started to host my “Sip ‘n’ Succs Workshops.” I just began to host them in restaurants and coffee shops in Uptown Whittier and then I was asked to host them all over Southern California. I have hosted them at restaurants such as Social in Costa Mesa, Open Market OC in Laguna Hills, Patch Coffee in Lake Forest, Auntie’s Cafe in Whittier, Cielo Beauty Bar in Whittier, Ohana’s Kitchen and Bar in Sunset Beach, the Pallet in Thousand Oaks, My Place Cafe in Pasadena, and so many more places all throughout Southern California. I also host private parties such as baby showers, bridal showers, corporate parties, staff developments, retirement homes, and assistant living homes for those with Alzheimer’s. I have just been asked to host one in downtown Los Angeles for 60 plus people.
Last year was supposed to be my best year yet, but then Covid hit. I was hosting at least 2-3 workshops a week before the pandemic. Everything came to a complete halt, so I thought. One day I was approached by big companies such as Yelp and Venmo to do an event and a photoshoot with them. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited to do a Zoom workshop with Yelp OC. And then Venmo set up an entire photoshoot in my workspace. It was a couple of months of work. I couldn’t believe all the photo crew, producers, agents, directors, etc. that were focused on me. Venmo had chosen Soulful Succulents to represent them as a small business. I have also been interviewed by a couple of magazines.
During this pandemic, I have also created my DIY kits. These are kits that provide everything to make a Soulful Succulents Arrangement. I sold many of these last year, along with many creations that I made. Quite often, I use my own homegrown succulents from my garden, especially since I really stayed quarantined for almost a year. I even started painting some planters, making succulent jewelry, and creating house plant arrangements. I have even had a Pop Up Shop at Anthropologie in Thousand Oaks. This year I’m set to do a workshop at the new housing towers that have been made. I do several giveaways on my social media outlets, mostly on my Instagram @soulful_succulents. Most of my sales are from Instagram. I try to inspire people with positive quotes because I know life is hard. It hasn’t been easy for me, so I always pray that my arrangements and succulents can put a smile on a person’s face. I have lots of online sales, but you can always shop from my website Soulfulsucculents.net. You can find me on Facebook, Tik Tok, and Twitter at Soulful Succulents.
I hope to meet you soon at a workshop. We travel from the Valley all the way to South Orange county. If there is ever a succulent or plant that you are wanting, send me a message at Soulfulsucculents1@gmail.com and I will try my best to get that for you. I can also help you stage a home or office with faux or real succulents and plants.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth road. Business is not always busy. There are some months when business is very slow. When I first started Soulful Succulents almost five years ago, I felt I was doing something super unique, but as I put myself out there, I noticed a trend of people taking many of my ideas and selling at a lower price. A business that I started to help others by giving them something soulful has now become a market that is over-saturated. People are overly trying to capitalize in this industry. I love doing workshops and meeting people. I share how to care, create and transplant their succulent or plant arrangement as well as my testimony, and I do it wholeheartedly. I love to teach, but it is a disappointment to find out that many of my acquaintances or clients have come to several workshops to come and learn to create their own business. Many of my clients have used my own story to start their business during this pandemic.
This pandemic in itself has been very difficult. I had to cancel several workshops and lost many events and opportunities. Many private parties were canceled. Lots of pop-up shops were put to a close. What was to be my best year yet, became a year with only a few workshops. Now, slowly I am trying to go back to hosting workshops. It’s very difficult however because my workshops are interactive. I provide an apron, individual boxes and have community areas to pull items for their arrangement. However, I now have to learn to create this space differently and not interact with the clients as much.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I create succulent, air plant, and house plant arrangements. I create succulent jewelry, succulent/plant wall pieces, succulent gardens, succulent/plant staging items, plant gifts, and any type of succulent/plant arrangement in wooden, ceramic, resin, and concrete vessels. I rarely create the same arrangement twice. I love to provide a unique arrangement for everyone since we are all so very important and need to be shown love. I create any type of custom work arrangement. I also sell individual succulents, plants, planters, and DIY kits.
I specialize in succulent arrangements and my “Sip ‘n’ Succs” Workshops. I provide a great night for a Girl’s Night Out, a date night, a mom group, a private party, a staff development, a fellowship night, an employee event, girls scout event, bridal shower, etc… I love to provide self-love and self-care classes for people. Being mindful is very important to me.
I am most proud of the time I put into my creations. I am a one person show, I am proud of how far I have come on my own. I am also proud of how many people follow my work. It is exciting because I never thought I would have such a following. I love to post positive quotes with my work because we all need positivity in our life.
I think my transparency and love for people set me apart from everyone. Life has not been easy for me, I have had to work on being positive. I love to provide a positive and fun experience while hosting my events and selling my creations.
Being chosen by Venmo has been one of my biggest accomplishments. I was so proud to be chosen to represent small businesses for them. I was so humbled and never thought I would be noticed at that level.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
Be original. Take note of everything. Not everyone in your industry is your friend and be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
- Email: Soulfulsucculents1@gmail.com
- Website: Soulfulsucculents.net
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/soulful_succulents
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/soulfulsucculents
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/soulfulsuculent