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OjaLab

Founding a Growth Platform for Latina-Owned Retail Brands

Today, 1 in 4 Gen Z Americans identifies as Latinx, and 58% of all Latinx are 34 years old or younger. The US Hispanic population reached 63.6 million in 2022, up from 50.5 million in 2010, this 26% increase was faster than the country’s 8% growth rate.

 

With a substantial and youthful presence in the United States, the Latin population presents a strong market opportunity, offering a unique chance for both economic advancement and cultural reconnection. Still, Latin brands navigate a complex process to penetrate the US market. Upon connecting with Latin brands, our exploration expanded through industry research, unveiling barriers blocking international expansion. 

 

Further, we founded OjaLáb—a transformative growth platform expanding Latina-owned retail businesses through meaningful connections with GTM opportunities abroad. We are on a mission to facilitate relationships that fuel international businesses and that end up offering diverse, authentic products to customers around the US. 

1. Deep-dive into a Two - Sided Problem

The project started when we discovered the complex process Latin fashion brands face to enter the US market by connecting with Colombian brands in the summer of 2023. After, we looked into industry research, case studies, and reports on global transactions across the global North and South. We found six main reasons why brands do not expand internationally:

On the other hand, the Gen Z Latinx community in the US lacks a cohesive cultural experience that fosters a sense of comunidad and connection with their heritage, with existing solutions not fulfilling this demand. The data below showcase the need for a bespoke experience that connects Latin Gen Z with relevant experiences that align with their culture:

Brands in LATAM

Latinx Gen Z Community in the US

Trade

Regulations

1.

2.

Market Research

3.

Cultural Adaptation

4.

Target Audience Segmentation

5.

Supply Chain, Logistics, & Delivery

1 in 4

Gen Z Americans is Latinx

58%

of Latinx are 34 and younger 

$3.2 T

Total Latinx Purchasing Power

This dual-sided challenge highlights the need for strategic solutions that bridge the gap between Latin American brands' aspirations for market expansion and the cultural aspirations of the Latinx community in the US.

2. Brand Survey to Guide our Design Thinking Process 

Brands in LATAM

After collecting secondary research and having a general understanding of the main pain points and opportunities for Latin fashion brands and Gen Z Latinx face in the ecosystem, we:

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We designed and carried out a survey to understand and dig deeper into the specific needs and priorities for the Latin brands to expand internationally, and map a user journey. 

We had 61 brands from across seven countries in Central and South America, and five product categories: fashion, coffee, home decor, healthy foods, and jewelry.

Brand Survey Highlights: 

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96%

Founded/owned by women

85%

Country-specific target audience

90%

Know their

customer personas

20%

Have exported to the US

Key Survey Finding:

Brands want a solution to capture the market and their target audience, while ensuring efficient logistics and operations. 

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Market Strategies

Compliance with Exports/Customs Regulations

Logistics & Operational Efficiency

Economic & Risk Management

Cultural & Political Adaptation

3. Sensemaking through Brand Interviews

We utilized the findings from the survey to pinpoint our target group of Latin brand owners, those who prioritized their market strategy and operational efficiency when considering to expand their business abroad. We then followed up with 10 of the Latin brand owners and executed user interviews to dive deeper into these pain points.  

We found how market strategy and operational efficiency have distinct meanings and entail different actions for the brands. The interviews showed the issues they cared about the most, and the primary pains Latin brands face when considering to grow their brand's global presence.

Definitions from Brand Follow-up Interviews

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Market Strategy

Operational Efficiency

Brands in LATAM

Once we realized the wide variety of considerations Latin brand owners possess for the market strategy and operational efficiency, we utilized a matrix to compare and analyzethe value and effort each entails.

Prioritization Matrix

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Key Takeaway -

Latin retail businesses are looking for ways to compete in the US market through gaining a brand awareness and positioning, a buyer network, and identifying their target audience while being operationally efficient through risk reduction and cost optimization. 

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4. The Gen Z Latin Consumer in the United States

We conducted 22 user interviews with recently immigrated Gen Z Latinx individuals in urban US cities. To visualize our findings, we represented Gen Z as a taco with four parts: tortilla, meat, onion, and jalapeo.

 

This resulted in an empathy map for Gen Z Latinx in the US:

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The Tortilla:

What Gen Z Latinx are surrounded by

Latinx Gen Z Community in the US

The Meat:

What Gen Z Latinx say and do

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The Onion:

Gen Z Latinx thoughts and pains

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The Spice:

Gen Z Latinx Passions and Gains

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Key Takeaway -

Gen Z Latinx in the US do not feel represented by American brands and seek culturally-aligned and relevant experiences that give them a sense of home and belonging allowing them to build connection and community while living in the US. 

5. The Redefined Challenge and Ideation

After having realized the issues both, Latin brand owners and Latin Gen Z in the US face, we arrived at the design challenge of: 

How might we address the Latin brands' challenges and build a strong market presence while connecting and building community among and with Gen Z Latinx in the US?

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Focus Areas

*To select what features we would design and brainstorm for, we leveraged the prioritization matrix and focused on those that intersected the pains and gains of both: Latin brands and Gen Z Latinx in the US.

With that, we came up with OjaLáb, a transformative growth platform expanding Latina-owned retail businesses through meaningful connections with GTM opportunities abroad.

 

We are on a mission to facilitate relationships that fuel international businesses and that end up offering diverse, authentic products to customers around the US. 

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6. Prototyping the Experience

To test our product-market fit, we coordinated OjaLáb's brand launch event in December 2023, introducing the first-of-its-kind Latin holiday selling experience in Soho, New York.

The digital invitation below:

We collaborated with 8 fashion, home decor, and jewelry brands from Latin America, pioneering an evening of experiential retail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partnering with VOZ, the Brooklyn Fashion Incubator, LatinoMagazine, Promperu, and CroingAgency, we coordinated a memorable event for 100+ attendees. Featuring live music, Peruvian cocktails, raffle prizes, and a keynote speaker, we engaged our audience in an immersive experience.

 

Through strategic pitching and curation with the Brooklyn Fashion Incubator, we ensured a lineup of high-quality brands that resonated with our target audience. Our approach resulted in a successful event, setting the stage for OjaLáb as an innovative event collective shaping the future of Latinx community and retail in the US.

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Promotional Video for OjaLab's Brand Launch and Prototype

Speech during Brand Launch/Prototype

OjaLáb's next event is a work in progress, with exciting updates coming soon in the landing page below:

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