Giovanna Mantilla, owner and founder of Lumily, talks about empowering female leaders in business and sourcing handmade goods from around the world.
- So earlier this month, we celebrated Women's Entrepreneurship Day. That was November 19. But there's a lot going on. It's not just a one day kind of event.
And if you know Stacy's Pita Chips, then you would probably be familiar with Stacy's Rise Project. And we're inviting into the stream now the latest partner to be included in the Rise Project and some of the curated gift boxes that are going to be going out, Giovanna Mantilla, who is the owner and founder of Lumily. And it's good to have you here.
Before we ask about the different kinds of artists and crafts that your firm helps women in other countries sell, can you tell me about the name Lumily? Because I was reading about this. It's two words, one is Mayan. Tell us about the name and what it means.
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: Of course. It's such a pleasure to be here with you today. So Lumily is kind of a made up word that I put together. It has a lot of meaning behind it. It took a Mayan word for earth, for world. And I combined it with "ily" for family. So it's earth family. We are all one. We're all together. That's what Lumily stands for.
- And the reason I asked you that is because now you are joining together with Stacy's Pita Chips in the Stacy's Rise Project. What is this about? And how will the boxes that people buy from the project include the products that the different women from different countries that you partner with, how will they be included?
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: So the Stacy's curated boxes are actually not available for purchase. They are, they were sent out to media and influencers. But we are in really great company in the boxes, with other female entrepreneurs that were included in the box.
But Stacy's Project is helping women grow our businesses. So they've created a great website where you can find women, entrepreneurs, and businesses. It's FoundedByHer.org. And it's tons of amazing female founded businesses that you can find there to support.
- Well, I'm glad to hear that. I'm sorry I misunderstood. I thought those gift boxes were available. Let's jump right into what Lumily does, with 200+ plus different women in three different countries.
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: Yes. So we partner with over 200 women in all of these countries. And really, we create really beautiful products that are all handmade in Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand. Our story is one that started 12 years ago with just one woman, Rosita, and has grown to these three countries and all of these women. We create jewelry, handbags, home decor, all following fair trade guidelines, and paying fair wages, and having long term relationships with these women.
- Where do you find your biggest buyers in the United States? Or are they in any one coastal area, or in the middle of the country?
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: You know, it's all over the place. I thought West Coast would be more. But no, we really get customers from all over the country.
- Your business, how did you-- what assistance did you get? How did you make this a reality? If you got any assistance.
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: You know, this is definitely a grassroots project. And it has a humble beginning. I was traveling the world after working in the corporate world for 12 years. I worked with Fortune 200 companies. And although I learned so much during that time, I really wanted to do something different and give back.
And so I created a plan. I decided to have a little four phase plan to pay off all my debt. The second phase was to sell off, sell off all my belongings and start a savings plan. Phase three, I was going to circle the date when I was fully vested on my 401(k). And phase four, I drafted my resignation letter for the very next day. And off I went to start traveling the world, and trying to find something that really just filled my cup.
So after traveling quite a few countries, and finding a lot of women artisans around the world that really created beautiful products, handbags, jewelry, home decor-- but their story was always the same. Extreme poverty, little education, and really struggling to make ends meet. And I just knew I had to do something. And I had to come clean. Yeah?
- Yeah. No, no. Come clean, and then the follow up final question.
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: I was going to come clean. I didn't have much of a business plan. And I didn't have venture capitalists waiting at the wing. So I just kind of went for it. I knew that I needed to help. So I started with one small artisan group in Guatemala, and put the rest of my savings into that group. And that was 12 years ago. And that's how Lumily got started.
- What advice would you have for people listening right now? Who are thinking, you know what? I want to max out the 401(k) while I still can, pay off the debt, and then submit the resignation letter. What would you say to them about doing something like that?
GIOVANNA MANTILLA: Well, if I was starting from scratch, I would have three main things that I would do differently. One is I would hire an accountant. Although I have a lot of skills, accounting is just not one of them. And to be honest, it's not a lot of our great skill. And it's really the type of investment that just pays for itself. It's going to save so much money and so much heartache in the long run.
Number two, I would stay focused. When I started, I was all over the place. I thought I should have hundreds of SKUs and just tons of products. And that really cost me in the long run. So I would really stay focused, and pick a product or a small line of products that would really work for you that you really believe in, and work on those.
And then the third thing and I think most important is to do what you love. If you don't believe in what you're doing, those hard, hard long days and nights are going to get really hard. So you're going to have some great victories but also some huge defeats when you're starting your own business. So just that reminder of the fact that you love what you do and that you believe in what you do will really get you through those days.
- And we wish you the best. You know, as you were talking, I was hearing my stepdad who's no longer with us, but he was from Matanzas, Cuba, saying--
You know, don't worry. Just go forward. All the best to you and the team at Lumily. Owner and founder Giovanna Mantilla.