Amor & Rosas - Interview

Melissa Bowden interview

LAURA - AMOR & ROSAS

“I wanted to switch careers from marketing to social entrepreneurship, because I realised that making the difference in unprivileged people’s lives could give me all the self-realisation that I need to be happy. ”

— LAURA MELENDREZ, CO-FOUNDER - AMOR & ROSAS

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I MET LAURA IN MEXICO WHILST ON HOLIDAY AND INSTANTLY CONNECTED! WHILST CHATTING ON THE BEACH I LEARNT ABOUT HER COMPANY AND OUR MUTUAL INTEREST IN SUSTAINABLE BRANDS BUILT WITH A TRANSPARENT BUSINESS MODEL AND PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. HER BRAND AMOR & ROSAS,IS SOLD IN USA AND MEXICO AS WELL AS WORLDWIDE THROUGH PRIVATE ORDERS. IT IS A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE OF CARING ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE PRODUCTS AS WELL AS PRESERVING TRADITIONAL ARTISAN TECHNIQUES.LAURA IS AN INSPIRING ENTREPRENEUR AND I'M GLAD TO SHARE HER STORY SO FAR! 

 

WHEN AND WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR AMOR & ROSAS COME FROM AND WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CREATE THE COMPANY?

 

The idea of starting Amor & Rosas comes back to the moment when I quit my job to go and study my masters at Yale School of Management.  At that time, I wanted to learn about social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability to come up with a competitive business model. I wanted to switch careers from marketing to social entrepreneurship because I realised that making the difference in unprivileged people's lives could give me all the self-realisation that I need to be happy.

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After making that clear decision, everything started to fall into place for me to start Amor & Rosas. First came the decision of finding the group to impact and this was very easy.

Indigenous women in Mexico are very discriminated because of machismo and also because being indigenous is not well respected since the time of Spanish conquest and rule. Most of the indigenous population live in poverty with little access to employment opportunities. Within this group, there are artisans carrying our cultural legacy.

I also knew from my experience that most of the handcrafts sold in Mexico have a design problem; usually the fit is not right for a modern person.

Putting those two ideas together brought to life Amor & Rosas: creating high quality and authentic clothing with modern design, embellished with handmade embroidery or artisanal textiles.

The result is job creation in rural areas of Mexico to help women reach their economic independence and long-term generate economic development in those areas too.

The moment of truth and development for the company was when I was reading my emails and saw a contest for a fellowship at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. I decided to participate and after a few months, Amor & Rosas was among 6 other winning teams. This meant the company would receive seed funding and mentorship during the summer. 

 

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH VARIOUS LOCAL ARTISANS AND HOW DO YOU SUPPORT THEM?

 

The most important point to keep in mind here is that they are also entrepreneurs. We have a supplier-customer relationship, where Amor & Rosas is a friendly customer. As a friendly customer, we expect them to learn about quality, pricing, production planning, deadlines, and invoicing while working with us.  Our expectation is that the artisans working with us learn better business practices and feel confident dealing with any type of customer after experiencing the whole business cycle.

We find artisans groups by going to the villages. There are 4 million indigenous artisans registered in Mexico, most of the live in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, also the poorest states in Mexico. The villages are famous for particular techniques. We go there to gather a group, talk about our project, explain how we do business, and start working with the groups interested.

Out of 8 initial groups, we ended up working with only 2 groups long term. It is an auto-selection process, the groups committed with having a better life are open to work with different materials and drawings. In return, we pay them 4 or 8 times more than the minimum wage. Our idea is that as housewives, they can work only part-time and make enough money to provide for their families and also have time to keep up with their chores.

  Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Amalia (in the middle) with her sisters and cousins.

Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Amalia (in the middle) with her sisters and cousins.

We are always available for them. The idea of visiting their homes before we started working together was to monitor the change we can make in their lives. Now we visit the communities twice a year or we pay their passages for them to visit us in Mexico City. Most of our communication happens through phone calls or Whatsapp, since it is very important to make sure they have no doubts related with the work they have to do and we can easily check with a picture if they are doing it correctly.

Whenever we are visiting the communities we keep in mind to be very respectful to their customs and practices, and be aware of not interfering with their social rules. We are there to provide a job opportunity. As any other social group, they have their own ruling system, which sometimes is hard for an outsider to understand.

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CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT WHERE THE ARTISANS LIVE AND WHERE THEY WORK?

 

At the moment we are working with 9 artisans groups, in total 98 artisans. They are located in the states of: Hidalgo, State of Mexico, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Their ethnicities are: Otomi, Mazahuas, Zapotecos, and Mayas. They speak different languages in each area. The groups located closer to the main cities, like Otomis in Hidalgo, speak more Spanish. In contrast, the groups in Chiapas state speak mostly their own language and only a few people speak Spanish, mostly males.

  Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Erika, Amor & Rosas´ Creative Director, is giving instructions to the group and Amalia is translating to Tzotzil. 

Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Erika, Amor & Rosas´ Creative Director, is giving instructions to the group and Amalia is translating to Tzotzil. 

The best part of our project is that they have the flexibility to work where they want and the amount of time they have available, because we pay by piecework. Most of the times the groups are integrated by relatives. They have a leader, who is the person speaking Spanish that serves as a bridge with the customer.  When the job is complex, they all gather at the biggest house and work together to understand the task at hand.

CREATING A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE, OVER FAST FASHION IS HARD WORK AND EXPENSIVE. FOR PEOPLE THAT KNOW LESS ABOUT THE PRODUCTION CHAIN IN FASHION, WHY DO YOU BELIEVE IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE CHANGE THE WAY WE BUY CLOTHES?
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Fast fashion leaders can always transform their companies into social enterprises to transform the whole industry, but doing that would reduce their profits, which is the driving force for many in the fast-fashion business. Hopefully in the future, through customers’ demands, the industry leaders will be forced to change the way they source their products towards a more honest and transparent process. In the meantime, small social enterprises can serve the niche market of those conscious consumers willing to pay a premium price for their peace of mind. It is important because I do not want my consumption habits to impose slavery over a free human, who was born in less favourable circumstances than mine.

WHAT DO YOU FIND HARDEST ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

 

The financial results are never good enough. Even when they are good, there are so many needs than you have to be always very critical with expenditures.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR OTHER ETHICAL ENTREPRENEURS OUT THERE?

Follow your passions. Starting your business is not easy but the satisfaction of doing what you love and constantly challenging your own capacity is the best reward that a human can have.  Being an ethical entrepreneur is a path of self-discovering.

IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE WORD TO PROMOTE A POSITIVE THINKING FOR THE FUTURE, WHAT WORD WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

Transformation

  Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Angelica´s group "Margaritas" (Daisies) say goodbye to Erika and Laura. 

Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico - Angelica´s group "Margaritas" (Daisies) say goodbye to Erika and Laura. 

A CIRCLE BACK IS ABOUT PROMOTING EASY WAYS TO MAKE IMPROVED CHOICES WHEN IT COMES TO PURCHASING FOR YOURSELF OR OTHERS. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ETHICAL GIFT YOU’VE BOUGHT OR BEEN BOUGHT?

A second-hand winter jacket. We do not have to buy from ethical brands only, we can just make better decisions when buying. If you already have fast fashion items, commit to make them part of your style and take care of them, so they last for years.

A CIRCLE BACK ALSO CHAMPIONS DESIGN-LED MODERN PRODUCTS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MOST INNOVATIVE ITEM YOU’VE COME ACROSS RECENTLY?

Water recycling system installed in houses.

LASTLY, WHAT DOES THE SHAPE OF A CIRCLE MEAN TO YOU? 

Positive circle = Virtuous cycle, where we can all have a better outcome to the world.

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TAKE A LOOK AT THE LINE AND GET IN TOUCH IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE: AMOR & ROSAS.



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