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In The Community
Read on to discover how this Latina went from one dream job to another.
LM: Saskia! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you began your business and what inspired you.
SS: Prior to starting Fresh Bellies, I worked at the NBA, where I was VP of Marketing, in charge of creating, managing, and executing the league’s muti-platform campaigns targeted to its priority fan bases including Hispanics, African-Americans, women, and kids.
Working at the NBA was my dream job, but then I had children and my priorities changed! When my girls were little and I turned to the grocery aisles for help, I didn’t like what I saw on the shelves. The products were bland, made with artificial ingredients and had high sugar and sodium content - none of which I wanted to feed my family. I couldn’t find anything that was healthy, flavorful or savory. So I took some inspiration from my Ecuadorian upbringing around a variety of foods and flavors, and I started Fresh Bellies.
We use combinations like mushrooms with sage and garlic, snap peas with cumin, and mangos with basil - all unheard of in the snack space! As my kids grew older, and I realized the available options got worse, I decided to create a brand that made healthy eating more flavorful and joyful for kids and adults of all ages, so that the whole family could snack together.
LM: Tell us more about your products and where you source your materials and ingredients from.
Fresh Bellies Products
Photo courtesy of Saskia Sorrosa
SS: We were the first-ever savory kid brand that didn't hide veggies with fruit juice or sugars and instead celebrated bold, savory flavors from the get-go. As our toddler snack line grew and we looked at the rest of the market, we realized that as children got older their options got worse. We also noticed that the adult snacks market offered limited variety and was saturated with run-of-the mill flavors that weren’t all that exciting to me or my family.
A lot of these products that were marketed as ‘healthy’ were also full of junk. Given the success of our toddler snack line and the need we identified in the market beyond toddlers, we decided to extend our snack lines to include pre-schoolers and adults. Our products are vegan and, as a result, better for the environment. We never use artificial junk or preservatives and are mindful about the ingredients we use, sourcing and using only non-GMO verified and Kosher certified items.
We’re also intentional about our partners across the supply chain. As we’ve scaled, we’ve continued to focus on elements that help our products be both good for the environment and the customers who eat them. Most importantly, they’re culturally inspired, delicious and filling pantries everywhere with an explosion of flavors!
We’ve grown our distribution to 5,000 stores nationwide including Sprouts, Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, Wegman’s and more. We are now ranked a top 5 brand in natural toddler snacks in the entire country, even above some of the world’s largest food brands.
LM: Fresh Bellies was featured on an episode of Shark Tank. Share with us what that was like.
SS: We didn’t get a shark to bite during our Shark Tank experience, but those few minutes on TV taught us a lot about ourselves and our business. It also gave us mass exposure nationwide, allowing us to reach millions of viewers with our story. Being a part of Shark Tank is surreal and a rollercoaster ride you’ll never be ready for – no matter how many times you’ve pitched your company before.
You have to be OK with unpredictability, as there are a lot of unanswered questions as you navigate the selection process. Then, if you make it through, you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be completely exposed when you walk in the tank. You, your numbers and your story will be out there for the sharks to pick apart and ultimately, for others to witness on national TV - while not knowing the outcome.
All that to say, even though we didn’t lock down a shark as an investor and it was nerve-racking, we gained a lot with this experience. Our website saw a huge boost in traffic and purchases after our appearance and the momentum hasn’t dwindled since. Every time our episode reruns, we see a boost in online purchase orders, inbound email, and social media engagement. Customers recognize us from Shark Tank and as a result, seek our product. The ROI on marketing dollars and brand awareness is invaluable and was well worth the time and effort.
LM: What is some advice you can offer aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter your industry?
SS: Know what you’re capable of, what you bring to the table, use insights from your own background as a competitive advantage, and think strategically about what you need to be successful and how to position yourself to achieve your goals. It takes relentless perseverance to get to where you’re going and the path is not always linear. Be ready for some twists, peaks and valleys, and always believe in yourself along the way, so others can believe in you too.
There’s also a quote by Simon Sinek that I love: “Too many people ignore opportunities because they only see danger. Entrepreneurs ignore danger because they only see opportunities.”
To me, it means that as an entrepreneur, you’re willing to take the risk because the upside and opportunity far outweigh the fear, or the risks. If you’re willing to push past your comfort zone, you’ll start to see the world through an entirely new lens, and if something doesn’t work out, you can always try again. Opportunities aren’t one and done - they are there for the taking and for those who are willing to do the work.
LM: What are some challenges you faced that you didn’t expect as an entrepreneur? What are some challenges you did expect?
SS: Raising capital takes so much mental, physical, and emotional stamina. It’s actually a lot like dating. You need to meet a lot of people and do some soul searching before finding the ‘right one’ for you. To top it off, the stats for women of color, and for founders who are moms, are significantly lagging behind other demographic groups, particularly men. I look forward to the day when there’s equality in venture capital for future generations, like my daughters’, so that they can step into equitable opportunities to live out their dreams.
Tell us where we can find you online and follow your business adventures.
Let’s dive right in.
LM: What is retrograde, exactly?
SP: It's when the planet appears to travel backward across the sky. This is an optical illusion caused by the position of Earth in relation to that of the planet since a planet in orbit always travels in one set direction and can’t suddenly reverse course.
LM: What's unique about this time?
SP: This period can cause confusion and uncertainty, but the retrograde can offer some insight. Just as we see the planet from a different point of view, the retrograde asks us to look at our journey the same way. When we see things differently they become different. What in your life needs redirection?
LM: What are some best practices for people navigating this time?
SP: I always recommend the 3 C's: Cleanse your aura weekly, carry protection (like obsidian crystal), and cojelo suave. Overall best rule: be patient there's no need to rush into anything or anyone we're not ready for. Take this time to reflect and reassess.
LM: What should people know about retrograde? How often does it occur?
SP: Retrogrades invoke planets to do the opposite of their traits. Therefore since it’s in Mercury, the ruler of communication, technology, travel, and home it can disrupt these areas of our lives. So be mindful of your words, back up all your tech, plan to leave early so you're not late for work and possibly disrupt travel plans and make sure home is your safe space to relax. This transit occurs about 3-4 times a year.
LM: Are certain signs more impacted than others?
SP: Because Mercury rules Virgo they might feel it the hardest and because it's in Libra they too might find it challenging. On the contrary people born during retrogrades are lucky and won't be affected by it.
LM: What is the impact of retrograde on the Latina community?
SP: The Latina community already puts so much hard work towards building their dreams and doing the inner work for healing generational trauma that it means this retrograde will be especially important to rest. What will help is to reevaluate your “how to become the first millionaire in the family game plan” or any other game-changing plans and meditate on the why.
LM: Lend us some insight on the not-so-common things occurring during this time.
SP: Because Mercury retrograde will be in the sign of Libra and then Virgo it is a time to pay attention to particular aspects of our lives.
September 9 - 22 M.R. is in Libra the sign of dynamic duos, balance, and justice. The period will affect certain relationships in our lives and make us face the shadow side of things. Are we healing from negative relationships or avoiding them? Mercury retrograde is a very karmic period that's meant to bring balance after. So if we ignore the red flags, after the retrograde (as the planet motions back to its regular rotation), these people will expose their true selfish, toxic behaviors and in turn, hurt us.
September 23 - October 2 M.R. will maneuver into Virgo the sign of structure, health, and organization. Do we have healthy structures that manifest a thriving lifestyle? This will be put to the test! If you don't rest enough, eat right, and have no organization in life, you will feel the results intensely during the retrograde's final days. This transit slows down life so we can slow down as well and take the time to do inventory so we then redirect ourselves.
LM: Do you have any specific guidance for Latinas managing retrograde? Suggestions on resting?
SP: Latinas can definitely manage this retrograde and live in peace. Because this transit causes confusion, delays, and uncertainty, mindful practices are important.
For example, starting the day with an intentional morning routine can be a big gamer changer. It's a righteous practice that says "I come first" especially since Latinas' energy is asked off in so many directions (eldest child, 1st family graduate, financial provider, breaking cycles, healer etc.). A morning routine can be like this: Wake up, stretch your arms up to the sky and say "gracias divina vida." Next, step outside and take 3 deep breaths to ground yourself. Then come back in and try a guided meditation for 15 minutes. Finally, brew your cafe and nourish your body.
The same is true for the evening; you want to have a night routine to experience proper rest. The world can feel challenging for us today but don't let it tear you up. Come home and unplug from it all. For instance, start by putting your phone on DO NO DISTURB. Next, run a hot shower/bath with some essential oil/herb like Eucalyptus. Then take time to journal. Here are some prompts I focus on "What’s one thing that went right today? What’s something you did today that you’re proud of? What’s one thing you can do tomorrow that your future self will thank you for?" Finally, when you're ready to sleep, listening to a sound bowl meditation will help you fall asleep with ease.
Because it’s in the sign of Libra certain relationships, have the opportunity to do some healing and/or releasing. These relationships can be family, friends, or love interests. Some Latinas might do some tough love inner child healing from the estrellas. So again, take it easy, rest, and evaluate your journey rather than push yourself to work hard.
Sisther Pravia comes from a native Nicaraguan background. Born and raised in Miami, her ability to harness her inner magic through practices such as moon magic, tarot, astrology, yoga, meditation, sound healing, and more has led her to use her divine connection to counsel others. Dedicated to serving the Latino community, her specialty revolves around her healing practices.
I grew up being told, “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” or “your brother can because he’s a boy” and I hated hearing that. It’s been something that has tormented me my entire life.
When I was a teenager my younger brother was allowed to play outside and I wasn’t and when I went anywhere I had to be “chaperoned” by my younger male cousins. I grew up frustrated and even wrote research papers about conflicting gender roles in college, but it wasn’t until an interaction that I had recently that I came to the realization that…my mom is a machista.
Can Women be Machistas?
Someone who adheres to machismo believes that women are inferior to men. Women who are machistas don’t have a problem upholding patriarchy, because they believe women are innately inferior to men. They may believe women need to show deference to their spouses because “es el hombre el que manda.”
What does it look like when a woman upholds patriarchy and is a machista? You’ve probably seen it: It looks like women placing more value in the opinions, thoughts, and lives of men than women. It is having higher expectations and holding women to different standards than men. It is assuming that men “should” be in charge, because that’s just the way it is. They may believe that women shouldn’t live in the public domain or that male leaders are better than female leaders.
Or they may wonder why women are marching in the streets and ask “what are you protesting about now? Why are you being so loud?”
They may say “I’m not going to say anything, porque ‘calladita me veo más bonita.’” Machista women just want you to put your head down and stay in your lane, which is the lane where you’re not a rabble rouser demanding equal rights.
Women who are machistas listen to men more, they value their opinion more. A woman’s opinion or expertise doesn’t carry the same weight, simply because it is a woman who has it.
If you were raised by a mother who is a machista, you were probably raised in a house that had two sets of rules. You were taught that there were certain things that men can do, and that women cannot. It is two sets of rules for the same action.
For example, one set of rules celebrates when a Latino boy has sex for the first time, but also demands at all costs that their daughters don’t have sex with anyone. Latino boys grow up to be celebrated for their sexual exploits, and Latinas are expected to remain chaste, and not meter la pata which is a euphemism many of us grew up with meaning “don’t get knocked up.”
If you’re the daughter of immigrants, chances are you have probably heard things growing up about gender roles that made you roll your eyes. Like me, you probably thought that our parents were adhering to and just trying to pass along the societal gender norms that they grew up with.
Our Immigrant Moms – Upholding the Patriarchy
Our mothers’ generation, women who were born and grew up in Latin America, and who immigrated to the United States as adults, think, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, that by nature, they are meant to depend on men, that men should provide for women, that the home is the “woman’s domain” and that men and sons are “de la calle” and women and girls are “de la casa.”
Our immigrant moms have internalized misogyny, and that is what makes them, much of the time unconsciously, prefer men, and dislike women who feel like they should have a place in a family or in society that is at equal standing with men. This is a product of the social environment and patriarchal society they grew up in.
I don’t say this lightly because it is hard to admit that the women who have given birth to us live with an unconscious bias and prejudice against women, even if those women are their daughters.
How Religion Influences our Latina Mothers’ View of Women
It may be true that many women of a certain generation uphold the patriarchy and live with internalized misogyny, but for our Latina mothers, it is deeper than simple “patriarchy.” It is also rooted in religion– and the more religious your mother is, the more deeply ingrained these thoughts will be.
Machismo goes hand in hand with marianismo, which has its roots in Roman Catholicism and the Virgin Mary. Marinismo makes us think that we need to live up to the ideal of the Virgin Mary, and strive to be chaste, moral and willing to give up everything for one’s family– submissiveness, selflessness, chastity, hyperfemininity, and acceptance of machismo in males – these are the characteristics that make marianismo so hurtful to Latinas– and these are all characteristics that so many of us are taught as we are growing up.
So, Latina daughters (that’s you and me) are being compared to the VIRGIN MARY; an impossible standard. Not only is this impossible, it’s also unhealthy and exhausting. It’s exhausting because we are taught to be caretakers and the responsible ones all the time, for everyone.
It’s exhausting because Latina daughters are held to a different standard than Latino sons. We are expected to take care of ourselves, our kids, our own homes, and have enough time and energy to take care of everyone else.
We are expected to look good (because our mamás will also have comments about our physical appearance), and we are expected to have a well kept house (because our mamás will make comments about that too) and we are expected to have hijos bien portados (kids who are well-behaved) because if they aren’t well behaved, that will surely look bad on you — we are expected to do ALL THE THINGS.
And what are Latinx sons expected to do? Show up and eat the food–maybe take out the trash, or change a light bulb. Even when a husband or son is around, the Latina daughters are expected to “serve them the food.” A Latina mom will expect more of the daughters, because caretaking is “our job” and we are “nurturers by nature.”
How a New Generation of Latinas can End Machismo
We have to actively fight against our mothers speaking to our children in a way that upholds patriarchal views.
We cringe when we hear the machista words come out of their mouths, especially to our kids, like when they say to our daughters, las niñas no hacen eso (girls don’t do that) or “boys don’t cry/wear pink/insert gender-based stereotype here.” We have to call it out in real time.
I’ve had to explain that we don’t say “don’t climb on top of the bed because girls don’t do that.” Rather, we say “don’t climb on top of the bed because you can fall and hurt yourself.” There shouldn’t be anything gendered about climbing on top of the bed.
We Need to Set Boundaries
I know this is hard because we are taught that we should be respectful and always be “servicial” which basically means being the Latina daughter who takes care of ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.
But it’s time for boundaries y’all.
We can respectfully decline, and respectfully ask other people to step up, or ask others to respect that you are no longer doing x, y, or z. We can be respectful in such a way that we clearly state what we don’t want to pass along to our own children. This is the generation that has the power to break down so many cultural expectations that hurt ourselves and our children, both sons and daughters.
Latino Sons and Men Need to Step Up — as siblings, spouses, and fathers.
They should take active roles as sons and husbands. If they are dads they should be leading by example at home. Children will internalize what they see. If a child sees their father doing chores, treating women with respect, and having respectful interactions with women, they will learn that. If they see men and dads valuing the partners in their lives as equals, they will learn to do the same. But if they uphold patriarchy by their actions and words– children will internalize that as well.
We Can Be the Change
There is so much responsibility in raising our children to be the next generation that we must actively work to break down those systems that we grew up with, even if that means upsetting our mamás, or drawing criticism from older generations who may be quick to judge.
I can’t say it will be easy– it will most likely be messy and painful– because it requires us to call out our family members who we love the most. But, for our own sake, for our children, and our children’s children, it’s the kind of work that we must do now so that our kids– both sons and daughters– can live to their fullest potential, and let their entire selves shine without fear of being called “too bossy” or being told to keep quiet.
Even if our mamás get mad at us, it is the work that we must do. If your mother is like mine, she might light a candle and pray the rosary for you, but in the end, it is for their grandchildren that we are breaking these outdated ways that no longer belong in this world– it is a struggle that many of our ancestors fought, and one that we can make a reality.
- Machismo & Marianismo Causes Poor Mental Health, but how do they Differ? - LuzCollective ›
- Luz Media ›