COVID-19 pandemic brings out entrepreneurial spirit in Puerto Ricans
People around the world have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the government has helped in some ways, it is not enough for some families. Even young college students need money to finance their studies, but finding a job is not that easy to achieve anymore.
And so, while stuck at home, four individuals sought to empower themselves through self-employment and entrepreneurship to sustain themselves and their loved ones.
Pegatina PR, owned by Juan Camacho-Maldonado and Chessica Maldonado-Agosto, was created in Summer 2020 as a business experiment. This mother-son duo specializes in custom-made decals in vinyl material, or “stickers,” for cups, computers, etc., as well as custom shirts, face masks, cake toppers, and others.
While they manage online sales through social media, they handle two different publics. Juan Camacho runs an Instagram page, mostly selling stickers for cups or phones. His mom manages the Facebook page, where they first saw a “boom” for a specific item — computer covers.
“I published a picture of one of the covers on Facebook and it got shared in a teacher’s page. Just like that, every teacher and friend of a teacher started asking for one, as if were the most popular item around them,” said Maldonado-Agosto, co-owner of Pegatina PR.
Since Maldonado works as a full-time teacher, she promoted the computer covers as an option for her colleagues, which had a domino-effect on sales. So now, Juan Camacho will start pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration to “perfect” Pegatina PR and create a business of his own of accessories and clothing, he said.
When asked about changing his bachelor’s degree to Business Administration, Camacho-Maldonado, said, “I hope to find all the business techniques I need in my studies to finally perfect Pegatina PR and eventually start a business of my own.”
This duo will continue working as best as they can while managing their normal jobs and studies, hoping for a better 2021, they said.
Another college student affected by the pandemic and looking for a way to help pay for her studies, is Wilmary Santana-Rodriguez. As a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus, she had to find a way to pay for rent.
Sunny Creations is the name of her own business project and hobby, in which she creates accessories and earrings based on the crochet technique. Santana was put in a tight spot at the beginning of the academic semester, and while needing to release stress, this art form, helped her out.
“I might be having a bad day in school but coming back and seeing how satisfied my customers are with my products keeps me going. It also motivates me to keep creating and inventing for them. I decided to name it Sunny Creations to leave the doors open for any products I can create,” said Santana-Rodriguez.
She plans on getting her artisan license when turning 18 to open a kiosk in a farmer’s market on weekends.
The last entrepreneurial story — which is a bit different from the others — comes from Nicole Combas-Martinez, a mother of three who created D’Perfect Smells to sustain her family. This self-owned small business sells soaps, creams, scrubs, candles, sanitizers, etc., with the distinction of being scented.
“I’ve always liked arts and crafts and a friend told me to try making a candle. I made an ice cream candle, and it wasn’t until my second candle that I thought I could make this into something more. Now this helps keep my family stable, and I enjoy every second of it,” said Combas-Martinez, owner of D’Perfect Smells.
When COVID-19 provoked the lockdown, her children needed someone to take care of them from home while they studied, and so in the process, she quit her job of cleaning houses to open this small business.
Combas plans on getting an artisan license to open a kiosk on weekends and hopes to leave her business to her children, when they are old enough.
Out of the three entrepreneurial concepts, Combas-Martinez’s is the only one who does it on a full-time basis and ships her merchandise to the US mainland. Although the other businesses do not close the door to any clients from other countries either.
As for sales, they all say to be in a “good place” with weekly sales, and report no loses. Their initial investments ranged from $50 to $500 with equipment, but all was gained back within two months, the interviewees confirmed.