What did it take for Alejandra Vargas, 24, an Aguascaliente-born Latina to open her first clothing shop in downtown Santa Ana? 

Hope, sacrifices, local resources and support from her family. 

All month long, Vargas has been handing out fliers to invite the public to the very moment she has been preparing for since she made the transition from online seller to brick and mortar business owner: the grand opening of her clothing store, Vibes Boutique, in downtown Santa Ana on July 9. 

Vargas always felt the calling to entrepreneurship, she knew it was a path for many Americans and wanted it to become a reality for herself and boyfriend. 

“Small businesses are 99% of what keeps America going,” says Vargas.  

With the most recent data, there are 32.5 million small businesses which make up 99.9% of all US businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Alejandra Vargas opens doors promptly at 10:30 a.m. on July 7, 2022. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

For Vargas, Saturday’s grand opening is a celebration of all her successes thus far and gives a warm welcome to prospective clients with some Latino hospitality (free tacos and drinks with a $10 minimum purchase, while supplies last) and free goody bags highlighting local businesses. 

Opening a brick and mortar clothing business during a pandemic was an act of courage, with a village behind her to help her achieve her success. The business plan was simple, take a risk while you have the proper support. 

“You don’t have to go all in, you can start with an online store too, like we did and test the waters,” said Vargas.

“We don’t have rich parents, you know, funding is a big obstacle, luckily we were able to borrow money from my boyfriend’s mom, for the security deposit of the building, which we will pay back, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from going into business. You have to try. You have to take risks, and taking risks has gotten us here.” 

Vargas, who started her entrepreneurship through selling jewelry at her boyfriend’s mother’s shop in Santa Ana decided this was the year to have her own shop to sell dresses, accessories, trendy tops and womens jeans. 

Vargas, and her boyfriend, David Hernandez, 30, open the shop every day, seven days a week without fail. “We have no employees at the moment,” says Vargas, as she acknowledges Hernandez with a glance, “it’s one of the many sacrifices we make.”

(Left) David Hernandez, 30, stands at his computer as he searches for grants for new business owners as Alejandra Vargas sorts through merchandise.
A coaster sits at the register with the Santa Ana city logo.

Vargas and Hernandez, both have scaled down costs in their personal lives to make ends meet for their new venture. They now rent a room with other family members, giving them the chance to invest more in their business. 

It’s not an easy task. 

Navigating the business world of permits and business licenses was uncharted territory for Vargas. She started looking for resources and stumbled upon government assistance programs and Santa Ana city programs for new businesses opening up after the pandemic. 

Vargas, in her own right, is constantly looking for new ways to take her business to the next level. 

In December of 2021, Vargas graduated through a City of Santa Ana workshop, Emprendedoras, an eight week course on how to jump start your business with a grant of $1000 upon completion. This was just one of the grants she applied for.

“You know the mayor was there for the graduation,” said Vargas with a smile, as she recounted her time in the Emprendedoras program.

Alejandra Vargas, poses for a photo during her graduation from the Emprendedoras small business 8 week workshop. Credit: Courtesy of Alejandra Vargas

To start a clothing business it is costing Vargas about $50,000 to begin, but this wasn’t always the case, “I started up my online jewelry business with around $600 dollars, that includes shopify, online domain and $500 to buy jewelry and resell.” 

Vargas and Hernandez often work 16-18 hour days. 

They both wake up before business hours to commute to the Los Angeles Fashion District to buy new inventory, where  a sellers permit is mandatory in some showrooms to purchase merchandise. When Vargas and Hernandez are done shopping, they drive back to Santa Ana for regular business hours. “I try to have new inventory each week,” said Vargas. 

Vibes Boutique carries all sorts of womens contemporary clothing. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The venture is exciting and refreshing to Vargas and Hernandez, who encourage anyone to “make their dreams a reality.” For them two, they know it’s a risk they are willing to take. 

For anyone curious about Alejandras new store, the grand opening is today, July 9 starting at 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. at 208 W. 4th St Santa Ana. Parking is available at the parking structure located on 201 W. 3rd Street Santa Ana. 

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