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Supporting Small Businesses Can Change Someone's Life

Ana Guajardo

 

Los Switcheros, my first crafty business circa 2001

Many people know me as Cha Cha Covers or "Cha Cha," but I used to be known as "La Switchera," famous for making little light switch covers with cultural images inspired by the art and beauty of being Chicana and Mexicana. I started Los Switcheros when I was twenty-four years old living in New Mexico while I was attending the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I was working part time at a very cool independent pop culture wares shop called the "In Crowd," on a main drag of town and I remember when people would walk in to meet with owner Kenny Chavez to sell their handmade work at wholesale. Something in me clicked watching all of these transaction- first of all they were making as much as I made in one week in one sale, and they were doing this with art that they made in their home using their creativity. How fun was that?  I remember feeling determined to figure out something- anything that I could make and sell myself and after nights of tinkering and a lot of Michael's craft materials wasted I came upon decorative light switch covers using pop culture images with everything from loteria cards to Frida Kahlo paintings. 

This seemingly small decision in my life story was actually the very first brick I layed down to pave my path towards a life filled with work that has brought me so much joy and purpose. My little enterprise soon funded my rent and lifestyle and what I didn't mention is that during this time I was taking a full load of classes along with working at a cafe to make money. What this means is that most of my free time was tied up working hourly jobs to be able to subsist and what I know now about college is that it’s not just about the degree or coursework it's also about what you make of the networks and the opportunities to practice working in your field of interest whether it be through unpaid internships or work study jobs. I was doing none of this since I was clocking in to make lattes and serve scones every morning. Los Switcheros allowed me to eventually quit my cafe job and suddenly I was open to taking internships in museums that complimented my studies in Art History and American Studies. 

Mirrors I used to make, I've made many products over the years, these were some of my favorites. 

The point I want to make in this story is that all of those people who bought a light switch cover for $6 or all of those little shops who bought wholesale orders from me had a part in my education, and in laying the groundwork for my future self who is now an entrepreneur, a curator of art exhibitions, a writer and more. While it may sound cliché, when you buy something handmade from someone you have no idea what you may be supporting- a struggling student, a single mom, a future innovator, you simply don't know the far reaching impact of your choices as a consumer can have. So I encourage everyone to attend craft fairs, when you are at events and there are craft booths, check them out. When you need something- like say you need bows for your baby- check Etsy or a craft sale before heading to Target or the 99. It's a few extra dollars but I guarantee the item will be made with more love and likely be more cute, original and durable. We hear it a lot- buy local, shop small- and I am here to humanize this story for you- by sharing my gratitude for each and every person who has bought light switches, mirrors, jewelry, pencils, nail decals and all the other things I've made over the span of my 15 years working as a crafter because each sale made me who I am today. Mil Gracias. XO- Cha Cha 

My reason for creating my daughters