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Entrepreneur Beats Challenges To Open Brick-And-Mortar Shop

Pilar Martinez Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Christi Leonardi said she had few employment opportunities and faced plenty of challenges as a deaf person trying to make a living and then later starting a business. The persistence, however, has paid off! Leonardi has just opened a new brick-and-mortar store selling her fabulous homemade bath products.

Albuquerque

When Christi Leonardi set out to find a brick-and-mortar shop for her successful bath and beauty business, Hotsy Totsy Haus, she faced more than just the usual hurdles.

Though her colorful wares had already garnered a cult following online and spots in the Oscars gift bags for two years, Leonardi, who is deaf and can read lips, said it was hard to secure a storefront since many property managers prefer doing business over phone calls rather than emails.

"A lot of people don't want to go out of their way to communicate," she said. "They don't want to do text, they don't want to do email, they want to do the phone."

Even in-person meetings with contractors proved to be difficult since mask wearing eliminated her ability to read lips, leaving Leonardi to rely on a voice-to-text app on her phone.

She said that while she is an avid supporter of masks, it adds an extra step when communicating and it's common for people to speak to her employees rather than to her through her app.

"They always kind of want to avoid me and talk to the others," Leonardi said.

However, none of this stopped her from landing her new retail storefront.

Hotsy Totsy Haus, at 10301 Comanche NE, opens today, Saturday, and will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Inside the new Northeast Heights retail store, tables are piled with bath bombs shaped like crescent moons, cat heads or seashells — all of which Leonardi makes by hand using cruelty-free ingredients.

Leonardi first turned to bath creations after having to find a way to take care of her disabled daughter when she became a single mother.

Leonardi said she had few employment opportunities due to discrimination toward her disability and making and selling homemade bath products allowed her to earn an income while simultaneously caring for her daughter.

Since opening her business in 2014, Leonardi has sold her creations online and at craft shows, all while earning a loyal following.

She said that while the pandemic caused supply chain issues, like the price of one of her main ingredients doubling, Hotsy Totsy Haus saw an increase in business.

"People really needed to destress, you know, chill out because it's been so crazy," Leonardi said.

Leonardi originally began looking for a spot to house her manufacturing operations after her house had been "completely taken over" by the manufacturing process.

"I was just looking for a place to manufacture them," she said. "I wasn't looking or considering a storefront just yet."

Leonardi said her new retail shop ended up being "a little gift" since she is close to the mountains, located in a shopping mall with other great retailers like a plant store and a doughnut shop and has a parking lot so customers don't have to hunt for parking.

A retail location will also allow her to interact with customers who may have never communicated with a person who is deaf before.

"I'm hoping to bring deaf representation to (the small business community), to show Albuquerque, to show the deaf residents, to show children ... that because I'm deaf it doesn't mean I can't do anything," Leonardi said. "... We're smart, we're intelligent and we can follow our dreams and make them happen." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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