Buenas! Today I'm celebrating my birthday and I’m excited to share with you, a valuable member and supporter of the Pasos community, our business and personal journey: from our humble beginnings to how we got to where we are today.
There were many challenges along the way, and the ride to establishing a business you really care about is never easy. Why did I start Pasos in the first place, you ask?
Surprisingly, the answer is simple: purpose.
I’ve worked in an odd mix of roles – from client relations to handling managerial duties – and have made many mistakes in the past. But just like you, I give credit to these experiences because they honed me to become the strong-willed entrepreneur that I am today.
It all started when I was soul searching in the middle of the pandemic in 2020.
Have you ever thought about going through life, working your ass off (or not), day in and day out, following all the rules, and doing your best to be a responsible citizen? Then one day, you wake up and you’re 40, and you start asking yourself: Is that it?
To let you in on how everything began, let me start with how I grew up.
My story begins when I was born in Lima, Peru. My parents were not married yet but I like to think that I brought them closer together. I grew up in a factory where my parents operate an ice-making business and our peak season is usually the summer.
My parents were both entrepreneurs, so is my brother and now I am one too. I first learned about the concepts of business at the young age of eight by helping my parents in the factory with tasks as such managing our client line-up and balancing the till at the end of the day. One of the first things I learned about running a business is that you don’t have to run your own business to become an entrepreneur, you just have to own your work, show up, and be present while establishing boundaries to avoid burning yourself out.
My mom was a strong advocate of taking time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. We would go on vacations, shop for fashion accessories, and spend time together while my dad would stay home to manage our family business. My parents split around the year 2000, and now you can understand why. Their separation left me heartbroken.
I did not allow this to stop me from achieving my own dreams. Two years later, I decided to move from Peru to Canada. You can read about my immigration story here https://mypasos.ca/blogs/coming-soon/lll
How Pasos was born
I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur but I didn’t want to build a business that doesn’t have any purpose. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to touch the lives of the people I work with. Before I knew it, I was given the opportunity to start an ethical brand out of my love for my Peruvian culture.
I drew inspiration from my fondness for artisan fashion accessories and my passion to promote Peruvian culture. I knew I wanted to make a difference – no matter how big or small.
I was supposed to launch it through artisan markets, but because of the lockdown caused by the pandemic in early 2020, I was determined to find other ways to bring Pasos to life.
I partnered with an artisan community based in Cusco City, and together, we worked on Pasos online shop.
How important was it for us to connect directly with local artisans in Peru? It is embedded in our values and here’s why. I had visited almost every corner of Peru by the time I was 18 because of my mom and her love for travel. And then, we visited Cusco and fell in love….. literally. I met a fellow traveler and since then, I’ve always thought of Cusco as a happy place.
While in Cusco, I visited my first “Inca Market” (a well-known shopping mall in Peru) and learned how to barter for a cheaper price, following my mom’s lead. The second time I visited Cusco, I was a newlywed on my honeymoon, with my Canadian husband who already knew how to barter (even better than me!).
While getting something at a cheaper price feels like a win, it really wasn’t. In 2021, I learned about the behind-the-scenes of bartering in the Inca Market and what I realized was devastating. I was bartering without knowing the real value of the crafts I was buying and their impact on the lives of the people who were making them.
This was my turning point. I was looking for our business purpose and found it while doing business with people who genuinely care about their craft. This was why I made it my business mantra to get to know the stories of makers and crafters straight from them and not with market merchants and bring their stories to the fore of my ethical brand.
Because the primary goal of most business owners is to make money, they sometimes neglect the artists who made the products. A beautiful bag crafted with handmade textiles in vibrant colors, using natural dyes, and manual weaving techniques hold not just a story, but a history, a process passed down from generation to generation.
This is why at Pasos, we aim to promote our Peruvian culture by sourcing directly from Peruvian makers, offering authentic artisan products, and using sustainable materials.
Now that things with the pandemic are easing up, I plan to reunite with my family in Lima, Peru, whom I haven’t seen since 2019 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. I will also visit the Qelqanqa artisan community in Cusco, where I’ll be meeting our textile weavers in person for the first time!
I’m embarking on a trip to Peru to rediscover my roots and learn straight from the artisans. I know these interactions and stories will inspire me, even more, to keep doing what I’m doing, now with a greater sense of purpose. I’m excited to dive into this adventure and learn more so I can educate consumers about the intrinsic value of our artisanal heritage.
Stay tuned for the next part of my adventure!
By Erika Torrejon