Cynthia Soto, Pocha Shop Artesanal

Driven by her passion for animals and for Mexican culture, Cynthia Soto found herself combining both after being laid off from her full-time, early childhood education job during the pandemic. In a quick shift, she found an entrepreneurial spirit and embarked on a journey to start her own business.

Cynthia never imagined herself as a small business owner. She started with social media pages that showcased her unique pet clothing and accessories, strategizing new ways to promote her items. That work led her to connecting and appearing at various pop up shops at parks and other storefronts selling her products throughout the community. Her popular products have been well received because they incorporate the vibrant colors, patterns, and textiles that highlight Mexican heritage and culture which instills pride among her customers akin to her. As a result, she started a website and gained high traction from those wanting to dress up their “fur babies” in colorful and fun pet outfits influenced by the traditional beauty of Mexican textiles.

Cynthia found herself feeling overwhelmed with her newfound success. Through a connection, she tapped into the Illinois Small Business Development Center (ILSBDC) at Economic Strategies Development Corporation (ESDC). “My biggest hurdle was the legal preparation and steps for opening up a storefront,” says Cynthia. “Together we went through the entire process. I leveraged ILSBDC at ESDC’s marketing, accounting, small business grants, and other specialized services that accommodated my business needs. I felt reassured that my business could really take off.”

The ILSBDC at ESDC provides guidance and resources to ensure business startups like Pocha Shop Artesanal are a success. In addition to one-on-one business advising sessions, she partnered up with ESDC for the grand opening event of her brick-and-mortar storefront.

Business growth continues to soar, in part because of local and national news coverage such as Telemundo and CBS, and most importantly because of Cynthia’s own initiatives to explore creative strategies and tactics as a new business owner. This is what has gotten her through one of the roughest patches in our country’s history, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cynthia’s advice to anyone looking to open a business. “First, believe in yourself, we are all capable of achieving greatness. I would also recommend looking for any free help in your community. There are groups out there like ILSBDC at ESDC that offer services at no cost that help business owners throughout the entire process.”

“Overall, ¡Si se puede!’ The world needs more Latina entrepreneurs.”

You can find Pocha Shop Artesanal, a woman and Latina-owned pet boutique in the heart of Pilsen located at 1956 W. Cermak Rd or visit

The ILSBDC at ESDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA (or DCEO).