Company Profile - Fiesta Ziesta
By Lamin Turay
After interviewing Alejandro Ramirez (the Founder of Fiesta Ziesta) about his personal journey and perspective as an entrepreneur, I felt it only right to dig a bit deeper and unpack the details of his company itself. What I found while executing this company profile interview is a layered company with a strong focus on corporate social responsibility as well as the advancement of its artisan and manufacturing partners. Alejandro has built not only a quality product company, but also a platform for the growth of makers from all over the world. Through the company's mission many will be able to flourish within the Fiesta Ziesta family. Alejandro and I were able to discuss the overall structure and direction of his company. Here's how our conversation went...
What is the mission and/or vision of Fiesta Ziesta?
The mission is to grow the company while supporting our artisans, those who handcraft that products we sell. We’re working to provide as many handcrafted products as possible to our customers, while also contributing ten percent of all net profits to paying for, developing, and providing education opportunities for our artisans. We’ll be creating scholarships and support systems that enable our artisans to grow in their careers and, hopefully, provide similar opportunities for others in the future. A lot of these guys have been working in this particular trade for many generations. They may not have any other skills aside from creating these specific products. We believe in offering them the chance to go to school and learn more about fabrics, techniques, and equipment. It’s a chance for them to gain an understanding of contemporary product development.
As the company grows are you seeking more artisans to work with? Where do you look for new talent?
We’re open to working with artisans from across the globe. We want to help them from the ground up. Things like the provision of more and better looms are something we’re already working on. If we’re talking current day specifics, we are supporting and working with primarily Mexican artisans. That being my own cultural background, I feel it’s a great way to give back. It’s become a business-driving goal for us.
What is uniquely valuable about the products that Fiesta Ziesta offers?
Let’s talk about the beach blankets first. Those are our flagship products. They're a multi-functional product that you can use in many different scenarios. You can roll them up into a bag form, they have a shoulder strap for easy carrying, and there’s a pocket built in where you can store your phone or car keys. The blankets are great for picnics, you can also use them at a music festival, some of our customers even use them as a table cloth or runner. I’ve even received messages about our customers using them as decoration on their couch or walls. They’re very versatile.
We also have the Mexican hoodies and our dog collars. Those are made different, we have great designs and better quality than any counterpart you’d find on the market. Our hoodies are constructed using recycled fibers; a combination of cotton, polyester, and spandex. They represent a sustainable product. They’re also super soft and have a fleece lining. Usually Mexican hoodies are made of wool. That makes them heavy and itchy. Ours are much more versatile, they’re more than a souvenir, they’re something you want to wear. The dog collars are unique in their own way too. They’re a combination of high quality leather and knitted fabric. We offer them in a variety of vibrant colors that reflect the beach and outdoor lifestyle.
Where are your product materials sourced from?
Everything is sourced from Mexico. A lot of materials come from a town near Mexico City. The beach blankets come from a little town in Oaxaca, while the dog collars are produced in a small town in South Mexico.
How does Fiesta Ziesta select the artisans that it works with to create the company’s products?
Trade shows have been very helpful. We met two of our artisans at a trade show in Mexico. Myself and my mom actually flew to one of the artisans home towns. We had lunch with the family, and made a really great connection. We are partners and good friends. They showed us their house and the other artisans that they are connected with. We got to see exactly where the product would be produced. We like to interact with our team and make sure we have happy workers. It was a very intelligent setup. They’re modernized, they have cell phones, internet, and are computer savvy. Sometimes technology can be a real challenge working with native artisans. A lot of them are very traditional and want nothing to do with modern tech.
One of the hardest parts of running this business has been finding quality artisans that are also understanding when it comes to modern business practices. It’s also a matter of trust. We want to work with artisans that have a desire to be a partner, and see this enterprise grow. Right now we’re working with a rotating roster of about fifteen artisans, and as I mentioned previously, the goal is to grow enough to produce enough demand for them to be full-time Fiesta Ziesta creators. We want to support them 100% through this company.
We like to interact with our team, and make sure we have happy workers."
How would you describe the company culture at Fiesta Ziesta?
We’re a lifestyle brand. On the surface it’s about enjoying life whether you're indoors or outdoors, and having versatile products that you can take with you on any adventure. Internally we’re about supporting our team, and designing products that break the mold. We want to change people’s expectations around the Mexican beach blanket and Mexican hoodie. Even the dog collars are the result of challenging the status quo. Our products are multi-function and should be used in a lot of different scenarios. We want to make sure that Fiesta Ziesta looks, and is viewed as different. In these days people have a bad impression about Mexican products (cheap and bad quality) and we want to show the world the opposite. It’s not your classic or typical Mexican product company. Our designs come from the result of a lot of computer and traditional research and development, as well as field testing by our team, friends, and customers. The commitment to being different while focusing on quality for the end-user is what makes us unique in this space.
How do you decide what products will be offered to that end-user?
It’s definitely been a learning process since we’ve been in business. Some products have worked, and some have not. The beach blankets, dog collars, and hoodies have proven themselves and are our go-to offerings at this point in time. We used to offer hammocks, but they proved to be more of a challenge to sell. We like to keep our ear to the ground, and listen to what the customers are saying. We read reviews, comments, and social messages and even get ideas from our following.
The process for developing new products from start to finish is pretty complex. Typically the type of artisan that we work with will specialize in creating one very specific product. It’s one of the reasons we’re able to trust the quality of our goods. However, it also presents a challenge because we have to find multiple artisans to craft the entire line of our offerings. Since everything is handmade, sometimes we may not be able to offer a product that’s sold out or in high demand. It’s a supply and demand game that we have to constantly try to stay ahead of.
We go to the trade shows in Mexico and other locations to meet with, and get to know our artisans in order to vet them for partnership. We want to know that we’re creating products with individuals who care about the environment. Who do things like use recycled fibers, or sustainable methods in their craft. They also have to deliver on time. It’s a standard that we feel makes our brand more responsible.
What is the Fiesta Ziesta product experience?
Our customers should expect high quality product all the time. They should also feel good that they are supporting a community of makers who produce goods with their hands. Finally, they are getting versatile, multi-function goods that offer a wide array of utility. Our hoodies & ponchos for instance, are perfect for fair weather snowboarding in the mountains. They look super unique up there among the bright colored snow gear. We also offer product for the beach when you’re hanging out around the bonfire. It’s an all-season company. We’re trying to communicate that through our messaging on social media. We have pictures and videos of people enjoying the product indoors and outdoors. It’s a useful way of conveying our brand identity.
How does Fiesta Ziesta give back?
Creating consistent jobs for our artisans has been a big part of us giving back to the culture and community from which our products have been conceived. Again, after we’ve reached a point of considerable growth we’ll be providing ten percent of the company’s net profit to the education programs for those artisans as well. Aside from that, we’re creating friends! Friendship and connection is a huge deal in this business. You need to have a great relationship with your suppliers and also your customers. It’s part of the ecosystem of quality that we wish to exude.
We also pay close attention to the pulse of the customer voice. We check out all of the reviews across many different websites and try to learn from them. We listen to what the customers think about the products whether it be the construction, the design, the features, or the prices. In the future we’ll be offering a loyalty program as a way of showing our appreciation. Right now we offer seasonal discounts as well as discounts to students, or people who have already purchased our products.
Why does the world need a company like Fiesta Ziesta?
The world needs a lot of companies like Fiesta Ziesta, not just one. Things are rapidly changing, and there are a lot of topical issues related to the environment that make people more choosy about where they spend their hard-earned money. People, especially in California, are much more concerned with things like recycling, not wasting water, using their car less and less, eating organic foods, and buying products that they know are supporting socially responsible practices. That’s something that we support now, and will continue support moving forward.
Who are some companies or individuals that you would like to partner with to grow this business?
Right now we have a strong focus in San Diego, California. I recently met the owner of a company called Sun Bum, a sunscreen company. We discussed partnering with them to produce a line of beach blankets that may be co-branded. We’re also very interested in selling our products in hotels and resorts in the local San Diego community. We’re very much looking forward to partnering with resorts large or small to do private label r collaborative product sales. Finally, we’d love to continue down the music festival route. We’ve been to great music festivals like Kaboo, and would love to have a presence at a festival like Coachella or Stagecoach. That would be a great opportunity for partnership, and perhaps create product with their logo that they can then distribute to their audience. Action sports is another realm we’re looking into with a keen eye.
Where will this company be five years from now?
We’ll extend our online sales globally. We’ve already had some international sales, but we’d really like to expand that portion of the business. We have some touch in Canada and Europe, but it would be great to distribute to South America and Asia as well. That’s where we want to be from an online perspective. After that we will place a strong focus on wholesale. We want to sell our products into some large accounts. That might be boutiques, surf shops, or even hotels and resorts. Eventually we’ll want to open up our own retail shops. Having gained experience in the online and wholesale space should help us when we open the doors to our own brick & mortar locations
We look forward to the day that Alejandro cuts the ribbon on his first Fiesta Ziesta physical retail location. Learn more about this company on their website or follow them on social media for timely updates and fresh content. Let us know what you think about how Alejandro runs Fiesta Ziesta, the company's mission, and what the future holds in the comments below.
By Lamin Turay
In order to be an effective entrepreneur, many skills need to present. You need to have tenacity, determination, patience, and a willingness to continue learning everyday. At Maveriqs Academy we highlight organizations that help young and aspiring entrepreneurs to hone these skills. One such organization is Youth Campaigns. Led by Executive Director Shawn McClondon, Youth Campaigns is a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that provides underserved youth with an opportunity to learn about digital marketing, and what it takes to be a valuable asset in today's modern workplace. I had the pleasure of connecting with Shawn recently to discuss the program, and where he sees it headed, as well as their latest campaign to raise funds and awareness in order to serve more youth as the organization continues to grow.
What does your organization Youth Campaigns do, and what problem do you solve?
Youth Campaigns is a non-profit organization that creates access, awareness, and job opportunities for underserved youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in the San Diego metro area. The problem that we solve is servicing the huge divide, and lack of diversity in the digital marketing industry. We provide training that can eventually lead to the provision of jobs and additional opportunities for minorities who wish to become a part of the industry.
What is unique about Youth Campaigns that sets it apart from other youth training organizations?
First off, we’re unique because we’re one of the only digital marketing youth training programs in existence. It goes beyond just the training too. Our program provides hands-on work experience. Every youth that we bring in from day one, is actually working on projects with real world clients, and gaining valuable hands-on experience that is going to help them start a career in digital marketing.
What was the “Aha!” moment that drove toward starting a program like Youth Campaigns?
A couple years ago I was consulting for a number of digital marketing agencies here in San Diego. I would travel from agency to agency and implement varying strategies based on different campaigns. One of the last agencies that I worked with had over 200 employees. Upon entering the agency I received a tour of the office and met members of the team. The day of that tour I realized that, of the 200 employees at the agency, there were almost no people of color in the entire company. From that point going forward I decided that I wanted to leverage my skills as a digital marketer to train underserved youth so that they can have opportunities in this industry.
After deciding that you wanted to develop your own program, what were some of the first steps you took to get started?
The first thing I did was a lot of research. I tried to find programs that were similar. I wanted to see what was out there, and what was working. That way I wouldn’t be starting from square one. However, I quickly realized that there was nothing out there like what I was attempting to create. There were no programs that provided this target youth group with digital marketing training or certification.
I ended up having to concept most of the program myself. I created my own curriculum. I reached out to the Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego, and worked with them to perfect the training program. Really from the beginning it’s been me doing the homework, figuring out how each piece fits into place, and implementing what I have learned.
What are some of the lessons that the participants in this program will learn?
One of the stand-out things that I learned early on while researching the program is that the number one reason most people do not get hired into digital marketing positions is their lack of experience. Most individuals coming out of high school or college don’t have a lot of experience in the field. From a practical standpoint we teach our participants a number of things; email marketing, web development, social media, and content marketing. In addition to these hard skills, we also teach them a specific philosophy. We teach them how to analyze and solve problems utilizing different tools, methods, and data. In the end it’s a combination of philosophy, strategy, and on-the-job skills.
How has running a program like Youth Campaigns changed your life?
When you run a program like Youth Campaigns, or just work on a non-profit in general, you learn more from the participants than they do from you. That’s one of the great aspects of it all. I feel like I’ve learned to be a better digital marketer by working with the youth participants in our program. They’re so talented and so creative.
I think a lot of people don’t understand that young people are heavily immersed in digital marketing nowadays. The ideas and the creativity that they bring never cease to amaze me. I've learned just as much from them as they have from me, if not more. I’ve learned how to deal with different personalities, and become a better person. I grow in a positive way every time I get a chance to work with our youths.
As an entrepreneur you should know that execution is worship. If you're someone who's known to execute, that's priceless. It's what I try to do everyday."
What are some of the challenges that come with running a non-profit, and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges for us has been that not many people understand the importance of digital marketing. We talk to a lot of older individuals who don’t necessarily understand what we do, and when we show them, they don’t necessarily see it as a viable skill. However, digital marketing has become crucial to the success of any business. Getting people to understand and be aware of the importance of what we’re doing in the digital marketing realm and business realms has been the biggest obstacle.
In order to combat the lack of understanding I act as an ambassador for digital marketing. I believe that’s the best way to combat that issue. We talk about it, we demonstrate the work that we’ve done, and we continue to push awareness through the content and campaigns that we have developed through Youth Campaigns.
I should participate in Youth Campaigns if…?
You should participate in Youth Campaigns if you’re a creative person. The one thing that digital marketing has is a low barrier to entry. Anyone can do it. All you need is a little creativity.
You should also participate if you’re seeking an alternative to traditional paths or learning. For some young people college is not the only path. With digital marketing you can literally start, and begin marketing a business right now! There’s nothing that holds you back, other than your understanding and awareness of the tools that are out there for you.
Where do you turn to self-educate, and keep Youth Campaigns at the forefront when it comes to digital marketing trends?
A lot of staying relevant comes from direct communication with the participants in the program. They’re usually a lot closer to the latest trends than I am. We have great discussions about the tools that they’re using, and that they’re engaging with.
Other than the direct participant communication I do have other outlets. I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds to make sure I’m constantly getting information about cutting edge concepts. Social Media Today is one of my favorites - Mashable as well.
If I can impress anything on others about the program, it’s that these young people know what’s happening in this space, especially with social media. A great deal of my learning comes from them.
What would you describe as the ultimate success story of a Youth Campaigns participant.
Outside of specifically finding a career in digital marketing, we had a participant in one of our earlier programs whose goal was to become a scientist. That was her big goal. She came to me and said, “Hey Shawn! Social media is great, but what else can I do with this that will help me to eventually become a scientist?” I told her to set up a LinkedIn profile and reach out to scientists through search on that platform. I encouraged her to create a network of mentors that could help her find a job as a scientist.
A couple weeks after instructing that participant to set up her network, she came back to the program and told me she had done it. In those short weeks she had connected with seven scientists who wanted to mentor her, and she was even offered a job at the Scripps Institute. They wanted her to come in and observe what they did day to day, and also to help support their social media efforts.
That’s a great success story for our program. It shows how social media can be utilized for many different things. People who understand social media, and possess it as a skill, can use it in many different ways.
Why does the world need a program like Youth Campaigns?
When talking about underserved communities, one of the things that I’ve always felt is that as a whole, people in these areas just don’t have a voice. Digital marketing can give you that voice. It’s tools that can allow you to create a platform where you can communicate, not just locally or nationally, but with people around the world. You can talk about the things going on in your life or in your community. If you’re creative enough you can start to develop and deliver solutions.
That’s what this program can do. That’s why Youth Campaigns was created. To allow young people who feel like they may not have a “voice” to express themselves through creativity, digital marketing, and through modern communication in general.
As an entrepreneur who consults and also runs a nonprofit, what skills have you developed that allow you to take on so much?
The number one thing for me is execution. I believe in the philosophy of failing fast. My thing is to wake up everyday and execute something. To do something that will move myself and the program forward. This level of thinking has served me really well with the nonprofit. We’ve been able to separate ourselves because we’re constantly executing our tasks and campaigns. That’s what people really admire about Youth Campaigns, and what resonates the most. We get things done.
As an entrepreneur, you should know that execution is worship. If you’re someone who’s known to execute, that’s priceless. It’s what I try to do everyday.
What is the best piece of advice that you’d like to offer to a young person or aspiring entrepreneur who’s looking to get started with digital marketing?
Don’t limit yourself. As I explained in a previous question, digital marketing is a communication tool. People need to understand how powerful it can be. The power of things like social media and digital marketing allow you to do just about anything. When you’re first getting started you should realize that your potential is near limitless. You have unlimited power to communicate whatever you’d like. You need to understand that, be aware of it, and go into your project thinking outside of the box. Don’t get caught up thinking about what you cannot do.
Where can we find and follow Youth Campaigns?
We can be reached at the following outlets:
Company Website: http://youthcampaigns.org/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/Youth_Campaigns
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/youthcampaignsorg
We would like to thank Shawn McClondon for taking the time out to introduce us to Youth Campaigns. This is a truly incredible organziation that is fostering the digital marketers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. If you would like to suppport Youth Campaigns, they are currently running an IndieGOGO campaign to raise funds that can be used to grow the program and train more underserved young indviduals. A succesful fund raising round will allow Youth Campaigns to support 20 youths for six months in learning content marketing, web design, email marketing, social media, analytics, event planning and so much more. These are all skills any entrepreneur knows are vital to running a modern business. We urge our readers to support Youth Campaigns in fostering the innovate thinkers of tomorrow. Please click the button below to learn more!
This last Wednesday (September 21st) I was lucky enough to attend The Gratitude Experience, a free event hosted by The Gratitude Group. The event was organized by TerryJosiah Sharpe the young man with an incredible story, who we highlighted in a previous article. After meeting TerryJosiah and learning about his message I felt compelled to attend their event.
Rather than tell you about my experience, I'd like to share some images and video that I captured while there. By the way, it was a blast! Check it out!
The event began with an interactive drum circle. This was a great way to get the attendees involved. We were all given our own instrument and encouraged to join in the music making.
Part of the event's activities was an award presentation to Teresa Ponce. Teresa is on a journey of documenting her gratitude on social media once a day for a year. She started that over 690 days ago. She's well beyond the year that was her original goal, and has inspired hundreds of other people to give thanks for what they have every day of their lives.
The evening continued with additional live music. TerryJosiah's brother Chancy treated the crowd to his version of "The Gratitude Song," a viral sensation that has been interpreted by individuals across the globe. The Gratitude Group continues to spread awareness of being thankful through music.
Terry Josiah joined a panel of other "Gratitude Influencers," and talked about his background in the military, his call to entrepreneurship, and how he practices gratefulness ever day as a means of finding inner peace.
The evening ended with a duet performance by TerryJosiah, and his incredibly talented brother J.J., who prior to performing, shared his own story of gratitude. He talked about being in a dark place, and how through the care and love of family and friends he was able to find his way out. It was a powerful message.
I'd like to personally thank The Gratitude Group for putting on such an excellent event. As an aspiring entrepreneur myself, I think it's very important to get out into your community and network with positive thinking people. It's a great way to find the motivation to move forward with your own goals, while also networking with individuals from all walks of life. You never know where inspiration will come from, but if your surround yourself with positive energy you can be sure it will come from a good place.