From finance to fashion: A Latina’s journey to entrepreneurship

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By Gabriela Arvizu | November 17, 2014

During her childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico, Laura Moreno learned  how to sew – she made everything from clothes to pillowcases to tablecloths. Soon enough her creativity around sewing began to flourish. In elementary school, Moreno took one of her father’s white working gloves and sewed sequence onto it to resemble Michael Jackson’s famous sparkling, one-glove look. The glove was a hit among her schoolmates who soon began to place orders for Moreno to make them a glove of their own. It was then that Moreno, without knowing it, became an entrepreneur.

“I knew how to sew at a very early age, but I never thought about pursuing a career in fashion,” Moreno said.

Now, Moreno is the CEO and a co-founder of Ladada, an online fashion subscription service for women that ships a box of clothing and accessories to customers every month. Customers purchase the items they want to keep and ship the rest back to Ladada. Moreno is also one of three Latina entrepreneurs who are part of Avión, Spanish for airplane, an accelerator program for Latinas, where she is developing an online mobile strategy for Ladada.

Although Moreno’s career in the fashion industry has taken off in the last few years, she didn’t anticipate it. Beforehand, she had a successful career in the financial world. She did everything from trading and working on Wall Street to managing programs for banks and investment firms. She even had an interest in working for the FBI, who tried to recruit her when she was twenty-eight years old.

Moreno using the sewing e machine she learned to sew in at her my grandmothers house in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Moreno using the sewing machine that she learned to sew in during her childhood. Photo taken at her grandmother’s house in Guadalajara, Mexico.

But Moreno’s interests always came back to her knack for sewing and designing. When returning home from her 9 to 5 job in the corporate world, Moreno would design and sew her own dresses. In 2009, she started a fashion blog titled after her nickname, Laly, where she would post pictures of the pieces she put together.

“I was bombarded with requests from people asking me to style them or to make them dresses,” Moreno said referring to the popularity of her designs and her blog. “I wanted to do a small run of my designs.” After doing some serious research, she had a few pieces of her designs manufactured in downtown San Francisco for her clothing line also called Laly.

While Moreno was able to keep up with the costs of manufacturing because she had a day job, she realized how expensive it was for full-time independent designers to have their work manufactured and distributed. Moreno’s focus then shifted towards advising and supporting designers by transforming Laly into an e-commerce platform. “Laly became a marketplace for designers to showcase their brands,” she said.

Then in 2014, Moreno started Ladada with her cofounder, Tom Lam. The  access she had with up and coming designers through Laly came in handy, as their products were incorporated into the subscription based service that sends a box of clothing to customers every month. Customers buy what they want to keep and ship the rest back. The site keeps track of a customer’s preferences based on the items they purchase and the feedback they provide.

Shortly after launching Ladada, Moreno and Lam wanted to promote the service, so they opened a pop up store in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco for a few months. At the store, they explained the service to walk-in customers and within two months they gained 200 subscribers.

Ladada took off.

Less than a year later, Ladada has a team of five: Moreno, Lam, two independent consultants and an intern. Moreno also left her job in the financial world. Most recently, Ladada landed a partnership with Square in San Francisco, the company that produces credit card readers for mobile devices. Square pays for the monthly subscription for their female employees, and has the Ladada team come into their office to do style consulting.

As the business has grown, Moreno is continuing to focus on business growth by developing a mobile strategy for Ladada’s customers to access the service through an app on their mobile devices. Moreno is developing the app through Avión. With the use of mobile technology, Moreno hopes to learn more about her client’s preferences and style to expand the business.

But for Moreno, her job is more than just a business. “My social mission is to help women with their personal brand,” she said. As Moreno sat at a Café in downtown San Francisco, she shared a fond memory of when she styled a woman with terminal cancer. “I will never forget how grateful this woman was,” she said. “She felt amazing and looked amazing.”

Moreno hopes to share her experience as a current mother-to-be and entrepreneur in popular news publication in the near future. As far as advice from Moreno to other entrepreneurs, she says,  “there are so many ups and downs to being an entrepreneur. Whatever you choose to do, “you have to love it. It’s what you will be doing every moment,” she said.

“It’s not your job,” Moreno said. “It’s your life.”

About the LAM Latino entrepreneurial series:

LAM is partnering with Latino Startup Alliance to showcase  a series of twelve Latino Entrepreneurs in the next few months. The Latino Entrepreneur Series is presented by Verizon Wireless and written by LAM member and journalist Gaby Arvizu.

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