Founder Profile: Noelia Pahissa, Founder of Avarcas USA - San Diego
Hi Noelia! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I'm Noelia. I’m originally from Barcelona and moved to sunny San Diego in 2004. I'm a mother of a 10-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. I enjoy playing Paddel Tennis, running and when time permits, long walks at sunset.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
In Barcelona, I studied business administration while working as an accountant at a catering company. My husband (and now business partner) Jose was offered an engineering position in San Diego. We didn't think twice about moving. In San Diego, we both worked for the same tech company and in the evenings I made jewelry for a little shop I ran on Etsy, as well as supplied several stores in San Diego.
What led you to start Avarcas USA? Did you ever think about owning a business prior?
Among our packed possessions from Barcelona were a few pairs of Pons avarcas and wherever we went strangers complimented my sandals. Every time I wore the sandals someone would ask me about them, so it didn't take long to realize there was an unmet demand for these sandals here in the U.S.
What are the history of avarcas?
Menorca, the island where the avarcas are originated, is dry and hot in the summertime. The first avarcas were created over a century ago for farmers working its arid land. Crafted from all-natural leather and recycled tires, they were designed to keep farmers’ feet dry, comfortable, and protected.
What steps did you have to take to launch your business and and work with Pons?
I had owned several pairs of Pons avarcas and worn them for several summers, so we were very aware of the Pons family — one of the few family-run businesses in Menorca that still made the authentic shoes. We exchanged several emails and figured out how we could bring Pons to the U.S. During long hours at night, Jose designed the website and I handled introducing the sandals to retailers.
Could you tell us about how sustainability plays a role in your production?
Made since 1945 Pons are ethically made by hand with sustainability and longevity in mind. The raw materials are all sourced locally in Spain, including the rubber sole (the Classic Style features a sole made from 10% recycled tires) and the high-quality natural vecchio leather— which is sourced from ethically raised livestock. Available in 40+ different color ways, Pons are chrome dyed to strict EU REACH standards. The Pons workshop in Ciutadella is owned and operated by the third-generation of the Pons family and employs about a dozen local craftspeople, some who have spent their entire adult lives honing their shoemaking craft
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I've been wearing avarcas since my childhood so I'm truly passionate about the heritage and tradition of this family-run business. When I walk around the city and see people wearing the sandals, it gives me goosebumps.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
There are a variety of brands that attempt to mimic the look of genuine avarcas from Menorca. We are proud to showcase our label of authenticity, that ensures the highest quality production standards and the authenticity of the avarcas standards. This also preserves and protects the artisans and traditions of the island.
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?
Immensely. I remember one case, just a few months after starting Avarcas USA, the owner of a store here in South Park mentioned me and avarcas to an editor of a local newspaper. A few days later, we had a full article in the Sunday paper. It’s that kind of genuine support from women in our community that I am so grateful for — and I am proud to pay it forward.
What women bring you inspiration?
There are so many! Just to name a few, my friend Carmen who inspires others to travel and experience Spain through food and cultural experiences. She runs @espanolita_net and I admire her determination and passion for sharing the heritage and artists of the Mediterranean. Another is Diana Nyad for her perseverance and words, “You’re never too old to chase your dreams."
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
I have attended several Collaborative Thread events, which are a collaborative community for female creatives that have helped me to meet inspiring women. From photographers to editors, these have been a place where I’ve learned so much and felt so inspired.
What are some of your favorite places in San Diego?
For coffee: During the week you can find me grabbing a cappuccino (the best!) at Cafe Virtuoso. It’s located just blocks away from our studio in Barrio Logan.
Beach: Swami’s Surf Beach in Encinitas
Tacos: Salud in Barrio Logan. Even with the long lines at peak times, its well worth the wait.
Place to watch the sunset: Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach. The California Coast at its best!
Cocktails: Sycamore Den in Normal Heights. I recommend their 'Crime of Passion’ — it’s delicious!