Q. How did you get involved with Nisolo Shoes? What was the journey like getting there?
With my liberal arts undergraduate degree in Economics & Spanish and a minor in Math, I wasn’t exactly sure of my career path. I worked at UCSB for a bit with international students, I moved to Italy and worked for a small marketing firm and then moved back to Santa Barbara where I worked for a school in their business office and coached volleyball. That’s when I started a handmade swimsuit company on the side, working with small scale seamstresses in Mexico and my interest in the fashion industry peaked. I decided to move to NYC in order to gain as much experience as I could working in the heart of the industry and going to graduate school at night. After spending 3 years in NYC, the corporate world that I had been working in lost it’s appeal to me and I realized that my ideal work would combine my love of fashion and my passion for work in developing countries.
I began researching fashion brands that had a social cause behind them. While I was interviewing for some of those organizations, a friend who I met in NYC sent an email introducing me to her friend, Patrick, who was in Peru and was working on starting a shoe company. Our first Skype call was 3 hours long and we quickly realized that our interests and vision were very aligned. A few weeks later, I flew down to Peru to check it all out. In Trujillo, Patrick showed me a town full of amazingly talented and gifted shoemakers. After seeing this, I decided to quit my job in NYC, sell all of my furniture, ship most of my belongings home to California and head to Peru, this time on a one way ticket. That was in June 2011.
Q. Your background is in the fashion industry- what was the transition like from high-end corporate fashion to a start-up? How did it affect you personally and professionally?
This was a transition I always wanted and hoped would happen. I moved to NYC to gain experience working in corporate fashion, but knew that it was not where my passion lay. I relate to and get more excited by the contributions to fashion that handmade products and more boutique type brands and manufacturers bring.
Q. Tell me about Nisolo currently- how has the company transitioned from what it was in the beginning until now?
We’ve moved Nisolo from a garage in Oxford, MS, to working out of my house in the 12th South neighborhood in Nashville to now a beautiful and spacious showroom and office space in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. As I type this, I’m currently in Peru also moving production to a larger space so that we can scale in order to meet our projections for the coming years. Stateside, we now have an amazing team of more than the 3 co-founders, which includes 2 staff members and 5 interns. It’s an ongoing journey – with exciting changes every day. Last week, Patrick and I organized a retreat with all of the shoemakers in “el campo”- the countryside outside of Trujillo – where together we played soccer, BBQ’d and talked about our Nisolo vision and future and their part in it. It was an incredible time with over 40 people and their families, people who in some way are involved with Nisolo: from leather suppliers to shoemakers to shoebag seamstresses.
Q. What does the future hold for Nisolo? Where are you guys going in the next year or two?
We’ve started introducing more accessories to our line – including hand bags that strike a balance between high quality, rugged leathers and bright-colored, Peruvian woven fabrics. This Fall we are also coming out with some more dress styles for men and women. I hope one day to create a knee high riding boot modeled off a vintage pair that has been passed down to me from my mother.
Over the next few years, we plan to continue to develop our line of shoes and accessories while creating more jobs in Peru in this sector. In addition, we plan to empower more artisans by developing further high-quality handmade products – we have some ideas in mind but nothing concrete yet.
Q. Any other projects you are working on? Any projects you are excited about?
We are very excited to be working on a new website for Nisolo. We won a prize to work with a top branding agency out of NYC for 3 months and amongst other things, they are going to help us re-do our website, which will be huge for us. Our website was launched when we first started with very minimum funds in October 2011 and has not been updated since – it is long overdue for an overhaul!
Q. Since you are at the end of your 20′s, looking back, is there any advice you would give to those just starting out? Any lessons you’ve learned the past 10 years that you want to pass on?
Working experience was invaluable in helping me figure out what I like to do and what I don’t like to do. I moved to NYC when I was 23 after already having several years of an established, well salaried job. In New York, I took various non-paying and paying internships and jobs ranging from small 3 person teams to designers in the Meat Packing district to a luxury department store and then finally working for a world wide brand with annual sales of over 2 billion dollars. From there I was able to piece together and really figure out what direction I wanted to head and what I was passionate about. It was definitely a journey that was not easy at times and took a while, and not only helped me to understand myself better but also led me to a place professionally that I’m very proud of as well as stimulated and challenged every day.