DKC Voices: Women’s History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month DKCVoices spotlights a trio of inspiring DKC colleagues who are thriving as entrepreneurs outside of their “day jobs.”

Eight-year-old me, pigtails in my hair and Barbies in hand, heading to my favorite 6:30 activity, sewing lessons. Fast forward to 23-year-old me, logging into Instagram and seeing my 13K following on my own little baby, Snipped By Steph… who’s about to be six years old this year.

I would have never thought that my hobby could turn into not only my passion but also a source of income. My love for fashion started at a young age beginning with sewing lessons and going further into designing my ‘fake’ fashion lines all night long. When I began at Rutgers, I noticed how huge the love for Saturday tailgating was. I was preparing my outfit the Friday night before, took some scissors into my hand and cut up my older sister’s seven-year-old Rutgers t-shirt. I snapped a pic, sent it to my friends and the responses were overwhelming that everyone wanted to have one for the next day. Fast forward to the next week, I created an Instagram page, Snipped By Steph, and threw up some pictures of the designs I was capable of making. I would have never expected the response that I was getting and already had 20 orders set in stone for the following Saturday game day.

As the years went on through Rutgers (and a website being built from scratch), it started with bringing packages to campus and hand-delivering all the orders, to hosting pop-up shops all over campus where hundreds of girls would come and sell out Snipped By Steph. I started going to different boutiques in the tri-state area where I would again be sold out by high school seniors that just committed to their dream college. I continued traveling to other universities, University of Maryland, Penn State University, etc. where girls would come, hang out and shop. It was and still is super important to me that my pop-up shops are a place of “good vibes” where girls can come and meet friends. I will never forget witnessing two girls meeting at my pop-up shop in Vanilla Sky Merrick who went on to being college roommates.

It’s so fulfilling having this audience of all girls in my corner and having them constantly supporting my brand. As they say … “here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.”

Not to be dramatic, but my life pretty much changed in 6th grade. I struggled with shame and insecurity all throughout middle school and one of my biggest insecurities was my nail-biting habit, which stemmed from what I know now was anxiety. Constantly hiding my hands from plain sight, I couldn’t bear the thought of someone noticing my nails.

One day I became fed up with this hiding game and I decided to do something about it, not out of determination, but honestly out of exhaustion. Luckily for me, there was a beauty supply store right across from my school. Upon discovering the nail polish aisle, my passion found me. Every single day I would purchase a $1 bottle of polish and paint my nails a new design. I know this might sound like an exaggeration, but the excitement of constantly switching up my look made me feel immense joy after years of feeling the complete opposite. This then began a constant cycle of self-care. The process of sitting in my room, listening to music, and painting my nails became therapeutic. Not only did my habit stop, but my ability to tap into my creative side shot my confidence through the roof. This ritual opened the door to something much bigger than nails. I started to fall in love with all forms of art: photography, videography, and writing. I became fascinated with capturing beauty. Creativity allowed for my mindset to expand past limits I didn’t even know existed. I became more empathetic, understanding, and conscious. And to this day, my mind continuously looks for ways to learn and grow. Fast forwarding to June of 2021, the combination of my love for capturing beautiful things, and painting nails cultivated what is now The Mariposa Effect ™. I created an online hand-painted press-on nail business, where our mission is to share transformative experiences through self-expression.

“Mariposa” in Spanish means “Butterfly.” Much how a butterfly undergoes its transformation, our customers experience a similar transformation of their own through wearing our custom designs. Additionally, the brand’s name takes a spin on the “butterfly effect” phenomenon which explains that small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variations in the future. In other words, making a small decision at a certain period of your life has the potential to impact your life’s journey in tremendous ways. Fortunately, our story doesn’t end here, in fact I’m nowhere near done. I continue to manifest The Mariposa Effect’s journey and am confident that I will shift the creative industry. Every design that I make is created with love and intention. If wearing my nails can make just one person out there feel 1% better about their day, that’s enough to keep me running till time ends. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to creation, because it’s the one thing that has fulfilled my heart and allowed me to share joy with others.

“You’ll be a successful businesswoman one day.” These words came from two different psychics when I was a teenager. I was always puzzled by this prophecy. I wasn’t sure what kind of business I would ever take up or what that even meant. I thought business meant math at that young age, and you could count me out if I had to do anything math-related. However, when I turned 21, I started my first business with my mother and sister.

For as long as I can remember, my family always had our own tables, chairs, and tents whenever we had gatherings at our home. I come from a big Puerto Rican family, which meant even the third and fourth cousins had a seat provided by us at any function. One day during the pandemic lockdown, my mom realized we already had the necessary basics for a party rental business. While her timing was a bit strange, she was right — we could start small and expand however necessary.

We quickly came up with Ellas Tents and started promoting it on Facebook. While we were in the middle of the pandemic and get-togethers were frowned upon, we knew people were still having small gatherings and those were the people we wanted to target. In 2020, we secured at least five parties — one was even a backyard wedding.

Once I graduated college in the spring of 2021, I devoted my summer to Ellas Tents. While my mom handled our customer service and Facebook advertisements, I learned how to make a website on my own. I helped with QuickBooks and managing payments (which did require some math, but I got over it). I spent most of my weekends delivering, setting up, and picking up our inventory from each party. It was not glamorous; I was covered in bruises and cuts, dripping sweat, and getting lost in towns I wasn’t familiar with. I even closed the car door on my fingers one lovely morning. Although it requires a lot of dedication, it means so much to me to be a part of distinctive moments that people will never forget. Our customers all celebrate something different, and it’s an honor to help make the day special, no matter the occasion. We ended our first official season booking over 50 parties. As this next season approaches, previous customers have already reached out to secure their parties.

I credit my mom for giving me confidence in everything I do. She is the breadwinner of our family. Even more impressive is that she is a Latina woman who came from nothing, broke every barrier and is humbly self-made. She doesn’t let anyone discredit her abilities and continues to lead with grace and dignity. I am forever thankful to have a role model like her.

Ellas Tents is only the beginning for me. I see my next venture in fashion — a passion since I was a kid. In addition, I am constantly brainstorming business ideas in my Notes app. I’ve gathered over 70 random thoughts in the last year. While I still have a way to go before I can personally consider myself a “successful businesswoman,” as the psychics once said, I love the journey, and I am here for the ride no matter how long it’ll take!

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