Think Big: Like mother, like daughter

ProsperUS Detroit and Global Detroit both work to serve immigrant and minority entrepreneurs. This story is one in a series that highlight local entrepreneurs and their economic contributions as they propel Detroit’s revitalization.

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By Beth Szurpicki

Elodia Santiago’s eight year old daughter, Montserrat, loves to help run her mother’s business, Ropa Tipica Artesano 7 Regiones (Typical Artisan Clothing 7 Regions).  In particular, she enjoys telling people about the vibrant items and showing them off – as she’s wearing them.  She criss-crosses event floors where her mother is selling to hand out business cards and escort potential customers to the booth.

“She is a natural. One time, when we arrived, a security guard told her he liked her shirt.  As the event progressed she disappeared, and I found her pulling him through the crowd towards me to pick something out.”  Elodia says Monserrat is excited to learn embroidery when she is a little older so that she can create the beautiful garments that her mother sells.

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Ropa Tipica Artesano 7 Regiones imports handmade and hand-embroidered quality products from Oaxaca, Mexico. At seven years old, Elodia learned the craft through watching women work hours on end to create beautifully hand-crafted embroidered clothes to sell to tourists, often making very little for the amount of work invested.

purple-embroidery-copyAfter family connections brought her to Detroit, she saw an opportunity to provide her new community with authentic Oaxacan items while supporting the women back home. Her products, including clothing, bedding, bags, dolls and more, are the only hand-embroidered high-quality Oaxacan pieces, often one-of-a-kind, available in Detroit.  “Now I sell it because I want to give it the value that it deserves.”

“Now I sell it because I want to give it the value that it deserves.”

Elodia graduated from ProsperUS Detroit’s small business training program in 2012. One of the most valuable strategies she learned was the need to identify her target market, and with ProsperUS’ help, she was able to find and market to the people that would give her products the value they deserve. She has expanded from selling solely to her personal networks to attending various product shows, holiday and cultural festivals across the region, and connecting with new clients.

elodia-smiling-1-copy“Businesses like Elodia’s inspire and give hope to others in the neighborhood that they too can be business owners and role models in their community,” says ProsperUS Detroit Director Kimberly Faison.

Elodia says all you need is the willingness and desire to do it – and ProsperUS can help with the rest. She is considering expanding her product diversity and making the move to a storefront, and is grateful for the ongoing business services ProsperUS provides its graduates in helping make this decision. Ropa Tipica Artesano 7 Regiones is continuing to grow with ProsperUS help, which “will allow me to continue my dream to be able to provide a better future for my daughter,” she says.  

Oaxaca is a beautiful state, the culture as vibrant as the precious embroidered goods that Elodia sells. At the same time, Oaxaca is a state that relies on tourism. “For many people, one always has to sell, keep it moving, it is like an instinct we could say because it’s inculcated from when one is young,” says Elodia. Elodia includes Monserrat in the business because she believes she should continue to instill this instinct she’s had deep inside since she was a girl. One could describe this instinct as the entrepreneurial spirit that motivates the entrepreneur, the immigrant. Elodia wants her to have the hope and motivation to think big – for herself and for her community.  And so while Monserrat is a natural at some aspects of running a business, ProsperUS is there to help with the rest.

Translation provided by: Alejandra Romero

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