Keily Hernandez has a business degree from Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. After graduating she worked in sales for an insurance company in New York and started a fashion blog to be able to record her addiction to fashion. When she moved to San Francisco in 2013, she followed her passion for fashion and launched LiveLoveModa in February 2014.
1.What made you move to the USA?
We moved to the USA from Puerto Rico because of my family’s personal circumstances at the time. We also wanted to be closer to my sister and her family that were living in Washington State. My parents felt that living in the USA would give us more opportunities. I was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the US when I was 13 years old. I have lived all over the US, including Washington State, New York and Texas.
2. What prompted you to get into the fashion business?
I’ve always been interested in fashion. Even as a young girl, I’d keep up with the latest fashion trends. It was a long time passion that eventually turned into a career. Actually, my idea to start a career in fashion was sparked by one of my trips to New York, during which I attended a lot of fashion events and many sample sales. I started to get an understanding of how the business worked and started feeling confident about starting my own business.
To get started in the industry, I began a fashion blog. That pushed me to do more research and get creative – it basically motivated me to learn and inspired me to take my interest to a new level.
3.Tell us about your fashion boutique. How do you create your designs? What has the reaction been from your customers?
LiveLoveModa is a lean business that is operated from home. I actually don’t design my own clothes. I don’t have a background in fashion design. Instead, my business is a retailer, which sells new fashion designs through a boutique online store. My boutique provides customers with new and unique designs at affordable prices.
Retail fashion is competitive, so I knew that I had to start small and keep my costs down. I choose my inventory of clothes by going to trade shows, shopping online and purchasing designs from wholesalers/designers all over the world. My main focus is on the price point and the fashion trend. I want my customers to see that they don’t have to go to big retail stores like Zara or H&M. They can shop at a small boutique, receive excellent customer service and buy the latest trends at affordable prices.
One special thing about my boutique is that I sell unique clothing styles. A few years ago, I worked in an office job and at work, I would see different people in the office who were wearing the same thing because they bought them from large chain retail stores. It used to bother me. I wanted to create a store that would offer unique and individualistic
designs, which is exactly what I do now. The best thing about my boutique is that I do all of my selling online so it is easier to manage the work and keep costs down.
Customers love my pieces and they are surprised at the lower price points for such unique pieces. I have not had any return or exchange items.
4.What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur and your least favorite?
My most favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is that I’m doing what makes me happy. My work is fun and creative. I love being my own boss, trying new things and learning new things.
My least favorite is the uncertainty in running a business. There are many times when I have to try different things without knowing what works. Facing the consequences if something doesn’t work can be hard. So I have to be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. After all, you don’t know what works unless you try…
5. If an expat woman has a great business idea, what are the three most important steps she needs to followto launch her business.
- Network within your area of interest/industry. You will learn a lot from people already in the business. Almost every tip I used in starting my business was something I learned through my network.
- Get experience in your field of interest. This is key because it gives you an inside look into how your industry works.
- Have a business model – you should have some idea of how much money you need to run your business, how you are going to generate revenue, what/whom your business will depend on and how you will attract customers.
6. What advice would you give to professional expat women about starting their own business in the US?
If you are passionate about something, the USA is the best place to turn it into a career. We are very fortunate that we live in this country. There are easy ways to find investors, people are willing to share/collaborate on ideas with you and there are many types of business loans you could take – if you persevere, the sky is the limit. Follow your dream. It will come true if you work hard at it.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
Most of my morning is spent on the computer. First I check my website for any orders and then I spend a good few hours on social media, which is becoming increasingly important for all businesses.
The rest of my day is spent looking for fashion events, collecting designs for events, identifying potential partnerships/collaboration opportunities, creating marketing campaigns and writing blog entries.
8. What are three things you like about the USA?
I absolutely love the variety in food. The ethnic cuisines are wonderful!
I love that the climate is so different in each part of the country. I’ve lived in different cities in the US and climate conditions are unique in each place. It gives character to each place.
Opportunities – I don’t think there is any other place in the world that provides the kind of opportunities that the USA does. It truly is a land of dreams, you just have to know how to chase your dreams!
9. What are three things you found about the USA that were different from Puerto Rico you found hard to adjust to?
The culture here is very different. It’s a lot more career/money driven and it definitely is a rat race. In Puerto Rico, life is more relaxed and slow paced. It is more about the pleasure of life rather than the pursuit of lofty career goals.
I think people in the US are much more independent. There isn’t as much of an emphasis on family here, whereas in Puerto Rico there is generally a greater sense of community. Family and relationships are very important in Puerto Rico, and I don’t find that same level of importance being given to those things here.
I found it hard to adjust to the new language and school systems.
10. What are three fun or interesting facts about your home country?
Puerto Rico’s unofficial mascot is a tiny tree frog called Coqui, found only on the island.
More than 70% of rum sold in the U.S. comes from Puerto Rico.
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.
11. What is your favorite quote?
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn