By Amelia Orozco, Hola America
Nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction you have with someone, whether as friends or in a business transaction. At the Werk Mija shop at the Berwyn Shops, patrons are lucky because they get both. The name, “Werk Mija” embodies both pop and Latina culture and it denotes a deep-rooted work ethic, with a touch of sentiment. The owner, Xochitl Carmona, is a young woman, entrepreneur, marketing extraordinaire and overall kind soul. As you walk in her shop in the small community of stores, you immediately feel a connection to her messages. From shirts, mugs and stickers with empowering quips like, “No pares mija,” you immediately get a sense of the purpose behind the product line.
“Werk Mija is an apparel and brand for Latinas who unapologetically celebrate their cultura with empowering and relatable messages,” shared Xochitl. She also hosts the Werk Mija podcast, where she interviews other Latinas and people of color, also entrepreneurs and professionals. She says that when listening to other podcasts on the same subject, often the stories were not relatable. “These are stories about people that look like me, sound like me,” she says of her podcast. “The purpose is to inspire other women to go with it, and to let them know that they are more capable than they think they are. It is really a mental challenge, and you have to see it in a different light,” she adds.
View this profile on Instagram
Xochitl, born and raised in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, is a powerhouse. Although she is running the business, both online and at the location in Berwyn, she is also making moves behind the scenes. In her words, she never has a day off. She is active on social media, frequently making Tik-Toks, not only to promote her own business, but also those of the other women in the cul-de-sac at the Berwyn Shops. With it, she has garnered more exposure and thus support for all of them. Werk Mija also sells wholesale, an endeavor that may put merchandise in the hands of more people, expanding the message even further.
Marketing is one external challenge that Xochitl says makes it difficult for an entrepreneur like her to get off the ground. Along the way, she has met many amazing women that are doing the same thing. Marketing is something you learn as you go, and so far, her method has proved successful. With the help of what she calls her “chismosa network,” her brother-in-law, her husband, and friends, she has built Werk Mija from the ground up. She has around 30K followers on Tik Tok now, where she not only makes videos promoting her brand, but also creates relatable and funny snippets. “We don’t want to just survive, we want to thrive. You can’t burn yourself out,” she adds. “How can we do this in a healthy way?” She ponders. As one of her messages reads, “Invest in yourself mija. Work is important, but we also need to break generational curses and cycles of negativity,” said Xochitl.
The road to the Berwyn Shops starts with an application process, in which a final twelve businesses are chosen to participate. Each shop is a 12’ x 15’ structure or “she sheds.” Part of the program includes providing resources and business education. The incubator is a great way for an online business to test the market by having a storefront, but with support from the community instead of going at it solo. The finalists are selected by thirteen community volunteers comprised of other Roosevelt Road business owners, customers and residents. The Berwyn Shops: A Homegrown Project is possible because of donations from The City of Berwyn, The Women’s Business Development Center and the Berwyn Development Corporation. Ongoing support is needed though. For more information on how to donate, visit www.berwynshops.com
Werk Mija is open at The Berwyn Shops, 6931 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn, IL 60402
Fridays, 11am to 7pm, Saturdays, 10am to 6pm, and Sundays, 11am to 4pm.