A Q&A with the woman who wants to tell others’ stories – Annenberg Media
They say that a picture represents a thousand words. While it may seem like just an image, pictures can tell a wide scope of a story, whether it is one about love, sadness, etc. Entrepreneur Daniela Rodriguez can definitely attest to this as she created her photography business called the Social Cat as a means to help her clients capture their stories.
Rodriguez, who grew up in Lynwood, California, originally wanted to be a news anchor as a child. She took a broadcasting class in high school and was in awe of the different forms of journalism offered. However, through her career in health care, she realized that capturing an image of the real world can be intimate and meaningful. In this Q&A, Rodriguez elaborates on her journey as an entrepreneur as well as being a role model for her nieces, nephews and the community.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
So the first question I want to ask, since the audience might be wondering, what exactly is the Social Cat? Do you think you can elaborate on what your business is about?
A: I was inspired when I was working in nonprofit health care, which that’s where I started because [in] high school, we are asked to do volunteer hours [for] the community. So, I had volunteered at the organization my sister used to work for, which is nonprofit health care. We had clinics in Skid Row, helped families that were low income, and started to work there at the age of 16. I started to document the importance of the connection of having social media available in the clinics, making sure that low-income families can find us and capturing their stories as well and transmitting them on social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. I [also] kept seeing that there were a lot of barriers for their businesses trying to even be listed on Google. I thought, what can I do to help those small businesses myself, I thought, okay, well, one of my skills is social media. So, the Social Cat was born.
When you’re about to turn 30, you start having these thoughts. What can I do to be a greater role model to my nieces and nephews? So, they’re mostly the inspiration behind why I also keep forward with the Social Cat [and] what else can I do to show that we need to do more in our community. It’s not like I’m not going to become Amazon rich, but it’s the feeling for the soul that we meet because we can go on in our day-to-day, but at the end of the day, we’re always searching for something that’s going to fulfill us and what is that we contributed back into our communities.
You mentioned your nieces and nephews, and also, since I went to high school with some of them, I noticed that they seem to admire you so much. Why is it such a grand priority of yours to be their role model?
A: Unfortunately, my nieces and nephews didn’t always have the parents that had such “role model” roles. When the Social Cat was also being born, we were going to and starting in the process of, you know, through the courts. Officially, my nieces and nephews are adopted by my mother, which, you know, when you’re in a Latino family, it’s not that they’re just adopted by your mom. They’re adopted by all of us.
So, when I was in nonprofit health care, before the Social Cat even started, the kids were always with me, they were attending health care events with me, and I think it’s very important to expose kids at such a young age. And I remember, I was seven years old, and I was attending all these grand openings of businesses in my community, and I was attending city council meetings. But I believe it was important that I was exposed, so I needed to expose them as well.
I let them know, [that] there’s a much bigger world out there because I get it, when you’re young, you think the world is falling apart and then, you’re kind of trying to show them there’s a bigger picture. So, it was very important to me to keep exposing them to the idea that there’s more in the world than what is going on in our small little circle sometimes. That’s the social impact that I want to bring to them and bring to others as well. And I think that’s why I was trying to help small families because my background is in sociology. I think it’s just beautiful that we need to all come together and start seeing the world [for] how beautiful it is.
Was there a reason you decided to particularly focus on Latino ran businesses?
A: I identify mostly with them as well. There’s something about living in the city of Lynwood growing up and seeing just honest workers as well, like maybe because I see my parents and them that I feel this connection that I need to help. I’ve learned a lot from them as well. I feel like there was so much wisdom that they brought on to me that I felt like my little helpful social media was nothing compared with everything that they were teaching me back as well. Even then, to them, they were like, ‘Oh my god, this is a whole other world.’
So out of all the different types of storytelling that are out there, why did you decide to focus on photography to tell another small business’ story?
A: Ever since I was a child, I wanted to become a news anchor. I think I found my niche by doing social media and also at our alumni, Pius Matthias. We did have a class that was interested in broadcasting. I believe it was through that exposure as well that our high school gave us and gave me another look at what it is in different journalism that we can do. But I think when I started creating my events, when I was in nonprofit healthcare, I found it more fascinating how you can just capture just one single image, And I can tell so much about what is going on. That’s what keeps me inspired, that there’s so much that could be told in just one captured image. Going through the pandemic, it kind of reiterates how much that we need to hold each other close that we need to really take in every moment, but now we’re starting to learn [that] they might not be here tomorrow. And it was that one single photo, that one single moment, that will always last forever, and I believe that’s the magic of photography, which to me is a certain kind of art. And when I introduce it to my small businesses and show them ‘Look, your products, I can make them come to life, your product is a work of art, do not take it for granted. Whatever you’re creating, it’s coming from the heart, and let me show that to the world.’
I’ve noticed that you were very involved in your community. So outside of your business, what things do you do for the community?
A: So, in my day job, I work for the printing industry association. So, it is the largest regional association for printers and you [would] think maybe, why print? Aren’t you a photographer? Everything that we touch pretty much has been printed on it. We couldn’t have a water bottle. We couldn’t have street signs. We couldn’t have allergy notifications in our food. Everything is packaged. Everything has to be printed, and there was a graphic designer behind it. There was a photographer behind it. It’s the simple, little things that we took for granted that there actually wouldn’t be much of a world turning if it wasn’t for things that were printed.
Was healthcare a contributing factor to creating your own business or not?
A: I would feel they would be because I will not forget where pretty much where I started from. My first real career was in nonprofit healthcare. I feel like I’ve lived a lot of lives in my lifetime. Yes, especially because I work with so many businesses, I’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve worked in nightlife, with flower shops, with all range of you know, politicians, and it, I would feel like to live my life, you would have to be okay with kind of settling into different lifestyles, and nonprofit health care was a big push for me for that, because we were helping low-income families. But even in the different areas that we had such as Skid Row, I always felt like I cannot treat them just as another patient. I always [think] “what if this was my aunt or uncle one day, [falling] into homelessness?” And, yes, it’s a tough population, because every person that comes in is not coming in happy, they’re coming in because they’re sick, because they don’t feel well. And so the first person they see should greet them with the same respect and look them in the eyes, look up, and I acknowledge them because they’re not coming in their best forms. And in healthcare, we had to dig deep down into the human person that they are.
As Rodriguez’s personality shines through, she also plans on using her compassion to continue being involved in the community. She has recently been approved as a city commissioner for the city of Lynwood. To her, that means putting in the work and being able to voice business and residential concerns to help her community grow.
Rodriguez is still invested in helping other small businesses tell their stories through photography. It is her many experiences and roles that have inspired her to be the Latinx female entrepreneur who cares about keeping in touch with members of the community to this day.
You can view her website here.