My name is Nicholas "Louis" Rico Casanova. Louis is my biological dad's name and as a kid I was super jealous that my brother got his name and I didn't, so I just took it and added it to my name. Problem solved.
I was born in Garland, TX in 1986 in a beautiful Mexican family. For the first few years of my life, my mom had two to three jobs and a single parent raising my brother and me. Mom and Dad divorced when I was a baby, but they always had a somewhat civil relationship. I remember the early years of sleeping in the top bunk with my brother and my mom in the bottom bunk at my nanny's (grandma) house. My dad worked at a shoe store as the district manager and I can imagine pay wasn’t great- but he always got me that present I wanted for Christmas or my birthday every year; Mom and Dad worked so hard to provide for Vinnie and me. I didn't realize that until later in life.
Financially times were extremely tough and yet, my family did a good job distracting us from that. They spoiled us when they could. My stepdad came into the picture when I was very young, I don't remember him early on but remember seeing pictures of us together when I was four or five. I remember Vinnie and me being the ring bearers at their wedding. Basically, you could take the ‘step’ out of step-dad’: the way I see it, I have two dads. In addition to being a new member of our family, Ron had the ability to help us financially and give us a new direction like affording our own home, buying groceries, and making the idea of college a reality. This change was the difference between Mom working two or three jobs at a time to becoming a stay at home mom if that’s what she wanted. From what I understood, I went from being a Mexican kid whose family had some major financial struggles to a Mexican kid who lived in a nice house, a nice neighborhood, and spoiled to a new level.
Between my mom and both dads, they lived to provide us the best life. It wasn’t because they had to; they genuinely would be super stoked to give us the most they could offer. My family worked together to ensure we had a great existence and even with divorce and disagreements knew that their children were more important than anything else: I was blessed.
In 2004, my biological dad passed away in his sleep. I was the one who found him and called 9-1-1. It was the worst fucking day of my life and I was alone. I was 17 years old. At that time, my dad was my best friend. I was going into my junior year at Gig Harbor High School. My Dad’s death really made one thing clear to me: there is so much shit that happens every day that we complain about but things could be so much worse. For example, your dad could die. I had a new standard of what I would worry about. When small things would come up every now and then, I would think to myself, “my dad died, but I got through it”. Part of me grew up super fast but the other part still just wanted to be a high school kid.
I met my wife Brooke in 2005 at a Starbucks I worked at. I made her a 16oz. iced soy latte. Best latte she’s ever had. We had a typical young love relationship: broke up three times, yelled at each other, made out, nervously held hands. I want to give her the world like my parents did for me. She is a lot different then me but exactly the same. Her heart is the most attractive thing about her. I realized a long time ago that I was such a better person when I was with her. So I had to give up my old ways of being a loser and try to win her back. We’ve been together now for about 10 years. CRAZY. She’s my best friend and if you’re mean to her, I’ll beat you up.
2013 was an interesting year for us. At the time Brooke was working for Amazon and Nordstrom in their studios as a freelance stylist and I worked full-time for the YMCA as Program Supervisor for before and after school programs. Financially we were doing pretty well between the two jobs. However, we weren’t happy in either position and it was showing up in our marriage. I complained every day about work and Brooke was getting tired of my rants. Additionally, the industry Brooke worked in wasn’t the easiest and with operations moving to New York, those doors were slowly coming to a close. That’s when Brooke’s mom, Julie, asked if we wanted to purchase her business, UrbanXChange. UrbanXChange had been around for about eight years and specialized in vintage and modern clothing. Yet even after eight years, the business was struggling and Julie was looking to start a new chapter in her life. After some quick decision making and arguing ‘should we do this, should we not?’ -- we pulled the trigger. As of September 1, 2013 Brooke and I were officially small business owners.
It’s 2016 and I’m 30 years old. Brooke and I have been married for four years now and we have a pup named Rio. My older brother just had his second kid with his lovely wife Kimberly. My 19 year old sister is in Texas doing the whole college thing and helping my mom and dad with my triplet siblings that are ten years old.
My family and I invested in a home here in Tacoma that we bought together about a year ago (another way my parents are still spoiling me). These days I thoroughly enjoy a fine glass of whiskey but will shotgun a Rainier if my brother-in-law Ricky can convince me. I’ve gained another sister through Ricky: his wife, Cassie, is way cooler than him. I’d rather stay home and watch Vampire Diaries than go to some busy bar (Larissa gets it)…unless it’s Hank’s. My friend Anna and I like to eat pizza a lot. I don’t get to see some of my great friends as much as I would like: they are up in Seattle.
If you ever see me walking around Tacoma, I’ll have headphones on listening to Linkin Park, Kanye West, Chance The Rapper or one of Gary Vaynerchucks books on audio. I’ve had facial hair for like 10 years. I could most likely make you laugh with a joke or by being super awkward, because I am super awkward sometimes. I just got a new tattoo. It’s traditional artwork of a woman holding a taco. I love being Mexican but sometimes wonder if I’m more Spanish than Mexican. I think I’m going to learn Spanish, finally.
We’ve owned our business for three years. We’ve learned more that I could have ever imagined. The purpose of this website is to share a few things I’ve learned or at least start a dialogue so that I can continue to learn from people around me.
I’ll wrap it up with this: I remember living with my nanny while Mom worked all day, sometimes numerous jobs and Dad trying to sell shoes. I also remember getting a new car when I turned 16 and living in the “nice” neighborhood. The value of remembering who and what got me to where I am is priceless. My parents worked their asses off to give me a world I didn’t deserve. When I go about my business there will always be problems to hinder me from moving forward, but like my parents I remind myself that I do not have a choice. Problem solve the shit out of what comes up and get it done because I have to move forward whether for myself or my family. I have to use that mentality within my business and would love to start using the same approach to help other businesses move forward.