Discover more from La Vida Más Chévere
Luis Octavio Pioneers Latino Entrepreneurship for His Community
Filling a need for his people and embracing that every day is a special occasion
Want to get right to this week’s podcast episode? Check out the full transcript, show notes, and your favorite podcast app for Take That Risk with Luis Octavio or scroll down for the Apple/Spotify players.
When I met serial entrepreneur Luis Octavio, I had no idea the splendid effect he would have on my life. It was through him that I connected with the women in these episodes, Pam and Linda:
Productivity Through a Liberation Lens: The Multicultural Journey of Recovering Procrastinator Pam Covarrubias
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Luis was teaching us to piñatas at a gift store tucked into a coffee shop in Long Beach’s Belmont Heights neighborhood, and exuding the kind of confidence we all strive for. This blurry picture is from that night:
But like the movie Shrek taught us, we’re all layered like onions and looks can be deceiving. As we start this interview Luis is in bed recovering from a fall he took down a flight of stairs while he was “working it” in Mexico. Despite being bruised up, some of the first words out of his mouth are, “I’m blessed.”
Blessed, confident, talented. How did Luis Octavio become the creative force behind the social media marvel DIGüey?
Welcome to Lesson 1 at DIGüey University!
The Road to Entrepreneurship: Filling a Need
Paulette: What you bring to this show today is just a pizazz that most human beings are afraid to display, much less Latino men. And I remember you telling us that night that during lockdown, you let that all go and you're like, I'm gonna be me. And now you're living your la vida más chévere ¿no?
Luis: Yes, absolutely, definitely la vida más chévere. It's been such a whirlwind and a lot of things have happened. Brief background on me. My background is in experiential marketing, and so I've always worked for corporate America. I've always done, experiential events. And basically what that means is whenever you go to a festival, carnival, any kind of event, and you see a brand that is called experiential.
And so my job was to create an experience for consumers, current and potential consumers so that they would remember the brand. And I've done that for over 20 years now. I've done it for the Hispanic market because that's the market that I know.
And then my last five years of working in corporate America, I actually worked for the “general market.” What they call general market are basically the gringos, the white folk. And when I was hired into that position, I said, "Hey, listen, I don't have any experience with the general market."
And I remember this white lady telling me, "listen, it's the exact same thing. Don't worry about it." And I was thinking in my head, they probably need somebody like ASAP, which is why they're like, this guy seems qualified, let's just bring him in. Because literally I was the only brown person in that office in Irvine, California.
Luis: So I was just like, well, let's do it. 'Cause I needed a job. One of my biggest shocks was not what you needed to do for the “general market,” but the fact that these big brands gave so much more money to the general market than they did to the Hispanic market, yet they expect so much more from the Hispanic market than they expect from the general market.
Just to give you an example, the same brand that I had worked with in different agencies would give the general market over $1,000,000 for a three-month campaign. And for the Hispanic market, they gave them $300,000 for three months. And in my head, I was like, holy shit, how is this even possible?
So, then the general market would go to like real random events and pay an absurd amount of money. I remember taking this specific brand to Movies at the Park in Brooklyn. And this brand paid $15,000 to be at Movies in the Park where about a hundred people showed up.
I was thinking in my head, how are you paying so much money? Are you, and you're okay with that? Yet we take you to places like Fiestas Patrias, where there's gonna be hundreds of thousands of people and you don't even wanna pay $5,000 for a 10x10 space. Help me make that make sense!
So that's when I decided I need to do something else. I need to use my skills and what I've learned to really bring something to the table to my community, not just take brands that clearly don't care about them, clearly are not thinking about them. And that's when I decided to launch Molcajete Dominguero with my co-founder at that time, Gladys.
And before that, when I was at this, corporate office, my assistant was third, fourth generation Latina, and she loved conchas, she loved pan dulce (translation: Mexican pastries). And I was like, okay, her birthday's coming up. Let me find globos (translation: balloons) that talk about pan dulce or that say pan dulce. And no one had them.
And I was like, what the heck? How does no one have pan dulce balloons? They're already round!
I called my friends in Mexico and I was like, "por fa búscame globos de pan dulce" (translation: can you please find me some pastry balloons?) and they were like, "güey no existen" (translation: dude, they don’t exist). They're not available.
So to make a long story short, me and my friend Donna launched Globitos Company, which is a mylar balloon company. And since then to now we've, we've sold over 35,000, pan dulce globitos. And we now have over 11 designs.
So, that's how this whole thing started of becoming an entrepreneur, creating events [like] Molcajete Dominguero where we could gather everybody that sells Latino products, that are inspired by us, created by us, and that they don't have to wait around for “our season.” Which back then it was considered to be Día de Los Muertos1. [But] we don't just exist in Día de Los Muertos. And all these vendors and all these small businesses have amazing products that should be featured year round.
So that's how that started.
Blowing Up on TikTok
Luis: Come the pandemic, I closed down Molcajete for the pandemic because we couldn't have it.
TikTok was starting to come around and I wanted to see how TikTok worked. I wanted to understand it, and I was like, what do I post? Because, when TikTok opened, it was all about the dancing and I was like, “güey, yo no bailo asi” (translation: I don’t dance like that). And plus I'm like, older, I'm gonna look all ridículo (translation: ridiculous). But now come to learn, the older you look, the more ridículo you look, the bigger you are!
Paulette: And that's why you've blown up!
Luis: Yeah, exactly. So, I remember going through my personal Instagram, and on the memories, there was a tablescape that I did that was like very Latino-inspired. That was my very first post and the very next day it had over like 400 views. Oh my God, how did I get 400 views? I have zero followers!
And then obviously by then I had started bringing followers in and in one week I had like 200. And then the next week I had like 500. And it just kind of kept on growing. I recycled old videos And then come to realize that people really liked my DIYs.
At the beginning I was using hashtag DIY a la Mexicana (translation: DIY Mexican-style), but then to me that sounded like huevos a la Mexicana (translation: Mexican-style eggs). And I was also thinking, well now I'm excluding anybody who is not Mexicano. And that's the biggest thing for me. I don't like to use any specific words that are going to exclude salvadoreños nicaragüenses y guatemaltecos (translation: Salvadoreans, Nicaraguans, and Guatemalens), anybody else.
So then I was like one day I was creating this DIY and I was like, "güey, me quedó muy chido" (translation: dude, that came out super cool). And I used the word güey a lot. So I was like, "“DIY digüey digüey güey. Oh my God. DIGüey!” That's it, that is it right there. Then it became DIGüey.
And what I love about what I'm doing and what I've created through the TikTok channel that I like to give people ideas. And I don't give you, “this is step number one, step number two. Then you first have to do this. And then second you.” I don't do that because I don't like to do that. The only reason why I don't do more DIYs that I see online is because they specifically say, “first you have to prime, then you have to do this, and then dah, dah, dah, dah.”
And I'm like, “güey I'm just gonna do it like however I think it's gonna work.” And people always clock me, right? “Oh my God, you're not priming it!” Or, “oh my God, you're not sanding it.” If you'd like to sand it and if you'd like to prime it, go ahead. I am doing it however, as as I like to say, or as people like to say, como Dios me da entender (translation: as best I can). That is it.
And I think that that's why DIGüey has resonated with a lot of people. Because many of us don't have the time, the resources, or the patience. And they've seen that literally, like the videos that I post that are about a minute long, that is obviously not how long it takes, but everything you see on there is literally what I do. There are no steps missing.
I think that that's what gives people the will to be like, you know what? I'm gonna try it. I'm gonna try it because it doesn't look that difficult. So now a year and a couple months later, I am almost at 50,000 followers [on TikTok].
I've been able to say no to brands because they're coming at me with like pennies and I know what all of this is worth, and I'm not willing to give you my space for free or for pennies. Especially not my followers who are amazing. And, and that's where I'm at now on TikTok.
Paulette: It's amazing because the DIY space is so saturated con gringitas (translation: white girlies). It's the Instagram Barbie look, the Pinterest look. It is very one dimensional. And you know what? Props to all those people doing it that way.
You came out here in your little corner and you're like, I'm just gonna do it this way. Soy un hombre, soy Latino (translation: I’m a man and Latino) and I don't have to give you a recipe, just follow along long.
Paulette: And it's so loose and free and it doesn't feel like it has to be perfect. I love that it's just organic.
Luis: It's organic, it flows it. And this is what I tell people because I focus on two things on my TikTok. The first one is the DIYs or the DIGüeys, right? And the second one is tablescapes.
Listen, I've been doing this forever. You can ask anyone. I've done weddings, I've done quinceañeras (translation: sweet 15 parties). I've done bautisos (translation: baptisms). Because people see my aesthetic and they love it. The times that I've done weddings, I've said to my, my friends, listen, I'll do it, but you can't come to me and say, me estoy imaginado (translation: I’m envisioning) this, and then these colors and…
Paulette: Eres artista. You're an artist. You don't take direction. You, you take inspiration.
Luis: Exactly. So, when I, when I do those bigger events, they're memorable events that you're gonna take on forever, I always tell people I have no problem in doing it. But you have to give me free range. You have seen what I've done, and if you love what I've done, then you need to trust that I will do something similar or better for your wedding or for your quince años or for your bautiso. And literally, I can count on two hands the number of times that I've done these kind of events.
Because I don't do them often and I only do them for like friends and family members. And every single time they're just wowed by it. And I know that that sounds cocky as af.
Paulette: We do not apologize for being proud of ourselves on this show!
Luis: A bueno perfecto. Pero la verdad es que (translation: oh good! But the truth is that) I am not a wedding planner and I am not somebody who decorates because I cannot take what is in your mind and bring it to life. I can't do that.
For that, you hire professionals to do that because that's what they get paid for. Me, you just have to trust that you've seen my aesthetic and that you love it and that it's gonna be similar or better.
So back then, I would never post any of that on my Instagram because I wasn't out of the closet. I wasn't out of the closet until I was 28 years old. In my head, I was thinking if I post this, people are gonna be like, by default, of course he has to be gay. And I was working in corporate America, so it wasn't something that I was ready to be out and about.
What TikTok has done for me and my family is it's put one of my biggest talents on the forefront. And it's been beautiful to have other people see it. And appreciate it, love it, want to recreate it.
As I was mentioning, I focus on two things: DIYs or DIGüeys which is more of like the traditional DIY and my paparingo (translation: this is how he refers to his dad) helps me with it, who has also become super popular.
And there is the tablescape part of it. [For] the tablescape part of it I focus on don't worry about trying to follow rules. Que the fork goes on this side and the dessert and the drink, and like...don't focus on that! I like to focus on put whatever it is you want on that table that makes you happy.
If it makes you happy, then that's all it matters. If the plates are mix matching, that is fine. If you wanna serve chilaquiles in a bowl versus a flat plate, by all means do it. And my biggest lesson with that is: do not wait for that special occasion to set up your table. Do it every day. Do it any day. Don't wait for that special occasion. Do it if it's just you, because that special occasion may never come.
Paulette: Every day is a special occasion.
Luis: Exactly. But people think that they need to wait for a special occasion. And for us (I like to post it on there all the time), we use our expensive plates for huevos con jamón (translation: ham & eggs) . And we also use our expensive plates for sirloin steak or for a tamal or for whatever the case may be.
It's about making every day a special occasion, as you mentioned. Yes, every day is a special occasion. The moment you wake up and you're breathing and you're able to move, that is a special occasion that should be celebrated.
But building on that, I think that that's where the second part or the other part of DIGüey comes in: to remind people [that] you don't have to wait. Do it. Use your expensive china, use it all the time. Mix it. Put un florero, una planta, una maceta ((translation: a vase, a plant, a pot) whatever it is, as long as it makes you happy, as long as it makes your table beautiful to you, that's all that matters.
Because I've also seen a lot of TikTokers that are like, you could never put the fork on this side, or you could never, and this is how and two inches. And I'm like, güey no mames (translation: dude, shut the fuck up!). Like, shut the fuck up!
So that's what TikTok has done for me. It's brought my father and I closer. I think he's healing some inner traumas. I love seeing him. I just got back from Mexico and came back to a nearly almost finished painted house he's doing by himself. And I don't think that he would've had the courage to be able to do that before, but he's seeing that we are taking risks and that those risks are paying off and that these things look beautiful.
And I think he is now really embracing the DIGüey.
That’s it for the first lesson from DIGüey University. To recap, it’s:
Do not wait for that special occasion to set up your table.
Stay tuned for more DIGüey University lessons in this conversation coming throughout the week!