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Community and Competition: Inside the Mind of a 19-Year-Old Founder

Portrait of LOTTA worldwide Founder Mateo Galvez. Surrounding him are illustrations that represent his business, his inspiration and his future goals.

In Season 2 of our Homework series, we explore the lives of ordinary teens with not-so-ordinary hobbies. Between part-time jobs and school work, these young founders are also running successful businesses—many before they can even drive a car. 

In high school Mateo Galvez was a self-professed troublemaker. Then, at 16 years old, something changed. He “woke up,” he says, and started his motivational apparel business, LOTTA WORLDWIDE. Through hard work and the help of his mentor and supportive family, Mateo, now 19, is about to celebrate three years in business. 

In 2017, Mateo was one of two winners in Shopify’s BEASTMODE-a-Business, a competition that challenged marginalized youth in Oakland, California to build and grow businesses. Today, Mateo’s putting LOTTA through the paces again, competing in an incubator program for a $30,000 prize. 

When Mateo’s not working on building his brand (which is a lot), he’s studying accounting in college and completing a data analyst internship. Does he sleep? Not much. But he gets energy from doing events to promote his business and even finds time for a run along the beach.

About Me

Illustration of an ethnically ambiguous teenager, holding a mini version of himself in his hand, as a metaphor for introducing himself. Name: Mateo Galvez

Age: 19


Where I live: San Francisco, California

What I do for fun:

On the weekend, I go to these hip-hop events for my brand at clubs. I get to meet girls, stuff like that. But I also like running. That’s how I clear my head. I run to the beach, do, like, five miles. Looking at monitors or a computer a lot, I need to focus on something else.

A book I read recently was:

Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff. When I was an intern at Salesforce, my manager asked me to read this book the first day on the job. What a special book that shares the stories of how Marc Benioff started Salesforce and shaped the business structure. Overall, I loved it because it shows one dream can really change your life.

Podcasts I’m listening to:

Big Data and TED Talks on new technology and entrainment evolving in this world.

What I’m studying in school:

I go to San Francisco State University, where I’m studying business. I’m taking accounting and all these cool courses so I can apply them to my business.

In a typical week:

When I’m not in school, I work from 8 am through 5 pm, and then from 5 pm through, maybe, 1 am, I’m working on my business. And then sometimes I’m in calls. Every Thursday I’m in incubator meetings. I definitely think I have 40 hours per week of working on my brand, probably more.

Illustration of a young woman juggling cubes in one hand to reflect the idea of starting a business.


There’s a lot of people that have to face struggles and tribulations, and I’ve seen that firsthand. And I wanted to really grasp that and really share that story, because it’s all about the storytelling and connecting people together. 

Why community matters to me:

My father immigrated from Guatemala to San Francisco. At the time, it was a place where all immigrants came for opportunity. My father landed at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a big Italian community, and he grew up with Italian folks. They literally helped him from nothing. And it was just a meaningful thing.

Community in my childhood has been everything. I’m a Latino and identify as a person that doesn’t see people for their color, but as individuals. In America, there’s a lot of discrimination. So I wanted to emphasize community and building together and not destroying each other and really try to figure out a way we can build solutions.

What makes a good entrepreneur:

I definitely think you have to be good at having good time management, be very disciplined, and not go to parties. You have to have a certain kind of way of carrying yourself too. You have to be good with money, understand how to value money and how to invest it. And really understand that if you want to grow your business you’ve got to sacrifice. You’ve just got to be strong and be a leader and show others how they could help you.

I definitely think that entrepreneurship is a way out of the struggle. You’re not broke, you’re just in a bad situation where you could have the opportunity of making it happen for yourself. So I definitely think you have to have a strong mindset. You can’t be afraid. You have to be a person who’s willing to take a risk.

Illustration of a young black teenager looking through binoculars at objects which reflect his future dreams. Books, a plane and a microphone.

What motivates me:

My family. Negativity motivates me too, because I want to fight that and have positive energy. I wake up every day and try to figure out, What’s my mission? What's my goal? Seeing my parents work hard, I got to really understand the struggles they face, so I don’t want to go the same path. I really see this as a way that I’m helping myself and the future of my family.

My goal for the future is:

To travel the world. That’s really what I want to do. I went to Mexico two months ago to visit my family. It was awesome. It was a way that I could understand how to work hard because my family there has a different life. It was very humbling. But right now I’m building this empire and that’s literally my life right now.

💡 Essential reading: Start your own business before you graduate and get inspired by 12+ business ideas for teens and kids

Illustrations by Joel Holland