Small Business Profile: Giselle Hernandez, Founder of Someware - Los Angeles
Hi Giselle! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Giselle, founder & designer of Someware. I was born and raised in Colombia and I moved to the US in 2002. After 5 years of being in the pacific (Hawaii to be specific), I moved to sunny LA, where I’ve set roots since 2007.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I got my degree in Graphic Design at the University of Hawaii. There I met a lot of interesting people who came from all parts of the world. As my appreciation for multicultural experiences deepened, so did my desire to travel to different places. After Hawaii, I moved to LA to work for different interactive ad agencies. Many of the projects that I contributed to were e-commerce sites, so starting my own online store felt like a natural career transition.
What led you to begin Someware? Did you always anticipate having a shop?
I didn’t necessarily dream of having a shop, but I did dream of being an entrepreneur and seeing my own creative vision come to life. Initially, I wanted to design a line of hammocks, but after my first sourcing trip, that idea evolved into doing an entire housewares shop to carry different finds from my travels. I wanted my job to be creative, inspiring, and challenging so I would never have a dull moment at work.
How do you decide what to stock in the shop?
We’re currently only working with artisans in Colombia. Someware’s long-term vision has always been to work with different countries around the world, although we’ve only partnered with Colombian artisans thus far. There have been a lot of logistics and processes that we’ve needed to flush out before expanding to other countries. The sourcing process is very instinctual for me. I curate objects that I find beautiful, rare, and interesting. Some of them are one-of-a-kind finds, while others are collections produced through collaborations with our different co-ops.
Do you often travel to source your products?
I do buying trips twice a year, which feels like the perfect amount. My sourcing trips are always a huge dose of inspiration!
Do you have specific products and/or designs created for Someware? What is that design process like?
My goal has always been to not only curate, but to also develop collections for the store. I’ve designed rugs, baskets, blankets, bags, and shoes - a very wide range of products! When developing a collection, the first step for me is to create of a moodboard that also inspires my color palette. After that, I sketch and consider different ideas before selecting the best designs for the sampling process.
You donate a portion of your sales to Live Simply 4 Peru; did you go into this business knowing that you wanted to give back?
Having a social component was really important to me. I felt strongly about working on a business model that would allow me to positively impact people’s lives, as well as the planet. I wanted Someware to not only contribute to making it financially possible for the artisans to keep their craft alive, but also to create a company culture where people feel challenged and inspired by our cause. Caring for those in need, and helping people live meaningful lives, is at the core of what we do.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m inspired by color, light, shapes, lines. Pretty basic stuff! I think, in essence, it all comes down to mood and feelings. Seeking those things that trigger some kind of emotion. I feel I’m most inspired when I’m not in my natural surroundings. I love traveling far away from home and being lost in translation. Soaking up the colors, street signs, and the people in a new place is exciting and it gives my brain new material to process. Traveling doesn’t have to involve going far away. It can mean going to a town nearby or going on an isolated hike to disconnect and get lost for a moment.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
We’re an online store so the main way of connecting with our customer base is through social media. Aside from that, I think it’s important to do markets and trade shows because they give us an opportunity to interact face-to-face. We strive to continually strengthen our in-person customer relations. The instant feedback they give us about our products is an added bonus!
What are some brands/makers that you are excited about that we should know of?
I’ll start with some of my close entrepreneurial friends whose work I really love: Metalepsis Projects designs unique sculptural jewelry pieces inspired by architectural forms. I also love Fuggiamo, a lifestyle shop with a great curation of clothing and accessories made by contemporary designers. Recently I came across the work of Nicolette Johnson and I’m obsessed with her ceramic pieces. They remind me of Pre-Columbian art, but with a minimalist and modern touch.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Everyone has the power to vote with their money! Buying from local businesses often means you’re more likely to have a transparent relationship with the product - knowing where it came from, how it was made, and the kind of environmental and social effect it has. It also means you’re empowering people to live more gratifying lives by supporting their passions and entrepreneurial efforts.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
To start, I’m genuinely in love with the mission behind our brand! I love supporting traditional methods because they “protest” living in a fast-paced world. Our handmade products invite us to appreciate an object not only for what it does or how it looks, but for the story that it tells. I love that I never have two days alike. I’m challenged on a daily basis by the market, the artisans, my craft as a designer, and our Someware team in Colombia, Peru, and the USA. They all keep me on my toes, which means I’m always working on getting better at what I do.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting your brand?
One of the biggest challenges is learning how to cope with the uncertainty of the future. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and determination to not get knocked down when a million things don’t go as planned. Everyone’s success looks different. We have to do a lot of trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Aside from this, there’s a huge amount of pressure from a customer service perspective. We want to make sure that every person who orders from us receives a product that meets all the quality control standards. Since our products are 100% handmade, we constantly have to educate and remind our customers that no two pieces are alike; it’s the imperfections what makes the product special.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I grew up in a society where there’s a lot of gender inequality, so this question resonates with me deeply. Creating a network of women that understands one another’s circumstances is so important. We not only get to create a beautiful, solid community and an emotional support system of like-minded people, but I believe our support of one another increases our individual successes. No one is an island, and unity creates the strength that we need to lead change.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
From a textile design perspective, I’m obsessed with Mara Hoffman’s prints. Her design aesthetic and color sensitivity are amazing. I love Celia Esteves who started Rugs by Gur, and Mae Engelgeer, a very talented textile designer from Amsterdam. I’m also a huge fan of Anna Kovecses’ illustrations. Last but not least, I watch a lot of movies, so naturally I’m a huge fan of Sofia Coppola’s work.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
I’m a big fan of podcasts! In particular, I love How I Built This and Start Up - two incredibly inspiring resources that have helped educate me on what it takes to get a small idea off the ground and turn it into something bigger. It’s humbling to see all the common grounds between my business journey and theirs. Also, networking with other business owners is huge. A significant part of understanding how to navigate the “entrepreneurial” waters is learning from one another. Having a strong community is so important.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
It’s so hard to pick! I live in Venice and I love being near Abbot Kinney, Rose and Lincoln Boulevard. I love eating at Marvin in Mid-City, Wallflower & Gjusta in Venice, Botanica in Silverlake, and Truffle Brothers in West Adams. There’s also the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, which is pretty special. It’s so nice to have a piece of their legacy in LA. Last but not least, I go to Hauser & Wirth for a dose of inspiration, plus strolling around the arts district is always great.