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This single mom's growing jewellery business a Vancouver immigrant success story

The daughter of Salvadoran refugees, this Vancouver woman's online business now has clients across the globe, and it's helped her overcome several obstacles, including domestic violence.
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Lidia Villegas of Vancouver-based online business Ms V Creations, a handmade jewellery shop with global clients

A Vancouver-based online jewellery business that started in 2017 is now selling products internationally, thanks to the power of the internet and social media.

Lidia Villegas, founder of MS V Creations, can't hide her excitement while sharing the list of countries she now has clients in: “I was so happy when I mailed to Paris and Scotland, as these are the places that I have always wanted to visit. It was so exciting, and it kept me going,” says the 29-year-old mother of three.

Villegas, who was a stay-at-home mom before launching MS V Creations, started selling handmade jewellery to put food on the table after she noticed her partner becoming a heavy drinker. A few months later, she took a break from the business, as she needed to get out of her abusive relationship.

“I have always wanted to do jewellery, but I never thought it was something I could do as a mom. I had a mentality that, as a mom, my sole focus should be to feed my kids, raise them right, and take care of my man," says Villegas.

When her partner's abusive behaviour escalated, Villegas sought independence and began dedicating more time to her business.

Through YouTube, she quickly learnt how to build a website using Shopify and applied basic social media management skills to drive traffic to her online store. Feedback from clients improved her understanding of customer needs and the communication helped her form a strong buyer-seller relationship. Some customers who Villegas had never met gave a shout-out to her on their blogs, and it all helped her grow.

“I could earn some money and not worry about putting food on the table,” adds Villegas.

Born in El Salvador, Villegas came to Canada in 1997 as a seven-year-old kid when her parents immigrated to Vancouver as refugees. She remembers vividly her first night in Vancouver; the family stayed in a hotel, and it was so cold that her mom had to put her in a bathtub full of warm water. Later they all moved to a house and Villegas' parents took jobs as janitors.

It was hard for the family to get adjusted after moving to a new country. Villegas' parents depended on her to interpret everything, including the tax and immigration documents. “My dad was very strict. I was not allowed to have friends and if there was a mistake with the document work, dear lord I would get a beating," explains Villegas.

She was 11 years old when someone almost hit her mom with the car and passed racist comments. “I remember being in shock, that someone almost killed my mother because of the colour of her skin,” Villegas tearfully recalls.

As a kid, Villegas had tried to run away from her house multiple times to save herself from her dad’s aggression. “Some of the Vancouver Police officers knew me as a runner, they would see me on streets and ask to head back home," she adds.

At 16, Villegas left home to move in with her friend after her dad tried to choke her. Later Lidia was diagnosed with kidney infection, and when she found herself with no family support, she married her boyfriend, who she believed was the only person she cared about. Years later she realized his intention was to get married just to get citizenship.

Villegas' three children are from her second marriage. Her journey is truly a roller-coaster ride. Currently, she is enrolled in one of Atira Women’s Resource Society’s programs which supports victims of domestic violence and is also taking courses to become a certified social service worker with a vision to help many more women in the future.