‘This is who we are’: 2 SoCal women spotlight Mexican culture with unique picnic venture

Hispanic Heritage Month

SAN DIEGO – Two twenty-something San Diego State University graduates are bringing a whole new venture to Southern California.

Cue Las Chicas Picnics, a new picnic business owned by Yesenia Ortega and Andrea Lopez-Villafana.

“Any time one of my roommates would have a birthday – on a college budget – we would go to the Dollar Tree and just decorate with streamers and all this fun stuff,” Lopez-Villafana said.

“We want it to be meaningful,” Ortega said. “We’re not just putting a slap on it like, ‘Oh, we’re Latina.’ We’re like, ‘No, we’re about it. This is who we are.’”

The two best friends met while attending SDSU. They soon found they had similar interests and determined it might make sense to launch a picnic business. But with nobody in their families to offer proper advice, they weren’t sure where to begin.

“Yeah, it’s easy to buy all this stuff and things for the picnics, but do we have to get some sort of license or how do we navigate that?” Lopez-Villafana said. “How do we set up a website and how much money should we invest? Those types of conversations are really scary.”

Starting off, they saw a daunting road like any business. The process began more than a year ago, gradually building into something they could be proud of – something that spotlights Mexican culture and their own personal tastes.

Typically, similar businesses offer the type of fare found on charcuterie boards, but Las Chicas wants people to feel more at home. They’re offering items such as pan dulce — a type of Mexican sweet bread — as well as Jarritos soda and much more.

They recently decided to test the waters and tease the business on social media to see how it might be received. Spoiler alert: It generated a ton of positive feedback.

“I’ve met so many wonderful women,” said Lopez-Villafana, who also works a full-time job as a journalist. “People I’ve interviewed but mostly Latina women who just decide I’m going to do this, I’m going to be a business owner and I’m going to get this done and I don’t have a lot of help but somehow they do amazing things

“I think for me, personally, seeing individuals like that, speaking with them really told me, I can do this. They can do it, I can do it.”

Not only is Ortega a small business owner, but she’s also a civil engineer – another field where Latinas generally are not well represented.

“Why am I looking for people out there? Let me be that person,” Ortega said. “That’s kind of how I drew my empowerment, to just be like, there’s no one out there – I’ll be the first and I’ll start doing it. A lot of self-love and self-guiding to be where I am at today.”

Ortega and Lopez-Villafana have two basic options for customers: the rustic, a ranch-style of Mexico, or Viva, which tends to be a more vibrant setup. They both include tables, pillows and blankets, but also can include add-ons such as polaroid cameras and a tostilocos bar, among other options.

Despite just starting out, they hope to expand soon.

“It’s just amazing seeing that support and it feels like we’re doing on the right path like we’re doing something people want,” Lopez-Villafana said.

Booking opened up Sept. 15, the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. They are open to customers in San Diego, Chula Vista, National City and elsewhere in the South Bay. Future expansion plans could span North County and beyond.

More information is available on the duo’s Instagram page: @LasChicasPicnics.

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