Vicky Serra started Alma Aromatherapy with a $700 investment from her own bank account. She balanced building the foundation for her small business with making ends meet any way she could. Between waiting tables and bartending she found a way to finance her new business until her profits were covering costs of productions.
“I’ve always been a very minimalist person and when it came to finding beauty products, I couldn’t find anything simple enough for me,” explains Serra. “I used essential oils for different things, and one day I decided to make a blend with almond oil for my skin and that’s how the Lavender + Camphor Body Oil (the first product) was born. At the same time, entrepreneurship is something I’ve always been interested in and having my own business has been my goal since I was 18 years old, so that moment was an aha moment for me and decided to give Alma a try.”
As she navigated finding how to match her entrepreneurial spirit with a small business that could sustain her financially, Serra turned to her own “why”.
“Always remember why you started doing what you’re doing,” shares Serra. “I still make every single product myself, and sometimes it gets very overwhelming, but I take a deep breath and remember that this is what I want to do.”
For Serra choosing Alma Aromatherapy as her career path meant being able to cement a brand that she herself would enjoying buying. Below Serra shares how she continues to finance Alma Aromatherapy, how she navigates the growth of her business, and what advice she has for other Latina small business owners.
Vivian Nunez: How do you fund starting Alma Aromatherapy?
Vicky Serra: Alma is a completely self-funded company. The first investment I made was $700 that I used to buy bottles and ingredients, and with that I was able to make the first products I sold to friends and friends of friends. I was still working other jobs and I would save a big chunk of my paychecks to keep investing and buying more ingredients. Eventually, it got to a point when I was able to invest the money I made from sales and stopped using my personal money.
Nunez: How did you take the idea from initial brainstorm to final, sellable products?
Serra: It all happened very quickly. I had been wanting to start a business for so long, and had so many ideas, but all of them were not realistic for me or had some sort of but, so when I finally came up with the idea to make natural skincare products I dove in and did it all within two months. The hardest part at the beginning was actually just coming up with a name. After I had a name, my friend helped me with a logo, labels, website and she still does all of my branding. Once I had 3 products ready, I started selling to friends and going to stores showing them to products to see if they wanted to carry them. Thankfully a few said yes. Starting a business sometimes is easy, maintaining it and growing it is the hard part for me.
Nunez: What advice do you have for a Latina who is looking to kickstart her own small business?
Serra: Start with a plan. So many times I hear stories of people who quit their jobs from one day to another to start their own project and just the thought of that gives me anxiety. I’m all about making dreams happen, but for me it was very important to have a plan and a list of how I was going to start to make it happen. First think of what it is you want to do, then give yourself short term goals and timelines. I wanted to save as much money as I could before taking the big step and focusing on the company full-time, so I started working at a bar because I knew I would make money faster and I moved back to my parent’s house to save money. It’s also important to know if you really want to do this because there will be so many times you’re going to want to give up, but if this is really your dream, your desire to make it happen won’t allow you to quit.
Nunez: How has your Latinidad influenced the trajectory of your career?
Serra: Being Latina and the way I grew up has really shaped how I want all my products to be. I’m from Venezuela and I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house, where I would see her use all types of herbs and natural recipes for all kinds of things, so my curiosity began at a very early age. Even the way we eat in Latin America, lots of vegetables and homemade meals, influenced my passion for a natural lifestyle.
Nunez: What has been your biggest business lesson learned so far?
Serra: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that things take time. Patience is not one of my virtues and I’ve had to really learn to be patient lately. I’ve also learned that I can’t compare myself and where I am with the business to other people because we all have different resources to make things happen. Some people decide to get loans and get things started quickly, or some companies might be able to hire different people to do different jobs. I started this company alone, with my own money, and have done everything by myself to this point. It might take a little longer but it’s a different journey.