Today I bring you an interview with a young artisan I met at Festival Claridad this year selling handmade soaps at the artisenal market. I was immediately taken with how kind and attentive she and her family were and learned that she is the youngest registered artisan here in Puerto Rico. She was kind enough to share a little bit of her story in our blog today!
Please, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Andrea Marie Arriaga Camacho, I am 12 years old and I am a Christian, a businesswoman and the youngest registered artisan in Puerto Rico. My company’s name is SOAPS ANDREA. I create and sell handmade soaps, body lotions and liquid soaps. I also offer handmade soap and glass mosaic workshops for children and adults. I usually offer these workshops on my summer vacation.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I started my business in October of 2016, but officially in November of 2016 when my mother registered it with the State Department of Puerto Rico. Honestly, I was not thinking about being an artisan, much less a businesswoman, but with the help of my mother, I was able to start a business. I had been given a Bible workshop by the Wesleyan Church in Guaynabo, where they explained to me how I should use the gifts God gave me. In that workshop I really liked making the different mixtures of oils and spices, that experience was very fun. As the week passed I insisted to my mother that she buy me the materials for me to make soaps, and it was not until she finally got tired of my insistence and she decided to buy me the materials.
I started selling them to my friends at my Puerto Rican Girls’ College (CPN) although it was not possible since they could expel me, but somehow I managed to sell them to the director. My mom found out and instead of scolding me, she supported me, only that she asked me that things had to be done well. It was then that my mom helped me start my business. She started the registration process and designing my social media.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting your business?
The biggest challenge was the people who when they saw me at fairs or selling my products criticized me and told me that I could not and that I was very small and things like that, but I tried to ignore them even though I was frustrated from time to time.
I have also had difficulty creating my bank account, I as the President of the corporation am a minor. Besides that, the laws of Puerto Rico limit my ability to work more than 8 hours a day. The Department of Labor considers the time that I study as working time so if I study from 8 to 3 pm that is 6 hours discounting the lunch hour. So I can only dedicate myself to my company 2 hours a day, although sometimes I ignore this, because if there are students after school that play sports until late, why can’t I not do what I love until late?
What is the philosophy behind your products and what inspires you?
My goal is very similar to the parable of the sower. You sow your seeds in different fields, but you do not know where you are going to grow and flourish. In my case, the seeds are my products, the lands would be my clients and what will flourish is the word of the Lord, which is put into each of my products (Psalm 51:10). My inspiration is mostly trends but with a different take. I always try to be up to date in fragrances, styles and above all, the quality of my products. In addition to what I receive from my sales, I contribute the tithe to my Church and I also share it with the most needy, helping non-profit organizations and people in need. My mom and my pastor are responsible for recommending people or entities we can help.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business selling handmade products?
My advice would be that you never give up, no matter how hard it is in the beginning. Perseverance and determination is key, along with your business being your passion since you spend so much time with your business. I am fascinated by what I do and I enjoy above all being able to help people.
What do you see in the future for Soaps Andrea? Where would you like your business to go?
I understand, that at the rate that I’m going, I must become a manufacturer and start manufacturing my products at a larger scale. I’m currently working on that. I also understand that in this way I’ll be expanding very quickly to places that do not know me. I would also like for my products to be purchased by department stores, supermarkets, hotels and other recognized companies.
Where can we find and buy your products?
My products are available in
Boutique Di Tutto Di Piu located on Domenech Avenue # 210 Hato Rey, PR
Ozone Aqua Massage & Oxygen Bar located at San José Street # 255, old San Juan
Artisan Fairs and Festivals of Puerto Rico
Is there anything else you want to share with us?
First of all, I thank God for everything he has given me. That my craft table is directed by him and that I appreciate all the help that my friends, businessmen, government entities and private entities have given me and especially my family: my mom, dad and sister who are continuously supporting me. GOD IS GOOD…
Many thanks to Andrea for taking time out of her day to share her story with me! I wish you continued success!