I recently met the amazing women behind La Patria, Permpreet Soomal and Fernanda Sequeira. I immediately fell in love with their bags (had to have one!) and their inspirational story of entrepreneurship making a difference around the world. Two local Toronto women are really having an impact! In fact, I was so inspired that I asked to interview them for the blog. Read on!
1. What inspired you to start this business?
Our love of tradition and travel inspired us to set out in search of uniquely crafted everyday objects from distinct places. As two young women and conscious consumers ourselves, we appreciate handmade goods with a story and sense of belonging to the people and places where they originate. This is what led us to create the label La Patria – meaning homeland in Latin. Our goal is to provide quality everyday lifestyle goods that are distinct, ethically sourced and enable economic and social change in the communities where they are made.
Our goal strongly aligns with our slogan “Handmade for Life” because our products are meant for everyday use, are high quality and meant to last a lifetime. And most importantly, our products empower and inject life into local communities through employment, education, and entrepreneurship.
2. What is the story behind each bag? How long does it take to make them, the materials, etc?
The Bolsa Collection is our first line of totes and baskets originating from the rural highlands of Guatemala. Traditionally made to serve as carryall bags from the local markets, villagers would stack the totes one within another and fill them as needed. The lightweight and sturdy design was perfect for carrying all their markets essentials on foot. Today the totes are commonly used by Chapines (local Guatemalans) in cities and villages alike, keeping their tradition alive and useful!
Each tote begins with a wooden box frame mould built to a custom size and shape. Our skilled artisans carefully hand weave strands of recycled plastic through the frame to create a sturdy base that will stand the test of time. The straps are woven separately and fed through the body of the bag. This process not only requires skill, but also patience as each bag takes about 4 hours to complete. We are proud to say our totes are made with 100% recycled plastic. Even the seams are expertly fused together using only an open flame to melt the two ends together, creating an unbreakable bond. The finishing touches of our label are also applied by hand, making each tote truly one of a kind works of art!
3. Your company is all about social entrepreneurship. Can you tell us more about the impact you are making in the local community?
One of the most rewarding parts of launching this business has been discovering shared values with our artisan team. In getting to know their local community, we found ourselves sharing in a common language of beliefs, passions, dreams and values. This led us to discover an emotional connection and realize no matter where you live in the world, as human beings we are almost always motivated by the same thing – family. As such, it’s incredibly important that La Patria makes a positive impact on the families and communities of our artisans.
We are strong believers that much can be achieved for families through the value of education. In fact, mostly every artisan on our team will tell you the same thing: They work to ensure better educational opportunities for their children. This common desire made it easy for us to decide which area of the community we would focus on supporting. With every purchase of a La Patria product, a portion of proceeds go to support local schools with much needed resources. Currently, we are working directly with the Principal of the local school where the young children of our artisan team attend in order to support their much needed breakfast program.