Lupe James Is Living The American Dream With Her Children
By Her Side and Her Husband Behind Her All The Way
Guadalupe James (Lupe for short) was born in California and raised in the San Fernando Valley area. Lupe and her 2 younger brothers and younger sister were raised in a very strict household with very traditional Mexican parents who were from Jerez Zacatecas, Mexico. Her mother was born in 1962 and was pulled from elementary school in the 2nd grade because she was expected to cook, clean and raise children. When Lupe’s dad’s father died when he was 15, he came to the US on a work Visa. Lupe’s parents met in the US when her mom was 19 and have been together every since. Lupe was raised with the family of six in an 800 sq. ft., one bedroom apartment. Lupe’s dad worked hard at several jobs at a time such as being a janitor, chef, dishwasher and landscaper to provide for his family. Lupe’s uncles had all been in and out of prison which would cause Lupe’s mother to have a lot of fear behind how she raised her children. She didn’t want her children to be a statistic, so she was extremely strict in hopes of giving her children a better life.
Lupe carried a 4.0 grade average in high school, was in the band and was a drum major. By the time she got to her senior year, she began to panic. She received a few little scholarships but realistically had no way to pay for college. She looked at friends who had already graduated and had no direction and she knew she wanted more for her life. She had already turned 18 in April during her senior year when military recruiters made their way to her school. The Army did their presentation, then the Navy, and Lupe zoned in and out while they talked. But when the Marine recruiter spoke Lupe was mesmerized, “I forget what it was that he said, I just knew it made sense.” She felt the pressure to make a decision for her future and knew that if she told her parents, they would try to talk her out of it. She found Staff Sergeant Mitchell after his presentation and told him she was ready to sign up. She ditched her last class, called in sick at work and went straight to the Marine Recruiting Sub-Station and signed the contract to join the Marines. She was so nervous to tell her parents, she asked Sergeant Mitchell to come home with her for backup. Mom was angry and heartbroken and dad was proud and started clapping.
Lupe would head to Boot Camp that December. After training, you write down your top 5 choices to be stationed and Lupe selected places like Germany, Hawaii and Japan and then ended right back in the San Diego area at MCAS Miramar. After a year, she was sent to Camp Pendleton with orders to deploy to Iraq with the First Military Expedition Force where she did check points, guard duty, searching vehicles and allowing people on and off the base. Lupe has over 300 hours of combat air crew hours while doing radio relay and dispatching aircrafts in Iraq. She loved the military because even though it was strict, it wasn’t as strict as her home life she was accustom to. She says her career in the military was a complicated relationship, “It was fun, hard and stressful and if I didn’t have kids and were told I needed to go back today, I would sign right up.”
After her tour in Iraq she was sent back to MCAS Miramar where she became an E4. It was during this time that she would meet her future husband. Ki-Tok (key-doc) is a Korean American who was born and raised in Oklahoma City and who was stationed at MCAS Miramar with Lupe while he worked with communications and navigation for the F-18s (think Top Gun). They began to run around with the same group of friends. They seriously rubbed each other the wrong way and Lupe thought he was obnoxious until she was doing room inspections and came into his barracks to find him talking sweetly to his mom, “Yeah I know, I miss you too momma and I love you.” It was then that she realized he was just putting up a front and she let down her guard. As their friend group got smaller, they got closer. She agreed to date him in 2007 after he agreed to meet her parents.
With the military divorce rate being 88% because of stress, being transferred, being deployed and PTSD, the military takes marriage very seriously. They had to get permission from their commanding Officer to get married and then have counseling with a Naval Chaplin and take communication classes. After getting married and finishing their time in the Marines, they decided to move to Twin Falls, Idaho for a simple life and the possibility of starting a family. They lived in Idaho for 6 months while Lupe went to college for Business Management and Ki-Tok worked at a meat packing plant. Ki-Tok was injured on the job when he was running a ham hock through a band saw and cut a portion of his thumb off. When Lupe posted something about the incident on Facebook, a military friend said, “when is he going to come to Amarillo and work with me at Bell Helicopter”. He came for a job interview and got the job so in 2012, while Lupe was 22 weeks pregnant with their first daughter, they moved to Amarillo.
When their daughter Casey was born, she had a terrible diaper rash for the first 12 weeks. Lupe tried all the diaper brands, all the baby wipes and every kind of ointment. After researching about how babies could get rashes from the chemicals in regular diapers and seeking advice from other moms on Facebook, Lupe decided to give cloth diapers a try. Lupe started out with Grovia when Casey was 13 weeks old and the rash went away. She then became a Grovia cloth diaper advocate which meant she would promote them and teach classes on Cloth Diapering 101 and introduce people to their products. Lupe joined the Amarillo Area Baby Wearing Group and they decided to have a meet up at her house. There were babies and kids running all over the place. All of the moms breastfed, used cloth diapers, wore their babies around and used as many natural products as possible. She had found her people. Not being able to find the products, she and her fellow baby wearers were looking for locally, would be the initial spark for her future business. Lupe along with several of her “natural” mom friends would put in a big order for the things they needed to earn discounts and save on shipping. The orders would come to her house, she would separate the orders and her mom friends would come by to pay her and pick up their orders.
Fluffaholic is a term of endearment in the cloth diaper community. When diapers come in, moms say “oh I have fluff-mail” or call their babies “fluffbutts” because the cloth diapers make their tiny butts look “fluffy”. And when you have a lot of product coming in you turn into a “fluffaholic”. So the dream of Fluffaholic began. With all of her mom friends encouraging her to be the one to bring this unique business model to Amarillo and her husband cheering her on all the way, she started making a business plan. Lupe had gotten her Associates Degree in Business Management from Amarillo College and changed her major to General Business with a Specialization in Entrepreneurship/Small Business B.B.A. at WTAMU. While preparing a business plan to apply for a small business loan, Ki-Tok was laid off from Bell Helicopter. Even though things were tight while Ki-Tok was off work for two months then took a job with a significant pay cut, he encouraged Lupe to go ahead and jump on her business idea. Lupe went to the WT Small Business Development Center for assistance. They helped her put a plan together and gave her start up advice. In 2013, they asked her if she would like to pitch to their Angel Investors. The investors loved the idea, but were a little skeptical as to how well it would do in Amarillo. So they wanted her to sub-lease a place with around 300 sq. ft. For the next year, Lupe hunted all over Amarillo looking for that particular space. She was either told no or that she could lease space and pay rent but not actually work in the store.
In 2015 Gina, with the SBDC, called to say there were new investors she wanted Lupe to present to. The investors turned out to be a Nurse Practitioner, her Pediatric Doctor husband and their longtime friend who was an oil investor. Lupe said the meeting was just like on Shark Tank where you pitch your idea and the investors offer to give you so much money for a percentage of your company. Lupe told them she had $5,000 saved and needed another $5,000 to start Fluffaholic. They all agreed to the terms and Lupe got an attorney to draw up the papers. Beaming with pride, Lupe walked with Casey, while carrying Max and pregnant at the time, and took the checks and deposited them into her new business account.
Lupe opened Fluffaholic on Black Friday of 2015 in the guest bedroom of their home. With some vendors not wanting to work with Fluffaholic while it was inside their home, Lupe decided to move the store in the master bedroom and block off the front door so customers could walk in the front door and have access to a bathroom and store that was all separated from the rest of the house. As traffic to their house started to increase and some people weren’t comfortable coming to someone’s house they needed a new plan. Lupe thought the best way to have a retail space but not be strapped with a large rent payment would be to share a space with another like minded small business. But finding that opportunity and partnering with someone who’s small business made sense to join forces with would prove difficult until Lupe saw a post on Facebook. Amanda Martinez, owner of Orange Blossom Soap Company, was looking for the exact same opportunity at the same time.In June, 2017 the ladies opened their shared location in at 3318 S. Georgia St. in Suite 2708.
The shared space worked out well for the women as they split the open hours to work around their own families and shared in all of the expenses. In March of 2019, Amanda decided she wanted to close her store and move back to Florida. The nervousness Lupe felt with the news quickly went away as she started expanding her store to absorb the entire space. A new owner bought the property Lupe was renting so it was time for her to decide if she wanted to remodel her existing space or move on to a larger one. Once again she was at a crossroads and as also Ki-Tok was right there to cheer her on and encourage her to expand. So at the end of August 2019, she moved from her 1049 sq. ft. location to a new, bright and open 1600 sq. ft. location at 2622 SW 34th.
Today, Fluffaholic has expanded it’s inventory to include a variety of eco-friendly products and a no-waste section. All of Fluffaholics inventory is available for purchase on their website at www.fluffaholic.com. Lupe has also created partnerships to bring more education and entertainment to her customers. They partner with the Texas Department of Transportation to offer car seat inspections twice a year that is free to the public. There is also a monthly story time and La Lecha meets once a month for breastfeeding support. There is 365 sq. ft. in the back of the store available to rent for parties and baby showers. Lupe also hopes to add a “Mom’s Day In” event and eco-friendly children’s tea parties.
Lupe had a Baby Wearing Meet Up at her store a weekends ago. She hadn’t had time to process all of the recent changes with her expansion. She was able to take it all in as the moms were coming in with their kids and babies and excited to see each other. It was at that moment that she broke down because she realized all her dreams have come true, even the ones she didn’t know she had. Lupe explains, “I never dreamed of being where I am now. I get chocked up.” Lupe has a passion for the products she sells and the business she has created. She’s able to impact other moms and create a community for them to feel safe at their most raw stages of parenting. And she is able to do all of this while breastfeeding, wearing, caring for and schooling her three little ones within her business. “I came from immigrant parents, minorities who struggled all of their life. The basic stuff we needed was there like love, discipline, a roof over our heads and food on the table. But being in a house that’s 800 sq. ft. and six people to where I am now was not in my wildest dreams. In my mind, I’m rich.” When asked how her parents feel now about her owning her own business she said her dad beams and when she saw her mom a few months ago, her mom was so proud she just cried and told her she needed more of her business cards to pass out to her friends.