Created In Partnership With Macy's

3 Latinx Founders On How Family Values & Heritage Shaped Their Brands

In today’s world, launching and running your own business is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve partnered with The Workshop at Macy’s, an exclusive business development program designed to uplift women- and diverse-owned businesses and give them the tools for better success and sustained growth in the retail industry. Keep reading to get to know some of the program’s soon-to-be grads and shop a selection of their offerings at Macy’s Digital Pop-Up Event.
There's an undeniable air of magic that surrounds first-generation immigrants and immigrant children. It's a sense of drive, a true go-getter spirit that just can't be contained. It's the constant motivation to better oneself and make their family proud. And when it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s the unwavering strength to push through every obstacle in order to create their own version of representation. This holds especially true in the U.S., where the business landscape is notorious for not being the most welcoming and is only just beginning to open its doors to more diversity and inclusion.
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This very spirit has inspired the founders of three Latinx brands to not only pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors, but also draw inspiration from their unique upbringing, rich cultural history, and the family values that shaped them to make them that much greater. Katharina Rollins, cofounder of home fragrance brand Carolina York, bottled the memories of her childhood visiting family in Panama, while Edwin Evangelista Pierrot, founder of Curl Daddy, created hair-care products inspired by ingredients grown in his childhood backyard in the Dominican Republic. Lina and Louis Guarin, cofounders of Stivali New York, moved to the U.S. with $100 in their pockets and a dream of launching a footwear label that embodied their family's hard-working and ethical values while capturing the spirit of their Colombian heritage.
Keep reading to learn how each founder got their start and the roles their Latinx roots and families have played in their brand journeys.

Lina and Louis Guarin of Stivali New York

What makes Stivali New York stand out from other shoe brands?
“Stivali New York is a women's leather footwear label founded in 2016, offering everything from elevated mules and loafers to Western-inspired cowboy boots. Designed in New York and handcrafted by artisans in our family's atelier in Colombia, our shoes are sophisticated yet wearable, favoring both quality and comfort. Ethical values are also important to us, honoring and supporting our artisans while being transparent about our operations.”
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How have you infused your heritage into the brand?
“It shines throughout the branding and our signature design elements. The gold Stivali logo is inspired by Indigenous patterns seen throughout history, such as in crafting and jewelry worn by ancient native tribes in South America, while our bohemian-chic style draws from our Colombian heritage.”
What inspired you to go into business together? What was your “aha” moment?
“It’s actually a love story: love for our family, our country’s legacy, our Indigenous and pre-Hispanic background, and foremost, our love as a couple to build our home and make our dream a reality. After attending school in Chicago together for a semester, we returned to the U.S. in 2016 — now thinking in terms of business but on a student budget without our family’s support — to visit fashion trade shows in Las Vegas and NYC. That was our moment of inspiration. We saw all of these amazing brands from all over the world, and coming from a shoemaker’s family, it felt like we belonged there. We felt that founding a label was the perfect opportunity to work with our loved ones and support each artisan in our family's atelier.”
What was it like leaving your country to start a business in the U.S.? What challenges have you faced along the way?
“The whole journey has been full of obstacles along the way, yet we see each one more as an opportunity to grow and be better. Just to name a few, there was the language barrier, a lack of knowledge about how the fashion industry worked in the U.S., and family conflict, as they were not as happy as we expected when we decided to leave everything in Colombia to come to NYC and start from zero. We moved to the city with $100 in our pockets, and we truly had to hustle for our dreams.”
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What has your family and upbringing shaped your business values? What lessons have they taught you?
“We both come from humble, hard-working people who were never given anything for free yet successfully built their homes and businesses from scratch. They taught us to work hard for what we wanted, never take anything for granted, and be truly grateful for each person in our daily lives. Most importantly, they taught us that hard, ethical work eventually blooms with beautiful and abundant fruits for everyone. We couldn't be prouder of our Colombian background and families.”

Edwin Evangelista Pierrot of Curl Daddy

Tell us a little about Curl Daddy. What inspired you to create your own hair-care brand?
“Curl Daddy is a hair-care collection designed for men and women with curly and textured hair, consisting of cleansing, conditioning, and styling products. Because much of what we apply to our skin and scalps is absorbed into our bodies, our products are free of harsh chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates, plus they’re vegan and cruelty-free. I was inspired to create the brand after I had a personal spiritual transformation. I realized the importance of always doing the inner work, which led me to not only learn to love my hair but, more importantly, love myself — a sentiment that’s now ingrained into our brand messaging. And so, I set out to create products that enhance curls of all kinds while promoting scalp health, hair growth, and damage protection.”
Did you face any obstacles when creating the brand? What kept you moving forward?
“One of the main obstacles I faced was having the vision but not knowing where to start, but what kept me moving forward was having faith and understanding that the process is equally as important as the final outcome. So, I set out to do the work, which involved heavy research. I spoke with a chemist who provided invaluable input and executed surveys to determine exactly what my customer base was looking for. Once I had my formulations down, I tested them on myself and my family members with different hair textures. I needed to make sure my products were not only great for the hair but were also a pleasant experience for all curl types.”
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How did your upbringing and family shape the values of your business?
“My experience growing up with my family has significantly influenced my business pursuit, as my mother took a leap of faith and decided to migrate to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, leaving everything behind to provide us with a chance for greater choices and opportunities in life. This move alone hugely shaped my business values because it made me see life from a different lens. My parents are not entrepreneurs, but deep down, I felt like it was part of my purpose to break the mold. I wanted to make my mother proud, and I also realized that no matter how difficult life gets when you’re trying to build or accomplish something, it’s important to enjoy the journey.”
How did your upbringing in the Dominican Republic influence your product development?
“One of my favorite things to do back home was wake up in the morning, go to the backyard next to the beach, and gather fruits and herbs, such as avocados, grapefruits, and coconuts for homemade coconut oil. These were ingredients that my family used to have in the house at all times. Aside from cooking, they were used as treatments for strengthening the hair. And so, I incorporated those elements and ingredients when developing my own products.”
Why is representation so important to you?
“Representation is very important to me because it was rare and often challenging for me to see myself represented growing up. I never saw anyone that looked like me. I want Curl Daddy to cover the spectrum and ensure that all individuals with curly and textured hair see themselves represented in every possible way.”
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Katharina Rollins & Lettye Smith of Carolina York

What first inspired you to create a home fragrance line?
“Carolina York’s journey began when Lettye and I were very stressed-out law students in search of affordable luxury items. At the time, candles and other fragrance products were either overly expensive, or they were cheap, poorly made, and unsophisticated. That’s when the light bulb went off — there was space for a millennial luxury fragrance line, and so, our brand journey began. We started out by making our own candles, soaps, and scrubs by hand with our own recipes.”
In what ways has your Latinx upbringing helped shape your brand, and how have you infused it into your products?
“I grew up with a large extended family in the U.S., Colón, Panama, and Limón, Costa Rica. I visited my family in Panama several times growing up, and we'd spend a lot of time at the beach. I consider my family and the ocean my safe space, and I wanted to bring that sense of peace and tranquility into people's homes. This sparked the inspiration for Yacht Club and Sunhat, scents that transform your space into a peaceful, calm coastal location.”
How has your family influenced your business values?
“My grandparents on my father's side were both immigrants, and I remember hearing stories about their work ethic. They both worked extremely hard and came to the U.S. to ensure they could provide better lives for their family. Based on what I know, those in my family have had to fight to get what they have. I feel that through the spirit of my ancestors, no obstacle is too hard to overcome.”
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What obstacles have you faced within your business, and how did you overcome them?
“We faced challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance and raising the capital needed to run our business. We were just embarking on our careers in the legal field while figuring out the best way to finance this dream and had been denied grants and funding options from traditional financial institutions. So, we got jobs in our field and put money away to fund our passion over time. We were also fortunate enough to have the emotional and financial support of our families, who helped us see this business grow. Everyone has always encouraged and pushed us to follow all of our dreams and never give up.”
What have you learned as a Latinx entrepreneur?
“Our heritage makes us acutely aware of the lack of brands run by women like us, both Afro-Latina and Black, which is why representation is so important to us. The U.S. is made up of many different peoples, ethnicities, and races, and commerce should reflect that.”
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