In spite of unprecedented times, home-based small businesses flourished during COVID-19. As businesses adapt to Coronavirus creatively, it should come as no surprise that some Eastside businesses have succeeded in this new environment. Local residents’ creativity has been used to launch businesses that bring the simple pleasures many people yearned for during COVD-19.

With creative flair, three Eastside residents started their own small businesses on Instagram and found themselves giving back to their community in unique ways, as a result of their entrepreneurship. Their success allowed these small entrepreneurs to give back to the community in these times of “new normality.”

Spirituality through non-toxic candles

Alina Alejo is the owner of High Priestess Art, a candle maker in Boyle Heights.

One local resident, Alina Alejo, transformed her entire residence into a non-toxic environment. Born and raised in Boyle Heights, Alejo is a 24-year-old dog mom that is active in the green movement. In support of holistic healing and sustainability, she started selling non-toxic candles through

“I started my business March 2021 as a form of self-care [that is] accessible to everyone through therapeutic candles,” said Alejo, who believes that the purest form of spirituality is to have clean, sustainable products. “I was inspired by the community that raised me in Boyle Heights, the same community that has been there for me, and now I’m returning the favor.” 

Her candles are made from 100% coconut soy wax and are great for those who want to burn candles without worrying about harmful chemicals. With organic scents such as pomegranate, coffee, and hemp, every candle is handmade to perfection. Her goal is to provide non-toxic, eco-friendly candles to her clients.

Alejo hopes to expand her business beyond Instagram by selling her candles in storefronts and offering wholesale options.  Through her business, she wants to give back to her community by providing scholarships to aspiring young entrepreneurs like herself.

Stefany Estrada is the owner of Nailed by Stef, an East Los Angeles manicure service.

Creative nails, at an affordable price

Stefany Estrada, 25, was born and raised in East Los Angeles, where art businesses abound. After graduating from CSUN, Estrada began working for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, helping low income residents. 

At a time when residents were under lock down she started Nailed It by Stef, a small manicure business, so that she could express herself artistically and offer affordable prices to locals.

“During the pandemic, I thought about different ways to make up for missed income by turning to doing nails, because I like nails and it was hard then to get an affordable nail set,” said Estrada. 

She uses gel-x nails which are safer for the nailbed, as well as designs that are unique, and she practices them before clients arrive in order to ensure they walk out with the exact nails they imagined. One of her best designs, “summertime fun”, is her favorite by far.

She launched her business in May of 2021, hoping to make additional income to save for graduate school. With the rise of inflation, and nail supply prices increasing, Estrada strives to maintain low prices to accommodate her East Los Angeles community. 

Her goal is to expand her small business to an online clothing boutique and an e-commerce supplier for nail supplies. 

Kevin Mata is the owner of Shock Value Records, a streetwear manufacturer.

Streetwear that makes a statement

Artist Kevin Mata was born and raised in Boyle Heights. In addition to being a music producer and DJ, Mata also founded his own streetwear design company, Shock Value Records. His artistic influences are primarily a result of listening to all kinds of metal/alternative rock music throughout his adolescence.  

Now, at 25, Mata continues his passion for creating meaningful art that people of all ages can relate to in some way. He really emphasizes the idea of being a walking statement, and his art speaks to all those unspoken kids and teenagers who are touched by his art and its message. 

“As the pandemic loomed and we entered a new reality, I wanted to have a creative outlet to express my views of the world”, said Mata. “By providing authentic streetwear to my community, I hope the youth is inspired to follow their dreams and create their own fashion statement.”

Mata envisions his brand to become an outlet for other artists in the Eastside. Each of his designs are printed by him and he invests in quality materials to ensure his clients receive the best possible product. 

Mata aspires to open a studio for other artists and creatives to have an outlet, with the goal of giving back to the community who shaped him into the artist he is today, and inspire the youth of his community. 

These local entrepreneurs of color share a common goal of being self-starters and original, when it comes to their artistic material. It has been challenging for them to keep their small businesses going, but they are striving to turn their dreams into a reality despite the challenges they have faced so far.

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Elianet Romero

Elianet is a first generation Latina focused on uplifting underserved communities of color through public affairs and strategic communication strategies. She has a bachelors degree from UC Irvine in International...

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