In February, one of my favorite gift shops in San Diego celebrated its six-year anniversary. Before moving from sunny San Diego to Colorado, I was fortunate to meet the founder and owner of Casa Artelexia, Mrs. Elexia de la Parra. Her shop specializes in handcrafted Mexican gifts, art, and home décor – some of my favorite things, all under one roof!
As the founder of Casa Artelexia, Elexia nurtured what began as a small farmers’ market stand in 2008 to what is today a thriving 5,000 square foot retail shop known for its unique Mexican imports, creative cultural workshops, and lively community events.
Most recently she launched Eat.Drink.Cook.Mexico, a tour company that specializes in cultural and culinary tours to Oaxaca, Mexico. Groups are limited to 10 people so that participants get a taste of local culture as they visit the hottest restaurants in town, take private cooking classes, and interact with some of the region’s most renowned artisans, cooks, and chefs.
As if that weren’t enough, Elexia also founded Happy Art Happy Heart, an organization that provides craft workshops and birthday piñatas for children undergoing treatment at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. I recently interviewed Elexia, who is now a dear friend, to learn more about what inspires her and about what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur with a corazón de oro.
INTERVIEW WITH ELEXIA DE LA PARRA
What was the initial inspiration for you to start your own business?
Ha! Two things: first I thought I’d work less by being my own boss. Little did I know that I would end up working WAY more. But I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Secondly, I believe that the way I was brought up influenced my decision to start a business. My siblings and I grew up spending our days after school at our parents’ offices. My parents worked all of the time but we were always with them. I’ve always known that I wanted that for my babies. I want spend as much time as possible with them and not have to rely on daycare, at least not while they are little. When I built my new store three years ago I added an extra room for a nursery. That’s always been my primary inspiration behind starting a business. I never knew what my business would be but I knew that I wanted the flexibility when the time came, to grow my family. Did I mention that I’m not a mom yet, nor am I pregnant? Not yet at least. But it’s definitely something I look forward to.
Please walk us through a typical day in your shoes.
It depends which day you catch me. Besides working at the shop, I teach seventh grade art two days a week. Those days are always a bit hectic because I’m out the door pretty early. Every other day my husband and I make the bed, get ready, and have breakfast together.
Miguel usually prepares our coffee and cleans up anything left over from the night before while I make breakfast. We have super busy schedules so our morning ritual is very important to us. We talk about our day and eat breakfast together. If time permits, we have 10 minutes or so of “coffee talk” which requires that we move from our dining room to our living room. We are big on doing everything together – from cooking and cleaning to shopping and working out.
At around 9:45 a.m. I get ready and head out to the shop. On my way to the shop, which is a 10-minute commute, I call my mom so that she can fill me in on the family chisme. When I get to the shop it’s all about the customers, planning events, working on our tours, answering emails, mailing out packages, ordering new products and keeping things tidy. In the evenings Miguel and I try to fit in a tennis session at least three to four times a week. Once I’ve won the tennis match we head home to make dinner. After dinner we head on over to our couch where we watch a bit of TV, drink a glass of wine, and work on our laptops.
Besides working for yourself, what else do you enjoy about being your own boss?
Getting to pick the projects I work on and the people with whom I work.
What is one challenge you’re currently facing in managing your business?
Finding time to do everything on my work and home “to-do” lists. And when I don’t, trying not to be too hard on myself. That’s something that I used to struggle with a lot and still do from time to time. It used to be all work and no play. Now I try to find balance when I can and have learned that it’s okay to turn off. The fun is what keeps me motivated to grow my business and push forward.
What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Do one thing and do it well, do not give up, stay true to yourself and be ready to work hard, harder than you’ve ever worked before. There were so many times that I wanted to give up. There were times that I would panic and want to stray from my mission. Countless times I had to work while my friends and family were off doing fun things. But I didn’t give up. I stayed focused and put in the work. The time, sweat, tears (yes, there were many tears) and determination have paid off and I wouldn’t change anything. It has taught me so much and made me appreciate where I am and everything I did to get here.
What do you think customers like most about Casa Artelexia? What about your Eat.Cook.Drink.Mexico tours?
The experience. It’s all very personal – it’s very genuine. From the shop, to my workshops, to the trips, it’s all very colorful, happy and fun. I put a lot of love into everything that I do and feel that it comes through.
How do people find out about Casa Artelexia and your Eat.Cook.Drink.Mexico tours?
Through our websites, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts and e-newsletter.
Please share three goals you would like to accomplish in 2016.
Blog – There are so many ideas that I have just floating around in my head that I want to share. I just need to make the time and start writing them down or typing them up.
Collaborate – There are so many amazing women that I know that I would love to work with whether it be on a project, product or event.
Get more organized – With so many projects, the shop, my trips, teaching and home life, I need to get better organized and create a routine to keep things flowing smoothly.
You have a rich culinary background. What’s one of your signature dishes?
Filet mignon. I make the absolute best filet mignon around. I keep it simple with salt, pepper and butter. It’s always perfectly pink, tender and delicious.
Favorite cocktail while in Mexico?
The Perro Oaxaqueño — it’s Oaxaca’s version of a Salty Dog and combines mezcal, fresh grapefruit juice, and sal de gusano.
Note: All images were provided courtesy of Casa Artelexia.