As the founder of the local A networking group for Latino entrepreneurs, the Tucson Creative Comadres (TCC), Fabiola Bedoya cultivates a sense of belonging by fostering community and collaboration.
It was a pipe dream that turned into a monthly hangout group and a growing social media community. Through this, Bedoya encourages Tucson Latinas to rise up and seek support from one another. Their most popular event, Cafecito & Chill, brings fellow students together to discuss ideas, promote their businesses, or even just flip frijoles.
Most recently, Bedoya entered Startup Tucson’s 2022 Idea Funding Pitch Competition to pitch his idea to a panel of judges. It reached the second round of selection on October 5, competing with more than 50 other companies. Although just short of the main stage award, she is still eligible to win the Adelante Arizona and Social Impact awards, worth $5,000 each.
“I started (my pitch) strong and the questions were very engaging that I received from the judges, it gave me hope that they were invested in my projects with the possible funding and what are the big projects for this group,” Bedoya said.
A graduate of the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts, Bedoya said he doesn’t teach the fundamentals of starting a small business.
“It’s what you are, you have to market yourself and market yourself.”
Just before graduation, she learned that her peers were in the same situation.
“A lot of people didn’t really know what they wanted to do because they weren’t quite sure how to go about it,” she said.
She had taken it upon herself to attend entrepreneurship workshops and networking events such as Techstars Startup Weekend Arizona in the fall of 2020. A three-day program for aspiring startup entrepreneurs to collaborate with experts and d other budding creators to turn an idea into a minimum viable product to present in front of a jury. After graduating, she applied for an idea funding pitch competition through Startup Tucson that centered BIPOC creatives the following spring 2021.
“I did two laps and (received) positive feedback that I (could) put in my back pocket,” Bedoya said.
Her second appearance in the competition, had she advanced to the final round in November, would have allowed her to present at the TenWest Festival. The grant would have helped her create a website with a directory of Latino creators, allowing the online community to expand outside of Tucson; a workspace for affordable workshops and funding for behind-the-scenes business costs.
“I want to build a big narrative aspect of a creative entrepreneur journey and showcase different artists,” Bedoya said.
Through her research on the Hispanic community, Bedoya found that culture brought additional challenges to pursuing a creative or artistic career.
“If you’re a first generation, you know your parents came here and worked hard to provide for their children and they want to see their children succeed and not struggle like them (did),” said Bedoya.
It’s ingrained in the culture to get an education and get a well-paying job that comes with benefits.
“One night I was like, ‘You know what, you got all the data on creatives and their pain points, let’s start looking at the Latina stats,’ as soon as I started to understand the Latina pay gap , something lit a fire in me,” Bedoya said.
After becoming a mother, she knew she couldn’t attend so many workshops because children weren’t allowed in those spaces. She noted a need for Latinas and mothers within the entrepreneurial community.
“The first meeting I started for free and honestly, I used a $25 gift card I got from participating in a focus group and $10 of mine,” Bedoya said. “I wanted to test it first.”About 10 attendees came to the first meeting, including Erica Cantua, a local Erixaart painter and muralist, who met Bedoya through a mutual friend at a pop-up flea market at Borderlands Brewing Co. in 2018. Since the first meeting, Cantua said the attendees have “grown every month.”
Cantua, who quit his job last year to pursue art full-time, painted the Speedway and Columbus mural on the west-facing wall of the Tucson Appliance Company. She works on building a mobile art shop out of a yellow school bus.
“My mission and vision has always been the same, to help creatives succeed with the tools to be able to propel themselves as a small business,” Bedoya said. “Even if they just need help learning how to market themselves as artists or (build) relationships or (access) resources.”
Bedoya, who is a full-time marketing coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona and a single mother, said she was exploring her place in the community and building community engagement through social media.
“I make sure I know what people are doing, what accomplishments they’ve made, and making them feel like they’re seen,” Bedoya said. “If I pay attention, then they know I care, and I care.”
Ali Baxley of Ali B Confectionary said that Tucson Creative Comadres “popped up on Instagram”. A full-time Latina cookie maker who makes “pretty cookies” wanted to join a creative and supportive community, a common sentiment heard in “las comadres.”
“I was referred to (Tucson Creative Comadres) by a friend,” said Marcia Fragoso, small business owner of SocialBuzzAZ, a bartending and catering service. “That’s really all it is, small business owners can talk to each other, meet people and hear what inspired them.
“I want people to share ideas about each other and have that support,” said Angie Roberts, a local wedding photographer who owns CandidSol.
Alejandra Foerg, a postpartum doula who recently moved closer to her home in Nogales, Arizona, was also looking for the company of like-minded individuals to share and bring her gifts with.
Through networking events like Cafecito and Chill, “comadres” can cultivate connections in an accessible and relaxed setting.
“I just know where I want to take that and branch out online into a general community of creative comadres and travel to smaller places that maybe don’t have that stuff,” Bedoya said. “I want them to know they’re part of something.”