Latina Empowerment Finds It Way

By:

Latina Empowerment Finds It Way

Bracelets with pro-Latina messages of confidence and strength.
Bracelets with pro-Latina messages of confidence and strength.

The bracelets at Jen Zeano Designs define the brand Jennifer Serrano is selling.

Veronica Vasquez and Jennifer Serrano are the co-owners of Jen Zeano.
Veronica Vasquez and Jennifer Serrano are the co-owners of Jen Zeano.

Fuerte,” says one bracelet with the others reaffirming the theme of strength with “Poderosa,” and “Jefa.”

Being a boss and exuding power all flow into the pro-Latina vibes Serrano and her partner and business co-owner, Veronica Vasquez, live everyday. The 20-something business owners ship out 50 to 100 orders monthly from their Levee Street location in downtown Brownsville.

Jen Zeano offers over 100 products and their customers hail from all over the country – and the world. T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, jewelry, stationary, cups and mugs are among the products offered with the theme of Latina empowerment featured on many of those items. 

‘Viva La Mujer Que Lucha,” says one shirt, lauding women with a fighting spirit. 

“The support we’ve received shows just how much this brand was needed,” Vasquez said. “They (customers) are celebrating with us.”

Veronica Vasquez presses a design on a t-shirt at Jen Zeano in Brownsville.
Veronica Vasquez presses a design on a t-shirt at Jen Zeano in Brownsville.

Moving In New Directions

It was 2016 and Serrano wasn’t happy with where her work life was headed. She was a social worker for the state. It was a job that didn’t fit the view she had for her future. 

“What’s your plan?” is what Serrano recalled her boss asking her as she was leaving the state job. “I said, ‘Whatever I’m looking for isn’t here.'”

Serrano was low on money with only a few hundred dollars saved up, but high on ambition and possibilities with online opportunities. 

“I leaned into that,” she said. “I gave it everything I had because I didn’t want to go back to a job I didn’t like.”

She started on Etsy. Vasquez would join her in that effort as they began to test what would sell and align with their values. Latina empowerment struck a chord. It’s a celebration of culture and womanhood, a potent combination that found a market online. 

Jennifer Serrano displays one of her company’s Latina T-shirts.
Jennifer Serrano displays one of her company’s Latina T-shirts.

“They want to feel represented, they want to carry that message with them,” Serrano said of her customers. “They want to connect to their culture and history.”

Messages That Work

It was clear that direct and crisp messages worked best.

“Latina Power” was Jen Zeano’s first big seller, with the words on T-shirts and sweatshirts. Products with Spanish phrasing or in Spanglish were the company’s best sellers early on – and still are. 

“Vibras Bonitas Para Recibir Cosas Bonitas,” says one sweatshirt with a spectacular design behind the words. “Pretty vibes to receive pretty things” is the translation. 

“Me Vale,” says one cap, expressing a popular border slang that indicates impatience, bravery or frustration. The phrases and wording on the Jen Zeano reflect Hispanic pop culture and make a personal connection to their customers. 

Serrano sketches out the designs used on the Jen Zeano products. She contracts with professional graphic artists to smooth the designs out. Vasquez does the screen printing in-house, and gets the designs and wording down on T-shirts and sweatshirts. They are living out their dreams, working together, building a successful business that reflects their values and wishes. Being able to do it in their hometown is a huge bonus.

Hispanic catchphrases like "Me Vale" are on Jen Zeano products.
Hispanic catchphrases like “Me Vale” are on Jen Zeano products.

“We’re very lucky to live in a border community where our culture is everywhere,” Serrano said. “It influences our designs. It’s a big part of who we are.” 

Serrano said Jen Zeano reflects a new wave of millennial-owned businesses that see Brownsville as a strength – not a weakness – as a place to pursue dreams. 

“We definitely grew up in a time where our teachers and counselors told us we had to leave if we wanted to have success. That was the scene back then,” Serrano said of her high school years in Brownsville. “A lot of that has changed. So many people live here that have amazing ideas. We need to support and help them all we can.” 

The "caras" sweatshirts are popular items in the Jen Zeano catalog.
The “caras” sweatshirts are popular items in the Jen Zeano catalog.

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a Rio Grande Valley native and journalist who has worked as a reporter, editor and publisher at Texas newspapers. Cavazos formerly worked as a reporter and editorial writer at The Brownsville Herald, Dallas Times Herald, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and San Antonio Light. He served as editor of The Monitor in McAllen from 1991-1998 and from there served for 15 years as publisher at The Herald in Brownsville. Cavazos has been providing content for the Valley Business Report since 2018.

Comments