This BONITA is Making a Fashion Statement About Women Empowerment
Name: Rachel Gomez
Nickname: My family calls me “Cholie.” My friends call me Bonita (LOL).
Hometown: Arleta, CA
Founder of Shop @VivaLaBONITA
Words to live by: My favorite quote is: “Clothes will not change the world. The women who wear them will.” I hear a lot of people say, “I want to start my own company because I don’t want work anymore.” My thoughts and immediate response usually goes like this: If you start your own company, you will work the hardest you have ever worked in your life. You will sacrifice time with your family, your kids, your significant other, your friends. The being “cool” factor should be non-existent because it will blind you and mislead you. If you have too much free time, you’re not working hard enough. You will work late and then wake up early to get back to work, but if none of this scared you or made you roll your eyes then you’re ready. Women can become who they want to be. They just have to allow that inner warrior to take over. I let her.
Can you give me some background about yourself? What were you doing before you started Viva La BONITA?
I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. My love for clothes and creativity started since I was a child. I treated my dolls like Gold! I didn’t realize I wanted a career in the fashion world until I started working in retail. Once I learned all the dynamics that really go into running a fashion brand/company I couldn’t get enough of it. I worked retail full-time and worked as a wardrobe stylist on the side. I started my first brand Kulture.LA (which my customers are very familiar with) and that led me to the transition of Viva La BONITA , which is now my full-time job.
What got you interested in fashion?
My grandma actually use to flip clothes. She would go to DTLA with her sisters when they first migrated from Mexico and they would buy clothes in bulk. Then they would sell the clothes out of their houses. It looks like it’s always been in my genetics. I was always around clothes, but it wasn’t until later that I realized I was actually around the business side of it as well.
When did you decide to start your own business?
I went to fashion school and did not fit in. This was a great thing by the way. I was always into the streetwear side of fashion and always built my projects around the Latina culture. I got a lot of negative feedback and was told it wouldn’t work because it wasn’t contemporary fashion. I was told that my idea was too narrow and it wouldn’t reach a wide spectrum of people. That’s when I told myself I would start a brand for women that was inspired by our Latina culture. If men can have all these cool lifestyle brands, why can’t women?
How many hats do you wear within your business?
I wear too many hats (LOL). I’m the creative director, I produce and sometimes shoot my own content, I design, I do the buying, I do customer service and I’ve built my own website. I can do everything. My team is only going to be as strong as I am, which is something I learned from being a store manager in retail. Before you delegate you have to be the strongest link and know how to do everything. I think that’s why I’m so passionate and committed to my brand, because I built and made the brand from nothing to something special and unique.
Where do you draw creative inspiration from?
The brand is centered on the Latina culture. I grew up very Tex/Mex since my grandpa was from El Paso, TX, so I take a lot of inspiration from things they use to tell us growing up and flip them into a way my customer can relate to. I’m obsessed with 90’s fashion and love researching the history of the women’s marches. I’m all about girl power!
What were some obstacles that you had to overcome as an entrepreneur?
It’s easy to be naive and think every idea is going to work and everything is going to be perfect. But it won’t be. No matter how good you think your ideas are, or how prepared you think you are, you’re in for an awakening . You have to mentally prepare if you’re going to choose this life. You literally are in charge of your success and your idea’s success. You will have days where you start to second guess yourself and you start to think if you can really survive off your idea. But it’s all mental. I have to check myself daily and remember why I started and why I’m doing this. As long as you wake up, work really damn hard, exhaust all ways to make your ideas work and visualize your success, I promise you they will.. But remember, YOU GOTTA WORK HARD.
Did your family always support your career choice?
They did, in their own way. I’ve never been babied or shown the easy way out. I’ve learned to figure things out and work hard. I know they were scared as heck for me especially when I found out I was going to be a mom. But I’ve never had a Plan B for my life. I knew I was going to have my own business so I had no choice but to make it work. I think my family realized I was serious when I came home from the hospital after I delivered my baby and I was packaging orders and shipping them out. That’s when they were like . . . Ok, she’s not gonna stop (LOL).
Where do you get your drive from?
I definitely get it from my grandma. If you know her, you know she’s tough. She raised me since I was a newborn and I never saw her complain or say “she was tired.” She ran a business with my grandpa and still came home to take care of her family. She still works to this day helping out women her own age around their house because she doesn’t wanna be “bored.” Her spirit is young and I can only pray I turn out to be as hard working as her.
What’s the best/toughest part of owning your own business?
The best part is I’m living life on my own terms and I can build my life around my son. I am my own boss which can be the hardest thing ever because I am my own worst critic. The toughest part is not knowing how your business is going to continue to unfold. Everyday is different, there’s a new challenge every single day, but trust me when I say, this life teaches you how to move mountains.
Reaching success can be a journey, did you ever get frustrated because things weren’t happening as quickly as you wanted? How did you get through this?
I learned to not get frustrated over things I can’t control. You have to really learn your business. What works for others will most likely not work for you. So if you’re business isn’t working, evaluate it and don’t be afraid to change things.
What has been essential to helping your business grow since you first began?
Staying true to Viva La BONITA’s message. We’re all about the community of women and making sure we have a powerful word to empower them. If you’re fearless, have big dreams, work hard, and aren’t afraid of a challenge, you are BONITA. At the end of the day, anyone can put BONITA on a t-shirt and try to sell it. But if you really know the brand, you know it’s more than just a t-shirt.
How important has social media been in the success of your business?
Social media has been one of the major success factors for our business. That’s how people found out about us. They got to know the brand and they’ve become a part of Viva La BONITA. We’ve connected with thousands of girls through social media. If it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t know who my customer base is. That’s key to any business I would think. You have to know why and who you’re selling to.
Who are some women leaders you look up to or inspire you?
I look up to so many to even talk about. That would require another story and another day. But the ladies who inspire some of the pieces of our brand are Frida and Selena. I love Frida for her realness and her honesty. She was so raw and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She told us to be weird and let us know that it was okay. Selena was the Latina girl’s dream. She was beautiful, she was elegant, she was the girl next door, and could sing & dance her ass off. In the short time we had her in our lives she left an imprint. You can still bump Selena songs and know all the words. That says something about her.
How would you describe your brand?
My brand is empowering, it’s comfortable, it keeps it real . . . She’s like that one friend you want to have by your side when things are going great and when things get tough.
What business goals have you already realized at this point?
I’m still learning my business every single day because no day is the same. But I can say this, I’ve learned that their was a missing pieces to our Latina fashion community. We weren’t being empowered to love our Latina selves. And I’m happy to say that we’re along side other amazing Latina owned brands that are helping mold the Latina fashion industry.
What new goals are you setting for your business?
I want to continue to grow as a Latina business, I want the message to get stronger, I want our ladies to have a place where they can come shop and hang out with us and I want to continue building Viva La BONITA into more than just a clothing brand. We have big dreams, big ideas, and are more motivated than ever. We hit the ground running and we don’t have any plans to stop.