Las Santas is a group of women that started their own business on August 7th, 2017. Mariah del Mar, Talisha Baez, Fabiola Toledo, and Alisa Carrillo make headbands and beautiful earrings from scratch and sell them. Talisha and Alisa study Marketing at University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM), Fabiola is a UPRM Biology alumna, and Mariah studies at the University of Southern California (USC). Having known each other since high school, a business brought them closer together. Las Santas was born out of a need to pay an insane ticket debt at Colegio by one of its members, Talisha. She didn’t want to resort to her parents for money, so she started talking with Fabiola to generate more income. This ignited the spark that weeks later would become a business.
That day (roughly a month ago), Talisha and Fabiola decided to go on Pinterest to figure out what crafts they could make. Alisa joined during lunch one day and they quickly reined in Mariah who, around five months earlier, had proposed to Talisha: “Let’s start a business, let’s do something.” “Mariah made headbands and she knew how to sew,” Talisha adds, “Right then and there we decided to montar un kinkayo.” Fabiola jokingly recalls how it started, back when she didn’t know the slightest bit about marketing, “One day they came home with string and balls and, abruptly, it became something real.” None of them had remotely considered to start a business. On that day, which Fabiola remembers fondly, they made their first earrings, which had a little buddha symbol. Although they were completely improvised, the earrings were an instant sensation.
Although the four of them do this for fun, Talisha loves fashion and says she’s always wanted to have her own store. She asserted, “That’s my thing: developing businesses. Presently, I’m working on a business plan for Las Santas so we can take it to the next level.” Lastly, acknowledging the economic status of Puerto Rico, Mariah sees the positive impact that being an entrepreneur has on the island and she’d very much like to leave her mark on her country. As they continue growing, Mariah has her mind set on owning their own atelier with clothes and accessories for college students “just so they can have exclusive [beautiful and unique] pieces of clothing at an economic price. The common goal for these women is to keep working and growing together as santas.
The inspiration behind their future goal boils down to one person: Iris Apfel. They expressed that their admiration of the fabulous 95-year-old icon comes down to her aesthetic choices in her clothing style: seemingly very expensive, but really comes from thrift stores and flea markets. Talisha elaborates on how Iris Apfel inspires her: “She showed me I can be fabulous without wasting a lot of money. That’s why my earring designs are exotic, but affordable. She’s my fashion icon and muse for everything.” Another muse for the girls is their own Mariah because of her sense of style—always looking ready and fabulous for anything.
Talisha is the brain behind Las Santas’ marketing strategies—from developing their logo to building their social media presence. She stresses the importance of maintaining an active social media presence while managing a business is essential for people to learn and support the business. Most of their sales happen on Instagram (@lassantas4), though they also have a Facebook (Las Santas) and rely on the classic “word of mouth:” Talisha encourages “our customers to take selfies with their headbands or earrings and they are our strongest marketing strategy.”
The Santas girls, which is how they call themselves and their customers on social media, live up to their definitions of success. Mariah finds essential that a person “must reinvent themselves constantly and be perseverant,” as well as put in a lot of work. They agree that by having money and power, it doesn’t equate to success automatically. Being successful means reaching your objectives, being happy with your creation and achievements and always working with passion. Throughout their journey, they have been few of the lucky people to turn their hobbies into their work.
Although one must put in the work and sacrifice, there are amazing things that come with being an artisan and an entrepreneur. Talisha and Alisa explain how their Marketing studies at UPRM have taught them the importance of entrepreneurship and how to impact others. Las Santas has provided a way for them to leave their marks, unlike working for another person. They also enjoy having the liberty to decide the vibe they want Las Santas to embody, making their own rules and having time flexibility. This project, which combines their strengths, tastes and opinions, has been the best thing that has happened to them.
The negative side to managing a business is actually not so bad. The only real challenge they constantly face is time and coordinating their meetings. “The thing is that we didn’t think we’d make that boom: we did this just to try it out. Then, suddenly, someone will buy 15 headbands and a bunch of earrings and we’re calling each other in a frenzy . . . and buying materials como locas.” Las Santas have surpassed their own expectations by shipping their products everywhere in Puerto Rico and even to the United States. “This has us super excited because we never thought that we’d receive such widespread recognition.”
When it comes to those college students interested in entrepreneurship, Alisa advises them to dare enough to actually take that first step. Fabiola adds to that by explaining how it’s the hardest part and yet, the most essential. Mariah added that Puerto Rican people are changing and supporting local businesses more. Talisha concluded that they dared to create this because “the four of us were together: we weren’t alone.” This one-month old budding business has grown amazingly and they’re making noise! It seems like Las Santas are here to stay.