This week, TomboyX welcomes a business baddie to our offices—Blanca Gonzalez, who joins us thanks to a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellowship. This is our second year participating in the program, which pairs local businesses with young entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Blanca’s goals during her five-week stay are to dive deep into learning how to expand her plus-size boutique, Curvas, in her home country of Nicaragua and beyond. Curvas currently has three locations, no small feat in the two short years the shops have been open, and Blanca hopes to build the business into a thriving e-commerce shop with possible franchise opportunities. We respect the heck out of Blanca’s hustle, and are so on board with her drive and determination—we’re thrilled to play any part in helping her turn her dreams into reality.
We took a few minutes to get to know Blanca a bit better, chat about Curvas and the difference between business in Nicaragua vs the US, and what she’s going to do for fun while she’s in Seattle.
How did you learn about the YLAI fellowship program and what made you want to apply?
This program is sponsored by the US Department of State and I knew about the program through networks that I belong to. This is a great opportunity to empower and project entrepreneurs from Latin America to scale up our businesses with training, tools, networks and resources in order to transform our societies and develop our economy.
What are some things that make Nicaragua unique?
Nicaragua is a unique country in its idiosyncrasy and natural resources. Many know my country as the 'Land of Lakes and Volcanoes'. We have 26 volcanoes and the largest freshwater lake in Central America.
In Nicaragua, most of the streets don’t have a name—but this hasn’t been a problem for the inhabitants since we’ve designed a quite effective reference system. For example, if you want to get to one of our stores in Managua, from "La Vicky" (a grocery store that closed about 15 years ago), head three blocks toward the lake.
What do you like to do for fun?
Travel, networking and spending time with my family.
What drew you to business and what made you want to pursue being a business owner?
It was never my dream to be a businesswoman. I was educated to make a career and work for someone else, but getting fired from a job made me think that we’re not essential for large companies, and that creating your own business was a great opportunity to not depend on someone else.
Why plus-size stores? What made you pursue this particular niche?
Curvas was born as a business idea that combines personal experience with entrepreneurship. Some of my family and friends faced exclusion of in the market due to their size, and faced difficulties acquiring —in styles, quality colors, and new fashion trends. This situation served as a motivational element for creating Curvas Plus Size Boutique.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
Nicaragua is going through difficult times due to the political-economic situation. The economy in the national market went down around 20-40% last year, so I made the decision to slow down the investment and growth plan for this year. I’m searching for new opportunities to expand my brand in other markets and possible wholesale distribution.
How is business different in Nicaragua vs. here?
E-commerce is just getting started in Nicaragua. People are still afraid of shopping online. We’re very traditional, and nearly all business is done face-to-face.
You’re a part of the “Gender Equality is Everybody’s Business” campaign which was started by the Women's Business Network in Nicaragua. What made you want to join that campaign?
Curvas value proposition goes beyond offering clothing—we seek to fill a spiritual and human need in people for attention and respect, taking into account the expectations, needs, tastes and preferences of the people it serves. We hope to contribute to the improvement of their self-esteem before themselves and before society as an inclusive store, and to contribute to the creation of fashion. We believe that beauty has no size.
Where do you see Curvas five years from now?
Consolidated in the Central American market with a presence of physical stores in the region and in the process of expanding to Latin America and who knows…maybe all around the world!
Besides working on your business goals, what else do you plan to do in Seattle while you’re here?
The World Affairs Council of Seattle will keep us busy. We have a lot of cultural and tourist activities to do! NFL games, food, drinks and they got us a city pass for all the main attractions here.
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What are doing to hustle right now? We want to hear about it in the comments below!