Name: Cristina Palomo-Nelson + Megan Papay
Title: Founders and Designers at Freda Salvador
City: San Francisco, CA
Passion: Shoes + Community
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!