Tell me about the moment you knew you wanted to start this company.
It actually happened a while ago... I have to tell you who I am first for you to understand why I am doing this today. Back in Brazil I was family of four kids, and when there’s too many kids, you’re on your own. Nobody is holding your hand, you learn that by figuring things out yourself. I wanted to do things that not everyone else was doing but that cost money. If I wanted to raise money in Brazil I was picking up cow poop to sell to the neighbor to use as fertilizer. So I did that!
Eventually I had to decide, "what am I going to go for?" I landed on computer science because it was a booming technology, but still green and black screens at that time. But as soon as I got a job I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My boss and I were bumping heads because that is who I am. If I disagree with something I say it. One day she came up to me and yelled, “YOU ARE UNMANAGEABLE!” And you know what? I thought ‘she is right. I am unmanageable. I am going to have to manage my own thing.”
I tried a few things; I love animals so I thought I might buy a pet shop. But I also really wanted to travel. Should I go see the world? See snow? YES I should, so I packed my stuff and moved to the US.
If you look at my past, you’ll see I had to figure it out on my own, which is what starting a business is. You have to figure it out on your own.
I’ve just been connecting dots until now. Traveling, computer science, business school, having my boss yelling at me, picking up poop… It all came together to run my own business.
But why a clothing company?
Clothing is a way for me to connect everything. Colors, the outdoors, women, it’s everything I want to be involved in. I wanted to make a product that combines all of that, with what is missing out there. But it’s not just the clothing. I hope Mana Threads opens doors to more ideas: women supporting women, helping refugees, the planet. Anywhere I can tap into doing good for the long run, I am pretty much going to get involved. Not every opportunity is a good opportunity unless it aligns with what you believe. I think we’re doing good but we can do even better.
What is one thing you regularly do as business owner that we probably wouldn’t guess is part of the job?
I take photos of all the clothing myself, down in my basement. I take selfies for the website! You have to! Web design, customer service, emails, designing the clothes- you name it I do it.
What’s one thing you struggle with?
You know how some people can’t see blood? I can’t answer the phone. I can’t do it! I used to hand the phone to my husband and say “what’s this?” Then he tells me and I say “have them send me an email” When I had a store, I was terrified of someone calling! Now, our events lady Milissa does the phone calls.
What’s your favorite MT piece of clothing you’ve ever designed?
As simple as it is, it’s the Hana Hou, ‘cause I see how happy ladies are when they put it on. It checks so many boxes: good fit, not too tight to your tummy, great neckline. It's simple now but it went through a ton of changes. I was saying to the seamstress “you gotta go shorter there, looser here.” I love the reaction of people when they put that one on.
Your schedule must be crazy between designing clothing, updating the web, outreach, customer service, the list clearly goes on and on... What is a typical “day in the life” for you?
Morning: I’m answering emails, getting back to customers, packing for shipments, hand wrapping and writing notes to customers. Then I make a drop off at the postoffice, check in with Milissa on events, eat, workout, try to get an hour on the phone with my sister in Brazil, look at upcoming media posts, pack for upcoming events, drop off bins with reps, check on inventory and products, write new descriptions, do post trunk show reordering. Oh, that takes my whole day!
What do you do to stay sane through all of this?
Go outside. I need to see sunsets, it makes my day end on a good note. There is a huge missing part of my day if i didn’t see it. I’ll be really pissed if I missed a good one. If I have to drive as fast as I can to see it, I’ll do that.
I also have to move my body. It’s a must, otherwise I just go crazy. If I have the choice between the leaf blower or the rake, I’ll take the rake.