Fashion Rebel Karla Gallardo on How to Start Your Own Business

by Corinne Griffith Cole and reported by Jacqueline Dia


In a world full of Zaras and H&Ms, 31-year-old Ecuadorian designer Karla Gallardo wants to create one-of-a-kind fashion. Her e-commerce brand, Cuyana, is an online dream for eco-conscious chicks who want a little style with their sustainability. Cuyana, Quechua for “to love,” sells global-chic goods like luxe Scottish cashmere stoles and sleek Argentine leather bags. “My number-one mission is to fill women’s closets with pieces they love. Not cheap throwaways they’ll forget about, but items they’ll want to take care of and pass down.” Starting with a $10,000 loan from her parents, Karla has grown the company tenfold in just under three years.


“I wanted to start with one product, and I chose straw hats from Ecuador because I knew who the best makers were, and I could source them easily.” She hired craftsmen to produce 500 hats using their traditional techniques with her own design details, and shipped them to the U.S. “I had hats in my car, hats in my house, hats everywhere! We went from hats to alpaca sweaters from Peru to jewelry from Bali.”


Start small. “Fashion is expensive, so choose one thing and build on it. Then create a network of potential investors, customers, and promoters. If you don’t have friends with connections, find people on Facebook and LinkedIn. Send your product to bloggers who can spread the word for you. Spend your money where you think it’s most important. I slept on friends’ couches but paid for great photography for my website because I wanted it to be aspirational. The image was crucial.”

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“When you’re building a business, there are highs and lows. It can get lonely, so stay connected to a group of people who support your dream.”

3 Tips to Start Your Own Business fashion

Think Big
“We believed, so others did. We raised $1.7 million from investors who got behind our vision.”

Partner Wisely

“Choose someone with skills that are different from yours. When you divide the work, you won’t have holes.”

“When you ask for a favor, give a favor. It builds good asking credit.”


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