Setting the Stage.
It may be hard to believe, but Fúchila Fresheners was a hustle of the heart born out of pain and burnout. I was on the verge of quitting my 6-figure job at Apple and needed a creative outlet to feel inspired again. To feel alive again! At the time, I knew that if this side-hustle-to-be was to become anything worth putting out into the world, it had to be an extension of me: built for and by the community, grounded in cultura, and dripping nostalgia.
Then it came to me. Sitting on the toilet, "my office," of all places. Actually quite appropriate for me as I have a thing for bathrooms. Or maybe it was ironic considering the idea: an air freshener company called “Fúchila Fresheners” ("Fúchila" is Mexican slang for “smelly”)? Whatever the case, the name was too perfect – nostalgic, culturally nuance and an alliteration! I knew I could bring a different sort of swag to the air freshener game. As far as I was concerned, it was my responsibility to see this through.
But, I still had to quit my job at Apple. It as a tough decision to leave because, as a child-of-immigrants, it was my dream to work at a place like like this. "What do you mean you quit!?" my parents asked, not understanding how I wasn't head-down counting the days to retirement as an Apple employee. I knew they had worked too hard to have me not love my job. Now I see, it shouldn't have been my dream to work at a place like Apple, but to have the choice and opportunity to quit from a place like Apple.
The journey isn't over by any means. I’m now an Art Director and Visual Designer at Google and run Fúchila Fresheners as my side hustle. So, this is not quite a retrospective, but it does deserve a trip down memory lane. From raising over $3,500 on Kickstarter before a single product even existed to driving across the country with a trunk full of air fresheners selling Fúchila state to state. From seeing pictures of folks repping Fúchila in Puerto Rico, Australia, and even Japan to making it onto Netflix and being sued by one of your childhood idol’s father during a global pandemic.
I invite you to peruse the stories, notes to self, pictures and videos of my journey to date. Gracias to my parents. Gracias a Dios.
What the Fúchila!?
S E P T E M B E R • 2 0 1 4
"Yes! An air freshener company called 'fúchila'!" I laughed to myself sitting on the toilet during a carne asada at my Tia's house. I had just quit my job at Apple and was looking for a creative outlet to call my own. A way to feel inspired again.
Its use and context is varied, but "fúchila" or "fuchi" is Mexican slang for "smelly" or "gross" and is a nostalgic word associated with family life.
I ran out to announce to everyone, "I've got it! What if I started an air freshener company called 'Fúchila Fresheners'!?" Immediately their heads turned and laughter ensued (the good kind 😅)! I shared my vision of a clever, culturally nuanced brand rooted in nostalgia and to my surprise, they were actually about it! We brainstormed for a while and had some good laughs. It was hella life giving.
I left that carne asada with some left overs and the creative energy I needed to pursue my crazy, new dream.
Build a community first. Everything else will follow.
O C T O B E R • 2 0 1 4
I led with my gut. I had to build a community around the brand before launching any products. At the time, crowd-funding was on the rise and thought that I could kill hella birds with one Kickstarter stone. It would serve two major purposes (1) Build the community around the brand that it needed to launch successfully, and (2) raise the funds I needed to produce the first round of products.
1. Build Community
I knew any brand that I launched had to be based in community. It had to be rooted in an understanding that we must think and serve outside of ourselves. Interdependence, not independence. This introspection helped me define Fúchila's core pillars: Craft. Cultura. Comunidad. (More on those later). Little did I know I was planting the seed for what has become an international #fuchilafamilia.
2. Raise Funds
On the tactical side, if I had any chance of raising $2,500 to launch my business, I had to make people believe. I knew the designs, mocks, and pitch video were going to do the heavy lifting. I got to work. I designed my logo, the original six freshener designs, and the merch for the different levels of funders. I also shot a short video introducing the brand and campaign. I followed up with consistent updates via Kickstarter and our newly launched Facebook and Instagram channels.
Finally, I was ready to launch my campaign.
Fúchila OG Designs: (Left to Right) Frida Kahlo, Sugar Skull, Celena Kuintanilla, Cantinflas, Blue Demon, and Pancho Villa.
Now, for the real work.
D E C E M B E R 2 5, 2 0 1 4
I'll never forget Christmas Day, 2014.
We had committed to our 60+ backers and supporters that we'd have their product in hand by Christmas Day. And we weren't playin' about that promise. The shipping team, aka my wife and I, prepped all the boxes in advance, which we sourced for free from USPS, spreading the production line across the entire living room and kitchen. We added the t-shirts, stickers, and hand-written thank you notes for all the backers according to their donation level.
Due to the typical production delays, we received our first run, 10 boxes worth of product, on the morning of December 25th (about 2 weeks later than expected) at our 1 bedroom apartment and newly minted "Fúchila Headquarters" in San José, CA. With the product now in hand, we stuffed the boxes full of fresheners and set off on a Christmas Day mission to hand-deliver fresheners to all our backers from Mountain View to San José.
Of course we couldn’t provide this white glove service to all our backers. We ended the evening stopping by USPS before closing time to ship out the orders from across the rest of the state and country.
Little did we know, this was the beginning of a journey that would take us across the country and back building an international community, a #fuchilafamilia, of over 50k.
And We’re Live!
J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 5
"Built for and by the community, grounded in cultura, and dripping in nostalgia"
If crowdfunding was the fuel, the side-hustle was the bus heading to fuchi town. It was time to jump in that drivers seat and show my backers, family, and myself, that I could bring this vision to life. But first, a launch party (and a website, I guess)!
I got to work building out www.fuchilafresheners.com, shooting product pics, and designing digital content, updating the Fúchila Familia all along the way. I knew I had to launch the website fast if I wanted to keep the newly formed #fuchilafamilia engaged. On Jan 3, 2015, I flipped a switch on the our site and our DTC air fresheners company was officially official!
Let's hear it for the boys!
As for the launch party, my vision was to bring friends and family together, meet local backers, introduce Fúchila to my home town, push product, raise money for a youth scholarship, and celebrate the journey we were about to embark on — to bring the virtual community to life IRL.
I tapped into my network of Chicano compadres to make this dream come true. From Damian Trujillo, my fraternity brother and reporter/anchor at NBC Bay Area, Jorge Sanchez, owner of Chacho’s Restaurant, a bright, Chicano eatery and staple of Down Town San José, Chuy Gomez, a local legend, radio host and Bay Area DJ, Fransisco Franco, a homie and classically trained painter, and finally, DJ Too Tall (he's almost 7ft) a friend and DJ at every one of my functions since college.
Damian brought me onto his morning show on NBC Bay Area, Comunidad del Valle to allow me to share Fúchila's story with the community.
Jorge allowed me to use as much of his restaurant for my launch party as I needed and didn't charge me a penny. In fact, he paid for the production of the red Fúchila shirts for his entire staff to wear that night.
Chuy shouted Fúchila out on his radio station and IG, came through to celebrate and showed me some love on mic that night.
Franco came to the party to do some live painting, refused to charge me, and donated a few of his prints so that we could raise more money for our aspiring youth creative scholarship.
Too Tall kept his jockey of discs service charge at an all-time low and brought the heat all night.
We made almost $1000 in sales and raised close to $500 for our first youth scholarship that night.
"built for and by the community, grounded in cultura, and dripping in nostalgia"
We believe in the pursuit of one’s craft, whatever it may be, to the best of one’s ability. We believe that all work, white-collar, blue-collar, or otherwise is work worthy of dignity and respect.
We believe in the power of cultura. We believe in the curative powers of connecting to our roots, our parents and ancestors alike, and curating our collective future for generations to come.
We believe in interdependence, connection, and belonging – not independence. The concept of “self-made” is a myth. We seek to lean on our familia, not to emancipate from it.
BOOKING & CONTACT
Then the press came.
Villa also focused on his philanthropic vision of the future for Fúchila Fresheners. He says he has started building the funds for a Fúchila Familia Scholarship aimed at empowering the young artists and designers of the future. He sees philanthropy as a vital component for our success as a Comunidad del Valle.
"So it was all you. You did it alone?" asked Trujillo. Villa laughs and responds quickly that his wife and his family inspired and motivated him to follow his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. "My wife also helps me with the packaging and shipping" says Villa. "You mean with all the real work!" laughs Trujillo.
– Damian Trujillo, NBC