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SweetLove gifts founder on growing a small business during the pandemic

Lourdes “Lulu” Carey is the owner of SweetLove gifts, an online gift shop that personalizes anything you can think of, from wine bottles to balloons and surprise boxes. Her growing business is still new, but Lulu is proud of what she has accomplished so far and the support she has received from her community. 

SweetLove gifts

SweetLove gifts is your one stop shop for personalized items for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and more!(Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

Growing a small business during the pandemic: Support is key

Lourdes Lulu Carey,

Lourdes “Lulu” Carey, owner and founder of SweetLove gifts. (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Lulu has a Bachelor’s degree in International trade. She moved to New Jersey nearly 10 years ago and resides in Chatham now with her two young boys, Joseph and Austin, and her husband, Joe. A full time mom and Local Consultant for Cultural Care Au Pair, Lulu decided to start her small business, SweetLove, after discovering her creative side this past year. 

“It’s been definitely a challenge to start building a name and a small business during a difficult time for everybody, but I have been blessed to have people around me who support me in all the ways they can,” says Lulu. “My business is still small, but is growing little by little. I couldn’t be prouder of where it’s going.” 

Lulu is still in the early stages of her business, but she has already learned so much and is excited for the future of SweetLove. She is especially glad to have been part of so many special moments for her clients already, like birthdays, graduations, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and other holidays.

“Each and every one of my products are made with so much love. I work hard and do my research to give my customers the best quality. This is just the beginning of a business that I have put all my love and energy into.” 

Lulu is grateful to all those who have supported and helped her on her entrepreneurial journey so far. As every entrepreneur and business owner knows, having a strong support system is so important and invaluable when starting out. Having the support of her husband, friends, family and other local small businesses is what gave Lulu the confidence and push to keep creating early on. 

Lulu personalizes each and every product for any occasion. (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

“I have been very lucky and blessed to have support from my friends, community and other local small businesses, helping each other build up our businesses and social media has definitely been great,” says Lulu. 

And remember, helping a business does not always mean you have to buy a product, Lulu says. “You can share their posts, leave a positive comment, tell your friends and family to follow them on social media, etc.” 

Every little bit goes a long way to helping small businesses grow.

 

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Taking risks and lessons learned 

No venture is without challenges and lessons learned. Lulu shares with us a story of her first “mistake” and how she learned from the experience. 

“To me, every order and product I make comes with a story,” says Lulu. “I have been part of many special events and I treasure each and every one. There are always good and not so good stories. I remember when I first started, I had to do a delivery. The client ordered a personalized wine bottle for her best friend. Once I got to where I was delivering my order, I accidentally dropped the wine, right there in front of the client.” 

SweetLove gifts (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

In that moment, Lulu went through so many emotions, some she can’t even explain. She felt embarrassed and disappointed with herself. It was a simple accident, but still she couldn’t help but feel bad. Seeing the product that she spent so much time, love, and care working on to make it special for her client shattered on the floor was really upsetting. 

Still, this moment was an important learning experience for Lulu.

“I look back now and see how this moment helped me. I learned from this experience to never let a bad moment take me down, to keep giving my best, and to never stop because success will come and you have to be prepared to deal with many hard situations.” 

Many aspiring entrepreneurs may stop themselves from starting their business because they fear failure or think their ideas will not be successful. Others may make themselves dizzy with questions: Will it work? Will I get back the support I always give to small businesses? How much money will I lose? 

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Lulu knows first hand; she asked herself the same questions and more. Yet, even though there was a lot of uncertainty, those questions and worries did not stop her.

“I’m glad to have been part of many special moments, like birthdays, graduations, Mother and Father’s Day. Each and one of my products are made with so much love.” (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

“I was proud and excited to put my heart and soul into this,” she says. “And so, to all of you thinking about taking the risk and starting a new business I will say this: DO IT. All of those dreams, ideas, projects and plans that have been in your head for some time, just do it. It won’t be easy, but what is? And if somebody else is doing what you are thinking of doing, don’t worry. Like we say in Mexico, ‘el sol sale para todos.’

Support will come, in all shapes and forms and from people and places you didn’t imagine. Don’t let anything stop you, and get to work on your dreams!”

skincare beauty brand

B2 Beauty By Bella: A skincare beauty brand by for Latinas

B2 Beauty By Bella is a natural skincare beauty brand founded by Latina entrepreneur, Edith “Edi” Lagunas, with the mission to provide quality natural, simple, and affordable products that maintain youthful, smooth skin and empower women.  

skincare beauty brand

B2 Beauty By Bella, a natural skincare beauty brand founded by Latina entrepreneur, Edith Laguanas. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

A skincare beauty brand for Latinas 

Edith Laguanas, owner and founder of B2 Beauty by Bella. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

Edi first launched her business this past year in November 2020, though the idea for a skincare beauty brand had been a dream in her mind since 2008. As a Major in the U.S. Army, Edi has traveled the world and lived in over 15 domiciles throughout her life and has served various positions in the Army from platoon leader, company commander, to Executive Officer. During her many travels across the world, Edi’s skin was exposed to various seasons and climates which affected her skin tremendously. From bitter colds to blistering heats and humidity to the harsh sandstorms in Iraq, Edi skin suffered. She realized then that she needed skincare products that would provide protection, moisture, and keep her olive skin hydrated and youthful. 

“I saw that other female soldiers had skincare products that complemented their skin needs,” says Edi. “However, I also saw the lack of Latina brand representation in the skincare and beauty industry and how much we spend on cosmetics and skincare products.  That feeling I had of someday launching a skincare product finally came to reality last year.  In March 2020, when COVID hit, and I saw the shutdown of brick-and-mortar business,  I saw how the e-com businesses and those that were able to transition to the digital world were surviving and thriving.  At that point I knew that I had to launch my career in skincare not only for me, but so that other Latinos could see that being an Entrepreneur in the digital world was possible.” 

In the years leading up to Edi going for her dream, she spent time trying out different skincare products that contained essential ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and vitamin E that would ensure her skin retained its firmness, elasticity, and skin tone. When she decided to launch her own brand, Edi knew she wanted her products to contain these essential ingredients and no harmful chemicals or parabens. However, ensuring top quality in her products would come with some obstacles. 

As a Latina entrepreneur, Edi is adaptable and resilient. Coming from an immigrant family of five kids that grew up with minimal resources, Edi learned how to get creative early on so that everyone could benefit. This made her become resilient and adaptable for when things don’t pan out the way she planned. 

B2 Beauty By Bella Repair Resurfacing Serum. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

“Last year in March 2020, when I began my research into skin care ingredients and began meeting with manufactures and learning about their chemicals in the products, I learned that most manufacturers have minimum order quantities and the cost to buy one product would require an investment on my part of thousands of dollars,” says Edi. “At this point I was becoming disillusioned and discouraged.  But I kept searching and meeting with skin care manufacturers until I met with a company that met both my needs in the type of product I wanted and, in the amount, I financially was able to invest in.  In this experience I learned that we have to keep looking and trying until we find that solution that fits our needs.”  

Representation matters: Opening the door for other Latino businesses

Edi began B2 Beauty By Bella to provide skincare products that would enhance skin and empower women to feel beautiful and confident, but throughout her journey her mission has grown. She has connected and collaborated with many people from many backgrounds and discovered the beauty in relationships, community, and life. “La vida es Bella!” 

B2 Beauty By Bella all natural skincare beauty line. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

The importance of community and representation became especially evident after the Covid-19 business shutdowns. Edi saw the devastating impact of the pandemic on the Latino community and labor workers. Now, she hopes to inspire other Latinos with her company and her story to show them that success is possible and that Latinos can thrive in the Post-Covid e-commerce world. 

“I see on the news the impact that Covid has had on the Latino community and the labor workers.  I keep telling myself that if we are the ones doing the labor and buying the products, then we should also own the businesses,” says Edi. “Representation matters and I believe that small e-com businesses like B2 Beauty By Bella can open the door for other Latino businesses and keep it open for them to join us.” 

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Edi recommends that anyone interested in starting their own business or entrepreneurial venture should first start by finding a community of like-minded individuals to empower you and sit in your corner. Find mentors and ask questions. Do not be afraid to fail. 

“There is always a way,” says Edi. “Get creative when things don’t go as planned and find a way to get things done. ‘Que la vida es dificil cuando nosotras mismas la hacemos dificil.’ Life is full of obstacles and it is up to us to remove those obstacles and keep trying.”