Quavaro is a Washington DC-based brand that produces stylish and high quality travel bags directly from our small factory in Mexico.
We, Cesar and Pial Vega, are a husband and wife team that has always dreamed of starting something together in a creative capacity. Our vision was to create a business that incorporated travel and handmade artistry, working directly with craftsmen while leaving a positive mark on society.
After finishing up some serious travels, we had two options, 1) go back to the nine-to-five or 2) take advantage of the gap in employment and actually start something on our own. So, we decided to put our resumes aside and go for it!
Inspired by our travels, we saw opportunity to specialize in handmade bags. Thousands of miles living out of bags revealed a demand for stylish and affordable bags. A tip from Cesar’s family in Mexico led us to Leon, Guanajuato, which is considered on one of the leather capitals of the world. We took the money we had saved for a house, moved in with family and bought one-way tickets to Leon to go for it all!
We hit the ground running in our search for small, family-owned factories that not only produced high-quality bags, but matched our ethos. Pial’s background in international development made us cognizant of the fact that finding an ethical manufacturer was extremely important. After a couple of months, we found a factory that met all of our standards. We agreed to partner up with the factory after getting to know the personnel well.
The following year with our manufacturer was marked by both ups and downs. In the end, differing business interests led us to end our relationship with that factory.
At this point we knew we had to make a decision to either dust off our resumes or take these hardships and turn them into lessons learned. We had too much invested to call it quits and we knew that success would not come easy, so we went back to Mexico in search of a new manufacturer.
After a month of tirelessly searching for another option with Tavo, Quavaro’s trusted in-country manager, we were almost ready to give up. We met other wonderful manufacturers, but we could not shake the vulnerability we felt letting outside hands have full control over our production and the future of Quavaro. The only way to do it was to start our own factory. But this idea seemed so far from reach.
Destiny changed one day while waiting in line for tacos. We came across Roberto, the sample maker and top sewer from our previous manufacturer. He explained that the factory had lost another big contract. Unfortunately, many people lost their jobs and those who remained had not been paid for several weeks and lost their benefits. Roberto was one of those who remained, but eventually was forced to find another job at a small workshop in order to make ends meet.
Roberto was apologetic for the way the business relationship had ended with our previous manufacturer and was curious about Quavaro’s future. He mentioned that he had enjoyed the challenge of making our bags and appreciated our focus on quality. With his experience working with our designs and his deep understanding of our standards of quality, like a bright light bulb, we saw an opportunity!
We humbly explained our idea of starting our own factory. We were frank; we told him that what we lacked in experience, we made up for in passion. We explained that we had learned a lot in the past year of running Quavaro and truly felt that with a good team we could pull this off. After two hours of deliberation, Roberto asked where and when to meet to get this started!
After that, things started to come together for us! Cesar, Tavo and Roberto found the perfect space to set up our small factory. Roberto helped us acquire all the necessary machinery and supplies. Tavo helped with all of the logistics and the legal documentation required to establish our LLC in Mexico– Quavaro Artisans!
Having our own factory has allowed us to control quality, but also has enabled us to be a more responsible bag producer. We personally source 100% of all of our materials—leathers from a family-owned tannery, custom hardware from a small local factory and zippers from the YKK factory an hour away from Quavaro Artisans. One of the most satisfying benefits for us is to set the standards of ethics and values of Quavaro for the benefit of our employees.
Now, we can look back and be grateful for the hardships we faced. Because without those, we may never have been inspired to start Quavaro Artisans. We are also so grateful for first artisans who believed in us even when we had not one single machine, just a dream! We now have 11 artisans that work together to produce our bags!