We've all heard of the dangers of being a small brand in a busy factory that suddenly gets a massive order leaving your stuff pushed aside and late, well we discovered Quavaro during a weekend getaway to Washington DC and were inspired by their story of turning a manufacturing disaster into a fully vertical ethical supply chain as they navigated manufacturing in Mexico. Take a peak into the process of starting an ethically made in Mexico brand with husband and wife team Cesar and Pial Vega, founders of Quavaro.
Sparking the Idea
We spent a lot of time traveling together and realized instead of heading back to our 9-5s, we would try to find a way to work together. We knew we wanted to do something creative and also something that would give us an excuse to keep exploring!
Inspired by vintage aviation, we designed a few travel bags modeled after pilot helmet and tool bags. Cesar adopted a passion for aviation from his father, (when together, they binge watch any documentary about aviators from WWII and beyond) and we both appreciate the classic and clean line aesthetic of those times. We set off for Leon, Mexico, one of the leading leather capitals of the world in search for a manufacturer to bring our designs to life!
Searching for a Factory in Mexico
We meticulously searched for the right manufacturer to partner with. Pial’s background in international development, dedicated us to finding an ethical organization – one that had good quality but also treated their artisans well. We were able to find a facility- a smaller family owned factory- that met our standards and was open to growing with us. And so, we began!
We were off to a good start-- our website was up and running, had success at different pop-ups around the DC area and had just found a gem of a location to set up our first retail location. And then….
The manufacturer decided to take on a large contract with a company ordering 3,000+ simple canvas bags every month. Naturally, our smaller and more attention to detail designs began to suffer- both in timeliness of delivery and worse of all, in quality. We could see that our pieces were being rushed and that many short cuts were taken.
We knew we couldn’t continue this way. We had our brand reputation on the line! Cesar jetted back to Mexico in hopes to find another partner. We were anxious to start up a new relationship with another manufacturer- having that fear of a repeat scenario and with the limited funds and time we had, we could not afford this to happen again.
Finding a Manufacturing Partner
Our fate changed one day when Cesar and Tavo, our trusted in country manager, were treating themselves to tacos from a popular local stand. There, they ran into Roberto, the production leader of our former manufacturer. Roberto confided that he was unsatisfied with the way our relationship ended with the old factory and said he appreciated being able to use his artisanal skillset on our designs. He appreciated our attention to detail and our standards of quality. He said the factory was struggling to pay their employees after losing that large contract that had delayed our production.
Cesar was bold and proposed that Roberto join us and be integral in the process of us creating our very own factory in Leon. Roberto was the perfect guy to partner with- he knows the industry, already knew our products and is the best at what he does- a true perfectionist!
24 hours after the proposal, Roberto consulted with his wife, told us he had confidence in us and our vision and decided to join us. After that, everything else just fell into place! We were able to find the right location to set up our workshop, collected all the proper machinery and then we hired our team of passionate artisans. We knew that we wanted a fully functioning factory, but we did not want a typical factory environment. We offer fair wages, 8.5 hour work days over 5 days a week and full benefits for everyone from day one. We wanted to create a space where people enjoy coming into work, a place they feel valued and appreciated. And in turn, you can see the passion in the quality and craftsmanship of our products!
At first, the idea of running our own workshop was absolutely overwhelming, but in the end, the process has given us total control of material sourcing, production quality and the ethics of our environment. We were able to create our own relationship with tanneries who have the same ethos, the YKK zipper facility in the area and with every other supplier of every single material we use on our products. Being so intimately involved in the process has also made us even better designers! We know where the vulnerable spots are and we are willing to invest in the proper resources to make a quality bag that will last a lifetime!
If you want to get set up with an ethical factory that will help you build the brand of your dreams, join our platform today. We have just launched into beta and our new factory database would love to have you!