Editors’ note: Because the subject and a significant audience for this story speak Spanish as their primary language, Dallas Innovates is experimenting with producing it in both English and Spanish. Para leer in Espanol, oprima aquí.
Lucina Montanez moved with her husband to Dallas from Los Angeles in the early 2000s. A stay-at-home mom, she took pride in keeping the house running, building a life with her husband, and raising their three children. But she couldn’t help thinking, “Que mas?”
“My mother always gives so much to us and to friends, and she wanted to do something that was her own — something more,” explained her son Bryant, while sitting in Noble Coffee Roasters on a recent Friday morning.
She hadn’t had entrepreneurial aspirations, but on a routine trip to Walmart in 2005, inspiration struck while she was standing in the arts and crafts section. That day she bought a box of beads, string, and a pair of scissors for $30 bucks. The Internet didn’t yet exist, so teaching herself how to make jewelry by watching videos wasn’t an option. Instead, Montanez subscribed to two monthly craft magazines and put herself on the path to creating Motcy Designs. These pieces are now sold online and at in-person events like the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Women’s Business Conference, which led to a sales record, where she broke 200% in one day.
Starting out, the jewelry was, in her own words, simple; she strung beads and other basic materials together. Just four years later, she had become so proficient — designing pieces in such demand — that she opened a storefront on Etsy.
Before long, the daughters of a friend who had also immigrated from Mexico got an idea. They were combining their own entrepreneurial energies and wanted to create a way to highlight artisans that, like them, lived between two cultural worlds. Today Cadena Collective sells handbags, clothing, goods for the home, and of course, jewelry. Montanez was their first vendor, selling aretes, or earrings, for $25 per pair.
“They pushed me to make Motcy Designs an official business,” said Montanez. That included everything from creating an Instagram account to filing with the U.S. government and applying for grants to teach other homemakers the craft and the business of jewelry design. The grant she was awarded is issued by the city of Dallas for creating culture through art and specifies that it be used in Southern Dallas.
Tenemos la oportunidad a banco de comida” —she and Bryant, who has become her defacto business partner—found an opportunity at the food bank in South Dallas.
A big space with tables and chairs, she holds class on Thursdays — demonstrating what to do under a camera that projects her image onto the wall so that everyone can follow along. Officially the class is for about 25 people, but the number who show up is usually closer to 60. Participants cross age, gender, and ethnic lines, and Montanez is proud of the community she’s created, welling up a bit when explaining “me veo a mi mismo in ellas” — I see myself in them.
One of those people is Valerie King, who started going after her son, then 13, said that he wanted to help pay the bills. Together they learn the techniques in class and then make jewelry in their spare time. Now 15, he started a website, and though they’re not ready just yet, their goal is to join the world of eCommerce. Their pastor and other church members at Praise Works Family Church wear their pieces regularly. King says she wouldn’t be on this path if it wasn’t for Montanez.
“She is always giving so much of herself to make sure everyone enjoys it and understands. Love doesn’t have a language.”
Between the Cadena Collective, Facebook, and Instagram, Motcy Designs has a growing presence online. Montanez also wants to expand her in-person classes — starting one in Oak Cliff and hiring a dedicated translator. Her long-term goal is to open a physical workshop in South Dallas.
A fixed location where she can craft and sell her designs would be a full circle moment for the woman who began her journey years ago with a box of beads and the enduring question of que mas?
Want to try designing your own jewelry? Sign up for a class today.
- Cost: 5$ Per Class
- Dates: May 11 June 22 Time: 10am-12am
- Place: 2019 N. Masters St Dallas, TX 75217
No experience or prior knowledge needed and all materials will be provided.
Voices contributor Nicole Ward is a data journalist for the Dallas Regional Chamber.
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