I’ve been obsessing over Nena + Co.
bags for months now. I think of any excuse to have one of Ali’s gorgeous pieces on my body at all times. I am so excited to feature Ali, the genius owner behind Nena + Co, + also be giving away one of her beautiful camera straps this week. I will announce the winner on Saturday, MAY 17.
instructions to enter the giveaway:
1. LIKE Nena + Co on Facebook
or LIKE Nena + Co on Instagram
. and 2. comment on this post, telling me if you prefer to interact/keep up with me on Mama Hussy or Instagram. 3. LIKE my photography Facebook page
ENJOY ALI’S INTERVIEW BELOW:
G. How old were you when you dreamed up this business?
A. Like a lot of people out there, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing but I wasn’t sure what I could do. I had grown up around Guatemalan textiles but when I was in my mid 20’s I started to see them and art work from Guatemala in a different way. I started to realize a lot of people would love them if they were exposed to them. At first I wanted to import antique furniture from Guatemala because they have such amazing finds there, church doors, benches, and dinning tables that are all hand carved and stunning. But the logistics of that were just too overwhelming so I put that on the back burner. Artisan’s in Guatemala have been turning “huipils” and “Corte” (or traditional Maya clothing) into usable every day items like bags or table runners for a long time but they always looked too “hippy” for me. For example, they seemed amazing when you’re in a exotic setting in the market and so you buy it, but then you take it home and think “its not as cool as i remember it being.” The problem was that they didn’t have the right designs for Westerners to see the beauty in the materials being used and also be able to incorporate it into their everyday life without feeling like a sucker that came home from vacation with their hair braided in corn rows.
G. How long did it take to make it happen?
A. The idea of making bags and other products from traditional Maya clothing probably was an idea I had 7 years in the making. It didn’t come into fruition until January of 2013 and I was up and running by June of 2013. Luckily my family is from Guatemala and my Mom was already working with women in Guatemala for her own business. And my Aunt has dedicated her entire life to working with under priviallged Maya’s in Guatemala so naturally I went to her since she was my inspiration to work with Maya people. The combination of my Aunt and my Mom made it a lot easier to set up a company with the infrastructure that I have.
G. What’s your favorite thing you’ve gotten to do for these ladies in Guatemala through your bags?
A. We work with non-profits a lot and of course that has been fantastic but giving women and men steady work is what I am most proud of because it’s something they can be proud of as well.
G. What’s your favorite bag?
A.My favorite bag always changes! Its usually whatever the newest design is. So right now its the Fringe Tote. But my new favorite product is the Kimono!
G. Where do you see this business in 3 years? Has your vision changed at all?
A. I am expanding to boots, accessories, Baby & Child and a small collection of Home Goods. The homes goods will start with pillows, throws and other small item but I would LOVE to be able to import furniture like I had originally hoped to do. My greater vision has stayed put and will continue on the same path of giving more work to more people that need it. And to pay fair wages since that is so important to me. The more I create the more possibilities I can see and so my design vision keeps expanding and evolving almost daily!
G. Even if you’re very passionate about the vision of your business, owning a business can be stressful. What are your go-to stress relievers?
A. Knowing that you can’t do everything on your own is an important thing to realize. I love what I’m doing but I had one too many nights that I would break down and cry because I couldn’t keep up with the everyday work and the “looking ahead” work such as product development, quality control, and marketing. One of the biggest stress relievers was hiring people to help me. Knowing when to ask for help is a big deal. I also stopped working out completely when I first started and working out it a BIG stress reliever for me. I make myself do some sort of work out at least 2-3 times a week whether I have time for it or not. I make time. I love Crossfit and I just started Barre classes!
G. Your parents work with/for you. What is your favorite + the hardest thing about working with family.
A. I’m super lucky to have a great relationship with my parents. If they weren’t working with me, I would be annoying them like crazy asking them for help and with a million questions. My parents have been entrepreneurs ever since I can remember and they both run and own their own business’s at the moment as well so there is nothing they haven’t gone through that I’m going through right now! So the best part is they are incredibly supportive and have been the behind the scene force that has kept me organized in a way that we can continue to grow. I’m not sure if there is down side at the moment but if I had to say something I think the hardest part is I feel really annoying sometimes when I have no idea how to do something and need a lot of their input. But I’m learning from them and they make me feel like everything is a learning process and its OK.