UA Eller student brings Mexican culture to life with new business
Alexa Rodriguez is a full-time student at the University of Arizona, has a full-time job and runs her own business — a business making a difference.
In March 2019, Rodriguez started Adela Artisan Made, through which she sells products inspired by traditional Mexican culture — dresses, purses and jewelry — which are handmade by local artisans from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Rodriguez said she was inspired to start the business by her grandmother, who would make her dresses and jewelry regularly. When wearing the things her grandmother made for her, Rodriguez enjoyed seeing how people reacted to them.
“I saw how people appreciate it, how they really like it,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes people in my culture don’t appreciate it that much [and] we just take it for granted. I took it for granted for so long and I’ve been wearing these things since I was a kid.”
To get started, Rodriguez researched big clothing stores that copied authentic Mexican designs but hardly paid anything for their production.
According to Rodriguez, some Mexican artisans are hired by such stores to make these products but are only paid a fraction of what they deserve.
Rodriguez said this leads artisans to believe their products aren’t valuable.
“I knew if I was going to [start this business], I was going to do it right,” Rodriguez said. “I was going to create more value for the artisans.”
Rodriguez’s mission is to “help, share, and empower her culture.” Rodriguez said she sells things at a fair price, both for her customers and for the artists behind the products. She wants the artisans to get the recognition they deserve.
“I want people to know exactly where the money that they’re paying for the item is going,” Rodriguez said. “Everything is handmade. They’re made with love, they’re different, they have a story behind them. I want for people to understand how precious and important that is.”
Rodriguez also works at the Young Women’s Christian Association in Southern Arizona as the executive assistant in the Women’s Business Center. Her boss, Francisca Villegas-Braker, met her when Rodriguez was seeking guidance in creating her business.
Villegas-Braker said she feels fortunate to have been able to help Rodriquez start a business and loves everything that Adela Artisan Made represents.
“She exhibits the qualities to be a very successful businesswoman,” Villegas-Braker said. “She is hardworking, super knowledgeable about her products and she takes the time to learn about the story behind them.”
Rodriguez said that for a long time, she felt that she “didn’t have a fit anywhere.” She saw other UA business students getting jobs with major corporations and organizations, but she knew that was not the path for her.
“I have that need to be an entrepreneur. I want to be able to fight for my own dreams,” Rodriguez said. “I’d rather work every day and every night for my dream instead of working for somebody else’s dream.”
Rodriguez has high hopes for Adela Artisan Made in the future and for her own future after graduation.
Irma Medina Mazon, who owns her own small business, Antonella Handcrafts, met Rodriguez at a vendor event for Boss Women Unite. Medina Mazon thinks highly of Rodriguez.
“She’s creative and extremely motivated to share our culture with the world,” Medina Mazon said. “She has an incredible heart and aspires to do so much more.”
Follow Isabella on Twitter