During a class lecture on inclusivity in the workplace, senior Nicole Lorenzo began to reflect "about how it’s so easy to preach something but don’t carry out any action." Nicole thought about her experience "coming into UW as a freshman from Hawai’i ... scared and mentally prepared to have to 'fake it til I make it.'" Thankfully, Nicole "was always taught to not be shy and take advantage of any opportunity, even if it was out of my comfort zone. The [Sisterhood of Pi Nu Iota (PNI)] is an extension to that. Finding other women that look like me, that come from similar communities and share the same background? Yes! Sign me up! I’m grateful for the community that PNI has introduced me to." In January, on her birthday, Nicole decided to "send it! I launched my site and first line of clothes. The more I interacted with people about the concept, I felt like I was manifesting the brand and mission." It was her community that "opened up a space for [Nicole] to grow and learn about" her identity, and led to the creation of Tita Bun Collective, which she intends to be for "strong women to boost other strong women. As a Collective, it creates encouragement for collaboration, especially for women that look like you pursuing things outside of your comfort zone." Here, Nicole describes the operation of the business and its goals, as well as how her study of geography and time at UW have influenced her approach to what's next.
On Identity and the Importance of "Straight Up Badass" Women
"A Tita is the Hawaiian pidgin word to describe a girl who doesn’t give a f***, is loyal, and is strong headed. I was raised and have always been motivated by independent women: my mom, grandmas, and aunties. I was always taught to not be shy and take advantage of any opportunity, even if it was out of my comfort zone. The Sisterhood [PNI] is an extension to that... Being able to work within different communities as myself and share my experiences with people that are willing to listen is something that not everyone has the privilege of having. People shouldn’t have to camouflage in different spaces because they don’t feel Filipino enough, Hawaiian* enough, or _____ enough. This is the flame that constantly sparks TBC. People should feel comfortable being who they are, regardless of the space. The Collective highlights community members so that the youth can see people that look like them being themselves in spaces that push the comfort zone. It’s a source where people can come together and celebrate success.
*I am not Hawaiian, I am 100% Ilocana from Hawai’i."
On the "Collective" in Tita Bun Collective
"The Collective part of Tita Bun Collective is the backbone of the brand. The designs are inspired by my identity and background, and it’s important to acknowledge the people that have helped me find that. Being able to highlight members of my community is really important, especially for the youth. They can see that there are people that look like them in all different types of spaces and parts of the world. As my Collective starts to grow I not only want to highlight people that I know and who've helped me find my identity, but also with the power of social media I've been able to find other women of color and other business owners to share their story and how they got started."
On Learning & Developing Skills
"The biggest skill that I'm still in the process of learning is being able to execute a plan and being open to compromise. This means letting go of being a perfectionist. If I waited until the moment my website was exactly how I wanted it probably still wouldn't be launched. In terms of future jobs, it’s like being able to let go and not be attached to work. This is a lesson I know will help me get things done and also appreciate that my best effort is good enough...
The biggest learning curve has been figuring out how to use the embroidery machine. I’ve been very lucky to have been able to find the connections with other small business owners. The community is so amazing! I’ve made so many new friends who share the same drive and motivation as me. It’s going to be an adventure growing with them."
On Balance and Self-Care
"I divide my week up. On Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, I delegate only to school and work. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m strictly devoted to Tita Bun. On the weekends I’m selfish (I deserve it). Me time is and self care is something that I make sure to prioritize. Especially since my senior year of college has been stripped away (thanks COVID), it’s nice to take a break from Zoom lectures and catch up with friends."
On Connections with Geography Major & Careers
"Studying geography has shown me how similar people are. No matter where you go or whatever place you study, there's always going to be communities who are suffering from systemic injustice and oppression. It's about finding people in these communities and being able to have their voices heard, rather than overshadowed. My first literature review from Geography 315 was about COVID-19 on the Hawaiian Islands and how it is being affected by COVID-19. In a class I'm taking now, GEOG 458, I am doing the same project but on a larger scale. I'm studying how COVID-19 has affected the tourist industry worldwide and how this is affecting the economy, especially for many communities and countries that rely on tourism. It’s important, especially in the job that I will be entering post-grad, that you see data beyond numbers in CSV files. These cells represent people and I have the power to highlight these voices. I plan on doing this whether with the Collective, class, or through my job in the data industry...
Honestly, UW has ruined the whole 'path' ideology when they created constrained majors and I didn't get into the one I applied to. I honestly thought my world ended. Now looking back, I feel like everything worked out. Likewise, when I think about future career options I like to keep the area open. There's so many different environments to learn from, whether it's a startup or corporate, because no matter what, there’s going to be a chance to learn and grow. It just depends on the way you approach it. Also it probably doesn’t help that I’m really indecisive. On a really good Tita Bun day, I’m set on quitting my job and becoming solely a small business owner. Other days, not so much. What gets me excited about work is being able to collaborate with others and make a change on the world from a whole new way of approach. No matter what, I’ll be able to learn something and meet people that reflect back to my brand. It’s full circle."
On Change and Collaboration
"I get bored really easily, so my designs are always changing. This drop is going to be different from the next one depending on where I am in my life right now and what's happening in my communities. My last drop was dedicated to self prioritization and self-care. I feel like in my communities these are topics that aren't talked about enough or expressing feelings are not taken seriously. It's important for people to know that it's okay to feel or go through a rough time. Feelings are completely valid and shouldn't be hidden.
My brand is also really collaborative. I encourage people to go on the website and nominate their friends to be a part of my Collective. I make sure that people feel comfortable with reaching out to me on social media [@titabunco on Instagram]. Being new to the small business community I found that there's so many young women in business that I've reached out to or they've reached out to me and I'm excited to grow with them. Everyone wants to see each other succeed, especially since we’re all coming from similar backgrounds and motivations. The encouragement and inspiration is endless."