La Familia Fresa: Lu’s Strawberries Feels the Love
Family Business Draws Support and Inspiration from Instagram and Customers
By Celina García
Despite my on-again, off-again relationship with Instagram, something that always brings me joy is seeing people on the app starting their own businesses, pursuing their niche passions, trying new things, taking chances on themselves. While social media has a way of unveiling feelings of one’s own inadequacies, on the flip side, I often find myself inspired by those who use the platform to create a loving community.
Grecia Pizano and Ricardo “Richy” Gonzalez, the couple behind Lu’s Strawberries, have achieved exactly that. As you might have guessed, their small business, named after their eldest daughter, Lucianna, specializes in the most original and ornately decorated fresas (strawberries) you will find on the Central Coast. For the time being, their business is conducted solely via Instagram.
Grecia first began this venture by promoting herself on the “UCSB Buy-Sell-Trade” page on Facebook. After their first big sale on Father’s Day of last year is when they made the jump to Instagram at the recommendation of those first clients, and that is when business began to blast off. Having recently partnered with the popular local foodie account @sbgoodeats for a giveaway in celebration of hitting 3.5k Instagram followers, Lu’s is now slowly approaching 4,000. However, they speak with just as much excitement recalling when they reached their first 100.
Richy likens the process of engaging with their customers via social media in search of new flavors, designs, and textures to working with a tattoo artist to create something personal. They often use the polls feature or simply make a post on their “Stories” asking their followers if they have any requests or cravings to satisfy their sweet tooth. Their “Highlights” section is filled with testimonials and pictures of happy customers, excited to show off their custom orders, and a list of toppings to choose from that is sure to make your mouth water.
Fan favorites include their matcha flavor, Fruity Pebbles (which you must try with their fresas con crema!), and De la Rosa candy. If you scroll through their Instagram timeline you will see designs ranging from Fortnite to Barney, the Pride flag, the Powerpuff Girls, Hello Kitty, 4/20, Baby Yoda, Sailor Moon, Snoop Dogg — you name it! There is nothing Grecia can’t create; her strawberry artistry is simply unmatched.
After our conversation, I spent the next several hours ruminating over something Grecia had said about working in the service industry versus being self-employed and promoting her work via social media. She mentioned that while working for a restaurant, hotel, or other business, you may sometimes encounter people who “don’t expect anything from you beyond being in service to them.” In contrast, the tremendous amount of love and support she has received from her online following has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
Thanks to their online community, “People see me, and not just what we can do for them,” Grecia explains. “It’s amazing when people tell us that we make their day better. They inspire me to keep going.”
Courtesy of Lu’s Strawberries
“With social media,” Richy agrees, “the great thing is that we are able to connect with them in an instant. Through tagging us, or sharing our content, it really brings a smile to our faces. It means so much that we’ve become a part of their special occasions.”
Instagram has also allowed them to network with other community members who share similar aspirations, from the father-son duo behind The Bagel Boiz to Tommy Chang of Kin Bakeshop (formerly known as Mōr Doughnuts), who kindly brought them dinner when their younger daughter, Valentina, was having surgery. Additionally, Chang even lent them his coolers and an umbrella when they attended their first Mujeres Makers Market. If it weren’t for his generosity, they wouldn’t have made much of a profit that day.
“The people we’ve met along the way are incredible,” Richy says. Grecia nods. “We really have so much love for each other.”
During our discussion, I shared a recent article on a Santa Barbara website about 27 restaurants opening in the area in 2021. It was noticeable to me that very few of them were owned by people of color. “Not everybody has those kinds of resources or opportunities,” Grecia says, “but everyone deserves a chance.”
Courtesy of Lu’s Strawberries
The couple hopes to one day transition their family operation from the digital landscape to operating their own shop, where customers may come in and select their own strawberry toppings. In the meantime, they are looking forward to participating in future pop-ups and Makers Markets around town and meeting their virtual clientele face-to-face.
“To think that just a little over a year ago I was ready to quit, but thanks to him I didn’t,” Grecia says, giving Richy a little smile. “In the beginning it was only me, but now we are a real team.”
To learn more about creating a custom order of decorated strawberries, check out @Lus.Strawberries on Instagram. Do yourself a favor and scroll through their feed for endless, delicious inspiration.