A team of young entrepreneurs is looking to take the crafts of the indigenous peoples of Mexico to a broader global market, marrying traditional textiles with the requirements of the millennial lifestyle.
The dream of the college graduates began four years ago when they started working with five artisans from Naupan in the state of Puebla. After combining the traditional indigenous embroideries with their favorite shirts, their brand, then known as Flor de Mayo, began to gain popularity among relatives and friends.
People liked the shirts, both formal and casual, adorned with traditional Naupan designs.
“We began while still studying at the Santa Fe, Mexico City, campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology. Our idea was still vague and ill-defined, but we wanted to combine crafts with modern products,” said José Antonio Nuño, general manager and co-founder of what is now known as Someone Somewhere.
“We soon realized that this idea could become a collaboration with artisans and their communities that would be of value to them while also being a profitable company.”
The Someone Somewhere website explains “the crazy idea:”
“There are more than 7 million Mexican artisans living in poverty conditions. At the same time, adventurers around the world are spending billions of dollars in fashion and gear. What if we connected both worlds through a lifestyle brand?”
At the beginning, said Nuño, production was small-scale: “we produced 15 shirts at a time . . . but then the shirts became increasingly popular just by word of mouth.”
Two years later, they won a 150,000-peso grant from the global non-profit Entrepreneur’s Organization, allowing them to broaden the company’s catalog and create a web presence.
In 2014, they were one of 10 companies chosen by the international accelerator Unreasonable Institute from a pool of 500 applications. That changed things forever.
“This was a turning point for us, helping us to think big. We finally had money to invest, and mentors helping us on the way,” said Nuño.
As the company grew, so did its scope and understanding of the realities of the indigenous communities of Mexico. Today, it works with artisans from six communities in Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas, three of the poorest states in Mexico. “They may also be the most culturally rich regions, with thousands of traditions and incredible artisan techniques ready to be re-discovered.”
Under the new brand Someone Somewhere, the entrepreneurs have managed to increase the monthly income of their indigenous collaborators by up to 300%, allowing to pull themselves and their families above the poverty line.
Also through the company, artisans can take courses in topics such as entrepreneurship, design and personal finance. The next step is creation of an online platform so that any artisan can access the course content from wherever they are.
Last year the company also received funding from the Mexican government through a social promotion program and from the National Institute for Entrepreneurs.
The next step in establishing their brand is a US $30,000 crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter, after which they’ll be ready to expand into the United States market, and later into Europe and Australia.
Someone Somewhere is now more than just shirts. Its product catalog now includes travel bags, packsacks and caps.