Are you sitting on a great idea for a business but just not sure how to get things started?
You’re not alone!
Many potential entrepreneurs allow fears of failure to keep them from making that crucial move that allows their idea for a great business to go from just a dream to becoming a thriving venture.
During this week’s episode of Do The Damn Thing, Laura Foy picks the brain of a leader in the business community who decided to take the leap and create a money-making business that she can be proud of. Gabi De La Rosa took her inspiration and transformed it into Texas Chingona, a successful business that produces high-quality shirts while also empowering the Latina community.
But why did it take Gabi over a decade to get her business going? And how did she use Instagram as her principal platform to create such a huge impact on her company’s productivity?
Be sure to watch our video now to find out how she did the damn thing!
Read the script:
Laura: Hello, everybody! Welcome back to another week of Do The Damn Thing. I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving break – got some time to rest and recoup. I know I did, and it was much needed. But on to bigger and better things. Today I am very excited, pleased, thrilled, and honored to be joined by Gabi De La Rosa.
Gabi is the owner and founder of Texas Chingona. Did I say that right, Gabi?
Gabi: That’s correct.
Laura: All right! Right on. Well, thank you so much for joining me here today. We’re very happy to have you.
Gabi: Thanks for having me. This is great.
Laura: So, I came across you and started doing a little research. And one – because I love a good margarita. And I also love Taco Tuesday. I love Frida Kahlo. And all of a sudden, I was like, “Gabi and Me – we’re kindred spirits. We have to chat.”
I just started reading about you, and you’ve got yourself quite a following there. You’ve got 19,000 followers on Instagram. I’m sure you’ve got double that in your email list, or wherever it is that you store these people.
But let’s talk a little bit about Texas Chingona… opens in a new window to Texas Chingona…. What is it?
Gabi: So, first of all, let’s talk about the name. I’m from Texas. My family has been here for generations since it was a part of Mexico. And “Chingona” – it’s a slang word. It’s usually used in Mexico, but it basically means a bad-ass woman.
And so I felt like sticking those two things together was perfect. And that’s where the name came from. So basically, it started out that I wanted to sell t-shirts. So I started about two and a half years ago with one shirt – no experience, no Instagram experience, and zero followers. I had nothing except a dream.
Laura: What was your first shirt? Do you have funny sayings? Was it a picture of Frida Kahlo?
Gabi: My first shirt actually was really simple. It was a picture of a blue Texas, and it said the word “Chingona” on it. I had another one that was pink, and it said the word “Chiqueada,” which means “spoiled.” So those were my first two shirts.
From there, the brand blossomed into something to empower women – specifically Latino women. And it’s created a community around that.
Laura: Did you have a background in retail when you decided that you were going to take on this dream of selling t-shirts because that’s a whole can of worms right there?
Gabi: I have a Master’s degree in environmental science. So, I had no retail experience at all. I didn’t know how to make a t-shirt. I didn’t know how to design a t-shirt. I really didn’t know anything. I just needed a creative outlet. And the one thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to focus on Latinas and that I wanted Instagram to be my sole platform for marketing.
Laura: And what year was this again?
Gabi: It’s been two and a half years, so May of 2018, I guess.
Laura: Awesome. I do want to mention that we are live. So if anyone has any questions for Gabi, just go ahead and put them in the chat, and I will do my best to get to them. But let’s talk about this transition because I find it amazing.
I watch Vanderpump Rules. There’s a girl on Vanderpump Rules who decided that she wanted to make t-shirts. And I’ve been following her journey of building and then launching this t-shirt brand, and what struggles she has, and how hard it is, and how she thought it was going to be.
So, tell me how you first got started and then how you transitioned into a community, cause it’s not something you normally would use as a launchpad to building a community.
Gabi: Well, to be honest, I had no expectations. I thought, “If I sell 10 shirts – great! If I get a hundred followers. Fantastic!” I mean, I remember when I started with zero followers, and I would look at these influencers who had 3000 followers, and I was like, “Oh, they’re like celebrities.” I couldn’t imagine that for myself.
However, slowly but surely, I transitioned. It’s not about just selling a shirt. It’s about selling a lifestyle. It’s about selling nostalgia. It’s about selling the icons of our Latina community. It’s about reaching people that way.
And I will tell you this: Now anyone can make a shirt. Anyone can make a t-shirt in their home. All you need is to go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby and buy a circuit. Then you get vinyl, and you can print your own t-shirt.
Laura: You’re giving away your business plan.
Gabi: That’s not what I do, but people can do that. The competition is pretty stiff. You can go to Target or Walmart or any number of fast fashion places and get a t-shirt for about $7. And it’s cute. And it’s witty. So there’s competition out there also. So you really can’t go into it thinking that you’re going to be an overnight success because it’s probably not going to happen.
Laura: So you’re not in it to just make money on the t-shirt side. You do a lot of other things. You talk about food. You talk about blogging. You talk about entertainment. So, is this a business where you make money, or is it more about networking and making a community? What’s your end goal?
Gabi: I would say at this point, obviously it’s a business to make money. Although I don’t spend any money on advertising, all of my growth and reach is organic. I don’t use ads. I don’t use Facebook ads. I don’t do any of those things. But, I do have overhead as far as the programs I use to make my t-shirts and different things like that. So, yes, I do have overhead, and I do make money. Otherwise, this would be a really expensive hobby.
Laura: Do you make money on the sale of the t-shirts?
Laura: Okay. Now, you’ve got 19,000 followers. That’s a lot of followers. You’ve obviously built something stronger than just t-shirts.
Gabi: Right. It’s about the community. And I feel that that is really important. And, it’s funny because at the end of last year – before the pandemic, before anything happened – I did a survey. And I think I offered a gift card. And then I said, “If you answer the survey, I’m going to enter you into a raffle.”
So I asked several questions about my business: “What do you like about it? Do you like the t-shirts? Would you like to see more merchandise? Would you rather it just switch to just women in Latina empowerment?”
It’s hard sometimes to just keep that creative cycle going because it’s just me. I have a full-time job, and I have three children. So, I have other things besides Texas Chingona. So, I was really interested to see what people were going to say. And overwhelmingly, they said they wanted the merchandise.
So I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll keep going.” So that was really interesting. And then, other than that, the thing that stood out was that they loved the female empowerment aspect.
Laura: Now, is there an actual community?
Gabi: So, I suppose that there isn’t a community. I don’t have a Facebook group or anything like that. There are Latina communities out there, but not through me specifically.
Laura: We’ve got a question from Melissa. She says, “Did you ever expect to have such a huge Instagram following?
Gabi: No, never. I remember getting 43 followers, and I was like, “That’s almost 50. I’m set.” But it just kept growing and growing. And luckily, I’ve been picked up by different media outlets, and my stuff’s been shared here and there. I’ve been really fortunate.
Laura: It’s amazing growth. It’s really something to be proud of. You should pat yourself on the back. That’s amazing!
Now, on your website… opens in a new window to Texas Chingona website…, you do have articles about food and various other blogs. Do you have contributors who write those as well? Or are you the sole contributor?
Gabi: Nope, it’s just me. I said my background was environmental science, and I worked in that career for years. But my second career is as a writer. I’m a journalist. I currently am the editor of two magazines here in Houston. I freelance, and that sort of thing. So I write full-time. And I decided to add a blog to help my brand make more sense for me. I should probably do it a little more often.
Laura: I think every blogger says that. I remember back in the days when I used to keep a diary. Almost every entry started with like, “So sorry I haven’t written it in so long.” We all have this guilt, right?
Gabi: Well, in 2021, I’m going to make it happen.
Laura: Okay. I believe you. Now, in terms of the actual t-shirts and the place where you do make money – how did you get that all up and running? For anyone out there looking to maybe start their own t-shirt line or own retail line of any sort, how do you get going? How do you get that foot in the door?
Gabi: Well, for the initial two shirts that I told you about, I used a local printer. But because I was ordering in such small quantities, it was really expensive. So, the profit margin was very slim. Now the profit margin in clothing retail is pretty slim anyway.
Then I did a bunch of research on drop-shippers and print-on-demand. There are a few out there. And ultimately, I chose Printful… opens in a new window to Printful website…. That is how I do most of my shirts. Now, for some of them, I do pop-ups in sales and stuff. And I do have those printed locally. But the majority of my shirts are printed on demand. There are so many different print-on-demand companies and options. So, do your research. Pick the one that works for you. They make it pretty easy to get in there and get your design uploaded.
Laura: I know drop-shipping is huge. I see it pop up every now and then. There’s always somebody telling me I’ll make a million dollars if I start drop-shipping. But, for those of our audience who may not be aware of it – what is drop-shipping?
Gabi: So, when you order a t-shirt from my website, it is printed right then and there. I don’t keep any inventory. There’s no overhead. Of course, you have to pay to sign up, and they get a percentage of what you sell. It’s sort of risk-free in the sense that you don’t carry inventory.
So, if you have a t-shirt that bombs, you can just take it off your website and start again. Whereas if you print locally or print yourself and you have a t-shirt that bombs, then you’re stuck with a bunch of t-shirts.
Laura: Then you’ve got a warehouse full of t-shirts that nobody wants.
Gabi: Exactly. So, it has benefits. Yes, you’re giving away some of your profit. But, you’re not taking the risk.
Laura: It seems like a great idea. Charlie wants to know, “What was the name of the print-on-demand that you mentioned?”
Gabi: I use Printful. But there are several out there. You can just Google print-on-demand companies, and a list will come up.
Laura: Awesome. Now, did you make it a conscious choice not to spend money on advertising? Is that something that you plan to continue? It’s an interesting choice. I would say it’s probably the minority as opposed to what most people would choose.
Gabi: You know, now it’s sort of a wild west of advertising on social media because you can get an ad for so cheap. And that won’t be the case in about five years or so.
But as I grew, I was making pretty good sales. And I thought to myself, “Let me just see how long this lasts.” So, at first, it wasn’t a conscious choice. At first, I didn’t have the money to do it. But now I’m sort of like, “Well, it’s worked for me this long. Let’s just keep it going.”
Laura: We’re going to take a look right now at your Instagram… opens in a new window to Latina + Writer + Cute Tees Instagram page… page, which again is very lovely. You’ve got all sorts of things on here. Now, Instagram is your home base. It’s where you make your connections. It’s where you do any sort of outreach. So, do you have a specific strategy for your feed, and for the images you post, and for how you gain this many followers?
Gabi: I would say that at first, I did not have a strategy. But then I started realizing that my posts fell into specific categories. My post fell into funny, witty, or nostalgic. And then stuff that, as a Latina, you would understand from your childhood – food, culture, and just cute things.
I think my last post was about a succulent Christmas tree. I do a lot of babies dressed in traditional, Latin costumes. I realized that those were the things that my followers liked. So I just kept doing it. And then, of course, interspersed with those are my products.
Laura: Right. Very cool. Now, you’re in Texas. And there is a large Latin population in Texas. So, do you find that your followers are primarily local or all over the world?
Gabi: They are primarily in Texas, but everywhere else as well. Wherever you find concentrated pockets of Latin communities, I have followers there.
Laura: I know a lot of people would be interested to hear if you have any advice or tips on how to grow your following. I mean, you’ve seen amazing growth in such a short period of time.
Gabi: I would say that the most important thing is to realize that your Instagram is not about you. It’s about your audience. And it’s about how you serve your audience. So, that’s the number one thing. Unless you are Jennifer Lopez or Matthew McConaughey, or someone else, no one cares about your life. What they really want is themselves reflected back at them.
Also, if you’re selling a product, it can’t always be so salesy. You have to make it fun, and interesting, and different, or else people are going to get bored. There’s so much social media coming at us all the time that you have to stay relevant or people are just going to keep scrolling.
Laura: Absolutely. One of the things we talk about a lot at HipCat Society… opens in a new window to HipCat Society website… is that you need to give your audience tons of value. And I think a lot of the time, that translates into something like if I’m a coach or I’ve got an informational product, then I’m going to give them a piece of it. I’m going to give them a worksheet.
However, it’s hard when you’re selling a physical product to provide value, in a traditional sense, without giving away free t-shirts. But, it sounds like what you’ve done is you’ve really provided value to them by reflecting their community and their likes in your feed. You give them value by showing them things that they want to see. Is that a good way to summarize it?
Gabi: Yes, definitely. I mean, there’s value in laughing. There’s value in remembering when you were a little girl eating tacos with your mom or making tacos with your mom. There’s value in all of those things.
You should never post just to post. If you don’t have something good, skip it. Just wait until inspiration hits you. Or else you’re just messing around on the internet if you’re not posting with a strategy.
Laura: So if we were to scroll back to two and a half years ago on your Instagram, would we see chaos?
Gabi: Total chaos. I didn’t have a color scheme. Now I try to stay within the same colors, fonts, and style. But that has evolved.
Laura: That is so great! I think that a lot of our audience wants to hear this. They’re all kind of fumbling their way through and just starting out. It’s so validating, in a sense, to hear from other people who have now merged from the fledgling stage. We all were chaotic in our feeds at first. We all didn’t have a strategy.
Do you get a lot of feedback? I know everyone says, “Don’t watch the vanity metrics,” and yet we all watch the vanity metrics. Do you say something like, “Hey, this post got 500 likes, whereas this one got none? I’m going to do more of that.”
Gabi: Oh, completely. You have to listen to your audience. You have to be in tune with what they want because that shows you what’s working. And if you’re selling a product, why would you sell a product that no one wants? It’s the same thing with your Instagram. Why would you keep posting things that no one ever likes?
Two and a half years ago, Instagram didn’t have a lot of the features that they have now where you can take a poll, ask a question, or create a reel. Even stories were different then. At one point, they didn’t even have stories. Now I feel like Instagram has made it a lot easier to connect with your audience and say, “Hey, what do you like? This or this?” And they tell you.
Laura: Are there certain features that you just absolutely love about Instagram? What’s your go-to?
Gabi: Hashtags are super, super important. I think a lot of people undervalue those.
Laura: Do you have a hashtag strategy?
Gabi: I do. If I could show you my phone, you’d see an entire note that you could scroll through where I have different hashtag groups that are arranged according to what I’m posting. So if I post about Frida Kahlo, I have a group of Frida Kahlo hashtags. If I post about food – same thing. If it’s an empowering post, I have ten different hashtag groups for empowerment.
But it’s also very important to have at least a few hashtags that are very relevant to the photo you’re posting. Let’s just say I’m posting a picture of Frida Kahlo eating a taco. I would then want to make hashtags specific to that, in addition to all the food ones and all the Frida Kahlo ones.
Laura: Instagram gives you such great analytics these days. A lot of people use third-party tools to either post or monitor their social feeds. But I think that just their native analytics give you lots of good info.
Gabi: Oh, for sure. I definitely pay attention to those. I used to use a third-party app to track followers, but I haven’t done that in quite some time. And, I’m always posting in real-time for my business.
Laura: Now, as you know, the name of the show is Do The Damn Thing. It’s an attempt to kind of inspire people to get past whatever’s blocking them and just do it – take that first step, start that journey, launch that business, build that website – whatever it is. If you were to be speaking to people out there who maybe have an idea but don’t know where to go, what advice would you give them? What can you say to help them get moving?
Gabi: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Making t-shirts was something that I always wanted to do. I never knew it would have grown into this community. But I just kept putting it off. I started a job, had kids, blah, blah, blah. And it just came to a point where I was in a real low point, and I needed a creative outlet.
What finally made me make the move was that thought that I’d rather just do it and fail than never have done it and then always ask myself, “What would have happened?” And that’s what pushed me over the hump. And once I started getting it going, I just loved it. I love talking to people. I love creating. And so it worked.
Laura: Yeah, I see a lot of people being like that. Just try it. If you don’t, you’re going to live in regret. You’ll never know. Even if you fail, it’s better to fail than to not have tried at all. I absolutely love that sentiment. And it goes along with your empowerment mission, right? You will be empowered if you take that step.
Gabi: Right. You never know who is watching or who is listening out there in the social media world. I’ve been contacted by women who are going through breast cancer, who are going through a divorce, or who are just going through all sorts of situations in their lives after making a post on Instagram that really affected them. It seems crazy to me that I could have that kind of power.
In fact, one of my shirts is going to be the first-ever in the Latina exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum.
Laura: Wow! How did they find you? Just on Instagram?
Gabi: Yes. I got a random message from one of the buyers, and my shirt is going to be part of the merchandise for that exhibit.
Laura: What does the shirt say?
Gabi: It says, “Latina Power.” It’s not live on the website right now. But, it just goes to show that you never know who is looking and who’s appreciating what you’re doing.
Laura: That’s absolutely true. You never know when magic is going to strike. You never know when the candle is going to ignite, and good things are going to happen.
If you had known how things would have turned out, would there have been things you would’ve done differently?
Gabi: I think I would have been a lot bolder. Also, now I really don’t care what people think. I would have been braver. I would have taken a lot of my own advice.
Laura: In what capacity? Do you mean in regards to the slogans that you put on your shirts?
Gabi: Just not overthinking the posts. And I think I would have been in front of the camera. You hardly see me in front of the camera on my feed. Also, I think I would have really spent more time on strategy in the early days.
Laura: You can change that now. You can start being on camera right now.
One of the things that we talk about as trends going into 2021 is that you have to establish trust, and a rapport, and a relationship with your audience. And there’s no faster and better way to do that than to let them see your face and let them hear you. People obviously want to see and hear what you have to say. They like you, Gabi.
Gabi: I’m going to try. I’m really going to try. It is one of my goals for 2021. And, to that end, I really feel like Instagram is moving away from the perfectly curated filtered image of how we should look, into how we really look. I mean, I’m wearing makeup, and I combed my hair for you guys. But this isn’t how it always is every day. And I think that that aspect needs to be more real.
Laura: I don’t know if the world is ready to see what I look like without makeup and lighting.
We are just about out of time. I wanted to give you a chance to shout out and let people know where they can find you, where they can buy your shirts, where they can follow you. We’ll also put it in the descriptions. So, go ahead and shout it out now so everybody can buy your amazing t-shirts and support Latin ladies.
Gabi: Well, thank you. So on Instagram, you can find me @texas__chingona… opens in a new window to Latina + Writer + Cute Tees Instagram page…, or at texaschingona.com… opens in a new window to Texas Chingona website….
Laura: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you coming on, and I wish you nothing but the best. And we will be following you.
Gabi: Great. Thank you so much. This was really fun.
Laura: Thanks, guys. Bye-bye.
Please like us on Facebook… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Facebook page…, follow us on Instagram… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Instagram page…, and connect with Gabi on her Facebook page… opens in a new window to Texas Chingona Facebook page….