Inspired by her family history and travels, Yazmin Castañeda had always dreamed of opening her own small business.
By Molly-Jo Tilton
In 2020, she created Origin Mexico, with a focus on connecting small artisan families in Mexico to an international market. In doing so, she created jobs, sustainably sourced clothing and financial freedom.
Growing up, Castañeda split her time between the Mexican city of Tijuana and San Diego, California. Her mother was an immigrant, and her grandparents still lived in Mexico. As she traveled back and forth, she saw the beauty in the two cultures melding.
As a child, Castañeda learned what it takes to run a successful business by watching her grandparents.
“They had no formal education,” she said. “However, they persevered through work ethic, opportunities that were awarded to them through just their passion of creating a better future for their children.”
Later, their legacy would guide her.
As an immigrant and single mother, Castañeda’s mom struggled to provide for her children. This inspired Castañeda to create a company that focuses on financial security for her partners.
“When you’re not economically independent, you’re very limited with some options in life,” she says. “However, when you have a livelihood and you are creating your own purpose and your own entrepreneurship, I feel that opens so many opportunities for self-progress and self-empowerment. Not only for the women, but also for their children.”
In her adult life, Castañeda found herself immersed in corporate America. She worked at an investment firm. On her hour-long commute, she would let her mind wander away from the traffic and think about what she would do if she had more time on her hands.
“I would daydream about the possibility of one day doing what I’m doing now,” she says.
When she and her family moved to Austin and COVID-19 kept the world on pause, Castañeda decided it was time for a change.
“I wanted to make sure that everything we did was fully thought through—from the branding, to the mission, to the nonprofit that we work with, to the story of connecting customers with the artisans.”
So Castañeda got to work. She called a family of artisans she had met years before during a trip to Mexico and asked them to be her first partners. From there, she built a social media and e-commerce presence from scratch.
But she still worried that her message wouldn’t resonate with the Austin community.
“I’ve had to push through many self-doubts and self-imposed limitations,” Castañeda reveals. “Once you overcome that and you present yourself just as you are, that gives you such freedom to just be yourself. That’s who I am. I’m just myself.”
To her surprise, her mission and story did resonate with the community, and in the three years since Origin Mexico began, it’s been able to expand from working with just 20 artisans to now working with 100 all across Mexico. Castañeda loves sharing customer reviews with the wide swath of artists.
“That in itself brings them so much confidence and so much love for their own culture,” she says. “They feel as if their talent and their hard work and their sacrifices are being recognized. And that really does uplift their spirit.”
However, for Castañeda, the numbers don’t mean as much as the opportunity to change lives.
“In the past three years, the artists and women thrive in a way that I have seen my mother thrive. I relate that so much to my family because they’ve received so many opportunities in life. And I feel that if we have the privilege of being in a position that we can offer others certain opportunities, then we should do that.”
Origin Mexico doesn’t just provide direct support to artisans. Through its online blog segment “Women We Admire,” it empowers and recognizes Austin women who have made contributions to their own community.
The business also donates a portion of their proceeds to the nonprofit Fundación En Via, which provides support to women in the Oaxaca region of Mexico who want to start their own entrepreneurial endeavor.
“It aligns with our goal of empowering women, uplifting women through education, through economic opportunities, through advancement.”