I think we are so conditioned to scroll now that we forget the power of writing. When I can’t get an idea out of my mind or want to return to thought while working on a project I write it down. In my toughest times, journaling has helped me see deeper, what my true feelings about a situation are and not just how it’s affecting me.
Maria Lopez is a first-generation Mexican American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of Well Aware Inc, a line of Medical ID bracelets intended to stand up to stigma and rewrite the narrative surrounding medical conditions. Intended to empower wearers to prioritize their safety without sacrificing style, each piece can be custom engraved to indicate a number of health conditions, including food allergies so that in the case of a medical emergency, the bracelet serves as the point of communication between the wearer and first responders. Her impact goes beyond empowering those who wear their custom Medical ID bracelets; with each bracelet sold, she is preserving artisan culture and sustaining flourishing economies in Taxco, Mexico, and aiding in the relief of chronic water shortages in rural communities as a proud partner of Healing Waters International.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Growing up with a severe penicillin allergy I had to wear a medical I.D. bracelet every day so that in case something happened to me, first responders would know of my allergy. It made me feel different, and I hated having to explain my bracelet to others. So I stopped wearing the one thing could potentially save my life. As an adult and avid traveler, I quickly understood the need to be mindful of my health and wellness in a preventative way and searched endlessly for an alternative that could communicate my needs without compromising my style or confidence. As a frustrated consumer who realized there was nothing like it on the market, I knew I had to create it myself.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The moment I arrived in Taxco, Mexico (a pueblo 2 hrs South of Mexico City, where the original silver mines are found) I felt scared and nervous about who I would partner with. I had a gut feeling I’d find what I was looking for in this little town-a a family business to partner with, local manufacturers or highly skilled artisans-but only had a few contacts and resources to help me find what I needed. When I walked into the first workshop, I noticed they were playing a song from my childhood that my uncle, an extremely influential person in my life who passed away, would always play for us because of the inspirational lyrics: “be happy with what you got, live life intensely… if you fight for it, you will achieve it.” The lyrics were his life motto and a mantra I grew up repeating. I walked further inside the shop and was greeted by a man named Hugo. I was overcome by emotion as Hugo is the name of my younger brother who had also passed. At that moment I felt like two of the most important people in my life was showing up for me in a time of uncertainty, and I felt like I had arrived where I was meant to be. The lesson I take away from this is that timing is everything. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have all the answers, but if we were open enough, we would see the signs that show up around us when the time is right. This was the beginning of my Well Aware journey and it reminded me to remember that moving forward, God and the universe are always on my side.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started, I was manufacturing in Indonesia, and doing business in a country I wasn’t familiar with was a huge challenge. I wasn’t familiar with their “way of Doing business” and tried to test out if it would be the more affordable option. Things like extensive turnaround times, language barriers and countrywide religious holidays that were never communicated but often delayed the production process were all issues that stopped me from being able to get my business off the ground and running. It felt like a huge waste of time and money. I realized moving my manufacturing to Taxco aligned with my goals for the brand and felt like I could better connect with the culture, the language and the people I work with. It felt like home. From this, I learned the need to understand your alignment as a business owner as well as the goals of the brand, so that you can make decisions that fall in line with these core aspects and truly succeed.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Definitely. Armando, my older brother, has been a huge source of guidance throughout my career. As the firstborn child, he was our family team captain. Armando was always putting his family first, assisting in any he could to make sure we succeeded individually and as a family. He led by example, being the first to attend a four-year university, setting the bar high and reinforcing my parents’ emphasis on the importance of education. He was always ready to share his wisdom and lessons with me unselfishly. As I grew up, his love for wellness (meditation, breathwork, therapy) inspired me to explore them as well without any shame attached. He has undeniably been my greatest supporter and sounding board.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My goal is to create an intersection where fashion meets wellness, by creating a new kind of bracelet for the socially-conscious. I’m working towards breaking down stigma and creating solutions for adversity in different capacities. We’re empowering those who wear their Well Aware bracelets to embrace their differences without sacrificing their health and style. Beyond that, my goal is to transform the communities we work with, by inspiring ambition, cultivating purpose and implementing sustainable infrastructure to create flourishing economies. Each bracelet is hand-crafted in Taxco, Mexico, creating jobs and preserving the artisan culture of Taxco, Mexico for hundreds of local artisans. With each piece sold, we’re supporting clean water initiatives in impoverished communities around the globe, as proud partners of Healing Waters International.
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
Breathwork: Finding time to breathe. Doing breathwork has changed my life. It’s a way for me to release old traumas and stories about myself to create space for growth. Breathing intentionally through stressful moments will relieve anxiety and help in focusing on the bigger picture, and I believe it’s crucial to our personal growth.
Go Outdoors: “Take a Lap” even just a moment away from my desk allows me to “reboot” and have a clear mind when approaching difficult tasks. Hiking or a walk in the park is the most inexpensive way to feel connected and complete for me.
Make time for those that fill you up: Setting healthy boundaries with work-related relationships and making time to celebrate the small victories with those you feel supported by.
Writing: I think we are so conditioned to scroll now that we forget the power of writing. When I can’t get an idea out of my mind or want to return to thought while working on a project I write it down. In my toughest times, journaling has helped me see deeper, what my true feelings about a situation are and not just how it’s affecting me.
Find a favorite workout: For me, it’s hot yoga and interval training that both push me and recharge my body. Getting my heart rate into a fat-burning zone sets my mind and body right to start my day off strong.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A movement of self-love. We all come from different walks of life and have a story that is defines us. Although different, they’re all valid. If we learn to accept our differences and embrace those situations, ailments, and conditions that once made us feel less, we will find true happiness. And in turn, when we learn to love ourselves and are happy with who we have become, others will love and accept is too.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Delegate: Hire a team of experts and let them do their job. As the founders and CEO, we often think we need to know how to do everything. Learn to hire the right person for the role, have faith in that decision, and don’t micromanage.
Pace myself: In a competitive culture of wanting it all and wanting it now, we can run ourselves into the ground trying to accomplish it all in one day. Great things take time.
Set boundaries: keep a close eye on the things and people that drain you of your energy. Remove the things that bring you down and surround yourself with like-minded individuals that look for purpose in what they do.
Scaling is a process: Even when things are not perfect, create a product that you can stand by. Products are always going to be a work in progress. As consumer demand, changes, you’ll have to adjust accordingly, and sometimes it’s in a direction you hadn’t yet thought about. Be open and be creative.
Finding the right vendors is key: Work and partner with companies and people that have common goals and share your company values. This will be extremely important in building trust and feeling confident when launching.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
I am truly passionate about mental health. Beyond the impact I am trying to make with Healing Waters International through Well Aware, I serve as the Board President for a local Los Angeles mental-health non-profit organization called Amanecer Community Counseling.
Amanecer was founded to deliver compassionate, innovative, culturally competent mental health services to empower individuals and families to overcome barriers and significant life challenges, to achieve more fulfilling, resilient and self-sufficient lives. As a part of the conversation surrounding mental health during these past 7 years, I have been able to acknowledge the need for minorities and underrepresented communities alike to have access to therapy and counseling. Well Aware to speaks to this topic and we ask our community to lean-in into their differences. We encourage everyone to stand up to stigma and embrace what makes them different so that they don’t feel less than but rather empowered by these differences.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Follow along on Instagram @wellawareinc!