La Familia Fresa: Lu’s strawberries feel love
Family business draws support and inspiration from Instagram and its customers
By Celina Garcia
Despite my recurring relationship with Instagram, something that always brings me joy is seeing people on the app starting their own businesses, pursuing their niche passions, trying new things, take risks on themselves. While social media has a way of exposing feelings of its own shortcomings, on the other hand, I often find myself inspired by those who use the platform to build a loving community.
Grecia Pizano and Ricardo “Richy” Gonzalez, the couple behind Lu’s Strawberries, did just that. As you might have guessed, their small business, named after their eldest daughter, Lucianna, specializes in the most original and richly decorated fresas (strawberries) that you will find on the central coast. For the moment, their activity is done only through Instagram.
Grecia started this business by promoting her own on the “UCSB Buy-Sell-Trade” page on Facebook. After their first big sale on Father’s Day last year, they took to Instagram on the recommendation of those first customers, and that’s when business started to take off. Having recently partnered with the popular local foodie account @sbgoodeats for a giveaway to celebrate reaching 3.5,000 followers on Instagram, Lu’s is now slowly approaching 4,000. However, they speak just as enthusiastically as they remember when they hit their first 100.
Richy compares the process of interacting with her clients via social media looking for new flavors, designs and textures to working with a tattoo artist to create something personal. They often use the poll feature or just post an article on their “stories” to ask their followers if they have any requests or cravings to satisfy their sweet tooth. Their ‘Highlights’ section is filled with testimonials and photos from happy customers happy to show off their personalized orders, along with a list of toppings to choose from that are sure to make your mouth water.
Fan favorites include their matcha flavor, Fruity Pebbles (which you must try with their fresas con crema!), and De la Rosa candies. If you scroll through their Instagram timeline, you’ll see designs ranging from Fortnite to Barney, the Pride Flag, Powerpuff Girls, Hello Kitty, 4/20, Baby Yoda, Sailor Moon, Snoop Dogg – you name it! There is nothing that Greece cannot create; his strawberry craftsmanship is simply unmatched.
After our conversation, I spent the next few hours mulling over something Grecia had said about working in the service industry versus self-employment and promoting her work through social media. She mentioned that while working for a restaurant, hotel, or other business, you can sometimes meet people who “don’t expect anything from you beyond being of service to them.” In contrast, the tremendous amount of love and support she received from her online subscribers has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
Through their online community, “People see me, and not just what we can do for them, ”explains Grecia. “It’s amazing when people tell us we’re making their day better. They inspire me to continue.
Courtesy of Lu Strawberries
“With social media,” Richy agrees, “the good thing is that we can connect with them in an instant. By tagging ourselves or sharing our content, it really makes us smile. It means so much that we have become a part of their special occasions.
Instagram has also allowed them to network with other members of the community who share similar aspirations, from the father-son duo behind The Bagel Boiz to Tommy Chang of Kin Bakeshop (formerly known as Mōr Donuts), who has them kindly brought dinner when their youngest daughter, Valentina, was having surgery. Plus, Chang even lent them his coolers and an umbrella when they attended their first Mujeres manufacturers market. Without his generosity, they would not have made much profit that day.
“The people we’ve met along the way are amazing,” says Richy. Grecia nods. “We really have so much love for each other.”
During our discussion, I shared a recent article on a Santa Barbara website about 27 restaurants opening in the area in 2021. I noticed that very few of them were owned by people of color. “Not everyone has these kinds of resources or opportunities,” says Grecia, “but everyone deserves a chance.”
Courtesy of Lu Strawberries
The couple hope to someday take their family business from the digital landscape to operating their own boutique, where customers can come and select their own strawberry garnishes. In the meantime, they look forward to participating in the city’s future Pop-ups and Makers Markets and meeting their virtual customers face-to-face.
“To say that a little over a year ago I was ready to quit, but thanks to him I didn’t,” Grecia said, giving Richy a small smile. “At first it was just me, but now we’re a real team.”
To learn more about creating a Custom Decorated Strawberry Order, see @ Read Strawberries on Instagram. Indulge yourself and scroll through their feed for delicious, endless inspiration.