Cristina Palomo-Nelson + Megan Papay, Founders and Designers at Freda Salvador

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Cristina Palomo-Nelson + Megan Papay, Founders and Designers at Freda Salvador

Name: Cristina Palomo-Nelson + Megan Papay

Title: Founders and Designers at Freda Salvador

City: San Francisco, CA

Passion: Shoes + Community

Website www.fredasalvador.com

The story of Freda Salvador seems wonderfully inevitable. Cristina grew up with family in the shoe business. It's as if shoes have always been in her blood. Megan began at her college's costuming department, moved to New York, then San Francisco, all the while with fashion and entrepreneurship in mind. Finding one another as designers at a comfort shoe line, it became obvious - where are all the comfy cool-girl shoes? Freda Salvador was born, merging their mutual love for Frida Kahlo, and the history of Cristina's grandfather as a shoemaker in El Salvador. Their story is one of celebrating the ups, learning from the downs, and holding on to their incredible partnership. Freda, we thank you for making shoes that are cute, unique - and comfy to boot. 

Photos provided by Freda Salvador. 

 

On Passion

How and when did you find your passion?

Cristina: I was around shoes my whole life. My parents were in the business for 65 years. I visited the factory and saw the product come to life, and it was just something that I loved. It connected for me - it never really felt like work, it was just something I was passionate about. 

Megan: It started in college when i was thinking about my career. I fell into the costume and theater design program at my school. It was interesting to learn the psychology of fashion, and how things tell a story. I always wanted to go into fashion, so I moved to NY and started working at Calvin Klein. When I moved to San Francisco I began working in shoes, and noticed that the passion for me is having my own brand and building something from scratch.

 

On Transition

Tell us more about your transition.

Megan: We met as designers at a comfort shoe brands. We've learned so much from our past experience about wearable and painless footwear. We realized that there was a need for that in the urban world. We began to incorporate our aesthetic, and launched our own brand. 

 

On Mastery

How did/do you hone your skills?

Megan: Lots of hard work and years of experience. We constantly push ourselves to evolve and stay relevant. We are inspired by what we see in New York, Italy, and even Sausalito where we are based. We are always focused on making a Freda true shoe. 

Cristina: The people that we meet, who are coming into our lives and introducing us to our broader community inspire us to grow. We try to be authentic and stay connected to our customers as well. 
 


On Failure

Tell us about a time in your earlier transition to living your passion when you failed. How did you feel? What did you learn?

Cristina: I don't think I've had only one moment. There are so many moments even in one day. There are such great highs and lows. There was a time that our factory shut down right before we were shipping to Saks Fifth Avenue. Then the next day we got the best news! The thing is that passion is always there. If you don't have the passion, you won't survive. The highs are so wonderful, it's worth it every step of the way.

Megan: There are daily wins and losses. We are learning as we grow. We celebrate the wins, and learn from the losses. Failure is a tough word to define. We tried things that didn’t work out, but we learned from those experiences tremendously and apply those lessons to our lives everyday. The important thing about failure is reflecting on what happened and what you would do differently next time, then having the guts to make sure there is a next time.

 

On Fear


What has been your biggest fear about living your passion? And how do you overcome your fears?

Megan: When were were transitioning I had a lot of fear. It was becoming more than an idea, it was going to be working twenty four hours a day and making Freda Salvador happen. It quickly became exciting. I overcame it all in making that commitment, and knowing that I had Cristina. 

Cristina: Having a partner has been the most incredible thing. When there is a doubt, the other person sees the other side. My biggest fear has been around perfection, I want everything to be a success. I felt so much support from my community when we began, and that was helpful.

 

On Money

Was there a time when you were running out of money? 

Megan: Of course! But, people see what we are doing, they believe in us, and they support us. 

 

On Support

Who inspires you? Is there a community that supports you? Who are they?

Cristina: Our community ranges from young women in their mid-twenties to loyal customers in their mid-forties. They are really invested and gracious about feedback. 

Megan: Our friends, family, and San Francisco community, support us tremendously. We get the nicest emails from women thanking us for making our style of shoes.  This means the world to us, and makes every long day worth it.

 


On Self-Love

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What is self-love to you? And how important is it to your journey?

Megan: To me, it means being forgiving and comfortable in my skin. There is so much good in my life, and I like to keep my focus there. Self-love means having the confidence to be who you are, and who you are meant to be. It means not conforming to a norm. This is so important to our journey because we are designers, and we need to be unique and evolving.

Cristina: When you own a business you make so many sacrifices with friends, family and yourself. Self-love is being proud of yourself, and appreciating what you are doing. It's stopping to celebrate our accomplishments, and also moving forward. 

 


 
On Advice to the Community

Please share a piece of advice with our community who are looking to leave their traditional jobs and live their passions.

Megan: You have to make sure that passion is front and center. If you find something that you are truly passionate about, like truly, madly, deeply, then it is so worth making the leap from a traditional job.  We caution people that even if they have a great idea that might be really successful, they need to make sure that they are truly passionate about that idea.  Owning your own business means you are working around the clock.  You sacrifice time with friends and family, but at the end of the day to us it isn’t a sacrifice, it’s a pleasure.  


Interested in pursuing your own passions? Apply to the Summer Find Your Passion Program today!

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Karla Gallardo, Cuyana Co-Founder

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Karla Gallardo, Cuyana Co-Founder

Name: Karla Gallardo

Title: Co-Founder, CEO

City: San Francisco, CA

Passion: Fashion

Website: www.cuyana.com

Watching my friend Karla going from dreaming of an idea to turning into a fashion power brand in a couple of years has been beyond impressive. Along with her co-founder, she built Cuyana, an online women's fashion and accessories line that lives by the motto of "fewer, better things." Worn and endorsed by the most influential bloggers out there, Cuyana means “love” in Quechua. Started with a $20,000 loan and handwoven panama hats made by craftsmen in Ecuador, in fact I helped Karla one time sell the hats at a fair which was one of my favorite things to sell, Cuyana now offers upscale fashion essentials including caps, blouses, dresses and leather bags. We caught up with Karla at Cuyana's flagship colorful and gorgeous store in Union Square San Francisco, and spent an hour watching her work with her team, plan the next collection and hearing her story. 

Photos by Elle Wildhagen

On Passion

How and when did you find your passion?

I have always been interested in fashion - growing up in Ecuador, I loved to study fashion design and make my own patterns and clothes in my free time. But it was when I was working in investment banking in NY after college that my passion truly solidified. I realized that I was using all of my free time - which was very limited with typical banking hours! - to either read fashion magazines, study what the designers were doing, or go shopping and touch and feel clothes in person.

On Transition

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Tell us more about the transition from your traditional job to your Passion.


The analytical skills I gained in investment banking gave me a great foundation to pursue starting a fashion brand. Then, going to business school awoke my more creative side and enabled me to fully transition -  I actually wrote my business school application on Cuyana!

On Mastery

How do you hone your skills?

For me, honing my skills involved mainly traveling, reading, exploring culture, and absorbing everything around me - but also, going to business school to learn how to start a business. This was key.

On Failure

What is failure to you, and how do you deal with it?

When I was at college at Brown University, I was right next door to the Rhode Island School of Design. I really wanted to move into fashion and thought the designer route was the only way to go, but I quickly discovered it was too late for me to switch to RISD. This was devastating at first, because I thought it was my only chance; however, I learned later that I could still enter fashion, just through the business side - which was perfect because it was where my skills were.

On Fear

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear, especially in the beginning, was letting go of a high-paying job and the security of an established career.  However, the network I’ve built from friends and family, business school, etc and being surrounded by people who believe in me has really helped me overcome this fear.

On Money

Was there a time when you were running out of money? 

Yes - when I first started Cuyana, I was bootstrapping in the most literal sense of that word: I was working from my living room, I had money only for rent and food, I was starting a fashion brand but I didn’t buy clothes for a year. However, I was still driven - I think being part of a community of entrepreneurs that were doing the same thing truly helped.

On Self-Love

What is self-love to you? And how important is it to your journey?

A couple years into starting Cuyana, after working nonstop and pulling countless all-nighters and completely neglecting my personal life, I realized I had to take care of myself. Taking the time to care for myself every once in awhile is important - and I discovered I was able to enjoy and appreciate my work much more. My main outlets are spending time with friends and traveling. Traveling, in particular, allows me to get away from desk and think and be inspired.

On Inspiration

Who inspires you and why?

My dad for his tenacity and drive. I am also inspired by all types of creators: from architects to designers to chefs. It doesn’t have to be specific style of art; simply seeing beauty created, and learning from the people who make beautiful things, inspires me.

 

On Support

Are there mentors that support you? Who are they?

I have several mentors from Goldman Sachs, Stanford; I enjoy having different mentors and leveraging their respective expertise for different things - whether it’s honing my leadership skills, fundraising, building culture, etc.

 

Advice to the Community

Please share a piece of advice with our community of men and women who are looking to leave their traditional jobs and live their passions.

There will be many unknown variables as you embark on the journey of doing what you love, so I would advise to plan the variables you can control - for example: planning out your finances as well as your personal life - because a lot of things around your job can be very volatile.


Share a fashion tip with us


My fashion advice would be to invest in key essentials (for ex: a classic blazer you love, a tailored white shirt, a pair of jeans that fit well) … and, you can never go wrong with neutral colors, especially navy - which I think is slowly replacing black as the go-to neutral!

 

 

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