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Community Empowerment Through E-Commerce: The COVEDOZA Model

Elisa Molina , Founder & CEO of COVEDOZA

Explore the transformative journey of Elisa Molina, Founder & CEO of COVEDOZA. Born from her Peace Corps experience in Costa Rica, COVEDOZA empowers communities of color through art and lifestyle products. Using a print-on-demand model, COVEDOZA offers made-to-order items, showcasing collaborations with artists and creators, and creating deep connections with customers.

COVEDOZA is an Afro-Latina-led, mom-fueled, and minority-owned lifestyle brand. Our mission is to inspire communities of color to unleash their talent, dream big, co-create collaboratively, and raise their voices.

Elisa Molina
Founder & CEO of COVEDOZA

Hello and Welcome to our latest Wytpod. I’m Stephen Bland, your host with Wytlabs, We’re a digital marketing agency that specializes in E-commerce. I have Elisa with us here today.

Hello Stephen, thank you for having me.

Thank you for coming on. Feel free to tell our viewers a little bit about yourself and tell us about your background.

Sure. Well, hello, everyone. Thank you for Stephen having me in your show and giving me this opportunity to share my knowledge about e-commerce. My name is Elisa Molina. I am the founder and CEO of COVEDOZA, which is an Atlanta-based e-commerce platform that was founded almost five years ago. We focus on empowering communities of color to unleash their talent co-create collaboratively and dream big via art and lifestyle products.

Great. So tell me more about COVEDOZA and the brand. Tell me more about it.

Absolutely. So, COVEDOZA was born thanks to my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica. I spent almost three years supporting local artisans from a small beautiful community called Guaitil de Santa Cruz in Costa Rica. I was very lucky to be assigned to that particular community. I was a Community Economic Development volunteer.

 

What that meant was for those almost three years that I was there, I supported the economic development of the community. So I work with local entrepreneurs. They’re called micro-entrepreneurs because of how small their endeavors are. And that particular community was 100% artisan-based. So you have a lot of different families working to create the same product, which was pottery. One of the things they did not know how to do was share their story.

 

because of the lack of business training, lack of access to capital, as well as lack of access to business training and English training to share their stories. So one of the things that I noticed as a volunteer, I was in between all of the artisans because I was the guest, right, in that community. And I learned that they competed a lot against each other. So one of the things that I tried to do was to empower them through community projects and show them that if they came together, instead of fighting one another and trying to steal their customers and fighting and saying, why so-and-so has more clients than I do, I tried to show them that through collaboration, they would be able to grow and support each other as more business owners. So that’s how COVEDOZA was born. I returned to the U.S. after my service.

 

Um, at the end of 2012, it took me, as you can see several years to hone in on an idea. I first launched the idea, I believe in 2017 and came across two failures. So my business model was not as solid as I thought. Um, I wanted to work with the artisans originally. And because I didn’t have any knowledge of how, you know, importing, exporting.

 

exporting import law and I didn’t have access to capital to invest in products so heavy such as pottery. I had to go back to the drawing board and say to myself, how else? What else can I do to empower creators, artists, or artisans at that time? So it wasn’t until I was exposed to local economic development and small business programs.

 

that in 2018, I did a program at the local Latin American Association that helped me solidify my idea, overcome my challenges, and come up with a business model that could help me launch COVEDOZA and empower communities through art. So I did that in 2018. And in 2019, I launched a rebrand known as COVEDOZA and what we are right now.

 

So it took several years of going back to the drawing board, failing, getting back up again, recreating, and figuring out what’s the best way, what’s the best e-commerce model that can work for my lifestyle and the needs I had at the time. And how can I make that sustainable? So definitely took several years to be where we are today.

That’s great. I love the story. Can you tell me more about your products?

Yes, so COVEDOZA follows a made-to-order model, which some of you may know as a print-on-demand. So 90% of our products are made to order. We have found amazing POD partners that have quality printing and fast shipping, and also that we can trust when it comes to providing the best-in-class customer experience.

 

It took a lot of trial and error, but we are a print-on-demand e-commerce platform. It works for me because I am a full-time mom and also a full-time nonprofit director. So how can I still manage a business, do what I’m passionate about, but also have enough time to do other things that I’m currently working on right now? So that particular e-commerce model has worked for me, not to confuse it with drop shipping. So I have not tried drop shipping, but I think it has served me very, very well. I love the partners that I’m working with. And of course, I know COVID had an impact on the cost as a business of using print-on-demand as a business model, which we can talk about later. But yes, because we are a lifestyle brand, we offer anything ranging from apparel to drinkware to art. And we’re also exploring 2024 digital products as well.

That’s great. So, who is your target audience?

Absolutely. So our target audience is the millions of women who believe in feminism, identify as feminists, and or support feminist ideals. So we love our feminist creators and we empower them to create themselves and go through that creative process without feeling judged. And we try to also give them a voice through the artwork that’s in our products. So a lot of them really want to express how they feel about a particular issue, right? Regardless if it is personal our products gives them an opportunity to express themselves through the artwork that they purchase and that they can identify with.

Gotcha. What makes you different than your competitors?

I love that question. So we truly believe that what makes us different compared to other lifestyle brands is our ability to use our platforms to create deep connections between the women and the creators that design our products through our collaborations and the artists and the women that support them. So one thing is for you to go to a website, buy a t-shirt or a tumbler or a mug, and you have no idea where that design came from, right? You have no idea who the artist was, where they came from, and how your purchase impacted their story in their craft. So, COVEDOZA, where we come in is via our blog, our website, via our online platforms. We utilize our tools to not only market and create awareness of who the artists are or the creators that we collaborate with but also we try to create a deeper connection by saying, hey, this mug was created by this artist. Here’s who they are, here’s their story, and here’s how your purchase creates more economic opportunities for them.

That’s a great answer. What are your best-selling products?

Oh my goodness. So we have over 200 made-to-order products online. And I know I mentioned 90% of our products are made to order. So they’re only printed, packaged, and shipped. One is that the customer makes an order on covidoza.com, but the other 10% are also handmade items. So there are, I’m going to share with you two bestsellers that are made to order. And then I’ll share with you one bestseller that has truly been killing it.

since I launched it. So two best sellers that are made to order are our winter apparel. So our hoodies and sweatshirts were designed particularly by Emejota, who is a Caribbean artist, she designed our very first collection that we launched in 2019, and it has best sellers ever since.

Okay.

I am still blossoming is one of our best sellers as well as sis you’re worthy right? And just by listening to the messages, you can even defer why these two artworks are just best sellers and they sell in everything. They can sell apparel as well as drinkware and also notebooks, right? These are three of our best-selling products that are made-to-order. Now I have one that is handmade. And that is customizable phone chains, which is this right here. Anytime somebody sees me with this awesome, handmade, heart-beaten phone chain, that could be with clear beads as well as color beads. It’s customizable, I can make it as large as you want, and I can make it as small as you want. And that has been my best seller which is handmade and created at home by my family.

Oh, nice.

 

That’s awesome. That is great. So what activities are you doing besides showing off yourself to promote your business?

Yes. 80% of my sales come through social media. So Instagram and Meta are our first and most utilized tools to market our products, but also to share those stories that I was mentioning to you to help our audience understand the why behind some of these products. Right. So yeah, 80% of our sales come through those platforms. 

 

In 2024, we are trying to dive into newer platforms, which are not new to people, but they’re going to be new to the COVIDOZA brand, which is going to be YouTube having a YouTube channel, maybe a V log that showcases what it is to run an e-commerce business, right? That is, that uses a print-on-demand model and is run by someone who also has a full-time job and many other things happening. 

 

So YouTube is going to be a tool that we want to dive into this new year, as well as podcasting. I love a good mic, Stephen, love a good mic. So I want to see if we can reach a higher number of people, and increase our leads by creating more brand awareness through these two new tools. But right now we mainly use Instagram and Facebook known as Meta to promote our product

Gotcha. I like it. So what does the future look like for you and your brand?

Oh my goodness. Let me tell you right now. It looks exciting. It looks very exciting. One of the things that I want to do in 2024 is host our first IRI. Host our first real live event. We want to start diving into experiences. I’ve been doing a lot of research as a small business owner. And one of the things that I’m sure, Stephen, you even know yourself is that to engage our audiences, we have to create experiences for them. And COVIDOZA hasn’t had the opportunity to do that. So this year before the end of 2024, our goal is to launch our first in-person event here in Atlanta and bring together our communities so they can create a unique, have a unique COVIDOZA experience.

 

explore maybe a new collection, connect at a deeper level with the stories of our artists and things of that nature. So really, excited that’s COVIDOZA is looking like it’s going to grow. And it has so much potential to grow not only online, but also as we think about creating in-person experiences for our audience. So that and also what COVIDOZA has in line as well, is for me to, at the age of 40, run the business full-time. So I’m looking forward to that.

You can’t be telling people how old you are, come on now.

I’m not ashamed. I’m not ashamed, but definitely in the next few years, at least in the next three to five years To be able to run the brand full-time and make it more of a global brand than what it currently is now, which is national

Well, okay. That’s a great answer. I’m just messing with you. So, is there anything else that you want our audience to know that I have missed?

Honestly, Stephen, you’ve asked amazing questions, but if there’s one thing that I want to share with your audience if you are thinking about starting your own e-commerce business, just do it. There are many different ways, many different methods, and business models that you can explore depending on your needs. If you are a single mother and don’t have to get an hourly job for you to cover your expenses, but want to make more.

 

You can start your side business and grow it accordingly. If you currently have your own e-commerce business right now and are trying to grow it, network. Connect with others. Try to use traditional and non-traditional marketing strategies to grow your network, develop your personal and professional business brand, and also let others know that you’re the expert in your area. So definitely don’t give up. Give it a try. If you failed once, try it again. If you failed twice, find another way to make your idea happen. Because if you have one, it means it’s a good one.

great answer. I appreciate you coming on, Elisa, and thank you so much.

I appreciate you. Thank you for having me. Take care.

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