Cynthia Soto and Jessamyn Gonzalez Carrasco have been friends since 2015. Today, they’re business partners, bringing handmade clothing designs from Mexico to pet owners in Chicago.
Gonzalez Carrasco lives in Guadalajara, Mexico. She’s always loved animals, and dreamed of designing clothes for them.
“I used to design clothes for humans. I have a dog, a chihuahua. With all of the textiles I had left over, I started making her clothes,” Gonzalez Carrasco said in Spanish.
She eventually ended up opening her own shop in Mexico: Benito Moda.
Soto used to work in child care. Then, the pandemic hit.
“I was looking for a side hustle, something to do at home instead of sitting at home and waiting to see what was happening,” Soto said.
Soto was already buying Gonzalez Carrasco’s products for her own dogs. She decided to try selling them to others in Chicago.
“I said, ‘I’ll give you a certain amount of products [to sell]. I’ll give them to you, don’t worry. When you start selling them, you can pay me or something,’” Gonzalez Carrasco said in Spanish.
The business quickly grew from there, Soto said.
“I think quarantine really brought everyone together closer to their pets and or pushed them out the door to adopt pets,” Soto said.
The shop sells colorful collars, tiny sweaters, and patterned vests. Some items have matching human-sized pieces for owners to match their pets.
“All of our items are outfits for pets, dogs, bunnies, even ferrets, we have really really tiny outfits that will definitely fit your pets,” Soto said.
In March 2021, Soto opened her own storefront in Pilsen on Cermak, called Pocha Pets Boutique. She moved to her current location on 1840 S Racine Ave last fall.
The boutique’s name comes from a derogatory term Soto says she was called by family members growing up as a first generation Mexican-American.
“Pocha is basically a derogatory word used by Mexicans to describe Mexicans that aren’t Mexican enough … I wasn’t Mexican enough for them and I’m like, ‘What do you mean? I’m back in the states and I’m not American enough, what am I?’” Soto said.
Today, Soto embraces the word, and says she’s working to present it in a positive light at her boutique.
“I’m not just Mexican, I’m not just American. I am a mix of both, and I am very proud of that culture because it makes me who I am,” Soto said.
Pocha Pets Boutique has been experimenting with unique products for pets, like special roscas for Three Kings Day. Now, the shop is offering special valentines-day themed treats — including “pup-cakes” and “barkuterie” boards and carob-covered strawberries, which are a safe chocolate alternative for dogs.
In the future, Soto and Gonzalez Carrasco hope to expand their business, with Gonzalez Carrasco focusing on the business in Mexico, and Soto in the United States.
“I want to grow into maybe California, Florida. Just, you know, expand our stores so that people can see us and see themselves within the name, and see themselves being seen,” Soto said.