Martha of Miami is starting a revolution. The Cuban American businesswoman and influencer talked to People CHICA about the success of her Latinx pride merchandise and opening her first store in Miami.
Martha Valdes, better known as Martha of Miami, is taking over the world. After the success of her online boutique, where she sells unique items of her own design — t-shirts, baseball caps, pins and coffee mugs filled with Latinx pride — the Cuban American CHICA Boss and influencer just opened her first store in Miami called La Tiendecita. There you will find merchandise bearing messages like “Cuban bred,” “raised on croquetas,” “Latina AF” and “but first — cafecito” that give a shout-out to Miami and Latino orgullo.
“I’m super humbled by the fact that we had such an amazing grand opening,” she says about the store’s first day of business on August 18, when she found a line of customers that wrapped around the block. Why are her products so popular? They are uniquely creative and filled with nostalgia, with items like a bata de casa — a typical Cuban grandma’s pajama dress — with the embroidered message, “World’s Best Abuelita.”
Although she is proud of her heritage and loves to play dominoes and occasionally smoke a Cuban cigar she assures that her merchandise is not just filled with “Cubanisms,” but projects pride for all Latinos. “Things are tough now for Latinos and not just Cubans, also Mexicans, Venezuelans — we are all struggling,” she reflects, so her clients and almost 30,000 Instagram followers welcome the chance to celebrate Latinx culture with these items.
Valdes was inspired by her own family. Her parents, who came to Florida from Cuba during the Mariel Boatlift of the 1980s, are the founders of the popular Miami chain Valsan, where she worked prior to starting her own business. She remembers hanging out at the stores as a little girl and helping them fold clothes or price products, learning their work ethic. “They left everything behind. They left Cuba with the clothes they had on their back,” she says. “I’ve learned that hard work goes further than sitting on your ass and expecting money to come in.”
Following her passion — she always loved to doodle and create designs — was supposed to be a “side hustle,” but it’s turning into a successful empire of its own. “One day I was messing around in Photoshop and I made the piña colada, which was my first logo, the pineapple with the Cuban coffee (served in a styrofoam cup, called a colada),” she recalls. “In the beginning it was a struggle to get noticed, to get people to work with you.” She sold only four t-shirts the first month she opened her online store using her own savings, but four years later, her hard work is paying off.
Her advice to other fierce Chica Bosses who are hustling to start their own business? “Don’t give up,” she says. “It’s going to be hard in the beginning. It’s all about marketing, getting out there, socializing and meeting people, really putting a face to your brand.”