Brittany Chavez is busy. During our Zoom interview, she stops mid-answer to apologize for the flurry of pings and notifications appearing on her computer.
This is life when you are CEO and founder of Latinx Shop, a one-of-a-kind marketplace for Latinx-owned brands that Chavez envisioned over five years ago.
Since launching in 2016, the brand has grown from a cult Instagram account among savvy and forward-thinking Latinx consumers to a corporate-funded startup poised to completely transform the ecommerce landscape.
“The vision is really sharpened on who this Gen Z Latina and Millennial Consumer is,” Chavez, 30, told Bustle. “We want to showcase the best products made by people in our community. And it is also a community that we want to expand.
On October 15, Shop Latinx – SLX for short – announced that it had raised $ 1 million in venture capital, an effort entirely led by Chavez. On the same day, SLX integrated 15 new brands, including MCLC, Curiosa, and Roman Swimming. And on top of that, SLX also dropped its first product line to commemorate Latinx Heritage Month.
Read on to learn about Chavez’s vision for the future of his market, his thoughts on representation, and his advice to aspiring Latinx brand founders.
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How was your line of derivative products born and what was your inspiration?
The theme behind this drop in merch was our slogan: “Making the Latinx community feel seen, supported and celebrated in all of our creativity and ingenuity.” So we wanted to underline this mission. We are more than e-commerce. We are a community that puts a lot of intention, love and care into making sure the entire Diaspora is celebrated, and the people who make it up.
I think everyone loves a statement shirt. People want to stand up for something and they don’t apologize for having that sense of pride in what they believe in. And then my favorite product is actually the water bottle: the Nalgene. On it is a water affirmation [that reads] “Powered by the community.” And it was a play on words. It is the community that drives me personally to put intention in everything I do.
How do you choose which brands to include in the Shop Latinx marketplace?
We are always on the lookout for brands that have a founder and a history in line with our values. Yes, we prioritize brands owned by Latinx and BIPOC, but on top of that we give a lot of love and attention to our branding and the retention of this community.
Brands that have inventory, a great product, a brand image, a great story to tell and who are ready to be a part of Shop Latinx’s growth journey are the types we seek to partner with.
What are the avenues for young Latinas who might have a business idea to get it started and get the support they need?
There are a lot of paths. There’s venture capital funding, there’s business lending, there’s Shopify capital. And then in addition to researching funding options, there are thousands of micro-communities that you can tap into, especially within the Latinx community. There are Latinx, Latinx vegans in the Ivy League. There’s Latinx in DC, Latinx in LA. Finding your people is important.
Another thing that I have noticed with some brands is that they come out with a line of 20 products to start with. Launching with one to three flagships is more than enough: putting love into those three products, then building from there, especially if you’re a solo founder, [is a better strategy].
What are your hopes for the future of the company?
Next year, especially as things open up, we want to have more experiential events. What is it like to organize an event with some really crazy musical artists from the community? Tapping into these micro-pockets across the country – and understanding the nuances and the leaders of each city and building with them – is something a lot of other companies don’t really do.
How would you rate the current state of Latinx representation in fashion?
We can talk about both representation and ownership, as these companies are finally starting to understand who their consumer is, and there is certainly an increase in Latinx representation. But in terms of authenticity for the consumer, I don’t know. I think we’re so much smarter than that as a community.
The performance is great to some extent, because making people feel seen is truly beautiful, heartwarming, and validating. But do they put our photos and the people who look like us front and center because they want a purchase or do they really care about our communities? What initiatives are they doing to support this? What actions are they taking?
What else do you want to see?
I [hope to] see more of our designs and pieces worn by celebrities on magazine covers and see them featured in [magazines] As Vogue. It is very ambitious and gives a goal to the members of our community. I’m curious to see where we’re all going to be in the next few years – I’m excited.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.