Gabriel Flores 0:02
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I'm here with Cristian. Vargas, what's going on, dude?
Cristian Vargas 0:12
How you doing Gabriel
Gabriel Flores 0:13
I am excited, because we're gonna we have a lot to talk about, we've been doing a lot of work already. But before we get into that, let's introduce who is Kristin.
Cristian Vargas 0:24
And there is a lot of places to start. But if we, you know, just break down the roots, I'm originally from Mexico City. My mom migrated here in 1998. And I've been here in the US since then. What I do is, Christian is more me personally, I'm a footwear designer, more specifically, color material designer. I've been in the industry for the last five years. And now I've taken a new endeavor and a new venture. And that's where I'm at today.
Gabriel Flores 0:57
So before we get into the new venture list, let's let's talk about the shoe designing. How did you get into shoe designing?
Cristian Vargas 1:03
That's a great question. You know, just to keep the long story short, it just honestly started back in high school. A lot of the kids in high school wanted to stand out wanted to be authentic and unique. So I grabbed a lot of inspiration from a lot of my classmates. And specifically, there was three kids in high school who were shoe collectors. And from there, you just kind of just, I thought about, well, what what does that really mean? What is that? So I started talking to them, and then just kind of got more insights on what shoes are. And in 2006, that's when the hobby started. But design that was just for the hobby of footwear, but when we get deeper into design, it started after I graduated high school. You know, I have I have a 15 year old daughter. So once my daughter was born in 2007, was actually a freshman, sophomore, junior going to be a senior when I had my kids, so then I just kind of had to honestly just start thinking about career paths that I wanted to do. And it wasn't until three years after I graduated high school where I found out about this footwear Academy called pencil Academy. Oh yeah. Yep. And Dwayne Edwards, Dwayne Edwards. Yeah, Dwayne Edwards is the one that you know, open up the opportunity for me, took me four years, honestly, to get in. It was just a lot of rejections at first. But after that, it just kind of started off from reject getting rejected, and just kind of seeing why I'm getting rejected. And the reason why I was getting rejected was because I was coming at design more of an artistic perspective, as opposed to a problem solving. So we're, I also have a sister who has cerebral palsy, and she's not able to walk, she's always going to be in a wheelchair. But I felt the need of creating something for her to problem solve for that specific category of footwear, you know, something that a lot of footwear industries don't dive into really deep. And so I ended up just creating a shoe for my sister that just pretty much connects disability, the disability area and then also into the footwear area. So I created a shoe. That it's interesting, though, because now that I'm thinking about it, I'm imagining how I did it, but it's just started off with a brace. And I honestly just tapped into how can I create footwear, a shoe I'm sorry, a shoe that goes along with, you know, plastic braces for kids that can walk or learning how to walk. So I ended up finding a way to put those together, mold them and then ended up presenting that as one of my presentations for pencil. And right there. And then that's when Dwayne kind of just smiled at my submission and said, You know what, like, for the last couple of years, like I've seen you grown just through your submissions, and, you know, maybe you do have the opportunity to, you know, continue to invest and not invest, but learn more about your process of design. So, that wasn't a yes or no, so I was gonna you just tell me if I'm gonna, you know, get accepted to one of your classes I've been applying for so long now. And it wasn't until 2017 When I was working at a nonprofit full time. And I applied for a class and I got the acceptance letter. And you know, I got emotional, I cried, because it took me four years to get. But as soon as I got that I needed to do a footwear, summer class and that's what I got set to for so I ended up just leaving my full time job. And to remind you at the time, I was still living with my parents and I still you know, have a kid to take care of so I needed to find a way to supplement the you know, just the money to help me pay for some bills here and there. But luckily I have a supportive family and I was able to leave my full time job to follow my passion and that opened up the doors to find out more about what it is to be a footwear designer. That's where I found out about color material design, which was awesome. I got more attached to DAG, I'm more connected with that. I like telling stories. And I think it has to do with me being also mihika know, Latino? Because we like to tell stories. Yeah. So I think that's where me personally, I kind of just dive in deeper into color materials in these kind of just, I wouldn't say a just left footwear on the back burner, but I just footwear design. So there's two specific fields. So let me just go ahead and kind of just get Yes, please. Yes, so footwear design, and color material design, they're in the same umbrella. The difference is that they all have their own specific pillars. So you have a footwear designer, that's designing the shoe that's creating all the processes from the molding to the upper to the whole, the whole DNA of it. Then once they've finished creating it, they pass it on to us as color material designers to tell the story visually, so that consumer can grasp on that product. And they're more about it through just visual color, and then the touch. So I ended up leaving like said just the footwear DNA aspect of it behind me and then ended up investing more on the other pillar, which is color materials. But yeah, man after that, like 2018 I mean a year now not even a year, six months after I really like it's so crazy to even say this, like I'm getting chills right now talking about it. Because after, you know, I left my full time job, I did a summer class and then they accepted me to do an internship, a three month internship class. And from there, it was just like, just one thing after the other, just bam, bam, bam. I mean, it opened up a lot of doors. I wasn't even ready for them. But I knew what I wanted to do. So after I left Penn saw in December of December 30, actually December 19, we presented a project to this big brands. And after that, like it just opened up the door to start working at keen eye so crazy, because it was I think it was a New Year's gift from one of my mentors, Seth, shout out to Seth. She just reached out and said a you know, January 1 came around. I remember the text you said a it's been a couple of weeks. Do you have time to work at Keene as a contract for color material? Like what? Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you think I'm ready to like, okay, cool, I'm gonna put you in contact with them. And man, like two weeks after that text message, I got a job as a contract designer at Keene footwear, that was my first time ever designing anything footwear related. And after that, it just opened up the doors to other other brands. And yeah, I mean, that's pretty much has started. So just me being a designer started with me, getting inspired by my daughter, but then also be inspired by my sister and creating product that solves problems.
Gabriel Flores 7:54
So would you consider yourself because you're, you're kind of now transitioning. You mentioned your, your, your Are you still consider yourself as a shoe designer or footwear designer?
Cristian Vargas 8:03
Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. I do. I honestly do. I'm a designer at heart. But right now I'm just taking kind of like a sabbatical of personal sabbatical of absence of designing just to invest on this project that I'm working on that I feel passionate for.
Gabriel Flores 8:20
Yeah. So let's, let's talk about this project. All right, let's talk about whom close what, what is it? What is the project? And why? Why is it that you're so passionate about it, you're taking a sabbatical to do it?
Cristian Vargas 8:30
Awesome. I'll say this, like, it's when I'm with the employees that I used to work with, when I started when I started, they didn't have any representation for Latinos, they had different diversity groups. But when I started, I didn't feel part of a community. I didn't feel welcome. So what I did is one of my colleagues and I had a similar idea. So I started working at this employer, put in my first 90 days, and I did what I needed to do. But in the back of my mind, it was always like, how can I make myself feel welcome. And luckily, there was at least three with me was for Latinos in the design team, which I felt welcome. But at the same time, it wasn't enough diversity for my people, right. So I kind of just wanted to create something. I don't know what it was. But then it's crazy, though, because when timing, you know, when timing happens, a lot of great things come just naturally. And so one of my co workers ended up having a similar idea of creating a diversity group. We didn't know how, but I remember we connected and we just had conversations about how she's from Spain and then she got relocated to United States here in Portland, Oregon. And she didn't feel welcome. Saw her speaking Spanish and being from Spain. Me being a con speaking Spanish so we kind of felt the same thing that I felt when I first got hired. So we ended up just kind of talking about How can we create a group for others to feel welcome, because if we feel like this, there's definitely a dozen more that feel like that. So we ended up just sending like a massive email to people. And the way I did it, I was just sending emails to any any Latino last name I can think of. So I would just go to the email list. And we had like, a demonstrator kind of forum where we look up names, and et cetera, et cetera. So I just looked up as many as I could, and I just send a massive email saying, Hey, we were having lunch this day, this time, at this place. And it was cool seeing that, you know, just doing that, but we didn't know what it was going to happen. And then come to find out over 20 plus, people showed up to that lunch, and I'm like, Whoa, like, we have something here. And so we ended up having the support, we were telling people what we wanted to do. And I kind of just felt like, it felt like I was going for a campaign I was shooting for like a campaign, right. So ended up doing that. And we created this diversity to group, the employer or employer. And from there, like, it's honestly been really positive hearing the percentage of Latinos that have grown and have applied to that place now. So what that just kind of just initiated my my momentum of thinking about how I want to feel my community hurt, and how I want to amplify my community's voice. So in 2019, we did the first Latino Hispanic event at depth, excuse me at the place where I was working at. And so it was cool, you know, it reached out the same thing that I'm doing right now started reaching out to businesses started reaching out to people within my culture, who want to be part of something. And of course, you know, it's corporate, you have budget, you have these things, and you kind of get limited. And after that just kind of made things happen. And 2019, I still had this idea, and then COVID. And then I had this whole thing planned out. And I wanted to do more for that brand within, you know, for Latinos, but then like COVID hit, and then it just kind of put that project on the back burner. And again, you know, throughout the whole process, the five the last five years of me having a professional footwear design, not only was I just talking to footwear designers, but I was also just talking to different parts of that pillars of what makes an organization, you know, design, marketing, retail, all these different different skill sets and different people with different mindsets, and then just kind of just seeing how I can someday utilize those skills and apply it to something that I'm passionate for. And that brings me to say home those nine who's got originate initiative, because I said I wanted to just amplify my community's voice. One of the things that I'm not a big fan of is when a lot of a lot of times Latinos get put into one specific event. One specific holidays, not even really a holiday. But it's Cinco de Mayo, right? So you can be from Panama, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Cuba, doesn't matter. Everybody just puts you in. Oh, you're Latino you belong in this place. Not like there's definitely much more cultural than words can even begin to describe. So ended up just going that that journey on my well, how can I create something without just making people feel left out. And so 2020 started kind of just thinking about how I wanted to do things in 2021 came around, and then started just kind of creating more of like an impact of like, okay, here's how this can happen. And then 2022, the opportunity came in, I remember I talked to somebody over this event will take place in Chinatown, but I remember I talked to somebody, the individuals over at Chinatown, RTCA gallery about this idea. I'm like, Look, I have this idea. Can we make it happen? And yeah, she was like, Yeah, let's do it. And she literally say, okay, you know, like, what are you thinking about? I just want to do it for just one weekend. And the event just took off from there and went from one weekend to her saying, you know, what, how would you feel if we just gave you the gallery for a month? My jaw drops, I'm like, Oh my gosh, like, I can't say no to that. But again, you know, throughout the last two years and a half that I've been kind of just creating this concept and project it just helped me create something unique and authentic. So to just answer your question, I know that then two different avenues and the conversation but one of those is to just honestly it's just to help my culture Latino Hispanics amplify their voice and their talent so people can actually understand and see that there's a lot of talented Latinos out in this world.
Gabriel Flores 14:35
And so what you're said to is it's going to be a five, five weekend long event in a day and Hispanic Heritage Month. And then the location is going to be Chinatown. Are you going to close off the entire street? How is the event gonna look?
Cristian Vargas 14:49
That's a great question. So logistics right so it's so crazy how timing happens like I just met with the OTC a gallery man her. And she mentioned that they now Chinatown has a specific Plaza now where they don't even need really permits to close it already just have it as part of an event. So how timing things happen, I'm like, Alright, cool. That means that we really don't have to apply for permits, like whenever we need to use the street, then we can use it. So between in Chinatown between third and fourth and kuj, that's the street that it's going to be closed for any sort of events. And the cool thing about that is that we have the opportunity to do the event inside the gallery, and then also outside, so the five weekends, it's going to be a honestly just between the inside and the outside. So that way, we have more people coming in and enjoying more of our culture.
Gabriel Flores 15:45
Now, these weekends, is each weekend theme going to be the same Are you going to alternate different themes throughout the weekends,
Cristian Vargas 15:52
alternate different teams, so every, every weekend, so let me just go ahead and tell you that like every, there's going to be five weekends. So the the event hunters PDX is a Latino Hispanic Heritage Month festival, that it's five weeks long, that will be about community knowledge, impact and inspiration, and celebration. So the five weekends are going to be five unique activations and five unique themes. So we're going to kick off the event with our theme also, you know, in English newsletters, art, but then art and vintage. And so how can, how can we bring different talents from different forms, not just art, but then also talented vintage collectors that have something that they can bring to the table. So it's going to be ordered in vintage, the first weekend, which will be September 17, and 18. And then the following weekend, the 24th. And the 25th. I'm excited to actually bring this is exactly what I wanted to do on my previous employer. But I want it I want to bring guest speakers and there will be guest speakers from different professions in the industry, that are Latinos in the polling community and beyond. So we're going to have professionals from nonprofits, professionals from entrepreneurship, design, nurse, nursing, law, and they're all going to come and talk to the audience. So in case the audience wants to dive deeper into the specific professions, they now have a name and a face they can connect with and network with to find out further more about that profession. And then the third weekend, and sorry, I apologize in advance, like I have so many dates in my mind. But the third weekend, I believe it's October 1 and second. And third weekend will be what we call bilen Nakaya, which is going to be dancing twirling in the streets. And this is where we'll be inviting Amen. I'm excited for this one, I love to dance. So this one will include there's going to be some indigenous dancers performing, there's going to be Columbia dancers, but charter dancers salsa, merengue dancers that are going to come in and not just perform, but also hopefully provide a workshop for the audience live. And I just had a conversation with somebody by the name of Anna, that's going to come in and actually perform some samba on the street, which is cool, because I never never thought about that. But I'm like, yo, that's fairly fresh, because it's something that it's related to our culture. And so she'll be coming in performing Zumba, there's going to be a mariachi band, there's going to be some other performers. And we're also going to have some awesome DJs, we're also going to have a special guest DJ, I'm not going to share who it is. Because obviously it's a special guest DJ, it's, it's going to be fun. And it's just going to be from two to eight, all weekends will be two to eight. But I just I can guarantee you and you know, I want to really tell you that this is going to be a fun festival, like just thinking about the process and like oh my goodness. But anyways, going back to what I was saying. So that's the third weekend. Then the fourth weekend, that will be October, I believe nine in eighth. And that's going to be a flea market out on the street. So this is going to be a flea market with talented Latinos in the community that are that are great with their hands, they're great at building things, you know, there's going to be food displays, it's going to be clothing vendors, there's going to be jewelry vendors, there's going to be all sorts of different creators at this flea market, showing some of that talent with the rest of the community. The goal is to connect the community with these talented folks and vice versa, this talented folks with the rest of the community, because there's a lot of talent out there, that just needs a little bit of shine. Yeah, there's so many great people out there. And my goal with this is just to again, bring them to the table so that way they can utilize this platform so they can share more of the talent. And the fifth weekend, which will be you know, like anything in life, everything's temporary, right? And lasts forever. So this will be our closing ceremony. And that will take place October 15. And this will be awesome because this is where I actually want the community to have an understanding about our family oriented culture. So this will be an awesome place where families will play games and such as our version of bingo which is looked at em. It's going to be dominoes. It's going to be musical chairs. Send all these different awesome games that families will be able to play into when goodies. Thankfully, I was able to get the I was able to get the some sponsors along the way that are helping with some tickets, I'm going to hold off on saying where from but I just want to just let you guys know that it's going to be some some teams locally that will be donating some tickets for families to win some of these tickets and and also to give away during the five weekends. But overall, I mean, that's the pretty much the five main not finding but the five weekends. And just you know, to just make things better. It's going to be the art, music, storytelling, dance and community gathering.
Gabriel Flores 20:47
Man got a list? Got a list? So what has been difficult about trying to put all this stuff together?
Cristian Vargas 20:59
Oh, that's a great question. As you can tell, like I'm mastering
Gabriel Flores 21:04
the lab crime,
Cristian Vargas 21:05
where do I start? I honestly I think is just getting people to understand the passion. You can be passionate about something, you can have strong feelings towards something. But if you do not know how to sell the passion, nobody else will see it. Just because you have where we have the passion doesn't mean that other people will have the same passion. So we have to speak different languages, as far as not like, you know, different native tongue managers, but I'm talking just like different business languages where you're able to sell the idea in a certain way. That's why I was saying at the beginning, all the skills that I learned throughout the process of my journey on my career and for the in the corporate world for where I was able to apply to this specific venture that I'm in right now. So I'd say the most challenging thing has been just selling the idea in a way and getting people on the same page. But I can tell you, it's just I was not expecting just people's words and you know, words of encouragement and reach now with arm handle support and saying, Oh, this is awesome, like so hearing all these things. It's been great. I can say that started off with zero people. Now the event has 42 participants.
Gabriel Flores 22:17
Let's go baby. Now what has been easy about this process? Has there been anything easy about it?
Cristian Vargas 22:22
Now, I wouldn't say easy, I would say everything has been challenging, because this is again, this has been this is a new venture for me, I'm pretty much program coordinating and all manner like if we talk about doing 21 or 20 I'll just over exaggerating 10 different jobs, you know, from budgeting, from marketing, from design, from present presenting, and so on, so forth. So nothing has been easy. But I will tell you that I've been learning something about myself a lot. You know, right now we have my daughter here with us. And one of the things that I want her to see when she gets older is that she sets her mind into something that she's passionate for something that she likes, that you're going to face challenges, but you're actually going to make it happen, because it's the opportunity to show that you can prove yourself wrong. And so that's where I'm at right now, just there's been times where, you know, it's I've had my head down and said, You know what, I don't want to do this anymore. It's too much. But I understand why people maybe thought about this and haven't really applied themselves because it's a lot of work. It's it's a lot of moving pieces to this puzzle. And so I'm the only one be, you know, just like a ventriloquist, and just like moving 20 different 20 different things. And whatever happens, like happens, but I'm just going through the process, and I'm enjoying it as much as possible. Nothing's easy.
Gabriel Flores 23:41
Nothing's easy. You know, one of the things you mentioned is just the difficulties of kind of going through a lot of this process by yourself being the accountant being the marketer. You also talked about your daughter and your sister often. Yeah. Are those is your daughter and your sister kind of the biggest motivating factors for you to keep pushing forward?
Cristian Vargas 23:56
That's a great question. Like my whole family is its man, like, how would I say this, like it's been, honestly my family as more more specifically my mom, because my mom when she migrated here like any other migrant parent, you know, our parents bring us here for a better life for a better future and for us to grow. And so this is an opportunity to just help my mom really feel proud for bringing us here like even though she already feels proud. But this is an opportunity for her just be like a you know, like, that's my son, he put that together. But it's just to show everybody in anybody that nothing is impossible. I mean, there's going to be challenges that we face. And I think that's those are the best. Those are the best things, facing those challenges because those push if you don't have challenges, you don't learn from yourself, you don't strive to do better. So you have to embrace the negative moments, more than the positive moments because you learn more from the negative moments than the positive moments.
Gabriel Flores 24:52
What what one of the things you know, that keeps you up at night that you're going through this whole process that you're like, Man, I gotta get shit done.
Cristian Vargas 25:01
My community amplify my community's voice. Like I said, you know, going from zero people to now 42 participants and all 42 feel similar, you know, they have similar thoughts like me and just amplifying our voice that's, that's the thing that keeps me up at night. You know, honestly, not keeping up but just waking me up to keep grinding and keep the windows and also like the reaction of the crowd, like, I'm excited to just see how the crowd reacts. They're not gonna know who I am. They're just gonna be like, oh, yeah, this is fun. I'm gonna be going around asking people questions, but that's going to be the awesome thing is just having to see your your baby grow in front of your eyes, I guess, in a way.
Gabriel Flores 25:44
Now what what can the community do to really kind of help? You know, get this thing off the ground? What can what can people do to help you?
Cristian Vargas 25:52
That's a great question. I've you know, I've there's so many things that I want to say about this. But I think one of the main ones is comes apart can be part of something unique can be part of change can be part of something that you are going to walk away with a sense of knowledge. The goal with this event is for everybody to walk away with knowledge. If you want to be a designer, this is your place, I'm going to connect you with designers. If you want to be a lawyer, this is going to be a great place. I'm going to connect it with lawyers. If you want to be you know, if you want to be a tattoo artists like this is going to be also a great place I mentioned but there's I'm working right now to getting a tattoo artists to come do some ink for those that want to actually get tatted up. This has the opportunity to come get tatted up nothing too crazy, small lettering small art. But it's just the opportunity to show these talented folks bring him to the table and show people can network but network in a fun and authentic way.
Gabriel Flores 26:43
Yep, in fact, we're we're collaborating, we're trying to work together to curate an unveiling, the last unveiling actually of a traveling art exhibit. That's really going to be displaying all of the different storytellers, innovators, and entrepreneurs here in the Oregon area, all the Latinos throughout the Hispanic Heritage Month. And the goal is really again, to amplify what the community has done. Not just individually, but as a state, right. And in addition to that, in fact, you know, one little call out for those that might be interested, because this is going to air before that there is a Latino networking event at the Hillsborough hop stadium on Labor Day weekends for those individuals, please reach out to me, I'm happy to give you some more information on that. But with that said, what gives Give, give the listeners at home some advice? what's some advice you can give some of the listeners that might be thinking of starting an event like this trying to get involved in the community? What advice would you have for them?
Cristian Vargas 27:35
A car crash question, be passionate, your passion will guide the process. Because if you are hungry for it, it's going to drive everything else for you. Like you don't even have to really try it, things will just come at you a certain way. And it's going to make you feel uncomfortable. And that's when you feel uncomfortable. That's when you know you're doing something. And you're like, Alright, cool. Like I felt comfortable so many times throughout this process. But I would say if you're passionate, and if you are hungry to make something happen, not just for yourself, but for your community, or your family, whoever, if you're passionate for it. And if you put your mind into it, it's so crazy to say that the process will just honestly start igniting itself and start building this energy that you just can't even imagine. So my advice to you is to have passion, and let that passion breathe, but at the same time, share some of those thoughts with other people so you can hear some feedback not I'm not saying go around asking everybody for feedback. But ask your close friends, your people, your your your homies, your energy around, you ask what they think about this, because at the end of the day, their feedback will help you guide the process. Like if I may say this, like it's so crazy, I want to give a shout out to my one of my one of my good friends. I named Joel Joel Kali. I've known this guy for so long. And it's so crazy. Because if I show you the presentation, if I show you that first presentation, it's trashed. I look at it. I'm like, Man, I don't even want to be part of
Gabriel Flores 29:02
this first presentation is the best.
Cristian Vargas 29:04
But he he helped me a lot. He has a smaller advice because he has industry also in the corporate world of footwear, but him presenting ideas and so on so forth and had given me thoughts. And in some pointers like, you know, some of those pointers were hard ish, like a but be honest with me. And I took that and just applied it to my presentation. I haven't even shown in the presentation. He actually just sent me a message yesterday like hey, how's the event doing? I'm like, Ah, it's it's gone. Good. And I mentioned some things like oh, he's like, Alright, cool. It looks like you're doing great. So if you need any help, let me know. You helped a lot. But that's my advice. Honestly. Just be passionate and let the passion breathe and let the passion speak.
Gabriel Flores 29:47
Nice. Now for the folks at home that might be interested in connecting with you. Maybe talking about shoes, maybe getting involved in this event. How do they find out more about who unfolds and how they find out more about you?
Cristian Vargas 29:56
Yeah, so there's different platforms, different avenues and pillars, but you You can go to Quintos pdx.net And again, that's juntospdx.net and that's where you will be able to see what this event will be about when it will take place. Another platform where you can get in touch with me is LinkedIn as well, Christian Vargas. You can also get in touch with me on Instagram cm underscore Vargas. And you can also again just get in touch with me through windows pdx.net. But honestly, I would love to hear some of your guys's thoughts about this podcast this has been honestly an energetic like I just really don't even want to leave like I want to continue to talk
Gabriel Flores 30:39
will continue talking after this don't worry because I got some things to talk to you about. Anyways. Alright folks, thank you so much for listening at home for those that are interested please follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at the shades of E you can also visit us at the shades of e.com and please do sign up for that lose other Have a great night