By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer
Looking back on her life months earlier, Jessica Moreno-Gonzales, owner of Waco’s ‘De La Niña’ jewelry store, she said she never would have guessed she would become the owner of a small business, let alone a clay jewelry business.
Moreno-Gonzales said she has always been creative, dabbling in many mediums throughout her life, but her jewelry-making frenzy has not quit since she attended a workshop from fellow Waco clay business, Daisy Clay Co. in August of 2022.
“Little did I know what I was gonna spiral into doing,” Moreno-Gonzales said.
Making clay jewelry has allowed her get creative with the painting process she loves, as well as the sealing and wire work involved with constructing clay creations like earrings and keychains, she said.
Moreno-Gonzales said the name ‘De La Niña’ is inspired by what her mother calls her, a phrase she is proud of because it is a part of her.
“My mom is my biggest inspiration in everything,” Moreno-Gonzales said.
Reaching up and touching the dangling clay earrings she was wearing, Moreno-Gonzales said the clay flowers shaped onto them were her mother’s favorite — calla lilies.
She has also gathered inspiration from her beloved Mexican family, people who she said believe in hard work, but also know how to celebrate. While she deeply admires their work ethic, Moreno-Gonzales said she wishes her family would embrace celebrating their culture more.
“We’re here for just a short time to enjoy it, so for me, it’s showing them ‘Hey, our culture’s so beautiful; let’s do something about it,’” Moreno-Gonzales said.
In order to “do something about it,” Moreno-Gonzales said she had to decide to take her written ideas and give them life beyond the paper. She said getting past the slow start and scary expenses were challenges at first, but she did not allow herself to get discouraged. Even on market days when she only sells a pair of earrings, she has been able to talk to other vendors attending who have given her advice for her business.
The persistence of brave souls like Gonzales shows that entrepreneurship is not just for people who go to school for business, said Baylor clinical assistant professor Shaun Limbers. Limbers said the aid of an online platform is especially helpful.
“It opens up a whole new world that before you were tethered to a physical location,” Limbers said.
For those starting their own business, Moreno-Gonzales said she recommends utilizing platforms like YouTube and TikTok to gather inspiration for content and products by watching videos and following creators with a similar passion.
She said another way to keep content flowing is to allow skill building in multiple areas. For instance, Moreno-Gonzales said she has entertained the idea of making sun catchers someday.
As Waco continues to develop and grow, Limbers said it is a place that is becoming better and better for starting and owning a business. He said Baylor has partnered with Startup Waco, an organization which helps local entrepreneurs to reach success with their businesses.
“As a Christian university, I think we have a moral responsibility to empower and uplift the community we are in,” Limbers said.
As much potential as Waco has, Moreno-Gonzales said she is trying to branch out with De La Niña. She said she hopes to sell her clay jewelry at the Frida Friday market in Austin, which hosts both charity events and several ofrendas and shops. In addition, Moreno-Gonzales said she will be submitting an acrylic painting to the Cultivate 7Twelve contest, a Waco exhibition focusing on themes of femininity through various types of media.
Her ultimate goal for De La Nina, Moreno-Gonzales said, is to be able to sell 12 earrings a day, which would allow her to quit her 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job she currently has. She said she aims to reach this goal within a year or two and that she hopes for De La Niña to be able to support her and her family.
“I have a nice comfortable corporate job, salary pay,” Gonzales said. “It’s a good job, but could I be doing what I like, what is mine, and get paid more? I would love to do that.”