Hand-woven by guardian angels

Infertility and pregnancy loss almost broke them...but their friendship and commonalities brought them out of the darkness and into entrepreneurship.

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Maria Victoria co-founders Paulina Nava & Carolina Sandoval
Maria Victoria co-founders Paulina Nava & Carolina Sandoval

It was the spring of 2016 and two young Mexican women found themselves in a foreign place, having a hard time finding their inner selves. They needed each other so badly…it would be difficult to believe their meeting wasn’t part of a perfectly orchestrated plan. They are the current owners of Maria Victoria, a company that designs colorfully crafted handbags. And just as each string of robust plastic is woven through the last by their skilled artisans, their partnership was seemingly bound together by none other than guardian angels. 

Carolina Sandoval recalls how she first met Paulina Nava. They connected on Facebook, per a suggestion from a mutual friend. They were both young mothers that had recently relocated to the Austin area from Mexico. They carpooled to storytime and the rest is, well, history. They became instant friends and found themselves frequently meeting up at the Black Walnut Cafe. Many laughs were had…but then, there were many tears. 

Paulina suffers from an autoimmune disorder that was making it extremely difficult for her to have a second child. About a year into their friendship, she became pregnant and then had a devastating miscarriage. She lost the baby she so badly prayed for, Maria. Naturally, she turned to Carolina for comfort, a friend that understood her pain all too well. Carolina had healthy twins, one boy and one girl. But, this was only after undergoing fertility treatments following her extremely traumatic first pregnancy. She had suffered from HELLP Syndrome, which led to a long hospital stay and a devastating miscarriage. Nearly losing her own life in the process, she felt as though she wasn’t able to properly mourn the loss of her baby girl, Victoria. 

What seemed like endless tears were shed over their heartache. When they felt like they couldn’t express their feelings to the world, they turned to each other. A point in time came when Carolina recalls enough was enough. They needed something to take their minds off of the pain, and it seemed like everyone they knew was starting up a small business. With shared experience as design professionals, they thought, why not start our own? Paulina tossed out the idea of selling traditional woven Mexican bags like some she knew were made in Guadalajara, Mexico. Carolina was game for the challenge. They each invested some cash to bring over a trial stock of the bags. Carolina recalls it as a boom. The bags were a huge hit and sold instantly. 

It was official. The ladies needed to create an LLC and choose a name for their new company. Their initial ideas were aimed at the mommy crowd. Mom 2 Mom. Mommy & Me. But none of these names seemed to be appropriate for their lively totes that could very well appeal to more than just diaper-toting moms. After all, their bags were more than just bags; they were works of art, handcrafted by skilled Mexican artisans. One day as they were brainstorming in the kitchen, they considered several traditional Mexican names. La Doña. No. Josefina. Not quite. Then…the name clicked as if it fell straight from the heavens. Carolina asked, “Why not Maria Victoria?” The two ladies were brought to tears by the idea and knew they had found the perfect name for their company in honor of their angel babies. It was all meant to be when they discovered the name was available as an official U.S. trademark. 

They began hosting trunk shows and attending trade markets. And with every success, they couldn’t help but feel as though their angels were watching over them. Customers often asked, “Who is Maria and who is Victoria?” The ladies would politely explain the namesake which was always received with smiles…and sometimes tears. Strangers began opening up to them, sharing their hardships of infertility, pregnancy, and even miscarriage. The duo realized how taboo the topic can be and the isolation it causes. In the process of their healing, they were inadvertently creating a community of support. 

Maria Victoria grew steadily, and the founders needed help. Their first distributors came on board in early 2017. Karen, Lillian, and myself, Nicole. Today, there are distributors across the United States and bags are sold in boutiques all over including in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rio, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Online sales also contribute to much of the company’s success. Carolina and Paulina find themselves in a truly happy place. While they can never fill the void their daughters have left, their lives are certainly improved by their beloved business which was created in memory of two very special guardian angels. 

For more information on Maria Victoria, visit www.mymariavictoria.com

@mymariavictoria on Instagram


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