We had the good fortune of connecting with Raquel Vélez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Raquel, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Someone once said to me, “stopping isn’t the same as quitting.” It’s really stuck with me, because we (in American culture) often equate quitting with failure. Failure is considered to be morally bad, in a way that reflects on us as human beings. But we are often required to stop on a regular basis, often as a point of safety to ourself or others: we stop at intersections to let other people cross and avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic.
Back to the question: I think it’s imperative that when times are hard, we need to ask ourselves: is it worth my time, energy, and resources to keep going? What am I getting out of this, that makes it worth my while to push through the hard bits? For me, if I’m still learning something interesting, I find a way to push through. But if I’m going through pain because I have some strange requirement to keep going, set by some standard that I didn’t actually choose for myself? It’s no longer safe for me to be doing it. For the safety of myself and potentially others, it’s time to stop. That’s not a failure – that’s a necessary understanding of myself, my values, and the needs of the people I care about.
What should our readers know about your business?
Alpine Parrot creates apparel that celebrates and encourages underrepresented people in the outdoors, specifically people of size and people of color. Our first product, the Ponderosa Pants, are technical hiking pants available in women’s sizes 14-24 and made in two different fit styles to accommodate different shapes in addition to different sizes.
Fun fact: I started out by making the perfect hiking pants for my body before making them for others. As a bigger bodied person, I was tired of not being able to find clothes that enabled me to enjoy the outdoors safely and comfortably. So I made my own patterns, sewed my own clothes, and iterated until I got the fit just right for me. Then I worked on making them fit for the people in my community that I knew were also frustrated with the lack of outdoor apparel options.
Another fun fact: I went full-time on Alpine Parrot in February 2020, just six weeks before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Building an apparel company without being able to come within six feet of potential fit models is rather difficult, but I found a way to make it happen safely and effectively! It really is true that where there’s a will there’s a way. It was through that process that I discovered that I needed to have more than one fit style (or shape) for Alpine Parrot’s products: unlike most brands, our pants come in Mountain and River fit styles (like Pear and Apple, but I’d rather be compared to forces of nature rather than fruit – wouldn’t you?).
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ll be honest – I only moved to Denver in March 2021! As we’re still in the midst of the pandemic, I haven’t had many opportunities to explore the city in the way I would like, but I can say that if you’re looking for some amazing ice cream, there are some really great local shops! I can highly recommend Little Man’s vegan mint Oreo (AMAZING!!), Happy Cones’s Hokey Pokey (just like in New Zealand), and Sweet Cow’s Cookies and Cream Sammie.
Otherwise, I’m all about being in the mountains. From Denver city parks to Rocky Mountain National Park, there are so many places to spend time outside. My heart is where the skiing is, so this winter you’ll definitely find me either at Winter Park or Copper Mountain!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wouldn’t (couldn’t!) possibly be here without the incredible support of my mentors, of which I have many. A special shoutout to Jen Gurecki of Coalition Snow, Sally Bergesen of Oiselle, and Evelyn Murphy of the WAGE Project, who are the giants on whose shoulders I have the great privilege to stand. Of course, there are also hundreds of people who have given me their time and energy as I’ve asked questions and shared wins and losses, but those three are always there when I need them. 💖
All photos uploaded were taken by Sarah Sherman.