We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber Alexander Zuñiga and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amber, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Ever since I was little I’ve been creative. Starting with macrame pot holders and cross stitch, I realized when I was about four years old how fulfilling it is to be an artist and crafter. I grew up around crafters, engineers, and mechanics and always had access to sewing supplies, paints, and tools. As a teen I attended a renowned high school with college level visual art classes where I began producing and selling my jewelry to classmates. Having the foundation and training in art helped me realize I could make a living using my hands. I got married and had three children shortly after graduating high school and pursued degrees in graphic design and photography in order to create a web presence for my artwork. I needed to create artwork. If I wasn’t working on projects I was obsessively planning them. Turning my back on my creative side would be self destructive and I knew it would be like missing a limb if did so. I have many artistic passions, but jewelry making and sign painting really speak to me the most. I wanted to show my children that if they set their minds to it, they can be self sufficient by becoming entrepreneurs. I wanted to make a living by selling artwork and continue creating beautiful pieces for people to cherish. Thus spawned Chromosapien, my amalgamation of my jewelry and painting projects, with various fused glass and other creative endeavors thrown in. I try not to limit myself to just one medium since my brain loves a creative challenge!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What sets you apart from others? Every time I make a piece of jewelry, I hope it gets passed on to future generations. When I paint a sign, I hope it lasts for decades. I use quality materials in order to ensure longevity. I’m the type of person who puts a piece of jewelry on and never takes it off, and it’s important to me that my clients can do the same with theirs. What are you most proud of or excited about? I’m proud of my journey. I pursued my college degree with three small children in tow and although it took significantly longer that way, I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I’m excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of me. There are so many projects floating around my brain that I can’t wait to execute. So many methods I have yet to teach myself (like reverse glass gilding which is next on my list!) How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? My brother-in-law had a big hand in my sign painting career. He owned a small cafe and knew I was artistic. He needed some bright colors to grab attention of passers by. He asked me to paint designs in the windows, and Chromosapien took off. From there I received calls from several other small business owners, and I’ve only relied on word of mouth since. To be honest, being a small business owner is constantly challenging but rewards are tenfold. I overcome challenges by constantly educating myself and reaching out for help from mentors when I need it. I realized long ago that I was going to suffer if I tried to do everything alone. Plenty of successful people really want to give back to the community and love to help! There are many great resources for entrepreneurs to utilize, including the Dallas BRAIN which is part of the Sammons Small Business center at the Dallas Public Library as well as the SBA website. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I’ve learned that there are many ways to make a living as a sole proprietor. You don’t have to subscribe to just one idea, and keeping your mind open will allow you to be more successful in the long run. Life is too short to keep yourself in a box! If you love more than one idea, who’s to say you can’t do it well? Also keep in mind that you represent your company 24/7. Be professional and keep customer service in mind when interacting with everyone from the mail carrier to your car mechanic, as they could be potential clients someday. I want the world to know that my legacy, hopefully, is to enrich your life with beautiful things for you and your loved ones to cherish.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ok let me preface by saying I’m a native Dallasite and Dallas has changed immensely in the past decade or so. We have so many cool spots and great food, and I love the big city we’ve grown into. If I hosted a friend for the week (and we’re both vaccinated and masked up) I’d DEFINITELY take them to Northpark Center for shopping- it’s half museum, half mall with wonderful restaurants (hello Eataly!!) We’d have to visit the Arts District to check out the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and Klyde Warren Park. I’d take them on a picnic in Fair Park and check out the beautiful Art Deco architecture and murals. We would have to hit up Las Almas Rotas in Exposition Park for a botana and mezcal cocktail afterwards. I’d take them for a stroll in Bishop Arts and check out Trompo for tacos, The Wild Detectives for an espresso and book browsing, and We Are 1976 for cute handmade Texas souvenirs. We’d shop the well curated selection of housewares and skincare at Harkensback and visit with Julie McCollough, an inspiring badass woman who taught me so much about pursuing your passions and getting stuff done. We would hop on a couple of my bikes and take a spin around White Rock Lake, swinging by Lounge Here to grab -yet another- delicious cocktail and bite to eat. There are so many more options, these are just off the top of my head. Dallas has a little something for everyone! We would round out the visit by going to Cowtown. It might take a full day, but sightseeing in Fort Worth is a must, including the museum district and botanical gardens. If there was still time, we would drive out to Glen Rose and take a safari tour of Fossil Rim wildlife park, which is fun for all ages. (Unless you’re scared of an ostrich head being thisclose to your face! Lol)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to my husband Vladimir. He has been my biggest fan since day one, over 23 years ago. He’s been my sounding board, manager, supporter, and assistant. He is always honest in his critiques and keeps me motivated when I’m presented with a challenge. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. My mom also deserves some love. She wanted to attend art school as a teenager in the ‘60s since she had promising skills in drawing and painting. Her parents weren’t supportive and wanted her to pursue another career and she ended up becoming an administrative assistant and eventually became a pharmacy technician, always wishing she could’ve had that opportunity to become an artist. (Now that she’s retired she knits the most amazingly beautiful and complex shawls.) When I heard about Booker T. Washington High School For the Performing and Visual Arts, I just knew I would fit in well as a visual art student. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend if it hadn’t been for my mom’s persistence since I had to squeeze in to the auditions at the last minute. She stood up for me and plead my case to the director of the visual art cluster, and it worked! My enrollment gave me a huge gift of being educated by working artists in a creative cocoon that was “Arts Magnet” at the time. People think I’m joking when I say I miss high school, but I was immersed in advanced ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, painting, printmaking, textiles, drawing, and photography classes. Booker T. laid a solid foundation for my future art endeavors.