ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After years of dealing with workplace bias and discrimination when searching for jobs, an Albuquerque woman, who is deaf, is opening her own store — and some of the products are already a hit. Bath bombs and beauty products weren’t a part of Christi Leonardi’s original plan when it came to her career.
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“I was actually going to grad school for Anthropology. I wanted to be an anthropologist but my daughter showed some signs of having a disability and she needed me,” said Leonardi, owner of Hotsy Totsy Haus. “I needed to spend more time with her and be there for her as she was going through these things.”
Leonardi is deaf and knew all too well how important it is to be there for her daughter, so she dropped out of graduate school. However, the job hunt wasn’t easy. Because of her own disability, Leonardi says she often faced discrimination when searching for new employment.
“The biggest obstacle is communication and being taken seriously. I think being both a woman and being deaf has its equal troubles,” said Leonardi. “People assume because you’re deaf, you’re not intelligent. You don’t have, you know, the grit to be in a position of power or authority or to be successful and that couldn’t be more far from the truth.”
Eventually, to bring in extra cash, she started making bath bombs and selling them on Etsy. Launching Hotsy Totsy Haus, Leonardi’s online biz rooted in self-care, quickly gained celebrity attention, becoming a favorite for award show swag bags.
“I like to make them really, really pretty. Sometimes they’re a little bit rustic, sometimes they’re gold but they have to be pretty and unique in their own way. Also, have to be really good for your skin,” said Leonardi. “I’ve done the Grammys and this will be my second time, actually third time, doing the Oscars swag bags.”
Now, years in the making, the single mom and entrepreneur is launching her first brick-and-mortar store. She hopes in addition to providing luxury goodies for locals, she can also provide work opportunities for others that weren’t available to her, proving disabilities can be an asset for businesses, not a hindrance.
“My ultimate dream, I want to open more stores, definitely want to open more stores,” said Leonardi. “I want to create jobs, I want to create jobs that pay a living wage, decent wage, I want to give opportunities to other deaf individuals.”
As for the person who inspires the venture in the first place, Leonardi wants to teach her daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to. “She’s doing great. She’s doing wonderful. She’s actually helping me out right now, at the store, putting price tags on everything.”
Hotsy Totsy Haus is celebrating their grand opening on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new store is located at 10301 Comanche Rd NE, between Eubank and Juan Tabo.