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Meet Desiree Contreras of Chopped Up Cherries Embroidery

Today we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Contreras.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started my business five years ago after being let go from my job as a graphic designer.

At this time, I was not prepared for my unemployment. I had just bought a new car, my father was rapidly digressing from stage four terminal cancer, I had just found out the person I was living with for three years was cheating on me and to top it all off, there was an earthquake that day.

At the time I had an industrial embroidery machine that was in my parent garage that I occasionally used. After my pity party of the century and a multiple series of Kim Kardashian ugly cry sessions, I decided that I was going to be my own boss. That no one would ever fire me again.

I had $14 in my bank account after I paid all my bills with my last check. I remember sitting in my parent’s dusty garage. It was about 98 degrees, and I spend most the day sneezing because my mom’s dogs slept in the garage and I am allergic to them.

I was so broken, but I wanted this so bad. So for 127 days, I worked straight. I worked in heat. I worked in cold. I worked as I sneezed repeatedly from the allergies. I worked until exhaustion. My father’s wheelchair was my office chair. I had speakers that crackled as I played music, but to me it was freedom.

The more customers I got, the more referrals I got. Then I got a call saying that Frito Lay needed some shirts. I couldn’t believe it! One of the biggest companies around wanted little old me to embroider for them. This put me in the game! My clients escalated to L.A.P.D., Boost Mobile, AT&T, United States Air Force Germany, United States Air Force Portugal and even some celebrities contacted me for work.

A few months later, I got a shop in my city around the corner from home. I couldn’t believe I had my own store in the city I grew up in. I always wanted to start up my clothing line, so I also began that. I also have a clothing line called Stay Chula Apparel.

In the midst of all the accomplishments, I experienced a lot of pain — a lot of heartaches and so much struggle. I don’t want to paint such an easy picture. In the midst of running a business I lost my father to cancer, I went through a traumatic break-up. I got my car repossessed for a bit. I remember surviving off of top ramen and beans.

Today I have a beautiful shop. I have five embroidery machine heads. I also specialize in screen printing. I vend my clothing line, and I couldn’t be happier. I have won many lucrative awards in the apparel industry. One being top 40 innovative people in the apparel industry by Advertising Specialty Institute which is a very prestige magazine in the apparel industry.

I am very thankful for the struggle and am looking forward in growing more.

Has it been a smooth road?
No! People often tell me “You’re so lucky!” I am not lucky. I worked for all of this. People often see the glamour in it but don’t see the pain. The late nights, early mornings or the times you can’t attend events because you have to work.

The lowest point in my life is when a homeless person actually gave me money! Sounds funny but it’s a true story. One time I was cashing out all my change at coin star and I hear this homeless lady yell “Dang Girl!!!!!!! Let me get some of that change!”

Little did this lady know I was about one step from being her neighbor at this point. I said “Look, I know it seems like this is just change to me but homegirl I am literally about to be your neighbor. I am struggling to pay my bills and car payment. She said “Oh Snap, here girl! Have two cents!” and she literally gave me two cents.

I couldn’t believe I was at a point in my life where a homeless person gave ME money!

There was a point where my car was repossessed. I had to walk everywhere until I had enough money to get it out of car jail. I decided to use my bike at this time since my shop was only about 2 miles from my home. Since I grew up in the neighborhood, I ran into so many people I knew!

How embarrassing! I didn’t want to tell them why I didn’t have a car, so I just said I was getting exercise. One of my friends almost hit me one day as I rode my bike and then she said “What the hell are you doing? Did you get a D.U.I.?” Talk about being mortified. I eventually was able to get my car out of car jail. Another time I was walking home, and I lied and told her that I was playing Poke-e-mon go. It was a game that was big at that time.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Chopped-Up Cherries Embroidery story. Tell us more about the business.
I specialize in award-winning embroidery and screen printing at an affordable cost. I am located in the City of Industry in California. I embroider each and every item myself. I have a degree in graphic design as well. I do it all. I offer services such as embroidery, screen printing, vinyl, promotional items, and sublimation.

I am most proud of the fact that I started with $14. That I beat all statistics. It is said that most new businesses will fail in their first year and here I am five years later going stronger than ever.

What sets me apart from others is my drive. I am willing to do what others won’t. I also have been recognize in many apparel magazines for coming up with new techniques that have never been done before in embroidery. I feel that my customer service also sets me apart.

I make it a point to remember my customer names and any events that they attended such as their child’s graduation or a vacation. I want them to feel like I care about them because I do. It is about the relationship.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Embroidery is making a huge come back. I envision many more people ordering embroidery. Embroidery has been around since the Bible days. It is here to stay.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 214 South Ninth Avenue City of Industry, Ca 91746
  • Phone: 7146501781
  • Email: choppedupcherriesembroidery@yahoo.com
  • Instagram: @choppedupcherriesembroidery
  • Other: @staychulaapparel


Image Credit:
Britannie Renoj – La Fotografia

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Elisa Ortega

    March 25, 2019 at 21:52

    You are amazing! So talented and a beautiful soul! Keep up the awesome work! I know you are just getting started!!

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