Small businesses are integral to the fabric of our communities and Latine entrepreneurs are vital to the ecosystem, the glue that keeps people together. Jefeando is a series that spotlights Latine small business owners and their importance to the culture; sharing a love for their customers, a desire to give back to those in need, and the use of technology to the fullest of its capabilities. They are part of the Meta Elevate community, which offers Black and Latine “business owners and communities free resources, education, and support to help support [their] goals.” Elevate represents a boost to their hard work and business strategies.
There’s little else that Chelenin Palacios enjoys more than jewelry making. It’s not only something she’s been doing for most of her life, but something akin to both therapy and a lifeline. In turn, she has pursued handcrafted jewelry as her business of choice, founding and running Chele Jewelry & Accessories beyond her home and into a vast clientele. It hasn’t been easy, but Palacios has managed to keep her business thriving.
“I love accessories,” says Palacios. “Ever since I was five or six, when I would take my mom’s necklaces and wear them [around the house]. I’ve always had what they call in Venezuela coquetería, I’m very girly. I also had aunts who made handcrafts and I would spend time with them on my vacations. I had that artistic bent and they would encourage me on that path.”
has a degree in pharmaceuticals and had a steady job at multinational pharmaceutical Novartis in Venezuela, but she would sell clothes on the side to her coworkers. Unfortunately, at some point she developed anxiety with severe symptoms. “I realized that making jewelry helped me relax,” she says. “I would concentrate on the task and would forget about everything else. I became very creative. So I decided to do this full time in 2011.” Two years later, she expanded her clientele by using social media.
In 2017, Palacios migrated to Miami where she still lives with her daughter. There, she installed a workshop in her home and has moved her business mostly online, devoting as much of her time as possible to grow it to the Latine community and beyond.
Palacios specializes in handcrafts. “I like sewing and threading. I like trying different threads for the bracelets and seeing what works best.” She also shows appreciation for pearls, a throwback to her childhood back home in Venezuela. “There’s an island called Margarita where there is pearl harvesting. Margarita was also our vacation spot, we used to go there a lot. I learned a lot from that experience.”
One of the highlights in the Chele Jewelry & Accessories catalog is the Good Vibe line, an assortment of charms that give the wearers a protection against invisible forces and confidence in their day to day lives. While Palacios says she likes pendants like the Turkish eye or the hamsa hand for aesthetic reasons rather than their spiritual purposes, she wants to offer products her clients want. “I listen to my clients,” she says.
Another important aspect of Chele Jewelry & Accessories is her workshops where Palacios teaches hopefuls her hard-earned wisdom in handcrafts and packaging. “I host them in private groups on Facebook. I have had a great response so far.” She doesn’t see her students as potential competitors since there’s plenty of the market to go around. “Think about it,” she said. “This country has 330 million people living in it, I don’t believe anyone will take away a potential buyer from me. I think half my public is people trying to make their own jewelry. I didn’t invent this, it was already there. The only competition is myself. I see my numbers and my goals and figure out how to do it better.”
Social media is a cornerstone of Palacios’ business practices. She’s been active on Facebook for more than a decade now and she credits Meta Elevate with helping her business grow in more than one way. She says that there’s little resources for Latine businesses out there and Elevate is a valuable asset for her. Thanks to the initiative, she has managed to receive mentorship in Spanish twice—both times thanks to an Argentinian expert called Matias—which she took to heart and helped her grow. “One of my dreams was to be part of a [Meta] campaign due to the exposure it was sure to generate,” she says. “That dream came true”
She admits that there are a lot of challenges she faces day to day with Chele Jewelry. As a relatively recent immigrant, there are many demands and roadblocks to establish a growing business, not to mention her being a mother who provides for her daughter. She laments not having disposable capital or savings to invest in Chele or even a partner to share daily expenses with, but she makes it clear that she’s appreciative of her journey and the ups and downs that come with it.. “I like to face challenges head on and solve problems as they come along,” she says.
While Chele Jewelry is not her main source of income, Palacios looks on the bright side and counts her talents and blessings. “I think my best qualities are being constant and having close ties with my clientele and community,” she tells us. Some strategies that have worked for her in the past include collaborating with influencers and even getting some on-camera talent for Telemundo who would tag Chele on social media and get her new clients. “I think that God places opportunities in your path and destiny to help you achieve small goals. It’s like different links in a chain that join together to get to the next goal and have a better established business.“
For the most part, Palacios credits technology with her success so far. Before her move to Miami, she found Latine clients in the U.S. with help from social media’s algorithm and seized the accessible fees the post office offered. Once in her new home, she was able to keep most of her clientele. Palacios is well aware that you can get far with technology.
As for the future, she says she’d like to have a storefront and move Chele Jewelry away from her home. She’d like to have two other people helping her, and to eventually make five figures in sales in the next five years. She also wants to keep her lines new and fresh and renew the visual aspect of the business constantly. “I’m applying good strategies,” Palacios says. “I want to be known not only because of the sales but because of the quality of both the product and the service. I want to be known as a person who shares her knowledge and that people can come to me for advice.”
“[Jewelry and accessories are] my passion,” she exclaims. “I love it.”