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Favianna Rodriguez, Co-Founder

Social Activist, Entrepreneur & Design Goddess Favianna Rodriguez

What happens when you cross cutting edge design with social activism? The potential for the largest vehicle of change: communication. Favianna Rodriguez, 28, and other like-minded individuals came together in 2002 to create Tumis, an extremely successful strategic design & communications firm that works to empower progressive and socially conscious organizations to stand out and make a difference. But it’s not enough that Favianna is a Co-Founder & Artistic Director of something so ambitious: she’s also involved with Eastside Arts Alliance (connecting artists from all backgrounds) and Taller Tupac Amaru (reviving the use of screenpriting posters with a political message). She’s definitely dreaming big, and is one of the reasons why we present to you Favianna is this week’s Young & Professional Profile.


Tumis Inc.;
Taller Tupac Amaru;
East Side Arts Alliance


Tumis: 2002
Taller Tupac Amaru: 2003




Favianna Rodriguez
Co-founder & Artistic Director




Oakland, California

Current residence

Oakland, California


University of California (Class of 1999)

Work Experience

Co-Editor, Reproduce & Revolt: A Graphic Toolbox for the 21st Century Activist

Artistic Director & Co-Founder, Tumis Creative Services
Co-Founder, Taller Tupac Amaru

Arts & Culture Segment Producer, Hard Knock Radio KPFA 94.1 FM

Co-Founder, EastSide Arts Alliance (ESAA)

Director, Visual Element



About your companies

The mission of TUMIS is to develop effective communication strategies for the success of our communities. We offer services in technology, design and strategic planning. TUMIS is a people-of-color owned company with a vertically integrated team of planners, designers, artists, and computer programmers. With over 10 years of experience in our fields of expertise, our award-winning projects have garnered national recognition and impact. Our team strives to create and follow efficient processes and effectively transfer knowledge to our clients.

The mission of the Taller Tupac Amaru is to produce and distribute screenprinted political posters and to foster a resurgence in the screenprinting medium. In the past 2 years, the Taller has printed over 30 posters for community grassroots organizations throughout California. Their political posters address themes of education, incarceration, globalization, femicide, media justice neo-colonialism, self-determination, and third world unity.

I co-founded the Eastside Arts Alliance (ESAA) in Oakland, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in California. My exit from college life followed, as I decided to focus on making art in my community and on building the organization. The mission of the Eastside Arts Alliance is to unite the arts with community activism, offering free workshops in visual art, music, dance and digital arts for youth and adults. My work with ESAA spanned from artist, to teacher, to arts administrator, to institution builder.

What are you day-to-day responsibilities?

I wear many hats at Tumis. In its early years, I was one of the lead designers and assisted the day-to-day operations of the business. Today, most of my energy is focused on leading the Sales Team and publicizing the great work of our company. I have the honor to be the person that meets potential clients for the first time, discuss their ideas, and begin to form a relationship. As a shareholder and co-founder, I also work with my fellow officers to set the tone and the vision of the company.

About your background

Co-Editor, Reproduce & Revolt: A Graphic Toolbox for the 21st Century Activist 2005-Current;
Co-editing a book that will contain over 300 new and exciting high-quality black & white illustrations and graphics about social justice and political activism for activists to use on flyers, posters, t-shirts, brochures, stencils or any other graphic aspects of political campaigns.

Arts & Culture Segment Producer, Hard Knock Radio KPFA 94.1 FM 2002-Current;
Research, produce & host radio segments in the fields of art, literature, music, culture and breaking news. Conduct interviews in Spanish and English. KPFA 94.1 FM is one of a handful free-speech radio stations in the country.

Director, Visual Element 1999-2004.
Oversaw mural arts program that trained young artists in the traditions of muralism and graffiti for social change. Coordinated recruitment, instruction, and retention of young graffiti artists of color ages 17-20. Developed street-based arts curriculum. Fundraised over $75,000 annually from grants, foundations, & private commissions.

Most notable milestones

TUMIS is also a design firm that is growing to meet the demands of its clients Since our inception in 2002 we have achieved an annual growth of 25%, reaching a 350% growth by 2006. Our number of clients, most of them referral based, has grown ten fold. Our expansion is a testament to a successful business vision and model.

The Taller Tupac Amaru’s posters have been distributed to the international community at gatherings such as the Free Press Conference, the World Social Forum, and the National Political Hip Hop Convention. In April of 2005, the Taller traveled to Mexico City to teach a political poster workshop with young Mexican artists. There we co-established a Mexico based affiliate, the Taller Xolotl.

In 2005, the East Side Arts Alliance closed escrow on a $4.5 million, multi-use facility that will include a 150-seat theater, a printmaking facility, 16 units of affordable housing and two retail storefront units.

What’s the niche?

TUMIS is unique because we are one of the few companies dedicated to global social justice. Our team has primarily worked with non-profit, social justice, and youth organizations as well as national foundations. TUMIS has provided design and technology services to more than 300 organizations on nearly 500 projects.

TUMIS is unique because we are a business entity that is strongly committed to youth development. We hire youth from our local community and regularly participate in educational activities that encourage youth-of-color to pursue careers in design and technology. TUMIS believes that progressive businesses can be catalysts for economic development and social change. In June 2006, TUMIS relocated its offices to the San Antonio district in Oakland, a community that for generations has been home to immigrants from throughout the world, making it one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in California.

TUMIS is unique because we are a catalyst for economic development and social change. In June 2006, TUMIS relocated its offices to the San Antonio district in Oakland, a community that for generations has been home to immigrants from throughoutthe world, making it one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in California.

What’s in store for the future?

By the year 2020, we would like to expand our design and communication services to radio and television. We are targeting growth in the following cities: Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, and Tokyo. We want to set up and own Media Production Facilities in each of the cities we run Tumis. Each office will have local buy in, local workers, and a connection to local community as well as Virtual Social Change Labs which will be available to community organizations. Untimately, we are seeking to build a worldwide Media Justice Network that includes global design and communications firms and radical media organizations. The goal of the network would be to support people’s movements for social justice throughout the world. The network would have local sites around the world that are composed, informed, and driven by members of the local community. When organizing or media support is needed, the network will help mobilize local forces.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The largest challenge for our company is learning how to handle growth in a manner that remains consistent with our social justice vision. We do not want to become an irresponsible corporation that puts profits before people. We want to expand our model in a manner that is equitable for all workers and people involved.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

I would like to be contacted by people who are interested in supporting our vision, either as an employee, strategic partner, or investor. I would like to talk to people who are interested in running a sociallly responsible business that has a special focus on communities of color.

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

Know and understand your market and be clear on what you can offer. Be the best in your area, go above and beyond for your clients, and always deliver high quality work.

Guiding principle in life

Work in areas that make you happy, and push yourself to produce the highest quality work.

Goal yet to be achieved

Open offices in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Best practical advice

Dream big, plan out your goals and start now. Say no to the things that will not help you reach your long term goals.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

“The work will always be there, take a break, go to sleep.”

“You will succeed because you help others succeed.”


My mother, who began her own business with the income from one of her day jobs, and who grew her own business to astonishing revenues by trusting herself and never yielding to defeat.

Elizabeth Martinez, Chicana historian and author, because of her determination to get the truth out there and her fearlessness.

What motivated you to get started?

I did not enjoy working for someone else because I felt I could always do much more, so I decided to put my energy into something that was my own.

Like best about what you do?

My business partners and the clients I work with, they are dedicated to their mission of social justice and they dream BIG.

Like least about what you do?


At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist.

What was your first job?

Doing bank deposits for my mom’s business.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Fine Art.

Person most interested in meeting

I would like to meet Angelina Jolie and talk to her about our business model. I have big dreams for my art and for TUMIS, and I need the public support of high visibility figures to help me meet my goals.

Leader in business most interested in meeting

Steve Jobs because of his leadership style.

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I MUST sleep 8 hours per day.
2. I don’t drink coffee.
3. I am learning to speak Japanese.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Funny
2. Talkative (very fast)
3. Compassionate

Three greatest passions

1. Art
2. Justice
3. Love

Favorite book

Daniel Alarcon’s War By Candlelight.

Favorite cause

Social struggles in Latin America.

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Interview by Sheena Singh
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid

Also this week

Aaron SahagunDr. Suja Lowenthal

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