Pandemic inspires Borderlanders to launch home-based online businesses


Arely Villa Reyes displays some of the handmade berets she sells online. Photo credit: Valeria Armendariz

Borderlanders with creative skills and a bit of time on their hands because of the pandemic have launched online businesses to sell their crafts and other creative products.

Arely Villa Reyes, a psychology student at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad of Juárez started selling skirts, handkerchiefs and berets in June on social media web such as Instagram.

“Just like little by little I’ve been progressing and adding new stuff. I feel like the business has been fruitful,” Villa Reyes said.

Her Instagram business page, Chicle y Pega, has more than 1,000 followers. Villa Reyes attributes her business growth to her dedication since promoting a business on a social media platform requires a great deal of time and commitment. She wasn’t expecting to be so successful.

Villa Reyes started her business as a distraction during the pandemic and to make an income and experience being independent. Additionally, she wanted to keep herself occupied to maintain her mental health, she said.

“The main reason I opened my business was because of the pandemic. It wasn’t something that I thought of before,” Villa Reyes said. “Everything started because I wanted to learn about being independent and because in the middle of the pandemic the fact of with mental health affects our minds was very sad.”

Reyes has learned to manage her time wisely in order to keep up the productivity of her business, she said.

“The difference with Chicle y Pega is that I get to work from home, I can take my online classes, I eat here, I get to sleep, and manage all of my time,” Villa Reyes said.

Villa Reyes meets her customers

Arely Villa Reyes uses mall parking lots as pick-up spots to meet with her customers to deliver products she’s sold online. Photo credit: Valeria Armendariz

Reyes only offers delivery at no cost in certain areas in Ciudad Juárez, but is planning on adding national shipping at the request of customers.

“I don’t do shipping yet, but I’m thinking about doing it soon,” Villa Reyes said.

From hobby to small business

Samantha Gomez, a UTEP student, created Specks of Joy, her online shop, selling handmade polymer clay earrings in October through Instagram and Etsy.

Gomez started her online shop because of free time while El Paso was under restrictions due to the pandemic.

“I always was into crafting, different hobbies I would catch on to, and then with the pandemic, I had a lot of extra time so I decided to just take the lead and try to actually sell one of the crafts that I do for once,” Gomez said.

Gomez sets aside time for merchandise updates on her Instagram page once a month because of the time constraints of going to school.

“It definitely does get difficult if you’re a student for sure, and you also have another job,” Gomez said. “But I do… like I have two days off, so one of those two days I specifically will make myself time to play around with clay and make the earrings, and then in the rest of my spare time that’s when I’ll assemble them, send them down, and box them, and stuff like that.”

Gomez’s business has slowly started to pay off, and she is planning to incorporate new items, like soy candles, into her online shop.

Gomez advises anyone interested in opening an online business to take the risk and express themselves through their products.

“Open an online business, but don’t rush into it,” Gomez said. “I would say, set up a budget and don’t make, kind of unrealistic goals. So, don’t feel like you have to have official labeling, business cards, as long as you’re showing that you care about what you’re selling, people will buy it.”


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