For the past several years here at Step Off! Magazine we have been dedicated to bringing our audience the most insightful and thorough coverage both through both print and broadcast journalism on our podcast Step Off! Radio. It has always been our mission to highlight underrepresented voices, artists, performers, activists, community organizers; and others who work for change, fight for social equity and inspire others to make a difference in the world through their talents, art and social advocacy. Today, we continue on with that mission and are proud to announce a new set of voices on a brand new show that will be debuting on the Step Off! Magazine platform early next year.
In 2023, Step Off! Magazine will expand its platform to include Las Aguas Podcast, a brand new podcast series hosted by independent business owners Madre Desmadrosa and Nena that will be distributed under the Step Off! Umbrella. Las Aguas Podcast will bring on small business owners, local artists, community members and many others from the Seattle area and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Offering insight into the lived experiences of being first generation small business owners and creatives, the journey of breaking generational trauma, and operating from an abundance mindset. All while highlighting and uplifting local small businesses and artists who are moving intentionally; and ultimately create a space where vendors and artists who prioritize community can feel seen and heard. Today we introduce you to the hosts of Las Aguas Podcast, Madre Desmadrosa and Nena.
Meet Las Aguas
Las Aguas Podcast is hosted by Desmadrosa and Nena, the creatives behind Dulce Sol Pastries, and owner of Nena Thrifted respectively. Hailing from Seattle and the South King County area, Desmadrosa is a queer non binary poet, community organizer and single mother that currently resides in occupied Duwamish Land (Seattle, Washington) with roots originating from Michoacán, Mexico — P’urhepecha Territory. Desmadrosa’s work is accessible on their newly launched platform Mundo De La Madre, a poetical portal featuring an assortment of poetry, essays, short stories, and other personal works. Nena, originally from Spokane, Washington is a first generation Mexican and Honduran business owner and former organizer. She initially moved to the city of Tacoma before eventually moving to Seattle where she has resided for the past five years. Desmadrosa and Nena both met while working in community organizing and fundraising. Nena, coming from a background of working in the non-profit sector in Tacoma, and Desmadrosa working directly with community in Seattle. With significant overlap in the communities they worked in, the pair quickly sparked a friendship through organizing and their shared lived experiences. Since leaving the non-profit sector and relocating to Seattle, the two have been friends and fellow vendors ever since. Now, they both step into new territory, as the two explore the exciting and constantly evolving world of podcasting as co-hosts of Las Aguas Podcast.
The Pandemic Brings About New Opportunities
Prior to their journeys as vendors and independent small business owners, and long before their dream of hosting their own podcast, Las Aguas came from proud, ordinary beginnings. Desmadrosa initially entered the realm of small business ownership when they started vending in 2020, and began baking flan as a means to raise emergency funds to pay for childcare amid the shutdowns during the height of COVID-19 pandemic. “Community showed out and I received more than 50 flan orders and fulfilled them within the span of two days”, explained Desmadrosa. “Flan sales became a way for me to raise extra funds via Instagram posts and stories, all through word of mouth. It took me about a year of flan sales to realize I was a small business owner. Once my mindset shifted, I changed Instagram’s handle, re-naming the business and created my logo.” Utilizing social media to network and build community rapport, since then Desmadrosa has vended flan under the name Dulce Sol Pastries where they regularly vend at pop-up markets, community events, catered parties, and make home deliveries.
Desmadrosa credits much of their work ethic and drive as a small business owner to their experiences growing up as a child, particularly those spent on trips traveling to Mexico while visiting family. “I give so much credit to what I saw growing up. My mom and most of my tías are natural born hustlers! A big part of vending is being able to be personable and connect with community. Trips as a little kid to Michoacán always involved one or two shifts of bread selling with my Tía Rosa.” They further elaborated, detailing how a stint in Mexico City as a teenager. “As a 17 year old I spent a summer living in CDMX with my Tia Chavela. There, I was selling sunglasses en las calles de Tepito. Thousands of people pass you by every day and to make any money you have to be personable and hustle.”
Not unlike Desmadrosa, Nena also began her business as a result of fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. After being laid off during the shutdowns and years of working in the nonprofit industry, in April of 2021 Nena decided to pursue her dream of selling thrifted vintage clothes and styling wardrobes. Offering customers a curated, customized shopping experience, the shop specializes in selling pieces mainly from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s .“My shop has been described as ‘shopping in your cool, older sister’s closet’. I offer curated shopping experiences, so people who want a more unique and personalized shopping experience can set appointments with me letting me know their size and style beforehand and we can set up a time to try on clothes.”
Nena’s love for vintage fashion and thrifting second-hand was fostered by years of curating her own collection prior to starting her own business. “I followed a lot of pages for thrifted clothes on instagram and saw the value in shopping someone’s curated selection versus going and thrifting on your own”, Nena explained. “I ordered some pieces from local vendors as well as vendors from other states. I have always loved old things, things with history, antiques and vintage clothes”. Nena also shared the uncertainty that inevitably comes with the experience of small business ownership, particularly small retail vendors who constantly run the risk of overstocking inventory. “It can be scary to not follow a straight path like what college promises, but after working for other organizations I realized that I needed to do more for myself. It was hard to take a leap, but the support of my friends helped the most.”
Struggles and Triumphs
The struggles of owning a small, independent business can feel daunting and at times insurmountable. Triumphs can feel fleeting, often far and few in-between. Meanwhile, the losses can be near catastrophic for aspiring entrepreneurs struggling to make ends, with many sometimes barely breaking even. Needless to say, perseverance through hard times is something Las Aguas are very familiar with. For Desmadrosa, finding time to vend, fulfill orders, and avoiding burnout from a full-time job; all while balancing the responsibilities of being a single mother has presented its own unique set of obstacles and challenges. That being said, the skills they learned and people they have met along the way have helped open opportunities and make the journey feel less daunting. “I have learned so much! Everything that goes into being a small business owner like branding, the sourcing of ingredients, and vending/sales has to be intentional and always rooted in community”, said Desmadrosa. “I have learned that I really enjoy getting to know more folks in the community and vendors. Everyone in the vending community is so open and loving!”
Similarly, Nena has also faced a learning curve as a small, independent retail vendor. Particularly in an era where independent business owners must maintain their online presence and build relationships with clients virtually just as much as they do at in-person events. “I didn’t have experience selling but I had experience going to vintage markets and buying from vendors online”, Nena said. “There were a lot of things that I’ve had to overcome and continue to challenge me as a small business owner, such as my personal relationship to money, and people have come up and asked me what it took to get to where I am. Nena also described her experience of undertaking a variety of different roles and responsibilities as sole owner of an independent business. “What surprised me the most was how many hats I would wear! From brand designer, to social media, booking, accounting and keeping inventory. It’s not just finding and selling clothes! I was surprised at how much I sell in person, I thought I would be primarily active with sales online”. Nena concluded by explaining the importance of community, and how creating spaces with intention and belonging are key to independent vendors and small business owners. “It wasn’t until I posted on Instagram that I got the idea to vend at markets. I was encouraged to apply to vend at the Tacoma Sunday Market, run by a Latinx couple and it was special because it felt like a combination of two worlds. To see someone ‘like me’ selling clothes and hosting a market was inspiring.”
From Vendors to Podcasters
After several years donning a variety of many different hats (often at the same time), working as community organizers, vendors, creatives and caregivers; it comes as no surprise that Desmadrosa and Nena refuse to be confined to one box and continue to push the boundaries. Now, the duo is taking both of their businesses and their community to new heights with Las Aguas Podcast. “I think the podcast will go hand in hand with my small business endeavor and open more doors for me and Desmadrosa as we share our experiences,” Nena said. “I want to create a space where vendors and artists who prioritize community can feel seen and heard. My background in social justice organizing and activism drives the intentionality that is going into the podcast, and the importance of building a space to share our experiences.”
Through Las Aguas Podcast, Nena and Desmadrosa hope to reach out to individuals who relate with the experience of being a first generation small business owner or creative, as well as uplift other local small businesses and artists who are moving intentionally. Ultimately, Desmadrosa hopes that the podcast will help make vending and running a small business seem more accessible (I.E. full of support and autonomy). As well as provide a space where both hosts can talk deeply on topics dear to them, and guests can feel both seen and heard. At the end of the day, La Aguas aim is to support small business owners by showcasing all of the amazing talent that is teeming in Seattle and the greater South King County. “The vending community is so amazing and needs to be uplifted, always. It’s deeper than just saying to shop local or at small businesses. We need to support the businesses that are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color with values that are reflective of the world we are wanting to co-create. As a queer, non binary person, there are not many spaces I feel safe or even welcomed in. Creating our own space removes those barriers and welcomes everyone. I’m all about creating safe spaces, free of judgment and policing. And I love digging deep into the why’s, enjoy learning something new, and sharing it.”
Las Aguas Podcast will premier its debut episode under the Step Off! Radio banner in January, 2023. You can follow Las Aguas on their official Instagram page @lasaguaspodcast for all of the latest news, updates, and show announcements. And you can follow Madre Desmadrosa and Nena on their respective Instagram pages @madredesmadrosa_ and @nena.thrifted. You can listen and subscribe to Step Off! Radio where Las Aguas Podcast will be debuting on your preferred podcast streaming service by visiting our Podcast page. Episodes begin airing this January, stay tuned!