2016 Babe of the Year: Rebecca Ruiz Acosta
In the first few months of the new year, we're celebrating the babes who helped buoy our community in 2016 with their inspiring ambition, work and success.
A little more than a year ago, Rebecca Ruiz Acosta was only dreaming of the business she would come to create — one that would combine her diverse interests while also exhibiting the pride she has for her culture and heritage.
Taking the business' name — "Poco A Poco," or little by little, in Spanish — to heart, Rebecca spent 2016 building the project into so much more than that original vision, working step by step to create a community for Latinx makers and creators through a series of pop-up markets.
In 2017, may she continue to inspire us to tackle the big things, little by little.
Where does the drive to do what you do — even when the struggle bus pulls up — come from?
The ultimate drive is my culture, home, and heritage. I'm a second generation Mexican American from the border, and there's this pressure to be "Latinx enough" — a feeling of not looking or acting Latina enough, not speaking fluent Spanish. Being both Mexican and American is a complicated thing, but a lot of people experience it. I'm so white passing that I could just exist as white and leave all my culture at home in El Paso, but I can't do that: A) Because I'm very proud of who I am and B) because most people of color don't have that luxury. I do what I do to support women-owned and minority-owned businesses, to reconnect to my culture, and to speak to and curate for young people who experience the same cultural struggles I do.
The ultimate struggle bus we are all dealing with right now obviously is our President Elect, his supporters, and what they represent in this country. But I am super driven to show that we as immigrants, children of immigrants, and grandchildren of immigrants are not going anywhere, and we're going to continue to celebrate our culture as loudly and vibrantly as we want.
What have been your favorite moments of creative energy this past year?
I always get so excited to find new collaborators to work with! But the most exciting thing is seeing their art, or holding their products for the first time. This time last year, I had NO IDEA I'd be collaborating with such amazing artists and makers! I figured maybe one or two people that I looked up to would let me carry their stuff, but now I've got a great lineup of wonderful people that I stock. Salsa for President, Gilded Nopal, Roman Martinez, Muneca Mia Mundo, & Nalgona Positivity Pride are some that I'm particularly thrilled to bring to Austin for our local Latinx community.
That would be the most exciting thing about building the Poco A Poco store — curating and planning markets is a little different. Having a successful market is the world to me! Finding awesome local businesses to invite to markets, seeing them succeed and make new friends, growing those relationships, giving back to the community and causes I care about — that's like having a birthday every month!
What have been the most challenging moments throughout your career and perhaps in this year in particular?
It's super difficult to feel like you've failed people — when a market doesn't succeed, when your vendors don't make money, when you have to compromise your own money to make up for it. It can be tough, discouraging, and flat out exhausting.
For the most part, I can keep my chin up and figure out a way to make it up to vendors, which might be irresponsible of me as a business owner — I'm not sure. My business is only a year old and I'm still figuring it out, but keeping a happy community is my passion, and it's way more fun.
I've also discovered that I can be way more trusting of people than I should be. You know, we want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and sometimes you've got to confront people when they've hurt you to protect yourself and your business. But for every person that's caused me grief in this little venture, there are dozens and dozens of amazing inspirational Chingonas around me to lift me back up.
What's the one thing you're most proud of accomplishing this past year?
My business is just under a year old. Last year over Christmas I sat in my sisters apartment and told my favorite cousin about my dream of creating a business fusing riot grrrl feminism, witchy punk aesthetics, and brown pride for young Latinxs. At that time I had no idea I'd be doing all of these pop ups — much less running my own! I figured I'd barely be making my debut sometime around now, actually.
I named the business Poco A Poco (little by little in Spanish) because I have chronic anxiety and depression and it can make even the smallest things like brushing your teeth and doing laundry seem impossible to accomplish. But my head thinks in Spanglish, and when I'd feel discouraged or overwhelmed, I'd tell myself "poco a poco, ok."
I'm proud of myself for getting started! And for realizing I don't need to be perfect or to get it all done at once. One day I started the Instagram, the next week I dabbled on the website, took some selfies in some products, contacted suppliers, contacted markets, and so on. It was all little by little and then it grew week by week until it is where it is now, and where we're heading. Having the realization that everything is done one step at a time, that self care is essential, and that I can grow this one step at a time is my proudest accomplishment.