By Amira Van Leeuwen
DRIPPING SPRINGS — Yazmin Castaneda worked hard to build her career in corporate America until she was burnt out and yearning to do something different that she was truly passionate about.
“I thought to myself, ‘What are the most important things that you want to do?’ ‘What’s important to you?’ ‘What’s important to your family?’ and I decided to create Origin Mexico,” Castaneda, a first-generation Mexican-American, said.
Since July 2020, Origin Mexico has been a purpose-driven brand based in Dripping Springs that empowers women through artisanal handmade goods. But it took a while for Castaneda to finalize her business plan before quitting her corporate position because she was struggling with the fear of being a business owner.
“I’ve always worked for a company,” Castaneda said. “I’ve never been on my own, per se.” Then, she decided if she was going to go for it, she would have to go for it 100%.
After quitting her job, she reached out to artisans she had met through her travels. At first, Castaneda was anxious about contacting them because she didn’t know how they would feel about working with her. Luckily, the first family — a mother-daughter duo from Hidalgo — welcomed her idea.
“They said this is amazing, because at that point, it was during COVID,” Castenada said. “As well as many [other]artisans in Mexico, they started noticing that tourism had declined and essentially, their income was non-existent at that point because they rely on tourism.”
She began working with artisans using WhatsApp. Once COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted, she was able to travel and meet them in person to discuss her brand and goals and gauge their interest.
Currently, Castaneda works with nine artisans from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Hidalgo.
“We’re very selective in a way because we want to make sure that things are truly handmade and that our values align,” she said. “What I’ve learned through this process is when there are two to three people between you and the artisan, like a middle person, the portion that the artisan gets is a percentage of what you’re paying them,” Castaneda continued. “So, my goal is, whenever I buy something from an artisan, I want them to receive 100% of what I’m paying them, not have it go through a stream of people and then they get 30%.”
Origin Mexico has a curated selection of dresses, tops, accessories (jewelry, handbags, hand-painted hats) and a kids collection. Origin Mexico also carries plus sizes. The designs are inspired by Mexican art, architecture and textiles; the products can take an average of 15 hours to make.
She stressed the importance of transparency and communication when building relationships with artisans, but also cultivating friendships.
“A lot of the artisans that I work with have children and so we talk about the kids, we talk about, ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s your mom doing?’ ‘How’s your sister doing?’ A lot of times, they’ve been through moments where they’ve been ill, so you check up on them,” Castaneda said. “A couple of months ago, there was a hurricane in Oaxaca and you just stay up-to-date as to how they’re doing aside from the business portion; you truly care about them as people and as humans.”
Origin Mexico’s mission is to help artists and women empower themselves and their families through the beauty of artisanal goods, the beauty of what Mexico has to offer and to be able to share that with those who might not be familiar with Mexican culture.
“Our goal is really to create a positive impact in the lives of others. And that could be our community of customers, when they wear something that they truly enjoy, that makes them feel good, as well as the artisans that we work with,” she said.
Castaneda donates a portion of proceeds to Fundación En Vía, a nonprofit organization that works to empower entrepreneurial women in five communities in the Tlacolula Valley of Oaxaca to better support themselves and their families. Funds are generated through responsible tourism to provide interest-free loans and educational programs.
“They give them the tools, the resources, so they understand how to run a business, how to start a business, how to manage your finances,” she said. “Their goal is for women especially, to be able to seek that financial independence and for them to have this knowledge. So hopefully, they can help other generations in their family.”
Assisting women to be successful and financially independent resonates with Castaneda because she and her three brothers were raised by a single mother who struggled financially.
“She had like three jobs at one point,” Castaneda said. “And it’s amazing when people are given opportunities to improve their quality of life that in a way, also helps their children. My mom was given a lot of opportunities to succeed herself and I feel super grateful. I don’t even know the people that gave her these opportunities, but it allowed me to have a better future and it’s sort of carved my path to be where I am today.”
Castaneda believes that financial independence is an important strength that allows women to thrive and escape situations that may not be the best for them.
Her goals for the future are to continue growing Origin Mexico’s artisan family, collaborating with other small businesses and creating more jobs for artisans in Mexico.
Visit www.originmexico.com to shop and learn more about Castaneda’s brand.