By Diana Hinojosa
Tlanez Xotchitl’s rise as an entrepreneur has been an organic one. Whereas some entrepreneurs got their start early on as children while they set up their lemonade stands, she simply began making things she liked to wear as an adult. She tended to make things that were found in Mexico, but not in the US. First came the compliments, then came the requests for reproductions of her handcrafted goods.
Tlanez immigrated to the Chicago from Michoacán, Mexico, when she was 2 years-old. When she grew up, she temporarily moved to California and became an Aztec ceremonial dancer, a practice that has significantly influenced her aesthetic. Her designs embody pre-Columbian symbolism with a modern urban twist. One satisfied customer’s review speaks of a “beautiful necklace collection” that is “one of a kind” and describes her selection of earrings as “breathtaking.”
She has recently set up her own shop along Pilsen’s main commercial corridor, 1523 W. 18th Street, in a brick-and-mortar space for the first time. She shares stories of how she got her start selling at community markets and festivals. And when that wasn’t enough, she organized her own community markets so that she could sell her goods. In 2023, she participated in ESDC’s pop-up-shop program, through which she was able to get a taste of what it would be like to operate her business out of a local storefront, while having access to the no-cost workshops and technical assistance ESDC provides to local businesses. After completing the program, Tlanez was contacted by a neighborhood business owner who advised that their space would soon be up for lease. After beating out other contenders, the kind landlord offered her the space.
She is now the proud owner of Ollin Papalotl, a local shop in a thriving and bustling area of Pilsen, where one can find an array of candles, hand-crafted jewelry, t-shirts, embroidered blouses, incense and more. It is important to this up and coming local entrepreneur that people have an opportunity to learn about Mexican traditions and culture, and her business is a vehicle through which she could pursue that mission. Tlanez was also the first-place winner of the 2022 Pilsen Christmas Window Walk.
*ESDC is still running the pop-up shop program. Interested parties may reach out to Jaime Garza: 312-733-2287.