In Conversation with Vanessa Santos of Bodega Records and La Vida Glamour
Describe your business in a few words?
1. Bodega Records is an independent label that works alongside its artists to help them build their brand & voice without taking share in their royalties. 2. La Vida Glamour is a women-empowerment lifestyle site and consultancy. I support women-owned small businesses that build purposeful & memorable brands through product differentiation and brand positioning.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
For Bodega Records, I saw a void in the market on how independent artists were being represented. I also saw an opportunity to create a label that only works with people of color and now I want to solely focus on women. For La Vida Glamour, I wanted to create a digital space where women can learn career and life tips that was real and honest. La Vida Glamour has now expanded into consultancy where I coach and develop women-owned small businesses. Through this consultancy, I work with each entrepreneur at the pre-seed stage on brand voice, brand strategy and support their product development so that they can have a concise positioning allowing them to thoughtfully scale and secure necessary funding.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
100% yes! Since I was a child, I would create all sorts of businesses as a way to help my family during our rough times and I always knew that the path to financial freedom and enlightenment is not tied to a desk creating magic for someone else. I have never liked being told what to do and for me, owning a business is empowering.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
When we launched our Bodega Records, we did so to coincide with the release of the first single for my partner and artist Derik Fein. We leveraged our social media, did some giveaways and also some true street marketing posting flyers and handing out CD’s to spread the word. It certainly wasn’t an overnight blow up but we have been steadily growing since!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
It’s ok to say no and trust your gut. In the music business, you will come across many shady characters who don’t alway have the best intentions and will use you to try and make a name for themselves. Early on we allowed people too much creative freedom and too much runway to make decisions that we weren’t truly happy with. Just because an opportunity comes your way and you say no, it doesn’t mean that it will be your last. If your gut tells you something is off about someone, listen to your gut. I always say “Your gut is your compass. Trust that bitch”. If you aren’t happy with the outcome of a project, say something. It’s your reputation on the line, not theirs.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
The last few weeks have been exciting! With Bodega Records, we were most excited when our song ‘Don’t Matter’, landed on a few music charts and even charted ahead of Drake and alongside Selena Gomez! An independent act charting in some countries against the gigantic promotions that major labels are pumping to those artists was very rewarding. With La Vida Glamour, I was most excited to be doing my first Ted Talk with Forbes Latin America to talk about the work I do within Mastercard during my 9-5 and it gave me the opportunity to speak about gender advocacy which I’m incredibly passionate about.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Absolutely yes. Our main source of revenue for the label was in touring and in merch. All of our shows were cancelled and because we are a new label starting out and haven’t reached profits yet we didn’t qualify for any of the grants or loans during the pandemic. It was quite devastating for us. The industry itself had to pivot on how artists engage with their audience. Concerts are now being streamed and more singles are being released versus full length albums since it’s not quite safe yet to be out and about in various studio sessions.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
What’s next for Bodega Records? Writing more music, partnering with other artists and pivoting to make our label one that only represents women. For La Vida Glamour, I would love to develop an idea incubator for women. I’ve been on this thinking that we should treat and celebrate women launching new businesses the same way we treat and celebrate engagements. I’ve had the pleasure of consulting some incredible entrepreneurs and almost all of them had some doubts about their businesses when we first met. This is because they aren’t being properly supported or championed to take that leap!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Life is unexpected and will throw you curveballs. How you handle and adapt is what will get you through. I also learned how optimistic and creative I can be! It forced me to think of different solutions for the new problems of today.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Branding and authenticity is key. Everyone is out there buying fake followers and likes. People can see through that. We did an entire scrub of our social media and especially Derik’s and were consistent and thoughtful about our engagement with his followers. We learned that engaging authentically 1:1 did more for our records in terms of streams and plays than having a whole bunch of random followers.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Through meditation, journaling, daily calls with my mom, honest conversations with my husband Derik and enlightening conversations with some of my wisest amigas.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe that every person should identify what balance looks like for them. There isn’t a magic number and it will change depending on the day. If you don’t get to all of your to-do’s in a day, cut yourself some slack and don’t sweat it. Prioritize your mornings for you. When you first wake up, don’t check your phone. Make your bed, read, workout, cuddle with your dogs or children, be grateful, meditate or pray. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, force this habit. Sometimes our mornings are chaotic and you have to react to what’s going on, but before I check emails or get on work calls, I give myself those 10 minutes to meditate and be thankful for the day ahead.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I am more involved than your typical record label owner. I do all of the vocal backups on Derik’s tracks, I co-produced everything released under Bodega, I co-write and I handle all of the creative branding, press and partnership aspects. I can do a public speaking engagement with no problem. Speak on a panel, no problem. Record TikToks all day with no problem. However, sing in front of others or do Karaoke? I’m shaking in my slippers just thinking about it!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Spend 10 minutes with yourself every morning that doesn’t involve your phone
- Don’t add too many items to your to-do list and tackle the most challenging first
- Take a break and hydrate!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means challenging the status quo, supporting your sisters to succeed because there is room for all of us and staying true to your why despite other’s opinions.