We had the good fortune of connecting with Selina Barajas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Selina, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Hi Selina, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Our journey has not been linear. There have been many life experiences and situations that shaped our story; still today. I am a fourth-generation Tucsonan and my roots have always been here. I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and received my Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from UCLA. This experience served as my vehicle to advocate for social, cultural and economic development initiatives for the community. It allowed me to really look at the street view through a community (economic) development lens and being mobile has always been something I knew I wanted to pursue. I also wanted to open a business in my hometown, something that would focus on social entrepreneurship; empowerment, community and return back to the streets that helped raise me. In 2016, I launched Mi Reina Mobile Boutique in Tucson, Arizona and in 2018, we moved back to Tucson. Mi Reina Mobile Boutique is the most unique and innovative way to shop for clothes and accessories in Tucson and Southern Arizona. You can find Mi Reina Mobile Boutique throughout the streets of Tucson, either collaborating at a community event or hosting our own! Our goal is to make everyone who visits us feel like a queen, inside and out. I want women to visit Mi Reina and feel like they can have the opportunity to share who they are and be able to express themselves through fashion. If someone cannot make it to one of our events, Mi Reina will go directly to them, especially those who are dealing with depression and anxiety or just want to try something innovative. I started to think about a mobile boutique concept after I had my first daughter, Sofia Luna. During this period in my life, I underwent several transitions: physical, emotional, mental, you name it. I remember going to the mall, leaving in frustration because it was so difficult to shop with a baby, to gain a sense of my new style (try on clothes) and I felt like the market could care less about who I was as a consumer. I am also a big advocate for shopping local. When I would visit Tucson, there was an unbalanced amount of small boutique businesses and lack of investment in the area of town where I grew up, southwest and south side of Tucson. There are retail shops in the area, but mostly big corporations (i.e. Ross, Old Navy) and none in an intimate, unique setting. More importantly, I noticed a need to bring people together. When I pop up around town, I like to collaborate with other small businesses and curate events and workshops. The retail component of our piece is our economic engine. It is what maintains our business from staying open. The other component is the community-building aspect. Rather than setting up my mobile boutique alone, I collaborate with other women, primarily small-business owners, and promote empowerment and we inspire one another. Throughout the year, we host events and pop-ups that highlight other small (women-owned) businesses and believe in the power of bringing people together, especially on the south side of town. We like to invest on Tucson’s south side region because this is the area that helped raise me and where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents raised their families. This geographic location has historically been neglected and we would like to continue to highlight the richness of this community through events, experiences, conversations and collaborations. We like to bring Mi Reina Mobile Boutique into neighborhoods that do not have local clothing boutiques, build community and hold space while supporting the local economy. There is so much value and beauty in bringing the community together in a positive light because this will ultimately contribute to making Tucson a vibrant place to be, especially for future generations.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
We are Tucson’s only mobile boutique that sells new retail. This motivates us to take risks into untapped territory. We strive to stay innovative and transparent with our community of reinas. Our journey has never been smooth. Like the streets, we have experienced detours, roadblocks, dead ends and new routes. When I first started Mi Reina Mobile Boutique, it was a huge leap because in 2016, my family and I were living in Los Angeles. Although we would come back and forth, it was often overwhelming and I was unable to fully commit to our concept. It was a challenge to stay organized and focused. Now, we are back in Tucson, rebuilding and growing. Returning home has allowed us to (re) connect and establish new collaborations. It has been very exciting and inspiring to witness. However, by not being in Los Angeles anymore, I am no longer able to curate the fashion pieces I once was able to do easily or meet face-to-face with the team who helped design the products. Because of this, I decided to create pieces that are more original and more of a one of a kind, ‘REINA’ brand. Our first collection has been our “Reina Sweater,” reminding everyone who wears it, is also wearing their invisible crown. Designing an original piece was thrilling because I did not expect the support it has received. I also did not know what I was doing along the way, but I knew I had to start somewhere. Like the streets, you must keep evolving, moving forward and keep your eyes open. This past year, during the pandemic I started to really think how could we rejuvenate Mi Reina? I started to get depressed and unmotivated in the summer of 2020, especially because I was no longer working on a ‘timeline,’ and just surviving this wave. I know if I was feeling like this, other reinas were too. Therefore, I started to reflect on this new era; this new reality we are all now living in. I would ask other reinas who have supported our journey what they wanted to see us carry and just check in to see how others were feeling. Because of their input, I created a ‘Reina’ lounge set and just more chill clothes at an adorable price. During this pandemic, we also built our online platform and started to do fun engagement (virtual/online) events. This has allowed me to connect with a new audience and reach more reinas from afar.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Since we are mobile, we know and understand “These Tucson Streets” and we are always recommending places to folks who are visiting the Old Pueblo and who have been here for generations, like us. We have some favorites from sunrise to sunset. Tucson has some of the best views mother earth has to offer. The Sonoran Desert is magical and resilient. My favorite places to explore are:
• Wake up with the sun and get a nice workout in with Tumamoc Hill
• If you want a nice, relaxed hike, visit the Lorraine Lee Hike
• Catch the most beautiful sunset at Gates Pass
If you need a little pick me up and love coffee (just as I do); here are my favorite places and what I would recommend to order:
• Located in Barrio Hollywood, Barista Del Barrio serves yummy coffee and food (America’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2020). Order the Hocho Brew and chorizo burritos or hemp tamales.
• Café Con Leche is inside American Eat Co, Tucson’s first local, indoor food court. Their Cubano has the perfect amount of sweetness. Save room for some food too.
• We love this cute, mobile business, Calle Coffee and you can find them parked around Tucson’s A Mountain. I love to order the iced Aztec Mocha. Now, to eat! Tucson is home to the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy designated in the United States, joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). Cruise down to the south side for the best Sonoran style Mexican food.
• Want to try the dish that helped put Tucson on a national map? The Sonoran Hot Dog! Try BK’s Carne Asada & Hot Dogs.
• Rollie’s Mexican Patio is just as colorful as their food! Try the flats (flat enchiladas) and birria ramen.
• For a tasty dessert, drive to San Xavier Mission located just outside city limits at the Tohono O’odham nation. You might find someone making authentic fry bread; order one with honey and powdered sugar. An “astronomy capital of the world,” Tucson is home to some of the renowned observatories. I would recommend taking some time to enjoy stargazing. Then go for a stroll Downtown and Historic 4th Avenue; drive, walk, take the streetcar, rent a razor or bike it.
Try and plan your trip around these annual events: Fiesta de los Vaqueros, Tucson International Mariachi Conference, or The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show; the weather is usually beautiful during these events too. Lastly, while you are out and about make sure to look out for vibrant murals throughout Tucson; let us know which ones you find! Make sure to check out Galeria Mitotera, they host side walk pop ups and feature local artists and creatives from the community. If you need more suggestions, please let me know. We love Tucson and there is no place in the world like this city!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many shout outs I would love to make but that will be a never-ending narrative. So, when thinking of our journey and how we started, first let me start with the inspiration behind the name of our mobile boutique. The name, “Mi Reina” pays homage to my grandmother. Since I can remember, my nana Erlinda Gallego used to call me and her granddaughters “Mi Reina” or “My Queen.” From an early age, I knew the definition of what it meant to be a real “Reina.” Reina translates to much more than physical beauty, but strength, wisdom, empathy and compassion. I decided to name our mobile boutique “Mi Reina” to carry on the knowledge of my grandmother (who is no longer alive) and to carry on her legacy to my daughters, Sofia Luna and Mia Sol and the generations to come. Our mobile boutique was (re)built with the love and labor of my father, Rene Rodriguez. During one of our many trips from LA to Tucson, I noticed a vacant, broken down vintage trailer parked outside my parent’s backyard. I approached my dad and questioned the future desire for the 1961 Siesta Liner. He had no plans… yet. I asked him if he would be willing to restore the trailer, while at the same time he was restoring a 1957 Classic Chevy. Thankfully, he was eager to take on another project; he must have noticed the excitement in my eyes. About one year later, my dad and some of his friends were able to have both the 1961 Siesta Liner Vintage Trailer + 1957 Classic Chevy back on the road and Mi Reina Mobile Boutique was born! I love seeing how proud my dad is when we are on the streets; the streets he knows very well. I also love seeing my father drive the Chevy he worked so hard to restore while having his daughter and granddaughters ride alone with him. Some of my early memories growing up was outings around town with my mother, Gracie Rodriguez. I grew up shopping at big department stores (i.e. Mervyn’s, Ross) and thrift stores (i.e. Twice as Nice, Buffalo Exchange, Good Will). These days would become experiences for us. My mom always reminded me to purchase something I would feel comfortable to wear for the entire day. I am not one to identify as a fashionista, but I know what makes me feel beautiful. This is what I strive for when I hand select or curate fashion pieces. When I bring items inside of Mi Reina, I think of the reinas who continue to support our path. I can envision specific women wearing certain items because I am a reflection of them. I have been so fortunate to see some of them wear our pieces to graduations, date nights, speaking engagements, to their job and taking their babies out for an errand. It fills my heart with bliss when I get to see the smile and confidence on their face. My mom instilled the sense of inner beauty and being just a kind person. She would often tell me, a person can wear the most expensive dress or name brand shoes, but if they are not a good person, all that material wealth does not matter. My family, my husband, Abraham and daughters, Sofia Luna and Mia Sol for listening to my dreams. They witness my highs and excitement and the lows, the struggles that come with being an entrepreneur. I appreciate their patience and support because we have all come a long way of creating the life we have envisioned. My daughters are my why. They are the reason I strive to be better and do better. I hope when they see their mom, they see someone who did not give up and I cannot wait to see the journey they will lead one day. Lastly, I want to shout out our community of reinas; strangers who have become confidants, family and friends who support our endeavor and other businesses and organizations who continue to uplift our path. This journey has allowed me to encounter so many REINAS/QUEENS who inspire and empower us to keep moving forward. I have been able to (re) connect with people inside (and outside) our trailer. Mi Reina Mobile Boutique has become a therapeutic, self-love, healing space; bigger than us. People have shared their visions, pain, desires, hurts, love and dreams through Mi Reina. I knew Mi Reina Mobile Boutique would take on a magical path, but I would have never imagined the power of community and healing that has grown along the way. I hope the ripple effects will last forever and the legacy we leave will hopefully inspire another. Magic happens when reinas support reinas!
Rescophotgraphy Yvonne Marie Photography Vanessa Gallego Sydney Ballesteros Galeria Mitotera