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Meet Brenda Heredia and Diana Blanco of Ixal Crafts in Whittier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Heredia and Diana Blanco.

Brenda and Diana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Brenda: Diana and I are two undocumented first-generation students. Diana is currently doing her Masters in Counseling with an emphasis in the Latinx Community, and I am currently in my fourth year of undergrad, and I am doing a double major in Business Marketing and Spanish, along with a Translation Certificate. We both are from Mexico City, Diana came to the country when she was 11 years old, and I came when I was 15.

We have been college friends since 2018, we both go to Cal State Fullerton and join an organization called D.R.E.A.M. Co-Op, which is the only CSUF student organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented students while providing a safe space for students to express themselves. In 2018-2019, Diana served as the President of the org, and the year after, I did. This organization made our friendship grow and gave us the opportunity to share beautiful experiences while connecting us to our community and the home we have found within each other. At this point is when we started embracing our identities and came out of the shadows.

This year, at the beginning of the pandemic Diana started selling her own earrings through her personal Instagram account, and we had a conversation about both of us thinking about starting our businesses, so we had the idea of combining both of our items.

We launched our Instagram on May 25th of this year, and although we are fairly new, the amount of support we have gotten is immense. Diana’s specialty is quilled items, which is a technique she learned when she was living in Mexico, and it reminds her of her childhood. My specialty is beading, which although I am still learning, I am having a lot of fun while doing so because I feel like it’s a connection to my roots and my ancestors, as well as the many years I lived in Mexico and the memories I have from it.

In the past months, we have collaborated with other businesses such as GG’s Beads, together we fundraised funds in order to support social justice events, such as the Black Lives Movement where all the funds were donated to the local organizations Anti-Police Terror Project and Gender Justice-LA.

With the help of other business owners, Adelitas Apparel and Kaleidoscope Cultured, also undocumented owned brands, we were able to launch our website and build a community that continuously shows their support towards us. We are happy to see it grow and we hope to one day be able to give back to the undocumented community, which is where we have found home and where we have been embraced by others.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a learning experience. Both of us were very new at creating a business and we definitely kept asking questions to our friends who already have established businesses. Besides the making, we also had to learn how to manage the website, pack the item, and ship it to its new home. We have been learning about time-management, as both of us are full-time students and also have jobs, we have to plan the time to make our items as some of them take over an hour to be made, and we also have to do the marketing and the promoting behind our business.

Because at the moment the world is online, it has been a little complicated to expand, but we hope in the future we will be able to attend vending events in person, as our friend from @growingasaflower has advised us. We would love to connect with other businesses and do other collaborations that will help all of us grow and be able to give back to our communities.

As we mentioned before, the community has been very supportive and understanding of us at being new with all these processes, and we are very grateful for it. We have been struggling, but people supporting us makes it way easier to navigate.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ixal Crafts – what should we know?
Ixal Crafts is an undocumented women-owned business. Ixal is a combination of both of our middle names (Ixchel + Alejandra). We specialize in hand-made items, such as quilled & beaded earrings, necklaces, bracelets, keychains, bookmarks, and magnets.

We are known for working with our clients’ imaginations and creating 100% customized items for them. We love to create exactly what they picture in their minds, and we love to see them happy when the item arrives at them.

We are proud of paving the path and inspiring other undocumented folks to start their own businesses, all while we are receiving help from the ones that already exist. It is a very supportive community that we have going on, and we are excited to see many other immigrant-owned businesses grow with us. A lot of undocumented folks who are new to the country or live under different circumstances are not able to qualify for DACA, which is a working permit, therefore, without DACA, they do not qualify for employment. One of the few things they can do without the need of DACA is starting their own business. I (Brenda) do not have DACA and although it has been a difficult journey, I feel happy to see that my creations are going to other places, being worn by people from all around the country, and my status is finally not placed before who I am as a person. I feel supported and happy to have a friend such as Diana to be here and learn with me while we grow together.

What sets us apart from others is that besides providing fully hand-made items, are the techniques we use in order to create our products. Quilling is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs, this technique is not very known, and it is a beautiful way to create shapes such as flowers and butterflies. When it comes to beading, it is an art form that involves the use of beads and string in order to create beautiful shapes such as flowers and suns. In the future, we would love to create items that send out a message to our community, and while the ideas are there, we are still trying to find the ways to make it work. Nonetheless, we do see a future with our brand and we hope to one day be able to inspire many others.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
As we mentioned before, other businesses owners who have helped us grow are:
Adelitas Apparel (@adelitasapparel)
Kaleidoscope Cultured (@kaleidoscopecultured)
Growing as a Flower (@growingasaflower)
Klizshop (@klizshop)

*all are Instagram accounts

They all have helped us establish our website, have given us tips on how to grow and interact with our audience, they have promoted us in their own social media accounts. They have given us ideas on what items to create, and they have shared infinite awesome opportunities for us, such as this interview.

We have also been supported by the community as a whole, our friends who have purchased our items and post pictures wearing them to help us promote are mainly what have helped us grow.

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