Small Business Profile: Pascale Cardozo and Eva Zachova, Founders of Ryze - Los Angeles
Hi Eva and Pascale! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Eva: I was born and raised in Prague, a small city in the heart of Europe. Over time I grew a love for unique, well made products, as I find that good products are timeless. I love simplicity in colors, shapes and always love things that are also practical. I am also a mommy to my daughter Emma who is now 2 and a half. She keeps me very busy when not working.
Pascale: I was born and raised in NYC. I moved to Barcelona, Spain when I was 25 and instantly fell in love with the European lifestyle. The history and attention to design all throughout the continent really impacted me, but most of all what inspired me was the Europeans drive to follow their passions. After 6 years in Spain and getting married, my husband and I moved to LA as newlyweds.
What are your backgrounds (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
By coincidence both of us studied Marketing. Pascale worked years in advertising agencies and with small businesses helping them build their brands. Eva owned her own design gift shop in Prague for several years.
How did you two meet and what made you want to become business partners?
This is the first time we will put this on pen and paper; we met through our husbands. They have been best friends since childhood in Venezuela. Eva’s husband is Spanish and Pascale’s husband is Italian. They both left Venezuela for Europe many years ago and met in Barcelona. We met through them in 2008 and realized years later that we had a common passion for art, design and most importantly the drive to start a business that help makers get their designs in front of the public.
What led you to begin Ryze Project and why was it important to you to showcase European designers?
After years of living in Europe, we were inspired by the juxtaposition between old world art and craftsmanship with the contemporary aesthetics of every city. With this, and a passion for simplicity and living a minimalist lifestyle, Ryze Project was born.
We love that you feature stories of your artists on your shop. How do you find the artists and makers that you carry?
Yes, sharing our makers’ stories was extremely important when we started Ryze and while we were building our website. With artisanal wares, the most interesting part is sometimes the story, the inspiration, the process behind the pieces. People want to know more about the artists and how these special products are made.
Could you tell us more about your limited edition T-Shirts? What was the thought behind the series?
Pascale: The Ryze T-Shirt series celebrates all things unique and made with attention to detail. The first design of the series, "poco a poco" means "little by little" in Spanish. When I moved to Barcelona and encountered many obstacles to overcome as a foreigner, I was met with locals telling me "poco a poco". For a native New Yorker, this was extremely frustrating. I was used to having everything done quickly, but as I knew I would be staying to live there sometime, I had to adapt to the Spanish ways. This saying which comes from came to illustrate the European way of life. Living “poco a poco” is about enjoying your process, your struggle, your art, your journey. It's experiencing yourself, your friends, family, food, and community in a connected way. This saying is a reminder that all things done well must be done "little by little".
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Pascale: What we hear the most, that inspires us to keep doing what we do is hearing our customers say that they love their unique piece and get lots of compliments on it. Helping people to feel special makes me happy.
On the other hand, discovering new designers and makers is always part of the thrill.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Ryze?
Eva: Starting your own business is very exciting, challenging and scary. We started to build our brand from zero with our own money that we saved over time. And when you start your own business most likely you are responsible for everything in one position; buyer, sales person, marketing expert, photographer, graphic designer, social media specialist, customer service representative. It’s a challenge to grow in all these areas at once. We are lucky that our personalities and strengths complement each other.
These days it's impossible to run a business without social channels, it's just part of the work whether you like it or not. And this moves so fast, so to be always on top of it and not let it absorb your personal life, can be very challenging.
Right now, we work in two continents, so we also have to deal with the time difference.
Pascale: I would say the biggest setback is funding for us. We have many ideas and ways we want to see Ryze grow, but as we are bootstrapping, we always have to stay within what is realistic. This means splitting our time working on other things outside of Ryze that create cash flow for us to put into Ryze every year. This way we are working slowly towards our goals. People don’t realize that it can take a business many years to start making enough of a profit that creates a salary for the owners to live off of.
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?
Pascale: We totally agree. It’s important for everyone to support small businesses or people trying to follow their dreams. Taking this oath in life is sometimes the hardest path and everyone needs to give a helping hand to those trying to create something from nothing. Eva and I had the opportunity to join a group of female entrepreneurs called Blend. It was started by Giselle Hernandez of Someware Goods. After she had been doing Someware for years, she found it essential to connect with other women who were in the same wavelength; female owned online design/retail businesses looking to learn from one another. Through this group we feel like we have a support system and others to run to when we have quick questions about operations, logistics, etc. We also have created a social web of women to have a drink with when we need to unwind.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Pascale: Even though this sounds minor; I think the biggest learning for me has been patience. After years of working in big corporations, at lightening speeds and multimillion dollar budgets, when you create your own business you learn quickly that everything takes time when you're doing it all by yourself. You have to slow down and enjoy the process because every moment of its growth is special, like a baby. It needs lots of love and attention at every moment. This patience that I had to learn is the inspiration for our first Ryze T-shirt, which design says “Poco a poco” in Spanish (little by little in English).
As an online business, do you have any tips or words of advice for other online shop owners or those who are thinking about starting one?
Eva: Yes! One thing that really worked for us was getting our brand and products in front of people. Look for markets, pop up events, design festival or craft fairs and try to sell your products there. It's priceless to receive feedback straight from your customers. Also you will be able to meet, see and get to know your target group better. Having personal contact with our customers was very helpful for us and we try to meet with them as much as we can.
Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
Pascale: I wish I could say there have been many amazing people, but the truth is over my years I observed a lot of people who I didn’t want to become and this is the catalyst for me creating my own path and not getting stuck in the fancy, corporate jobs that make big money but felt like they were crushing my dreams and my spirit. All the bad and selfish bosses made me realize that I want to give back, I want my hours working to mean something in the bigger picture, I want to help artists and the creative community.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Eva: I'm focused on photography right now. I studied classic photography a long time ago and I would like to get back to creating photos. We are giving a lot of time to photography and images this year at Ryze as it's so important for online business. We want our customers to feel they are that women in our pictures.
Pascale: Business Accounting Principals. Eva and I do all our own accounting. Even though I’m not too bad with numbers, I hate them. It has taken us a while to understand all the accounting principals and rules. It’s a drag but someone has to do it!
On the fun side, I would like to take voiceover classes. One of my dreams was to have a design store and that’s coming to life with Ryze. Another dreams is doing voiceovers for cartoons - I have a very unique voice. I’d really love to take some classes and start working on this before turning 40.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Pascale: LA has so many beautiful and interesting places to hang out and I love the contrast of the bustling city with all the nature.
I love the current evolution of DTLA and specifically the Arts District. Since I moved to LA 6 years ago, these areas have been changed dramatically. I’m not too happy about all the skyscrapers and large corporations moving in like Apple, Google and Amazon, but it has created more energy which remind me of my hometown NYC.
I also love the beach and hikes in the South Bay Area, where I live. I do a bunch of hiking in Palos Verdes and Saint Vicente Park. I love taking my bike or sometimes my husbands Vespa to the last beaches before Palos Verdes, R.A.T and Burn out are always quiet and have beautiful views - that area is a gem away from all the surfers and tourists.
But my ultimate spot (where you can find Eva and I together) is a Korean spa in Korea Town. I try to go once a month as a treat. I get there right when they open in the morning, enjoy all the facilities and eagerly run to the Korean restaurant at lunch time for my soup and LOTS of kimchi.