The Phoenix Mercury selected Rosaura ‘Chawa’ Magaña, owner of Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, as the first recipient of the EntrepreneuHER Award presented by FirstBank. The inaugural award recognizes an outstanding woman-owned small business in the local community with a $5,000 grant.
Magaña, who was honored during the Mercury’s Inspiring Women Night on Friday, was selected from 182 nominated female business owners across the Valley. Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, which opened in 2015, is the only bilingual bookstore in the Phoenix area. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, Magaña hopes to provide an inclusive space where marginalized voices can be represented and valued. The bookstore has grown into a local community and cultural hub with a specially curated diverse collection of books, an art gallery, workshop, event space and small mutual aid garden.
WHAT PUSHED YOU TO OPEN UP PALABRAS BILINGUAL BOOKSTORE?
Magaña: “I was motivated to start Palabras because I felt there was a need to create an inclusive safe space where historically marginalized communities of color could come to share their stories and connect. I also felt it was important to create a bookstore specifically because books by BIPOC authors were not being represented enough in bookstores and in the book industry as a whole. I felt that it was important for BIPOC communities to see themselves in the stories that they read and to know that their stories, that their voice is valued, important and powerful.”
WHO INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
“My mom inspired me because she always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do with my life and wanted more for myself and my siblings than she had. She was also a very kind and generous person who cared for others without judgment or expectations. I like to think that the spirit of my mom, who passed on many years ago, lives on in the special space that we have created at Palabras.”
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CONNECT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY THROUGH YOUR BUSINESS?
“We connect with the community through the books we carry, that’s a big one. I have seen people moved to tears just because there’s a place that exists where they feel seen, especially in literature. It can be a very powerful experience for BIPOC communities who have experiences growing up and not seeing themselves represented in the books that were available to them. We also connect with the community through all of the community events that we hold at Palabras. We have writing workshops, book clubs, open mics, discussion groups, local art markets and collaborate with local organizations that work with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.”
HOW HONORED ARE YOU TO RECEIVE THIS AWARD FROM THE PHOENIX MERCURY?
“I am so very honored to receive this award from the Phoenix Mercury. As a small business owner, it can sometimes be difficult to notice all that has been accomplished as you work tirelessly to keep your dream alive. This award has helped me take a moment to peek my head out from my work and take time to feel and understand what’s been accomplished over the last seven years. I don’t call myself a business owner. I call myself the steward of Palabras. I provide the space, but it’s ultimately the community that gives it life, so I’m honored by what we’ve been able to do together and this award as an acknowledgment of that.”
HOW SPECIAL IS IT TO RECEIVE THE $5,000 FROM FIRSTBANK AND WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO YOUR BUSINESS?
“I started Palabras with no capital and no investors, heck I didn’t have books. I was renting a small, shared space that was mainly used for community events on the weekends and slowly built up my inventory from there. I left my job in early 2019 to commit to Palabras full time and it’s been a rollercoaster just to keep the lights on. Selling books in this market without funding or resources is a huge challenge, but it’s so worth it to me because of the community space that we provide, and I’ve seen it touch so many people’s lives, including my own. All that to say, these funds are a big help and very appreciated. These funds will mean that we will be able to pay some bills, which will help get us through this slow Phoenix summer. Thank you to FirstBank!”
PALABRAS BILINGUAL BOOKSTORE
ADDRESS: 906 W Roosevelt St. Unit 2, Phoenix, AZ 85007