Undoubtedly, 2020 presented a year of challenges, but for Riverside resident Iris Natasha Linares, it sparked intense self-reflection, ruminating on the future and examining personal goals. And she kept hearing one nagging question: 

“If not now, when?”

Despite living in the midst of a global pandemic, mass business closures and widespread uncertainty, Linares decided there was no better time to take the plunge and do what she’s always wanted to do — open her own business.

On Oct. 16, the Riversider launched Iris and Indi, an online Bohemian brand focused on home decor, clothing, vintage and other specially curated items. Products range from shirts and jackets to jewelry, hats, blankets and wall art.

Inspired by Linares’ independent spirit and the latest fashion trends for young women, Linares promotes Iris and Indi as a sustainable brand to inspire dream chasers and bring a one-of-a-kind lifestyle brand to shoppers locally and nationwide.

While Linares is new to the business world, she is no stranger to entrepreneurship.

A native of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, Linares has always had her sights set on the fashion industry and being her own boss.

In high school, she started her own YouTube channel, sharing outfits of the day and current clothing trends. But by the time she began college at Dominican University in 2010, her channel took a back seat to the demands of classes, student fashion shows and working to pay for school.

After graduating in 2014 with a degree in apparel design and fashion development, Linares again decided to pick up YouTube-ing, juggling video production alongside working in various positions within the retail industry.

Linares felt she’d be best able to express herself through video as opposed to standard photo blogs.

“I’m a pretty talkative and outgoing person as it is, so I just felt more comfortable with video,” she said. “It was something that was more interesting to me rather than just taking photos and writing a paragraph on a blog. You could actually feel and see my personality.”

At first, her YouTube channel mainly focused on makeup tutorials, affordable fashion finds and beauty product hauls.

Fortunately for Linares, her personality did shine through video — enough that within the first couple of months of relaunching her channel, her videos caught the attention of a YouTube manager who introduced Linares to an online marketing program, where she would learn the tools needed to get paid for videos through ad revenue and score corporate brand sponsorships. 

Noticing the growth of social media trends and lifestyle influencing, Linares’ channel began a shift from beauty product reviews to sustainable thrift shopping, home decor and organization and day-in-the-life content. She also began cross-promoting her content through Instagram. 

Linares’ current YouTube viewership ranks at over 1.5 million views, and to date her videos have included paid sponsorships with brands like Cupshe, FabFitFun, Function of Beauty, MixEasy, MVMT Watches Inc., Poshmark and Otherland.

She credits her growing audience and shifting popular social media trends to helping solidify the need to both build her own personal brand and finally launch a business. 

“I didn’t want to continue always making the same content,” she said. “Twenty-three-year-old me and 28-year-old me are just very different. We have different priorities and we’re at different places in life. I like to still play with makeup, but I want to share things in my life where they’re at now.”

Today, Linares says what’s attracting audiences to her content is showing her daily life authentically — something she says she needed to showcase if she wanted to launch a successful business. 

“I knew I couldn’t have all those [previous] videos and go ‘Bam, I’ve started a business,'” she said. “I think I always knew that I had more to offer. I was always hungry for more, and I think that’s where it all stemmed from. I knew I wanted to be my own boss one day. 

Linares credits growing a YouTube channel from zero to a base of over 1 million views to providing the strong online community needed to sustain an e-commerce business. 

“I knew when I started my business it would be kind of that same adrenaline, like I’m starting from nothing, and I’m working to build it to something I’ve always envisioned for myself,” she said.

Starting her business took Linares roughly a year and a half, from obtaining her business license in March 2019 to spending the next 18 months creating brand logos, product packaging, website and social media design and inventory. 

And, despite the current business climate, Linares decided now was the time to go full speed ahead with Iris and Indi. Especially this year, the influence of social media and online shopping gave her the confidence she needed to open. 

“Just seeing entrepreneurs — especially other women and Latinas just go for it — pushed me that this is the year for me to do this,” she said. “As much as we love a good brick and mortar to go walk around … we don’t know what the future holds. I feel like this year specifically, any retailers online have really been able to shine, whether it’s a small business or really big corporation.”

Additionally, with the ever-growing culture of female lifestyle influencers taking over YouTube and Instagram, what Linares says sets her apart is her continued interaction with followers and hope that viewers see a little bit of themselves in her.

“I’m an open book and I share everything,” she said. “Not only am I sharing new content on my YouTube channel, but I’m willing to share with you what it’s like — the struggles, being completely honest, showing you how exhausted I am, showing you how excited I am, showing you what works and what didn’t.”

To shop Iris & Indi, visit irisindi.com. Follow Linares on YouTube at youtube.com/brunettefreckle and on Instagram at @iris.tasha and @shopirisindi.